Client Spotlight: W. Schillig – “BITS Keeps Us On Track”

When it comes to business, you never want there to be any downtime that can get in the way of delivering for your customers or getting the job done. And when your business is spread across the globe in multiple time zones, it’s absolutely essential that your network is reliable and working all hours of the day and night.

“If somebody from one of our factories in Germany calls us at 3 AM, our computers and servers have to be running,” says David Most, Vice President of Sales with W. Schillig. Fortunately, David and his team don’t have to worry about service outages because they partner with Beacon IT Services (BITS).

 

W. Schillig sofa

What Doesn’t BITS Do For Us?

W. Schillig logoSince its establishment in 1949, W. Schillig has been delivering high-end, European style home furnishings. With U.S. operations based out of High Point, N.C., the company specializes in modern, contemporary sofas and furniture produced with high-quality German engineering. In addition to selling beautifully designed finished pieces to customers and retailers, shoppers can also personalize their items with more than 70 design options and dozens of choices of color and fabric.

With factories located throughout Europe and Asia and a distribution base throughout the U.S. and Canada, the people of W. Schillig absolutely rely on their computer technology to keep them connected with their customers and each other.

Several years ago, it became apparent that W. Schillig’s IT provider wasn’t delivering on all of their needs. “They just weren’t available enough,” says David.

They decided to give BITS a try. It started with just a few small projects, but upon discovering the dedication, tenacity, and follow-through of the BITS team, the partnership quickly grew. Today, BITS covers the majority of W. Schillig’s managed services needs.

“What doesn’t BITS do for us?” David says. “They handle just about everything: hardware purchases, programming our machines. It goes from installing a new server—which BITS did last week—to helping us turn on the computer and put in the right password. I don’t even know everything BITS does for us because it’s seamless. If someone is having an IT issue, they just call BITS and it’s taken care of.”

A Remote Working Superhero

Mel Gonzalez

BITS came to W. Schillig’s aid in a major way in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wanting to keep safe and socially distanced, W. Schillig’s employees quickly transitioned to remote working using laptops but quickly discovered their VPN wasn’t quite up to the increased workload. Tasks that should have taken minutes suddenly took an hour.

Then, while addressing a separate issue, BITS IT Support Specialist Mel Gonsalez heard about the slowdown. Mel discussed the issue with David, explaining that if they connected their laptops to workstation terminals, employees would be able to work as quickly and efficiently as if they were sitting at their desks. David was skeptical at first, but Mel quickly convinced him.

“Mel explained everything and told us what we needed to do to speed up our processes,” David says. “Within a few days of that conversation, we took action and hooked up our terminal system. Now our people can connect and work at a better pace. Some of our key programs even function better. It was a big deal and saved us so much time and frustration. Mel is kind of a superhero for our company.”

KeeW. Schillig sofa and roomping the Ship in Motion

Of course, Mel isn’t the only BITS team member who’s gone above and beyond for W. Schillig. David explains: “BITS’ brand is really all about the people. The people make the brand. And BITS has great people, very proactive.”

For David, it’s that dedication, as well as a talent for clear communication, that sets BITS apart.

Recently, a BITS team member contacted David to let him know that W. Schillig’s server might need replacing. “He said, ‘Your server is over 10 years old, and you could have a situation if you don’t replace it,'” David says. “He really made the situation simple and clean for us. We aren’t IT specialists, so that explanation was hugely helpful.”

As a result of that conversation, the server was replaced and the new server is running better than ever. That kind of proactive problem solving that characterizes BITS’ work gives David the peace of mind to focus on his business and not worry about IT.

“Our ship is in motion. It has to keep going forward,” he says. “If one thing breaks, the ship slows down. BITS keeps us on track. And that’s critical.”

No Worries, We Got IT

Interested in finding out what BITS can do for you and your business? Contact us today or request a free audit. We can’t wait to get to work for you.

By | 2021-01-15T09:02:08+00:00 January 15th, 2021|System Administration, Computer Related, BITS News, BITS Team, IT Services|

Challenge and Triumph in 2020: BITS Helps Businesses Weather a Difficult Year

Hand with a cutout of numbers 2020

For many, 2020 is a year that can’t be over soon enough. With a new year on the way and an undoubtedly challenging year behind us, it is time to look back and take stock. There is no question that the challenges of the year have been many and daunting, but there have been triumphs, too. Triumphs for our partner businesses and institutions who have so far endured 2020’s worst challenges. There have also been triumphs right here at BITS, where a combination of teamwork, persistence and drive has allowed us to be a part of our clients’ resilience this year. Join us as we look back on a tough year that we’ve overcome together.

Facing an Unprecedented Challenge

The rise of COVID-19 brought with it a rise in telecommuting across the globe. This need for a change in the professional landscape came seemingly overnight, but making it happen was much easier said than done.

“We take pride in being proactive,” said Kevin Lackey, account executive for BITS. “We monitor and manage systems so they don’t crash. I like to say it’s a lot easier to put on sunscreen to prevent the sunburn than it is to apply aloe after you’ve been burnt, but we couldn’t do that with COVID-19.”

Woman frustrated by computerProviding remote capability to our clients meant far more than providing laptops for employees without them. It meant establishing virtual private networks (VPN) and providing VPN licenses so that our clients’ employees could safely access their work files and programs. It meant improving security and threat protection, data protection, backup and more. Some would work from home and find they weren’t working on compatible versions of software. Some found their servers were too slow to support the new demand.

BITS was there to provide support and solutions every step of the way, and not only for its clients. BITS personnel had to help many fellow Beacon employees transition to remote work as well.

“In March, we had to move all of our customer’s operations from on-premises to virtual literally overnight so that their respective businesses could continue to function,” said John Scaramuzzo, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of IT Services. “We did this while getting our own operation functional in a remote environment as well. It’s definitely a challenge getting a remote help desk set up!”

Coordinating Efforts

Of the many challenges faced by the BITS team, one of the most difficult was coordinating efforts to meet this massive new demand.

“We had to attack everything differently,” said Lackey. “Let’s say we had to get 100 people ready to work remotely in a week; how would we prioritize these projects? How much bandwidth does our team have to set up VPN licenses? Laptops were going like hotcakes in April, often back-ordered as far as six weeks, so we had to figure out how to stay ahead of that.”

The recent inclusion of project management services into BITS allowed for an organized, unified effort between all of BITS’ moving parts. This provided clients the benefits of being part of Beacon’s larger Project Management Office. Having dedicated project management ensured timely and efficient delivery of services, as well as providing a single point of contact for checking project statuses, asking important questions and more.

Pieces moving strategically on the board“Being able to contact a project manager who is in charge of the deadlines is huge,” said Bradley Burton, project manager for BITS. “It gives the client an update on where all things are, but it also lets them know that we are actively seeking to hit targets set at the start of a project. They’re never left hanging or wondering where things are. There’s no break in the communication.”

This freed up our IT technicians and system administrators to do what they do best. With some careful coordination between project management, account management and BITS’ expert technicians, results began to take form.

“The techs are where the rubber meets the road, and Caleb Pruitt, our services manager, is the traffic director,” said Lackey. “When projects came in, he saw things from a technical perspective, and we had to understand his team’s bandwidth. The level of coordination was beautiful.”

Coming Through for Our Clients

The success of BITS and our clients this year wouldn’t have been possible without the relationships we’ve built over the years. For many at BITS, it was about coming together for each other and our clients.

“When things started going down in March and April, I figured this year could go one of two ways,” said Lackey. “I worried people would shut their doors and we would lose those close client relationships, but—knock on wood—it didn’t go that way; we were needed. More importantly, we could help.”

That pride in accomplishment and gratefulness for our clients’ success has been echoed at every level of Beacon. Reflecting on Beacon’s 22 years in the Triad, Beacon CEO and Senior Vice President Mark Dirks couldn’t be more proud of the BITS team.

“The true culture of a company comes out in times like these,” said Dirks. “I’m just so proud of how the BITS Team met the challenge to care for our customers. Our technicians had to go to client offices to help during a very scary time as COVID-19 emerged. They were ordering computers like crazy, setting them up and getting them out to customers. They even set up a process so customers could drop off and pick up equipment outside our offices to minimize contact.”

Let BITS be your partner in adapting to even the most difficult digital transitions. The BITS team is here for you. Get in touch today to discuss your digital operations goals.

By | 2020-12-17T08:11:31+00:00 December 17th, 2020|IT Services|

IT’s Better Together: Meet The Team Powering Your Business

 

No matter the size or scope of your organization, success is always the result of a team effort. Where talented and driven people come together with a common purpose, amazing things happen. The Beacon IT Services team (BITS) is no different. Coming from a range of experiences and with their own wealth of knowledge and skills, every member of BITS form the kind of IT services team that you’ll come to trust with any project, large or small.

What’s more, this team can integrate itself into your organization so seamlessly that they’ll feel like a part of your own team!

With a group as close-knit and dedicated as BITS, you won’t encounter the frustration of some larger companies that run you around from one IT tech to another before bringing you a solution. With us, you’ll get to put names to faces, build relationships, and trust that whoever fields your IT-related questions is capable of addressing your needs quickly and effectively.

Learn more about how our culture of collaboration and teamwork can bring you unparalleled IT support, and get to know a few of Beacon’s talented IT professionals! You’ll be seeing us around!

Mel GonzalezMel Gonzalez – IT Support Specialist

With a combined IT experience of nearly 10 years, Mel has seen it all. A self-professed math fanatic, Mel combines two of his passions to bring BITS’ clients a first-class service experience. First, his love for solving complex problems means he welcomes a challenge and is eager to rise to the occasion. Second, his desire to continue learning means every new experience only improves his ability to meet those challenges. Working with BITS means you’ll bring Mel’s extensive experience, quick thinking, and lifelong passion for creative problem solving to your team!

“We have so many clients with so many different needs, systems and configurations. By sharing knowledge, we are always getting stronger. We examine previous challenges we’ve had with other clients, apply that knowledge and develop a solution for you quickly.”

Dustin Shives

Dustin Shives – IT Support Specialist

Dustin came to Beacon after a 15-year career in the healthcare field and is currently finishing his bachelor’s degree in systems administration and cloud computing from WGU. While moving from healthcare to information technology might seem like a big change, Dustin doesn’t see it that way.

“At Beacon I get to keep that sense of teamwork and personal interaction that I enjoyed in healthcare. In a hospital, you have your CNA’s, nurses and doctors. Here, you have your level-one technicians, level-two technicians, system administrators and so on, but you’ve still got to have the teamwork. If you don’t have a team, if you don’t work as a team, you won’t create that common goal for your patient or client.”

Marissa ScaramuzzoMarissa Scaramuzzo – IT Support Specialist

As her father, John Scaramuzzo, cofounded Beacon when she was two years old, you might say Marissa is one of Beacon’s longest-running team members. Growing up alongside the business brought her close to computers at a young age, and her passion for technology has only grown now that she’s a bona fide BITS member. In addition to studying web design and computer sciences in high school and college, Marissa has also learned a great deal from her fellow BITS members. For Marissa, it’s this built-in culture of knowledge sharing and collaboration that sets BITS apart.

“Much of my IT knowledge comes from what Beacon’s Finest have taught me. For each person on your IT team, chances are you’ve added at least one unique skill to your repertoire. Our communication and comparing notes is crucial because it allows us to gain a larger, more detailed picture of the problem so we can better determine how to resolve it.”

Caleb PruittCaleb Pruitt – IT Services Manager

Encouraged at a young age to pursue law, medicine, engineering, or architecture, Caleb first trained as an architect, but he always knew he was made to work in information technology. Now, as BITS’ IT Services Manager, Caleb combines nearly a decade of experience and a lifelong love of technology to bring your institution the rapid and quality IT support your institution depends on to run smoothly.

As IT Services Manager, Caleb does a bit of everything: day-to-day business management, tech support work, system administration, office administration, and more. Caleb takes great pride in his fellow BITS team members and their ability to share knowledge and coordinate efforts.

“At bigger companies, your tier-one technician may only be able to help with passwords or something like that. They read off a list of solutions to a certain point and then they pass you off.  Here, our tech support and system administrators openly collaborate and a lot of knowledge transfer occurs, so our specialists are strong in all areas. Any one of ours would wipe the floor with a tier-one technician somewhere else. You won’t be working through some major hierarchy that takes days and days to resolve. Based on our metrics, we resolve 95% of all calls on the day we receive them.”

Make Our IT Team Your IT Team!

BITS is the IT team you can trust to keep your workstations and computer networks protected and running at peak capacity. Quick, responsive, and experienced, we make sure our clients stay operational and informed, 24/7. From managed IT services to threat prevention and data recovery, BITS provides peace of mind and the technical know-how to keep your business humming.

We’ve been helping our clients manage their IT since 1998: we’ve been there through IT’s history and evolution, and we can help you ready your business for the future.

Contact us today to discuss your IT needs, or request a free audit. We look forward to introducing our team to yours!

By | 2020-11-18T06:51:32+00:00 November 18th, 2020|BITS News, BITS Team, IT Services|

Top 3 Scariest Cyber Attack Trends of 2020

For many, October is a time to embrace the truly scary in the world. Whether in costumes or in late-night horror-movie binges, people steer into all things spooky for a thrill. But, as with anything truly scary, it’s the threats closest to home that really get the hair on the back of your neck standing on end. What’s worse than the threat you can’t see? What’s scarier than the threat that might already be knocking on your door ?

A cyberattack occurs every 39 seconds, but unlike zombies, vampires and werewolves, you can protect yourself from these threats, no silver bullets or wooden stakes needed.

Here are three of the scariest cyberattack trends of 2020, as well as important steps you can take to protect your organization.

Masked hacker

1. No Target Is Too Large or Too Small

A number of high-profile cyberattacks this year has further proven that attackers can be fearless, targeting small and large businesses alike.

Hotel giants MGM and Marriot have seen massive breaches so far in 2020. For MGM Resorts, what was initially thought to be a breach of 10.6 million guest records turned out to be a loss of nearly 142 million records. The records were discovered on a hacking forum and included personal and contact details like names, addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth. The breach occurred because of unauthorized access of the company’s cloud server. Marriot suffered a similar blow (its second in three years) that resulted in the theft of 5.2 million guest records.

Even Fortune 500 healthcare companies like Magellan Health aren’t safe. In April of 2020, more than 365,000 patient records were compromised in a sophisticated attack on the company’s cloud storage system using a combination of phishing and ransomware. Among the data stolen were employee credentials, social security numbers and tax information.

Large businesses aren’t the only ones at risk. According to the Verizon 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), 28% of all cyberattacks are launched against small businesses (those with less than 1,000 employees). Although small business are targeted less frequently, data breaches that do target them yield confirmed data disclosure more than 50% of the time. Breaches affecting large businesses result in confirmed exposure approximately 6.6% of the time.

2. Public Schools and Colleges Are in the Crosshairs

Empty classroomRich with sensitive student, staff and faculty data, universities worldwide are unfortunately becoming more and more attractive targets of cyberattacks. This year, Michigan State University was the victim of not one, but two attacks. The first came in May, when NetWalker malware encrypted and stole sensitive information and threatened to publish it unless a ransom was paid. The second occurred over the summer, when the university’s online shop was compromised, resulting in the theft of more than 2,600 shoppers’ credit card numbers.

Similar attacks on educational and research institutions are on the rise. According to researchers at Check Point, weekly cyberattacks on education increased 30% in July and August of this year when compared to May and June. And this trend shows no sign of slowing down. This year alone:

  • University of Utah paid cyberattackers $457,000 for ransomed data.
  • University of California, San Francisco paid a staggering $1.1 million, one of the largest payouts to cyber attackers in the education sector ever.
  • Attackers shut down servers in New York, North Carolina and Illinois community colleges, among others.

Universities aren’t the only education targets of cyberattacks, as a number of attacks on K-12 public schools has demonstrated in recent years. At the time of this writing, the K-12 Cyber Incident Map, which tracks cybersecurity-related incidents in K-12 public schools in the U.S., has tracked 1,043 cyber incidents since 2016. One of the most brazen attacks this year occurred in one of Connecticut’s largest public school systems. The Hartford Public School system was attacked by a file-locking malware that impacted more than 200 city servers and forced schools to close.

3. Attackers Are Exploiting the Pandemic

The number of incidents in U.S. public schools had already tripled in 2019 from 2018, but the problem has only worsened since COVID-19 forced many workers and students to work and study Woman riding a bus wearing a medical maskonline. As working and learning from home expands, so too do the opportunities attackers have to infiltrate vulnerable systems or exploit unaware users. It may be no coincidence that nearly 8.4 billion records have been compromised in the first quarter of this year alone (as compared to only 4.1 million records during the first quarter of last year).

One way cyber criminals have exploited the pandemic is to target the products so many have come to depend on as they work and learn from home. While these products have helped many protect themselves from exposure to COVID-19, they also have opened them to another kind of exposure. Within months of a nearly global shift in working habits, attackers stole 500,000 Zoom user records and put them up for bid in the dark web.

Social attacks, like phishing, camouflaged as COVID-19 relief information and government health advice can sneak in payloads of ransomware, keyloggers, trojans and more. One study found that between February and March of this year, ransomware attacks increased by around 148%. What’s more, the same report by Carbon Black found that notable spikes in cyber attacks occur shortly after major COVID-related news, highlighting the opportunistic nature of cyberattackers.

What You Can Do

If you find this information frightening, you’re not alone. But you’re also not defenseless.

  • Regularly train staff and students on cyber security According to the 2020 DBIR, phishing has emerged as the most common threat to both big and small businesses. As phishing is a social attack, one of your best routes to preventing it is regular, thorough security awareness training of your staff. For schools and colleges, it’s not enough to train your staff and faculty on the importance of security awareness; you must also make sure your students understand cyber security best practices.
  • Let BITS equip your organization with anti-virus software This may sound self-explanatory, but as some of your employees are working from home, make sure they are only accessing your systems from approved, secure devices. For educators providing students with laptops, provide adequately-protected devices. Beacon IT Services (“BITS”) can help with all your anti-virus needs!
  • Partner with BITS to establish a strong perimeter Our experts can help you create, maintain and monitor firewalls and gateways to protect your network from cyber attacks. In many of the attacks, including those on Marriot, Magellan Health and Michigan State University, the vulnerabilities were found in unprotected or under-protected networks and servers.

Contact us!

The experts here at Beacon IT Services are ready to handle your IT security needs. Request a free audit or contact us with any questions about how we can help with your security and threat protection needs! It may not be silver bullets or wooden stakes, but with BITS, you can be sure you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself from threats.

By | 2020-10-26T07:56:43+00:00 October 26th, 2020|System Administration, Cyber Security, IT Services|

Connect Everywhere: Why You Need a Reliable VPN

So. Here we are. Still working from home. (Well, many of us.) Still not back to normal.

(Not going to reiterate everything that’s going on. You know what’s up. And if you’re reading this in the future and have no idea what I’m referring to… well… you’re very lucky.)

So yes, here we are, and here we stay. One thing to learn from everything happening now is that you need to be prepared for anything. Even if you’ve been able to get through 2020 largely unscathed, the general chaos and disruption right now should illustrate the need to be adaptive and ready to roll with whatever comes next.

Empty office

When it comes to your business, that means being ready to work from anywhere. What you need is a way for you and your team to access your business’s network form anywhere, while still offering the same level of cybersecurity that you’d get connecting directly in the office. That way you’ll be able to carry on your work without interruption, no matter what the universe decides to throw at us. (And as we’ve seen, it can throw a lot.)

A virtual private network (VPN) can provide what you need. And SonicWall is one of the most trusted VPN providers in the business.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Is SonicWall?

SonicWall is a technology company specializing in appliances and devices that primarily provide cyber security and remote, wireless access.

What Does SonicWall Offer?

SonicWall offers a number of useful products and services, including firewalls, cloud security, and content filtering. They also specialize in remote access and VPNs.

So what’s a VPN, again?

A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network. It allows for the security and function of the private network while allowing users to access the network anywhere. In other words, it’s the technology that make remote work possible and safe.

SonicWall offers a number of VPN options, so businesses can find the version that will work best for them.

What Can It Do For My Business?

Simply put, a reliable VPN will allow your team to work from anywhere. With just a laptop computer and wi-fi connection, they’ll have secure access to your servers and network wherever they choose to connect, allowing them to seamlessly accomplish their work without needing to be in the same space.

Man working outside on a laptopThat means that even when everyone may not be able to be in the same space (like is happening now), they can still work and collaborate like a team. Your business will be able to run without interruption regardless of how your team may be scattered. Some VPNs even allow easy and convenient access via smartphone operating systems, offering even more flexibility for you and your team.

A VPN also provides useful and essential security measures to keep your data and business secure. Many VPNs require user authentication (via passwords, digital certificates, or even biometrics) to access so only authorized users can access your network, in addition to a host of other security measures.

Do I Need a VPN?

If you have a team working for you and you want to make sure you can continue to run and function under any kind of changing circumstance, then we’ll say, yeah. You do. Definitely.

The fact is, even if you have gotten through the current pandemic moment without having to shut down your office or working space, you simply don’t know what’s coming in the future. Not to fear-monger (really) but the next world changing event may separate your team and provide a new need for remote work. And even when you aren’t navigating worst-case scenarios, a VPN offers your team unparalleled flexibility in how they collaborate.

For example, a team traveling to meet clients no longer has to put off other work or rely on people back at the office to access important data. Instead, they can access via the VPN and pull up the information and files they need directly.

Or how about when you wake up at 3:40 AM with the solution to the problem you’ve been working on suddenly in your head? Do you wait until you get to office hours later and discover you’ve forgotten your epiphany, or do you log in via your VPN, solve the problem, and lay back down for a few more hours of restful sleep with a feeling of real accomplishment?Man working on laptop at home.

How Do I Get a VPN?

Well, that’s where Beacon IT Services (BITS) comes in. We’ve been working with SonicWall for years, providing VPNs for our clients along with a host of other services. We even use a SonicWall VPN ourselves. We can get one set up for you and your business so you can begin working from anywhere.

So don’t wait for the next big moment. Be prepared, and contact us today to get started.

By | 2020-09-24T10:44:05+00:00 September 24th, 2020|System Administration, Other, Cyber Security, IT Services|

Take a Rest, We Got IT: What Your IT Team Does When You’re On Vacation

cup of coffee with milk being added

It’s 8:44 AM.

You wanted to sleep in later, of course, but it was still nice to not wake up to the sound of your phone alarm buzzing. You go to the kitchen and make some coffee, then sit down on your couch, enjoying the quiet. You just breathe.

Of course, cancelling the big vacation was a bummer, but you needed the time off. But as your head clears, a worry crosses your mind. Will everything be OK without you? You grab your phone, hover your thumb over your email.

Then you stop. You can relax. You’ve got a good team. You trust them. And you also know that even while you’re taking your much deserved rest, your information technology partner – your IT team – is still hard at work, keeping your network and infrastructure running so your business can keep doing business. So pour yourself a refill of coffee, and get comfortable, while we take a look at what your IT team does while you are on vacation.

They’ll Maintain Your Operating System

inflatable pink flamingo in poolOne of the key things your IT team does while you’re out: maintaining your operating system. Ensuring network connectivity, monitoring and adding bandwidth as needed, optimizing your data backup solutions, providing necessary system updates to ensure your customers have the best possible user experience, your IT team does it all.

More importantly, they monitor your system 24/7, so they can catch any potential issues before they arise and cause problems. That means no disruptions to your business, no inconveniences for your customers, and no panicked phone calls from the office while you’re taking it easy.

They’ll Connect You to the Cloud

man lounging with laptop computerOf course, you may not be able to help yourself: you go to work everyday, and even when you’re off, there’s one or two things you need to take care of yourself. Fortunately, with the right IT team working behind the scenes for you, it’s easy and seamless, all thanks to the cloud.

Your IT team will set up cloud networking and data storage solutions for your system. That means your whole network can be accessed from anywhere, and you can log on from anywhere you can connect to the internet, be it your couch or the pool or anywhere. Furthermore, your IT team will monitor your cloud network, keeping an eye out for any possible disruptions, so you have one less thing to be concerned about.

They’ll Keep Your Network Secure

Speaking of concerns, don’t let any worries about security wake you from your mid-day vacation nap. Your IT team is working hard to keep your network and data secure, whether you’re connected to the cloud or on a private network.

The team will get your system set with the best protections and defenses, with a fully customized firewall to protect you from network breaches, viruses, and phishing attempts. Their regular inspections will locate and correct any vulnerabilities in your system, and the team keep an eye out for any irregularities, ready to spring into action if anything goes wrong.

And if you go a little too deep into vacation mode and forget your passwords while you’re out? Your IT team can help you get logged back in, too.

 

woman floating on inflatable pink flamingo

Don’t Worry: Beacon Has Got IT

So to really rest and make the most of your time off, it’s clear that a trusted IT partner is a must: you need Beacon IT Services (BITS).  We’ve been helping our clients manage their networks, protect their data, and keep their businesses running day and night through spring, summer, fall, and winter for more than 20 years (and lots and lots of vacations).

Contact us today to discuss what we can do for you, or request a free audit.

What’s Hot in IT? New Programs to Keep Your Data Cool

hot day on the road

 

Whew! It’s the height of summer and it is HOT. Take your breath away hot. Cook an egg on the hood of your car hot. Don’t go outside unless you can jump in a pool hot (or at least dip your toes into a kiddie pool in your backyard).

In other words, it’s a good time to stay inside. And while your inside, cooling off with a glass of something cold and refreshing, you can think about a different kind of heat, like what’s generating interest and excitement in the world of information technology services.

So what is hot in IT these days? Cyber security is always a major trend. And as COVID-19 continues to move more business online, anything that can keep your business and your data safe are a high priority.

Beacon IT Services (BITS) is always on the lookout for new programs and innovations that can help protect our clients. “Security is still the name of the game in managed services,” says BITS account executive Kevin Lackey. “We continually research new security services / security stacks for our clients to ensure we can stay in front of any potential issues or threats. There are literally hundreds of options, but we try to tailor which offerings are 1) beneficial to our specific set of clients and 2) can be incorporated with our systems.”

Lately, two new products that will help our clients improve their security have got us particularly excited. Here’s a look:

Auvik: Network Monitoring

Auvik is a networking monitoring solution that allows managed service providers (MSPs) to monitor entire network infrastructures, including data centers, workstations, physical servers, and more. With it, administrators can manage multiple clients from a single parent account. From that parent account, they can then add two-factor authentication for all accounts, allowing for an ample security upgrade.

Auvik also provides a dashboard for administrators with a centralized view of overall network performance for enhanced maintenance and can detect connected devices within the network and establish a secure inter-network connection. This allows for easier and more efficient troubleshooting. Plus, it easily integrates with variety of workflow and business tools like Microsoft Office.

All in all, Auvik ensures that managed service providers like BITS can effectively monitor their client networks and keep them running with maximum efficiency.

Huntress: Intrusion Detection

Keeping networks secure from hackers requires constant vigilance, but Huntress software is valuable tool for keeping them out – and getting rid of any who may have found a way in.

While many hackers use their own knowledge of antivirus and preventive security systems to get past firewalls and establish a foothold in a network. They can implement hard-to-detect malware that only runs when a user logs in or even only the user executes specific processes.

Huntress is specifically designed to seek out those footholds and provide a means to correct them. It integrates with existing security measures, and gives managed service providers like BITS detailed reports on security compromises it finds along with detailed instructions for fixing the issue.

The result is a significantly more secure network without significant extra costs: a win-win for managed service providers and their clients.

BITS Will Connect You with the Best and the Latest in IT

Of course, knowing what’s hot in IT is only helpful if you’ve got a partner to implement it. BITS can be that partner for you and will implement the IT innovations that make sense for your business and its needs. From hot new programs like Auvik and Huntress to other established programs like Proofpoint, IronScales, and KnowBe4, we are poised to offer and deliver the solutions that make a difference.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you, or request a free audit. No need to step outside: our remote IT will help keep your online business running and secure, no matter how hot it is outside. Cool.

The History and Evolution of Managed IT Services

History: we’ve lived through it, and more is being made every day. And while what’s happening in IT services may not seem quite as dramatic as what’s happening in the rest of the world, there’s no doubt that the industry is rapidly evolving in ways that will change how IT business is done going forward.

And it’s not just that the way IT services are handled: it’s in the increasing need for every business to have a robust online presence, and with that, the need for trusted managed IT service providers. So how did we get here? As always, to get a sense of where we are going, it’s worthwhile to take a look back.

From “Break / Fix” To Managed Services 

For a long time, the dominant model for IT services was “Break / Fix.” A business would have their system set up, then when something went wrong, they’d call up an IT team to come fix it. Sure, that meant lots of downtime while they waited for the team to address the issue and big bills to fix major problems. But at the time, companies either weren’t relying as heavily on technology in their day to day business, or least they didn’t believe that they did.

As times changed and technology advanced, it became clear to many companies that technology was absolutely essential to their operation. The long down times and significant work (and income) reductions that came with the “break / fix” model were simply unacceptable. Still, it wasn’t feasible or practical for many companies – especially small businesses – to have their own full-time IT expert. So managed IT services were born.

In the managed IT services model, companies contracted with outside team of IT experts to monitor their technology and fix any issues that arise as soon as possible. This meant that companies no longer had to worry about crashing systems or email being down, but could also leverage more sophisticated and complex technology. The IT team would even update a company’s technology and systems to be up-to-date.

A New World of IT

Today, more business than ever is conducted online. Cloud computing gives companies access to levels of data storage and online collaboration that would have been unthinkable (or at least unaffordable) just ten years ago.

And with so much more happening in that cloud space rather than on hard drives, cyber security is even more essential as well. Fortunately, managed IT services can also put systems in place (like multi-factor authentication) to prevent data from being stolen, exploited, or tampered with.

So it’s no surprise that companies are increasing the resources they give to IT: data shows that 44% of businesses plan to increase their tech spending this year.

And more changes are in store.

Soon, 5G technology will likely transform the digital landscape again, increasing the speed and capacity of online systems while decreasing latency (the time it takes for data to travel between devices and cellular towers- practically, the delay between your action and a site’s response). Soon, people from across the world will be able to collaborate together as though they are in the same room.

The power of 5G technology, along with other revolutionary innovations like the Internet of Things (IOT), could change everything about the way we do business and live our lives. It goes without saying the “break / fix” model wouldn’t fly in this new world. Every business that wants to stay competitive will need a trusted IT team of experts to manage their technology and ensure their cyber security.

And a business that doesn’t adapt to this new world of IT? Well, they’re history.

Take Control of Your Future

Fortunately, a trustworthy IT partner isn’t hard to find. In fact, you’ve got one right here: Beacon IT Services (BITS). We’ve been helping our clients manage their IT since 1998: we’ve been there through IT’s history and evolution, and we can help you ready your business for the future.

Contact us today to discuss your managed IT needs, or request a free audit. Your future begins today.

By | 2020-06-25T11:49:34+00:00 June 25th, 2020|System Administration, Computer Related, 5G, IT Services|

Adjusting Your Business for a Digital Transformation

Change and uncertainty have been constant themes for nearly every business since the start of 2020. It’s hard to find an industry or sector that has not had to navigate at least some small-scale transitions due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many business were prepared for a pivot to an online-heavy operational model. But, many more were not.

There’s no shame in the realization that your enterprise may not have been immediately ready to adopt a more digitally oriented business model. It’s hard to predict a once-in-a-century global crisis. But, now that you’re in the thick of it, what can you do to ensure that your operation is optimized for the new economic reality we are all experiencing?

Let’s discuss some keys for a successful ramp up to digital business operations.

digital transformationThe Ongoing Digital Transformation

The coronavirus had definitely provided the impetus for a digital transformation in many industries. But, the truth is, the transformation has been going on for a while now. Around 70% of businesses were expanding their digital capabilities in one way or another when the pandemic struck.

Not everyone was hitting their transitions out of the park, however. In fact, a full-scale digital transformation is hardly assured of success. According to research by the consulting heavyweight McKinsey & Company, less than one-third of organizations undertaking a large-scale technological upgrade succeeded in improving performance over a meaningful period of time.

There is good news for small business owners, however. Businesses with fewer than 100 employees were 2.7 more likely to report a successful transition compared with organizations with 50,000 employees or more.

So, what can you do to maximize the success of your business’ digital transformation? Our friends at McKinsey offer these five suggestions:

  1. Provide capable, digital-savvy leadership
  2. Build for a workforce of the future
  3. Empower and encourage your team to work in new ways
  4. Upgrade to digital tools for day-to-day business operations
  5. Communicate frequently via traditional and digital channels

Let’s explore these in more detail.

Digital-Savvy Leadership

If you are running a successful small business, you obviously have a capable leadership team in place already. That said, if you’re looking to improve your digital infrastructure, you’ll likely need some help with the “digital-savvy” part of leadership. This probably means looking outside of your organization for help.

You can go about it in one of two ways. You could create a “chief digital officer” position and hire an experienced manager for the role. The other options is to engage a knowledgeable and trustworthy IT firm to help you through the transition.

Either way, you’ll need to empower and smooth the way for your C-suite hire or the IT team you contract. Which means consistent communication to support their efforts. More on this later.

workforce of the futureBuilding a Workforce for the Future

An investment into new technology is great. But, it won’t make a difference on its own. You’ve got to have employees who know how to use and make the most of your new digital tools.

Getting your team to explore and utilize new tools is easier when you have a few employees who can act as integrators and early adopters. Look for members of your team who know the technical aspect of your business and understand the potential impact of the tools and technologies you are looking to add.

Empowering Your Employees

Change is difficult. Period. It’s human nature to keep on doing things the same way we always have. To grease the wheels of change, you need buy-in from your team.

One way to get a positive reaction from your charges is to solicit input about specific ways that new digital tools can help support their work. This sets the right tone during the planning part.

Once new processes and tools are put in place, it is imperative to reinforce the new behaviors. One way to do that is by providing continuing education opportunities. Another one is to encourage employees to explore, take risks and fail with their new tools.

Adding the Right Digital Tools for Day-to-Day Operations

Through their research, McKinsey identified three important considerations when adding new digital tools:

  • the application should make information accessible throughout the entire organization,
  • the application should empower your employees and your business partners to easily reach data-driven insights,
  • standard procedures should be revised to include the new digital tool

loud speakerCommunicate, Communicate, Communicate

As said before, internalizing new ways of working is not easy. But, if your employees understand the impetus for the changes being made, and the direction in which these changes are taking the company, they are more likely to successfully adopt their new digital tools and procedures.

To that end, it’s important to get your team together in-person to discuss your digital optimization plan before it gets going. As the changes are rolled out, continued check-in conversation between employees and their managers can help to keep implementation on track. Periodic communication from management via email or remote company town halls (via Zoom, Slack, etc) providing updates throughout the process will keep your team up to date on developments and help them keep track of progress.

Priorities for a Digital Transformation

Now that you understand the keys to a successful digital transformation, how should you proceed? We asked our team of IT experts for advice. Here’s what they said.

Make a Plan

This sounds obvious. But, how many businesses had to scramble to get business operations online when shutdown orders came down in mid-March? This reaction wasn’t unusual. IT needs often get de-prioritized unless something major goes wrong.

The rush in March, necessitated by COVID-19, made resources and equipment scarce. It’s can still be difficult to track down needed equipment, like laptops and servers.

For a smooth transition, make a plan before the need arises.

Decentralize Your Network

Cloud computing and applications are a smart and financially manageable way for small businesses to move their operations online. There are other advantages to decentralizing your business network. For one, you minimize the risk of your network going down from a single point of failure. For example, if your on-site servers go down, a cloud backup can keep your network operational while the problem is addressed.

Boost Security

Whenever you add points of access to your protected network, be it from cloud applications or from your workforce working remotely, you provide more avenues for cyber attacks to reach you. That doesn’t mean you should hunker down and shut out the digital world. It does mean that you should take the necessary security precautions.

Increase Bandwidth

Logic dictates that if you’re going to be relying on more digital processes, you’ll need to bolster your digital resources. This includes everything from ordering more laptops for your remote employees and upping your internet connection to implementing a more robust firewall and increasing your network monitoring capabilities.

Beacon Knows Digital Transformation

Need a reliable partner to help you through your digital transformation? The BITS team is here for you. Get in touch today to discuss your digital operations goals.

By | 2020-09-22T12:27:01+00:00 May 20th, 2020|BITS Team, IT Services|

Document Storage Solutions for the Work-From-Home Era

working from homeLast month, as many businesses were amending their operations to function in a global pandemic, we wrote about managing the transition to remote work and what small businesses needed to do to make the new arrangement possible. If there’s one positive arising from the COVID-19 crisis, it’s that many of us have been forced to learn the skills necessary to function in the 21st century economy. In the last several weeks, tens of millions of employees have become intimately familiar with video conferencing, VPNs, online collaboration tools, cloud-based document storage and more.

We’re more than a month now into our new normal. Hopefully, your transition to remote work was a seamless one. More likely, your team probably hit a few hiccups along the way. You don’t just unveil a whole new way of doing business without some speed bumps.

One major hurdle for the newly initiated remote-work businesses has been how to store, share and manage sensitive records and information via the web. The big concern is how to do all those things while maintaining tight security protocols. Strangely appropriate, April also happens to be the National Records and Information Management month. So, this topic arises at just the right time on the calendar.

Rising Cyberthreats During COVID-19

cyber criminalYour business’ transition to remote work isn’t happening in a vacuum. In the digital environment there are always threats. And, as we’ve covered in previous posts, criminal activity online is growing every year. The COVID-19 pandemic that’s driving more and more businesses to operate on the web is simultaneously presenting more targets for hackers to exploit.

Cybercrime reports have spiked four-fold in the wake of the global spread of coronavirus, according to the FBI.

“There was this brief shining moment when we hoped that, you know, ‘gosh cyber criminals are human beings too,’ and maybe they would think that targeting or taking advantage of this pandemic for personal profit might be beyond the pale,” stated FBI Deputy Assistant Director Tonya Ugoretz  on a recent online panel hosted by the Aspen Institute. “Sadly that has not been the case.”

Cybercriminals have used COVID-19 themes to go after everything from hospitals and health care systems to wind farm operators. They’ve crashed private – but, unsecured – Zoom calls (Zoombombing) and targeted private email addresses with phishing schemes.

As a result, it’s not surprising that 7 out of 10 organizations reported in a mid-March survey by Adobe that they expected to increase their investment in cybersecurity solutions.

So, what should you, as a small business, be doing to secure your digital environment?

Work-From-Home Solutions

There are a few basic things your business needs in order for your work force to be able to work from home with any efficiency. For starters, your team will need access to and the ability to collaborate on company documents. You will also need to back up the work your employees complete on their company-issued equipment at home. And, of course, you’ll need to protect all of these cloud-based interactions from anyone who might have less than pure intentions.

Secure shared drive

So, let’s start with the company’s shared drive – the library of all your essential documents, from client work and purchase orders to business expenses and marketing materials. Many businesses rely on on-premise servers to house their company shared drive. But, with a network of employees working from their home offices, there is less need to have your document storage on site.

And, there are advantages to a cloud-based solution that’s tailored for remote collaboration. A cloud storage platform, like Microsoft’s OneDrive, allows a team of employees to work on the same document, simultaneously, while maintaining the same working version of the file. The file is also protected through encryption, both while it is being worked on and when transmitting to the cloud. And, there are additional helpful features like data loss prevention, file restore and intelligent discovery.

Beacon, itself, has recently transitioned to a cloud-based shared drive to help our team of employees working from home.

Data Backup

It’s easy enough to backup the data on your employee workstations when they’re in office. It doesn’t have to be difficult to back up your remote employees’ machines when they’re not physically connected to your network. A great solution for centrally enabled data backup is Veeam Backup & Replication. This is another resource we’ve deployed in-house.

cloud securityCloud security

Most cloud applications are created with security features built-in. Still, it’s important to implement protocols and promote habits that further protect your enterprise.

Cybersecurity best practices call for the use of VPNs (virtual private network) for all employees working from home. With cyber attacks on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is advised that businesses make sure they are updated to the latest versions of their VPNs and all patches are applied.

Multifactor authentication is another helpful security measure. Password protecting your company workstations and all remote applications ensures that your company resources stay safe, even if a phishing attack compromises an employee’s credentials.

Lastly, training your remote employees on how to spot phishing attacks and other security exploits can further reduce the risk of a successful cyber attack.

Beacon Knows Remote Work

Roughing your way through a transition to remote work? The BITS team can help you smooth the way. Give us a call, we’re here to help.

By | 2020-09-22T12:27:02+00:00 April 23rd, 2020|System Administration, BITS Team, IT Services|
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