As we settle into 2016, we are seeing many of the forecasted trends unfold, along with some unexpected twists. From increased adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart devices to advances in cybersecurity, technology is evolving at a rapid pace. But with any advancement comes an element of risk. If you own a business, it’s imperative that you keep your finger on the pulse of these changes to ensure that you maximize the opportunities they can present for your company, while also minimizing any potential security threats. At CHR, we believe strongly in helping our clients stay abreast of the changing technology landscape.
Here are a few of the most prominent developments we are seeing this year, along with some important security considerations:
Counterfeit Software and Websites
Forbes reports that cybercriminals are using increasingly sophisticated methods—including fake software and websites—to mimic new software and websites, as well as to hack into networks via new mobile and open source systems. More than ever, it’s important to exercise caution when downloading new apps or entering personal information into new software or an unfamiliar website. In addition, every business should have comprehensive IT security measures in place to help protect their company’s data in the event of a breach.
Data and Smart Devices
With the explosion of smart devices, our daily habits amass immeasurable amounts of data about our lifestyles, habits, preferences and personal metrics. This brings great debate about how to secure, utilize and leverage this data while balancing the benefit between individuals and businesses. But one thing is for sure: Data and smart devices will have a permanent and growing role in informing decisions and insights in the enterprise, as well blurring the lines between our personal and professional lives. This underscores the importance of tuning up your company’s security infrastructure—including your employee BYOD policy—to make sure that your company’s valuable data remains protected.
The Cloud’s Increasing Popularity Among Businesses
While use of the cloud to host business software and data is not a new thing, it has become substantially more utilized over the past few years. Offering benefits ranging from file backup to the facilitation of data analytics and increased mobility, it’s easy to see why 93 percent of businesses now use the cloud in some capacity, according to TheNextWeb. Not only does the cloud serve as a great resource for helping businesses achieve their goals, but it has also become remarkably affordable. Despite all of the benefits of using the cloud, it is important to consult with an IT professional to ensure that your business is taking all of the necessary steps to make sure your information is safe and secure.
New Technology Makes Top-Notch Security a Must-Have
In recent years, business have made the mistake of putting security in the back seat in the race to adopt the latest technology—but this is changing. Since 2005, nearly 5,000 company data breaches have compromised more than 896 million records—including information about medical histories, Social Security numbers and bank data— reports The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. As cybercriminals adopt more sophisticated tactics, and as new legislation requires business to notify their customers when their personal information has been breached, the stakes are higher than ever to implement a solid IT infrastructure that puts security at the forefront. And, in the event of a security compromise, it’s essential to have a team of IT experts to contain the breach and to identify how it occurred so improved security measures can be put into place.
How do you plan to keep your business secure while also remaining ahead of the technology curve this year? Contact us to learn about how we can develop a tailored IT strategy that suits your company’s needs and keeps you at the front of the technology race.
We are pleased to welcome Corey Kennedy to our team. Corey is an onsite technician who services clients’ needs across both corporate and field locations. With more than five years of experience in IT and operations management, he can quickly and skillfully resolve a diverse range of customer issues.
Corey holds a B.A. in Communications from the Thomas Edison State College. His professional background includes working for Amazon.com, Target, NFI Industries and owning his own consulting business.
Often just as intrigued by the root cause of the issues as he is in resolving them, Corey thrives on diving deeply into a new problem and building his clients’ trust through consistency and effectiveness.
Growing up, Corey’s father gave him the advice, “The only person you cheat is yourself”. That piece of advice—for which he credits much of his quick career advancement—has always spurred him to give 100 percent in everything he does. Having three brothers also pushed him to strive toward his personal best, as well as to refine his personal definition of excellence. To him, this includes offering his clients the service he would hope to receive.
Corey enjoys spending time with his 6-year-old son, playing rugby, photography, going to the gym and exploring new restaurants.
We are excited to announce the publication of our new video, which will give you an inside look at our unique, strategy-oriented approach to providing end-to-end technology services. Visit our homepage to view the video, hear client testimonials and gain insight from our president, Bryan Christensen, about how we partner with businesses small and large to help them succeed through technology.
You will also gain insight into our three primary areas of focus—communication systems, traditional network infrastructure and consulting. At CHR, we take a holistic approach to each technology challenge we help solve for our clients. Whether it’s using technology to lower your overhead or helping you build and maintain a stable, reliable and secure network that keeps your operations moving, we take pride in making it happen.
Curious about what it’s like to partner with CHR for your IT needs? Watch our video to learn how we can optimize your IT network—and your company’s overall success.
We hope your 2016 is off to a good start. As you settle into each new year, it’s a good idea to evaluate new ways of streamlining your company’s operations—including how you handle your IT solutions. Is hiring an IT consulting firm the right decision for your business this year? If so, is it best for you to transition all of your IT solutions to a firm, or just a portion of them, leaving you with some in-house support?
There are a number of benefits to hiring outside support. You might find that as you weigh your decision, these factors come strongly into play when aiming to increase efficiency and lower overhead costs:
Good value: For the same cost as one in-house professional, you can often hire the support of a professional team – and having a team of people handling your IT support means that your tech operations won’t be affected by vacations or illnesses. In today’s fast-paced business climate, outages and network/security breaches need to be addressed immediately—making it helpful to have a dedicated outside team on your side.
Lower logistical costs: You don’t have to worry about providing equipment, professional development or training. When you hire an outside consulting firm, the costs of keeping their employees’ knowledge base current fall on them.
More extensive support: You have a dedicated, service-oriented team of professionals available (often around the clock or during off hours) to tap in the event that you have an IT glitch. If you run into a network or server problem during off hours, you will often receive quick client service from a team of professionals who are specifically dedicated to meeting your needs.
Scalability: You can scale your engagement to meet your company’s needs. Still want to keep some in-house IT employees? Your in-house employees can collaborate closely with an outside consulting firm to achieve your desired results.
At CHR, we integrate our team members’ expertise to create unique, custom IT solutions for our clients. Our service offerings include enhanced technical and business advising services in addition to IT server and infrastructure support—meaning that when you hire us, you’re reaping the benefits of a wide array of talents and skills. Since 2007, we have partnered with CFOs, senior managers and company principals to understand and embrace advancements in IT solutions.
If you are considering hiring an outside IT services consulting firm, contact us for a personalized recommendation about how we can get your IT infrastructure running more smoothly than ever before.
Secure document sharing is often the biggest hurdle companies face when moving toward a remote workforce. Sometimes it’s nice to be away from distractions at the office, but you also need access to all of your resources in order to optimize efficiency.
To facilitate collaboration, many companies turn to a number of widely available cloud storage and file synchronization services, including Box.com and Dropbox. The challenge is that if you take credit cards or are collecting financial or health information, security is a prime concern. Box.com and Dropbox will not suffice because the files are not secure at rest. In other words, when you download the files, it’s just a folder—there’s no encryption or security—and that’s a bad idea. The good news is that there are cheaper options that are both encrypted and secure, and we’ve been working with one in particular that only sells its product through IT providers like CHR, as opposed to directly to individual businesses.
It’s often true that people do their best work when they’re able to work flexibly, and a remote workforce allows you to maximize productivity even while your teams are on the road. I’m always happy to chat, so let me know if you’d like to know more about how you can set up your teams to work remotely, efficiently and securely.
Contact us for help achieving the best set-up for your business.
Working remotely is more than a trend. In fact, among the most tech-savvy companies, it is a widely accepted business model. Current estimates state that more than 6 million Americans work remotely, and 83 percent of hiring managers say telecommuting will be “more prevalent” in the next five years. Having the ability to allow your employees to work remotely gives you the power to find the best employees, regardless of their location. The flexibility it permits is an added perk that can help you attract top talent. Telecommuting can make your employees more productive while allowing you to reduce your office space costs.
It’s not as simple, however, as just telling your employees they’re welcome to work from home. To be successful, a remote workforce requires a different set of IT tools than an office with a single location. Among the most critical ones are technologies that allow your teams to 1) communicate via phone with clients and 2) share documents, securely.
How can your clients call you, and how can you call them back? You don’t necessarily want them to get your home or personal mobile phone number, or to have these numbers show up on their business’ caller ID systems. There are some great technologies that allow you to work at home and take calls from your existing phone line or mobile. You can set up the office desk line to have a “find-me-anywhere” functionality. That kind of mobility is something we’ve been doing with ShoreTel Sky, which offers plans at $29 a month per user, with a minimum of five users. There are other solutions available as well, depending on your organization’s unique needs.
Considering letting your employees work remotely? Before you do, get in touch with us to discuss the best setup for your company.
I’m pleased to share that Make-A-Wish® Oregon, which grants the wishes of 200 local children with life-threatening medical conditions each year, recently joined our diverse roster of nonprofit clients, which includes Volunteers of America Oregon, Goodwill Industries of Columbia-Willamette, Grace Chapel and Abundant Life Church. CHR provides the day-to-day network administration, helpdesk and strategic IT planning for Make-A-Wish Oregon, as well as supporting their ShoreTel phone system.
Also, we recently helped Make-A-Wish Oregon transition to Microsoft Office 365 for nonprofits, and we’re always looking for ways to help reduce costs and to help staff leverage the power of technology to better serve the community.
I’m a big believer in the power of service to make a difference. You may already know about my history as an Eagle Scout and the time I spent serving as a Corpsman in the U.S. Navy, not to mention CHR’s sponsorship of several youth teams and donations of money, time, IT support and materials to various charitable causes. As such, I’m happy that we are able to offer an IT solution that fits the needs of many of our area’s nonprofits.
Whether it’s by donating money, volunteering time or simply providing IT services that help these nonprofits focus on what they do best, we can work together to make our community stronger.
“There are two kinds of big companies in the United States,” FBI Director James Comey told “60 Minutes” last year. “There are those who’ve been hacked…and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked.”
Plenty of large organizations fall into the first category, as evidenced by recent news of data breaches at Ashley Madison, where hackers gained access to the details of 37 million users as well as the company’s financials; the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which earlier this year discovered two separate but related cybersecurity incidents affecting current and former federal government employees, contractors and others; and JP Morgan, where the names, addresses, phone numbers and emails of 76 million account holders were compromised last year.
These breaches raise questions about the effectiveness of information security as hackers become increasingly more skilled. The temptation is to think that it won’t happen to your business, but hackers can strike an organization of any size and cause significant damage. According to a 2014 survey by the Ponemon Institute, the annual average cost per company of successful cyber attacks has increased to $20.8 million in financial services, $14.5 million in the technology sector and $12.7 million in communications industries.
These big companies got hacked because of the way they do business, which is another topic altogether, but there are a few simple steps that any organization can take to protect itself, and its data, from a security breach.
1. Require secure passwords, which are the first line of defense against unauthorized access to your computer. If the password you use can be found in the dictionary, it’s not secure enough to protect your data.
2. Don’t disable network firewalls or computer firewall systems. These systems monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules, keeping your data safe.
3. Encourage your employees to check with IT before upgrading systems. Consider establishing a company policy that directs employees to check before downloading updates, such as new versions of Windows.
4. Have up-to-date antivirus software. On a monthly basis, I hear from a client who has neglected to update antivirus protection and who has fallen victim to ransomware, like CryptoLocker, and a hacker’s demand for a ransom payment in the form of bitcoins before the computer is released. And along these lines, don’t allow employees to disable their antivirus software (they often do so because it makes computers run more slowly); we recommend turning off the ability to disable antivirus protection.
5. Don’t allow access to personal, company or client data in unsecure, unencrypted form. If you have file-sharing solutions that are unsecure, like Dropbox or Box.com, you run the risk that a virus will encrypt your entire system, company-wide. There are cheaper, easier options that offer secure storage and sharing of files.
Have any tips to add?
I am excited to announce the rollout of our first e-newsletter. With each issue, our subscribers will learn something new from CHR Creative’s talented team of experts. We’ll cover recent company news, new client partnerships, acquisitions, tech industry trends and insights you won’t find anywhere else.
And, as a subscriber to our e-newsletter, you’ll be the first to know about new products and services. In this edition, you’ll get the inside info about our partnership with ShoreTel, including what it could mean for your small business. The first issue also will cover our recent addition and the integration of Secure Digital Networks, a Portland-based IT company. With this new development, our clients will enjoy expanded service offerings and an even more seamless IT experience. This means that as a client of CHR Creative, your business will be able to accomplish even higher goals than before.
Don’t miss out—subscribe to our e-newsletter by clicking here.
Sometimes things go so well with a client that I just can’t help sharing their success. Our first ShoreTel Sky installation customer went live recently: Finnmark Property Services, which offers a wide range of maintenance and construction/capital improvement services for apartment and HOA communities throughout Oregon and Washington.
ShoreTel offers a cloud-based communication solution that allows you to send voicemails to email, provide push-button user support and connect with your team, wherever they are. ShoreTel’s unified communication solution is simple, scalable and flexible. Moving to the cloud means that your phone system stays on even when your building does not. A cloud-based system managed by a trusted third party allows you to focus on what you do best.
Finnmark went live on the ShoreTel Sky system at the end of June, with a transition that Finnmark IT Project Manager Steve Moore described as “seamless.” All existing numbers were ported over with no changes needed on the router, and all of the heavy lifting was done by the ShoreTel project manager.
I’m particularly happy about the installation, because we were able to provide the entire unified communications system, including the ShoreTel Sky cloud hosting, for less than they were paying for phone lines and voicemail systems alone before. Want to know more about ShoreTel Sky or the benefits of cloud-hosted communication systems in general? Visit our ShoreTel partner page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.