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The “Cloud”.  What is It? Why Back-up to It?

The “Cloud” is a relatively new, trendy and confusing term that marketers and IT professionals use to define different platforms, applications or processes. The confusion exists because the cloud is not a single physical thing.

The cloud in its most basic sense is simply a network of servers working together that perform different functions or operations.  Some common examples of functions those servers perform are:

  • Run Applications or Deliver a Service.   (Think Netflix or QuickBooks online)
  • Securely Store Important Information.  (Think DVM Safe to back-up your practice data or Apple’s iCloud to store pictures from your phone)

Why are so many things going to the cloud?

Utilizing the cloud can provide businesses of all sizes many benefits. The cloud allows us to offer and tap into the resources and expertise of other companies like never before.

For example: A small business might use a software program hosted in the cloud instead of one that resides on the server infrastructure within their business because of the many potential benefits, such as:

1) Lower up-front investment cost:  Typically, when using a solution hosted in the cloud, it helps to reduce the size, footprint, and amount of hardware and infrastructure that is needed to manage and run the software within your business.

2) Easily Share and Collaborate:  Because applications or information in the cloud can be accessed 24/7 from anywhere there is an internet connection, the ability to share, collaborate, produce and transmit information is easier than ever before.

2) Better controls and security.   By using services from expert providers in the cloud, a small business with benefit from having dedicated IT resources who are constantly monitoring, maintaining and improving the reliability and security of the cloud based application you’re using.  Think about it this way; technology companies spend billions of dollars on resources and team members who are specifically dedicated to working to ensure their cloud infrastructure is stable, reliable and secure for all their customers.

So why back-up to the cloud.

First, when you work with a reliable and knowledgeable back-up partner to encrypt and back-up your information to the cloud, you’ll likely be sending your information to some of the most secure back-up locations in the world.

Second – By backing up to the cloud, you’re able to improve the reliability of your back-up.  A common back-up process for many small businesses is simply back-up to an external hard drive. If this is the only back-up an office has, it can be quite risky because of the high failure rate of external storage drives. A network of cloud based servers, which back-up and protect some of the most critically important information in the world is significantly more reliable.

Lastly, by backing up to the cloud you’re able to remove yourself from the manual aspects of the back-up process, enabling you to focus on what you love doing best, helping your patients.

5 Ways to Protect Your Business from Being the Next Cybersecurity Victim

Equifax could have avoided the ENTIRE data breach and the personal information of over 143 Million U.S. consumers would still be protected.  All Equifax needed to do was install a patch to their Apache software program that would have eliminated the vulnerability the hackers used to steal the personal information of millions of Americans.

How the Equifax Breach occurred is an unfortunate, but impactful reminder of the simple and important steps all businesses can take to protect their sensitive business and patient information.  Here are some of the top ways to protect your business data:

  1. Ensure you’re working with a dedicated and experienced IT Professional. I’ve heard too many small business professionals tell me:  “I manage my IT network?” or “My brother manages my network”.  Managing the IT network of an established small business can quickly become very complex.   Due to the ever increasing rate of change within the technology arena, it’s virtually impossible to stay on top all that’s changing if you’re not 100% dedicated to managing, protecting, and growing a business IT network.
  2. Ensure your IT partner has a defined and efficient process to keep your software and systems updated. How often does your IT partner check for critical security updates of your operating systems and other software programs?  Is the process automated? If not, what assurances do you have that security updates will consistently occur in a timely and effective manner?
  3. Use Antivirus software. Ensure that you have antivirus software installed, make sure it’s active, and make sure it automatically updates.
  4. Make sure you have policies and procedures in place to limit the personal internet browsing or email use of your employees while at the office. All it takes is the single click of a link in an email or on a webpage by an employee for your business to be dramatically impacted.
  5. When sending work email, use strong email server providers. A few recommended examples are Google Apps for Business (business version of Gmail) or Microsoft Office 365.  These are good options because of their strong SPAM filters and their ability to segment or control user rights and access to content.

While the items above are a great start, consult with a dedicated and knowledge IT expert to ensure your business is taking steps to keep your data safe and protected.

3 Simple Ways to Secure Your Information in 2018.

It’s official.  My New Year’s resolution is to help as many people as possible secure and protect their critical personal and business information.  We’ll focus on 3 simple steps anyone can take to protect themselves and their business.

#1 Use a Secure Password Manager Software

The first thing I recommend doing is using a dedicated password manager software (app) that encrypts and protects your personal or business passwords in a simple to use, quick to access application.  Many people simply store their passwords in Word or Excel files on their computers.  Some take additional steps to password protect these files. Unfortunately, these are not good methods to protect your passwords as individuals with just a basic level of IT expertise can hack these files as they provide very limited protection from intrusion. For your personal passwords, there are many free password encryption programs that can more effectively handle this.  Simply search the IOS or Android App stores.  Make sure to choose a program that encrypts your data and requires fingerprint identification or 2-factor authentication to securely access your information.

#2 Use Encryption Software when Sending Sensitive Information via Email.

Maybe you plan to take out a loan with your bank, or you plan to join a new club, or talk to your attorney and you just need to send the other party some personal information digitally.   Whenever you plan to do this, remember the following:  When using a regular email client like Gmail, hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, Outlook, and more, your information is not secure while it is being transferred (in transit) from your email client to the recipients.  Your information is secure and encrypted while it is in your inbox, but it is not as soon as it leaves it.  The quick and simple way to fix this is to integrate encryption software into your email client.

For limited personal use, I recommend a simple, secure, and free product that can integrate right into Gmail called Virtru.  The best part is it’s simple to install (you don’t have to be an IT expert) and it’s even easier to use.

When dealing with more frequent sensitive communications or communications that require larger attachments for business, I recommend SecureMail.  It’s an easy to use, inexpensive solution that will integrate into all the top email clients, while providing you the capacity, and the security you need.

#3 Securely Back-up Your Information to a Trusted Provider in the Cloud. 

Most of us have learned the hard way over the last 10 years that external hard drives (or jump drives) will eventually fail.  The good news is that new solutions are available to consumers and businesses that do a far better job of reliability and inexpensively keeping a secure back-up of our information.

On the personal size of things, if you just want to securely back-up files on your computer, there are many solutions.   Simple to use personal back-up solutions include Google Drive Back-up & Sync or Carbonite back-up for personal computer. Google Drive offers a limited amount of back-up for FREE while Carbonite offers a home computer back-up for roughly $250 per year.

For small business back-up, I recommend DVM Safe.  It’s going to provide you multiple back-ups of your business information and even will proactively monitor the health of your back-up hardware to ensure your information is safe and protected.

Implementing these three simple steps should make 2018 your safest and most secure yet!

Ransomware: Key Steps to Avoid it or Reduce its Impact

Ransomware is one of the most talked about and discussed IT topics in the world today. Ransomware (a type of Malware) is software that hackers use to infiltrate your network, lock or encrypt your practice data and demand a ransom from you in order to un-lock it.  A common form of ransom requested is payment made in Bitcoin because it is very difficult to track.

There are multiple pro-active steps an office can take to reduce your chance of a Ransomware attack or limit the impact of an attack if you become a victim of one.

First, make sure all team members receive “Basic Training” on the most common ways a Ransomware attack can occur.  Ransomware attacks are usually carried out by a “Trojan” that is able to enter your network when someone accidentally downloads a file while working in your office or when another security vulnerability is found in your network.

The first simple but impactful step the team can take to protect your office is to limit or restrict the use of internet browsing while at the office.  When a user clicks on a link from a webpage, there are many different things that can occur.  One action that can occur is that an unsafe file could be downloaded to that user’s computer within your practice.  In order reduce the chance of this occurring consider defining browsing permissions and make sure you only navigate to well known and respected websites.

A second common way unsafe files are accidentally downloaded is when a user opens an email from an un-known or unexpected sender and clicks on a link or attachment included within the email.  A best practice to reduce the chances of this occurring is to let your Dental IT partner know if you receive emails from senders with links or attachments that you do not recognize.   Your IT partner can take steps to block future emails from those senders.   Also, sometimes you’ll receive emails from users that you know but are unexpected.   If you are uncertain about a communication you receive, it’s best to error on the side of caution and reach out the sender to confirm the communication came from them prior to clicking on any links or attachments within the email.

The next essential step you should take to reduce the risk of a Ransomware attack is to ensure you are partnering with a well respected and dedicated IT expert within your industry.  Your IT partner should be keeping up with the latest security trends in the industry and should have a game plan on how to mitigate your risk.

Some common steps a strong IT partner may recommend in order to try and help you reduce the chance or limit the impact of a Ransomware attack are:

1) Keep up-to-date with patches for your operating system and other software programs within your practice in order to fix the vulnerabilities within software programs that are found over time.

2) Back-up and encrypt your data off-site.  If you become a victim of an attack, having a clean and reliable copy of your data is essential to limiting the impact of an attack.

3) Invest in a quality antivirus and malware software solution.  Once the software is installed, make sure that software is set to automatically update and complete routine scans of your network.

4) Create user roles for team members on the network and restrict permissions for those roles so that team members only have access to the files and directories that are essential to their job functions.

Taking some of these basic steps are essential to protecting your business from Ransomware attacks now and in the future.