Resources: Data Center

How Secure is Your Data?

Hacking, Phishing, Ransomware, and over-all Data Breaches are on the rise. It seems that every advancement we make with data security, hackers are able to find a way through.

In this blog, we will discuss the importance of keeping your data secure. While we are using Medical Offices as an example, this information crosses over to almost every industry. If you use cloud storage, proprietary software, and store personal data, this blog holds valuable information for you.

Your Clients Put Their Trust in You

Medical professionals are not only entrusted with caring for the health of their patients, but also for keeping their information private. Given that, it’s no wonder why physicians must be some of the most trustworthy people in our communities.

However, on the other end of the spectrum are those who actively look to take advantage of the information that medical practices and hospital systems have accumulated over the years. But why are medical records so valuable and what can be done to protect them?

Richer Than You Think

Medical databases are among the top targets for hackers with more and more breaches taking place each year — but why? CBS News reported that while a social security number may be worth $1 and a credit card number $110 on the dark web (average numbers), a single medical record can be worth a whopping $1000 or more!

The reason for the value is that your medical records typically have more personal information than any other source out there. This may include your social security number, address, phone number, banking information, and a lot more. With so much at play, it’s no surprise why hackers are starting to focus more on these records than any other.

Who’s Bears the Responsibility?

Everyone in the healthcare industry in the US is aware that HIPPA prevents sharing medical information except under particular circumstances. But what if that information left your hands and was spread involuntarily? Although it may be a gray area, there’s still the strong likelihood that the medical office could be held liable, at least in a civil court — especially if they haven’t done everything possible to avoid the hack. Don’t forget that data breaches cost the healthcare industry upwards of $6 billion per year.

How to Protect Your Patients — and Yourself

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are often used by the medical industry to help avoid such situations. One way we do this is by helping these customers when it comes time to update ICD codes, (International Classification of Diseases). This can be tricky since HIPPA approved systems aren’t always the easiest to upgrade. Not only is the computer update important, but the people updates are as well.

Also, there is plenty for your MSP to do in helping you avoid HIPPA violations. For instance, any device used that contains or has access to patient information needs to be encrypted. In 2016, one iPhone that was lost at a single facility ended up created a $650,000 fine. Remember: it’s not your fault if the device is lost or stolen, but it is your fault if you failed to encrypt the information beforehand.

In a similar vein, when you dispose of older devices, you can’t just toss them in a dumpster and go about your day. These devices must be wiped clean, often in a way more substantial than just deleting records. While that might be acceptable if you want to dispose of your personal devices, those who understand computers can quickly get access to files that weren’t properly deleted. A good MSP can make that happen as part of their standard service.

Who Watches the Watchers?

Where you store your data is also a major part of data security. As we previously mentioned, some medical practices have used standard cloud storage and paid a heavy price when data was easily breached. While it’s true that cloud storage is easy and often a more inexpensive option, you have far less control over the information and the security of that data if it is out of your hands. Unless you use a top-of-the-line service, your data will be vulnerable as weaker services make prime targets for hackers. After all, why go after an individual when you can get data from thousands of companies at once through a cloud service?

Even if you decide to go with local storage, who has access to your data? With the genuine value of these records along with the absolute risk of liability, if things go sour, you need to be very careful with whom you allow access to the database. MSPs make sure that not only will your information be safe, but that the people who oversee your databased have all the proper education and certifications to avoid any problems down the line.

Bottom Line

Let’s get real for a second here. Medicine and medical technology are advancing at breakneck speeds. Would most people feel comfortable with a physician who hasn’t been to a class or conference since graduating from medical school? Of course not!

Data security is exactly the same. As hackers become more and more advanced, MSPs must stay one step ahead of them to protect our clients. That’s why we make it a point to continually train our team on new security options and protocols.

If you don’t have a robust security plan in place for your office or business, don’t wait to give us a call. Every moment you’re not protected is a moment of opportunity for a pirate to rob you over your clients’ trust and confidence.

If your organization is starting to fall behind over a lack of attention to your IT, contact us today. Our expert team will be more than happy to evaluate your needs and help you implement and maintain the most reasonable and secure solution. The only thing you have to lose is sleepless nights.

Two Ways to Install a VoIP Phone System

In our last two blogs, we’ve discussed the pros, cons, and popularity of using VoIP Phone Systems for small businesses. And we have concluded that VoIP technology is only going to become more popular moving into the future. If you’re tired of high phone bills, particularly from long-distance or international calls, then you need to look into getting a VoIP phone system.

We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately, mostly about what it takes to install the system. So, in today’s blog that’s what we’re going to address. We’ll give you a general overview of what it takes to get your VoIP phones ordered, installed, and operating correctly in your office. Then, we’ll offer you an even more efficient way to get them installed. Let’s take a look at the first way to install your VoIP phone system.

Do it Yourself

The first step in the process should be doing a little research about what VoIP is, how it works, what types of phones are available, and how to set them up. When researching phones, keep a list of what you need for your office staff, then tally up the number of remote phones you’ll be using. You can start by simply replacing what you are currently using, but that may be overkill.

With VoIP technology, you have the ability to make and receive calls through your computer workstations. And you can also set-up cellphones with the installation of an app, to receive automatically-forwarded calls, so you can answer business calls no matter where you are. So, if you would like to take advantage of these options, you may not need to order as many phones as you thought.

You can order the phones with your current phone numbers, or any number you want, pre-installed. Since the phones use IP addresses as their location, they are configured with a link from your phone number to that specific IP address.

When you receive the phones, connect them to your LAN, (local area network), through the network connection at your workstations. With VoIP, there is no need to run a separate phone line. Once installed and turned on, access the IP Address of the phone and set it up using the manufacturer’s software. Under Account Settings, set up the username and password for each phone, then connect it to the server.

Now the account is registered and the user can begin making and receiving calls. But there are still more steps you’ll need to take. In the menu of the phones, set up all the user options you want. Things like; the number of call lines you want, speed dial, voice mail, direct pickup, group pickup, intercom, redial, record, and a whole lot more. After that, you can either record a custom message or use one of the prerecorded messages available.

Many VoIP Desk Phones have a Touch Screen, so you can dial using either the screen or the standard numbered buttons. You will probably want to hold a training session to teach your employees the new processes. Give yourself some time to do a decent amount of research so you can be sure you’re getting exactly what you need. Then you’ll need the time to install and configure the phones, set up the functions you’d like to use, and train your employees.

Easy, right? You got this!

Now let’s take a look at your second option:

Bring us in to install it for you.

With us doing the install, you’ll be up and running in no time. We’ve already done the research and we even have our preferred vendors who we trust. Disruption during the install is minimal. We will just need a few minutes of access to the work area, phone, computer, and cabling. Phones will be installed, activated, and tested. Once the network connection is good, that’s it! You’re set to use your new VoIP phone!

We can even help show your staff how to use the new system.

The best news is that we can fold the new system into your existing monthly agreement.

That means no more separate phone bill. No more overcharges for long-distance and international calls. No more data overages to worry about.

Let us know when you’re ready to start saving money.

The Benefits of a VoIP Phone System

In last week’s blog, Can VoIP Help Your Business, we took a look at the pros, cons, and the ease of VoIP installation, and concluded that, yes, most likely it can help your business. Today we’ll do a deeper dive into the benefits you will see by switching to a VoIP Phone System.

We can’t, however, talk about the current popularity VoIP is having without bringing up COVID-19 and the restrictions it has caused across the country. Due to the pandemic’s quarantine, many employees from all kinds of businesses were directed to work from home, if they were lucky enough to keep their jobs, that is. This sudden crisis caused businesses to scramble and create new ways for those employees to communicate with their managers and clients. At first business owners were skeptical about this arrangement. Up until now, it has always been easy to monitor the work of employees, but how can we know what they’re doing if they are working remotely?

Suddenly webcams flew off the shelves and many suppliers ran out completely. Laptops were also being scooped up, and new cellular contracts were signed so employees would have ways to stay in touch with their office. It’s the cell phones that bother us. As you know all too well, the average cost of a cellular contract is between $40 and $80 dollars per month. More usually, with hidden fees and penalties if you use too much data. And who hasn’t done that?

On top of those costs, you have to buy the phone! Sure, sometimes they’ll throw in the phone, but, if not, you’re looking at $600 to $1,000 for each phone. Possibly more if you’re investing in something suitable for work. This is where a lot of businesses were hit hard in the pocketbooks. And, unnecessarily so, if you ask us. There’s got to be a better way!

And there is! Let’s take a look at some of the key reasons VoIP is such a hot topic right now:

Easy Installation

IP phones are virtually plug-and-play. There is no need to run separate phone lines – your VoIP phone connects to the same network cable your PC runs on. Or, for some applications, you can even use it through WIFI. The phones are easy to maintain and should last years with normal usage.

Telecommuting

VoIP technology is extremely portable, and it easily allows users to connect to your system from their office or at home. It’s even easy to connect if your employees travel abroad. Your employee’s dedicated phone number is linked to them wherever they choose to work.

Conferencing

With standard phone systems, you’ll often end up paying an additional service fee for hosting multiple callers when you set up a conference call. Those days are over when you switch to a VoIP system.

Scalability

VoIP systems allow you to add or delete lines as your pool of employees grows or shrinks. You only pay for what you use, and phones are easy to add, delete, or move. You can also use your desktop computer, your smartphone, or laptop to make and receive calls through your browser or a special app.

Additional Features

There are many features VoIP offers that can help small businesses, such as; customizable call forwarding options, customizable greetings, automatic call transfer, voicemail transcription to email, detailed usage reports to help control costs, and an updatable customer contact book. There are also instant messaging and video chat functions you can use, and you can even set-up an automatic phone recording that may help resolve customer issues in the future.

You’ll also get advanced call center functions. With state-of-the-art analytics, you can track the usage of your staff and calculate the amount of time they’re contacting your customers. Cloud-based phone systems are proven to be reliable and secure.

The Cost

The monthly and yearly cost of using a VoIP system is much less than using a conventional phone provider. Not only does daily use cost less, but long-distance calls are also cheaper when using VoIP phones. The typical savings over older phone systems is 40% or more. The reason for this is, with traditional phone systems, a call is made by switching the path through a series of physical exchanges until it reaches its destination. The more exchanges you need to complete the call the more it may cost. And those exchanges need a lot of upkeep.

With a VoIP system, your voice is turned into a data packet with an identifier, and sent through your existing network, through the cloud, and into the network of your destination.

To get set up you need to get your network checked, purchase the phones, and find the best monthly contract that fits your needs. And the good news is we can help you with all of that.

A very recent study just reported that, due to the COVID-19 quarantine, 15.2% of all small businesses that closed their doors will not re-open. We don’t need to tell you that the main reason most of them won’t re-open is because of a lack of funds. When it comes to running a business, you’re always looking for ways to cut costs. And, as you can see, VoIP phone systems are definitely cost savers. Watch your budget and don’t become a statistic.

Contact us today and find out if a VoIP phone system is the kind of technology you’ve been waiting for.

Is It Time For a Server Upgrade?

While many of us may not physically see our servers as often as we see our personal terminals, we interact with them directly or indirectly daily. Within your office network, the server is the heartbeat of the entire system. Since we rely on them without directly interacting with them we tend to forget that they’re there. However, just like with any other type of computer, servers can expire and need replacing from time to time. Have you checked your servers lately?

Section 179 Deductions

For those that have been following our blogs this month, you’ll recall that our topic is Section 179 tax deductions. As a quick recap, this is a section of the tax code that not only allows you to write off purchases made for business purposes, it will let you take the full value at one time versus the past option of making you deduct a depreciated percentage over multiple years. While it doesn’t give you credit for the total cost of your business investments, it does allow you to legally avoid paying tax on the funds used for these purchases.

The purpose behind Section 179 is to give businesses a break when they are just starting out or are expanding, therefore allowing them a chance at making a profit (or at least avoiding too much of a loss) while making major purchases. While the total amounts are subject to change, the law currently allows write-offs of up to $1 million for single purchases and a maximum of $2.5 million total per year.

As always, we need to remind our readers that we are not tax experts and this information should not be taken as the final word. Every business and situation is unique, so please consult your company’s CFO or other tax and accounting professionals before making any decisions or purchases.

Are You Ignoring Your Servers?

As we mentioned earlier, your servers can be an “out of sight, out of mind” affair. However, if you’re working on an internal network, (in the same building or remotely), you are likely interacting with one or more servers throughout most of the day. Just like with terminal computers, they are subject to a finite lifespan, either becoming obsolete or just wearing down. This can cause several potentially critical problems for your business. For instance; network speed might become an issue. This can affect how quickly information travels to and from the server and your computer or between users of the network itself.

In addition, storage can become difficult to access. While servers typically have much more capacity than the average desktop or laptop, that isn’t to say that it’s unlimited. Cloud storage and data back-up are becoming increasingly popular these days, but that’s not to say that there aren’t situations where it would be preferable or necessary to stick to a local, physical server. For example; if your office deals with sensitive medical information you’ll need to remain HIPPA compliant, and cloud storage may not be a safe choice for you. That means you’ll have to be extra diligent about keeping your on-site servers and back-up systems healthy.

Backups Don’t Last Forever

Many of us remember when we first used floppy disks or CDs for our computers, thinking about how they would outlive us — only to have our expectations dashed with corrupted data after just a few uses. Back-up systems in any form have their limitations, such as magnetic tapes becoming demagnetized or servers getting an unexpected electrical charge. Whether you’re using a back-up drive or a physical format, you need to understand that if you are archiving information that needs to be stored indefinitely, you’ll need to plan to transfer that data to another form of storage every 5-10 years depending on technological advancements.

There is a fairly new medium called M-Discs that, due to their unique material and technology, are reported to keep data safe for 1,000 years. While that may be theoretically possible, try to convince the horde of dads who bought those 100-year lightbulbs for $40 apiece only to have them burn out in about a year! Remember that no matter what the company selling to you may say, nothing is permanent. If your data is worth keeping, it’s worth transferring every few years.

With that in mind, as the year comes to a close, perhaps this would be a good opportunity to look over your current equipment and see where you stand. If you can’t find any records to tell you the age of the drive, checking to see when the first files were transferred could be a good place to start and at least give you a good estimate.

Now’s the Time!

Remember that both servers and back-up devices are important elements of many pieces of equipment that need to be updated and replaced at some point. If you’re coming to the end of 2019 and finding that you had a better year than expected, or have unused funds sitting around, take advantage of Section 179 deductions so that you can lower your tax liability while making business-critical equipment upgrades.

You’ll never know what tomorrow will bring, let alone next year or the year after. It’s impossible to predict if you’ll have the funds when the servers or backups fail or simply don’t have the time to address the issue. By upgrading your equipment while we’re still in tax year 2019, you’ll be setting yourself up for success for next year and possibly the years ahead!

Transitioning to the Cloud

Are you considering moving your company to the cloud? There are a lot of perks. First, it allows your company to scale up and down based on system needs more easily. When you host software onsite, you have to invest wholly in the server required, whether or not you’re utilizing that server fully. If the software is in the cloud, on the other hand, you only pay for what you use. Second, you have access anywhere you choose to be at any time, which opens up tremendous opportunities for remote work and greater efficiency.

Finally, consider security. Data loss is not a matter of if — it’s a matter of when. And, unfortunately, it happens to companies of every size. More than half of businesses locate their disaster/backup systems in the same physical location as their primary system – red alert! If you only have one copy of your system’s backup at your office and your hardware fails or a breach occurs, then a backup is completely useless. In a bit of irony, it turns out that the safest place to be during a storm (whether literal or figurative) is “in the cloud.”

So, let’s say you’ve finally agreed that it’s time to move to the cloud – where do you start?

Here are some recommendations that can help you though the process:

  • First off, moving to the cloud doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing process. Companies that weren’t “born in the cloud,” meaning any company more than a few years old, need a plan for transitioning to the cloud. Establish the plan, let your data trickle into the cloud and take your time. No need to jump in headfirst. It is perfectly fine to keep your business operating in a hybrid cloud environment (some items on site, some in the cloud) for as long as you need, perhaps indefinitely.
  • Make sure you know your data. Truly understand what is going on before you begin to move your data and applications. Say you’re going to sell your house — you first need to clean and organize your belongings before putting them all away in storage. The same exact concept holds true when it comes to transitioning to the cloud: clean and organize before you store. You may find that while a software works in the cloud, it may experience extensive lag and downtime. Knowing this before you make a move will significantly reduce frustration.
  • Know your options: Public cloud, private cloud or hybrid cloud? Refer to our previous blog (To Cloud, or Not to Cloud) to learn the difference between these types of clouds. How much storage, bandwidth and support do you want to pay for? Make sure you tailor your cloud service to best fit your company’s needs. What works for someone else might not work for you.
  • Do your research. Here’s the reality: we have heard and experienced the effects of far too many subpar cloud solution horror stories. Companies that were put up on a half-built cloud solution eventually had to return to their on-premise solutions. With unreliable cloud partners, comes hidden costs such as unexpected fees for the overuse. Choose a reliable provider.
  • Define key roles. Who will have access? Who can add, delete or modify data? What responsibilities belong to who and how will this change with the cloud? It is crucial to know your staff’s access limitations.
  • Add encryption. Most cloud service providers offer encryption features such as service-side encryption to manage your encryption keys. Who controls and has access to these encryption keys? What data is being encrypted and when? Ultimately, you decide how safe your solution is.

While the road ahead may be tough, with these tips in mind, you can begin moving your business processes to the cloud safely and efficiently with the support of the right IT services team.