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Latest eGuide - Crisis: Your Office is on Fire
You don't want to miss this month's eGuide resource. Access this month's eGuide on our Resources page This is something none of us wants to experience. But it does happen. There’s a small fire in your office. No-one is hurt and everyone is safe. But the damage to your workplace is unbelievable. The flames. The heat. The smoke. And of course, the huge amounts of water used to put out the fire. Here’s a good question – if there had been a fire in your office last night, what would you wish you’d got round to doing yesterday? Think about all your computers and specifically the data on them. Is your data as protected and backed up as it could be? Are you triple sure of that? Read our brand new eGuide now. It’ll show you the things you need to make a priority to keep you protected from any disaster.
Tech Tip - MileIQ Mileage Tracker
Check out the latest BlueCastle IT Tech Tip video.
Does your team forget to track their mileage when driving for business? It can be a real pain. Luckily there’s an app that can track mileage automatically for you. And you probably already have it, as it’s part of Microsoft 365. Here are the details: --------------------------- Check out our other videos over at bluecastleit.com/videos
Video - Tech Tip - Look out for Malware
Check out the latest BlueCastle IT Tech Tip video.
We often focus on email as the primary place where malicious actors will try and break into your business' IT systems. But it's not the only avenue at their disposal. Here are some other malware scams to be aware of. Check out our other videos over at bluecastleit.com/videos
Why IT Managed Services Will Save You More Than Money
“Downtime costs money.” That’s no secret, but it doesn’t quite capture the whole experience…you arrive to work in the morning, grab your coffee knowing you’ve got a hectic day ahead, and are ready to dive in. For some reason your computer can’t access the database and neither can anyone else’s. You restart the server while fielding calls left, right and center, but are unable to answer any client queries. Your hands are completely tied…and now the server is beeping furiously…what’s going on??! You’re not just in crisis mode, you’re on damage control as you call every tech you can think of, trying to find one who can come NOW. Not exactly the day you had planned. The Break/Fix Days Are Gone Previously, businesses only addressed their IT needs when something broke. A few hours down meant little in the scope of things. In today’s fast world, businesses rely heavily on IT and downtime just isn’t an option. Even the legalities of simply restoring financial, legal or medical files after a breach raises issues. The cost of break/fix is now too high, both financially and emotionally. Simply put, your IT services are remotely monitored and proactively managed by a professional, external business. Your Managed Service Provider (MSP) runs regular diagnostics on equipment to identify impending failure and resolves problems before they happen. Benefits of Managed Services Small to medium businesses in particular benefit from managed services, because they don’t usually have an on-site technician to oversee the multiple systems in use. By subscribing to a managed service provider, businesses can have reduced labor costs, access to a knowledge base, future-pacing, better data security and reduced downtime. Businesses can also know exactly what their upcoming costs are and plan accordingly. Some of the managed services we can provide are: Remote support – This allows us to help you quickly without needing to be on-site. Hardware monitoring – We monitor your servers and workstations to catch hardware failures before they happen. Managed anti-virus – We make sure your anti-virus is up to date and take immediate action if an infection occurs. Patch management – We make sure your computer’s operating system is up to date, closing access to known vulnerabilities as soon as possible. How much down time can your business afford? Give us a call - 860-215-8960
The Value of Virtual Machines for Your Business
The Value of Virtual Machines for Your Business You invest a lot of time researching the best technology for your business. Your Apple computers work well for your needs, plus, the sleek desktops look great in client-visible locations. Yet occasionally, something comes up that you can’t do on an iMac. It doesn’t work on the Mac operating systems (OSs); only on Windows. That’s where a virtual machine can come in handy. Perhaps you invested in your Mac technology before finding out about this industry-specific software you need to run. You’re not about to buy new computers for every user in your office. You know that running Windows XP can be more dangerous. After all, there are many more cybercriminals savvy with Microsoft products. The payoff is much bigger for a bad actor who can find a vulnerability in Windows, as there are so many more users. The answer, then, is to give your users access to a virtual machine. This lets you run that piece of software that only works on Windows, without starting from square one. What is a virtual machine (VM)? VM software emulates your computer. It allows you to install an operating system, such as Windows 10, on your Mac. The software maps computer processing, memory, storage, and other components to run properly. Then, the virtual OS (or guest OS) acts as if it’s running on a real system. Yet for your purposes, it’s more of an app on your host OS. You open the software, make it full screen, and your computer looks and feels as if it has Windows installed. One advantage of the virtual machine approach? You need only the software that you use on occasion and the VM software. You don’t have to get more hardware to accommodate that one Windows-centric tool. You can simply click into the software and do what you need to do. Then, when you’re done, you minimize that screen or close the application, and you’re back in Mac world. Virtual Machines Not Just for Mac Users Any computer use can also benefit from VM software. Maybe you’ve been a Mac loyalist but want to try Linux? You can install the OS virtually to check it out. Or perhaps you’re developing software and need to test your offering on other operating systems. The virtual OS helps there, too. Overlapping the VM on top of the existing operating system can also provide peace of mind. If you have legacy software on an old Windows operating system, you continue to use it safely. Instead of connecting a computer with outdated (and unsupported) software to the internet, you can keep it separate, offline. A virtual machine also offers a way to browse the internet without the risk of compromising the host OS. The original files and data are separate and won’t be at risk of compromise, theft, encryption, or ransomware. Businesses can also benefit from a VM when they want to clone an existing system. Make a snapshot of the old computer and run it in on a VM on a new machine. This keeps the business running as usual when you’ve lost a software installer or need specific settings. Or use the VM when you want to move the guest OS to a new host computer. The VM snapshot can also provide you with a backup of the old settings and legacy systems that you can always go back to. Worried about running an antivirus update or installing a new app? Use the virtual machine software to create a snapshot of your current machine’s state. Then, you can quickly restore it if the worst happens. Real Help with Virtual Machines Virtual machines offer real benefits. Our IT experts can help you setup an operating system within your VM. We can also connect the software to printers or the network as needed, securely. Contact us today at 860-215-8960!
Increase Productivity with Microsoft Power Automate
Productivity is the great goal of business. If you’re a Microsoft 365 user, you have access to a tool that can easily increase your process efficiency. Here’s what you need to know about Microsoft’s Power Automate. Power Automate is a cloud-based product available to Windows 10 users. The tool, formerly known as Microsoft Flows, brings intelligent automation to business processes. Harness the benefits of artificial intelligence developing workflows and creating data dashboards. Power Automate hands over mundane tasks and manual processes to robotic process automation (RPA). With RPA you can: • understand bottlenecks; • map and analyze processes; • identify time savings opportunities; • capture institutional knowledge; • track important metrics; • make data-driven decisions; • empower users to share processes and collaborate; • break down internal business silos moving data between departmental systems on a schedule. Power Automate is available online, as a desktop client, or as a mobile application, and for both iOS and Android devices. Best of all, it’s included in your Microsoft cost. How Does Power Automate Work? In Power Automate you build time-saving workflows using a low-code or no-code experience. The software offers templates or step-by-step guidance to help create automated workflows. The secure and scalable technology connects with other Microsoft products, of course. It can also link new and legacy systems and allows users to integrate or create their own connectors. You might set up a notification in Teams when a new Microsoft Forms response comes in, or when a Microsoft Planner task updates, or configure workflows to move documents between different SharePoint folders, or hand over Excel calculations to the AI. Don’t trust RPA to do the work on its own? You can set up attended or unattended workflows. Attended workflows need humans to start the task or provide Yes or No feedback at workflow sequence stages. You might use unattended for boring, time-consuming tasks. Think of the time saved in accounting with Power Automate: • printing an invoice hard copy; • creating a new Outlook task to follow up on that invoice in 30 days; • forwarding the submitted invoice to the next person in the operations chain. Is Power Automate for Us? RPA can help any business save time and reduce operating costs. Plus, Power Automate doesn’t work solely in the Microsoft environment. You might connect a Customer Relationship Management tool. Then, you could automate appointment scheduling and trigger file sending from One Drive. The uses of RPA abound across industries. You might use Power Automate to: • process forms; • extract information; • perform sentiment analysis; • read business cards; • classify files; • track mailboxes; • orchestrate your pipeline; • automate auditing; • manage inventory levels. Create workflows using templates or design your own with what Microsoft touts as “point-and-click simplicity.” Don’t find it that simple? We can do it for you. Streamline repetitive tasks and operational processes with Power Automate. Turn your attention instead to areas that grow business and boost innovation. Need assistance setting up the workflows in Power Automate? Our BlueCastle IT experts can help. Contact us today at 860-215-8960!
Latest eGuide - Cyber-Crime: Your business's 5 step plan to prepare and protect
You don't want to miss this month's eGuide resource. This is one that every business owner needs to take a moment to read! Access this month's eGuide on our Resources page Two years ago, two thirds of all organizations reported some type of incident relating to cyber-crime. That’s bound to be higher now because of the fraud opportunities created by the rush to Work From Home. In fact, overall, the world economy loses more than $1 trillion to cyber-crime every year. It’s a figure that’s increased by more than 50% since 2018. Fact: Your business needs to be as prepared as it can be against the threat of cyber-crime. Read our brand new guide now. And you’ll see our recommended 5 step plan to prepare for an attack, and protect your business.
How to Protect Your Proprietary Information
Proprietary information makes your business special, whether you’re a tech startup with a smart algorithm or a food manufacturer with a secret sauce. Regardless of industry, business gains competitive advantage from distinct practices or unique data. The last thing you want is someone with ill intent getting their hands on your differentiators. Here’s how to protect your proprietary information. We all know cybercriminals are trying to gain unauthorized access to your computers. Most attention is on hackers stealing personal data, or malware attacks that render computers useless unless a ransom is paid. Other prime reasons bad actors seek out technology vulnerabilities are for corporate espionage or to make a buck selling your proprietary information to the highest bidder. Trade secrets, business strategies, or product designs could all be at risk. The very future of your business could be at stake if you don’t control and protect your proprietary data. These strategies can help. #1 Limit Access on a Need-to-Know Basis It sounds very cloak and dagger: “you don’t have clearance for that.” Still, limiting access based on roles builds a stronger perimeter around proprietary data. The front receptionist doesn't need the same level of access to technology or data as the founder. Keep accountants and product development team members on their own systems, too. This cuts the risk of inadvertent exposure or insider threat, plus, it contains possible damage. If one person’s access credentials are compromised, a hacker will only get so far. #2 Educate and Audit Check your control over proprietary data, and regularly audit what critical information you have and who has access to that data. Also, vet employees to prevent bad actors from getting inside your security perimeter. Ongoing education can also help, as it will keep best practices top of mind with your employees. #3 Limit Personal Device Usage Many employees have powerful computers they can’t live without, or they may prefer to use their smartphones, laptops, or tablets. If you’re going to allow Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), you need to establish strict guidelines. The business should: ask employees to register any personal devices used for work; segregate personal devices from the business network; install remote monitoring to allow you to audit device access and ensure best practices; require up-to-date software and vulnerability patching; create a separate, encrypted drive on those personal devices for work data. Also, ban the installation of hardware or software on office computers without involving IT. This can avoid someone downloading and installing a program that provides third-party access. The employee or department didn't mean to cause a security breach, but you want to be safe. #4 Protect Multifunction Devices, Too Even with businesses doing more in the cloud, we still use printers, scanners, and copiers. Any of these could have internal storage that stores the data your users send to them. These devices are also attached to your network, and you may never have even changed the default password from the manufacturer. Shore up security. Give these devices their own network separate from the main system. #5 Destroy Any Hardware Properly When you upgrade to new hardware, what do you do with the old technology? In many instances, it will sit unattended in a closet somewhere, or get boxed up and sent to an auctioneer without first clearing the hard drive. Work with a certified data destruction company. They can wipe your technology clean before resale or destroy them effectively. Plus, keep in mind that paper remains a threat, too. Your employees need to be aware that a messy desk can mean documents go missing or get mixed up, and it is that much easier for a visitor to see and take an important document. The ways to handle your proprietary information will evolve. Control and protection are key. BlueCastle IT has experts that can help you keep up with the threats and cut your risks. Contact us today at 860-215-8960 about securing your business’s lifeblood information.
Why Law Firms Need Managed Services
The law industry isn’t known for embracing change quickly: tradition can trump a willingness to embrace new technologies. Yet digital technology has become an essential part of many lawyers' working day. Partnering with a managed service provider (MSP) provides support and enhanced cybersecurity during this evolution. Lawyers rely on technology today to: communicate with colleagues and clients; exchange documents; schedule events and share calendars; research precedent and legal issues; streamline file management; automate menial tasks; track billable hours; invoice clients and pay vendors; access information from mobile devices, when and where needed; virtually conference during the pandemic. Now, imagine the disruption if that tech-savvy firm’s systems went down, even just for a few hours. No, this is not an argument to return to paper-pushing and the old-school methods; it’s a reminder that you need an IT expert at the ready in case something goes wrong. Plus, an MSP can manage and watch systems to help prevent the worst. The MSP Solution Legal service provider clients expect digital proficiency. They want to schedule appointments online; they want to upload documents to the cloud instead of coming into the office; they are looking to provide digital signatures and pay securely online. The MSP can set up software to meet customer expectations without risking compliance or cybersecurity. An MSP with experience in the legal industry can also boost competitive advantage. These IT experts can identify opportunities to improve productivity. It may be a faster network or computer upgrades, or you may benefit from improving software integrations and adopting better collaboration tools. The MSP’s initial tech review may also save you money. They'll identify where you are overpaying or places to streamline software licenses. Also, on the financial front, the law firm can enjoy a consistent budget line item working with an MSP. Instead of waiting for something to break and then looking for someone to fix it, you’ll have expert ITs on call, which can reduce costly downtime. Better still, the MSP will take preventative action to avoid that downtime in the first place. This includes keeping your antivirus and security updated and checking technological asset health. The MSP’s small, ongoing fee is something you can plan around. The ongoing monitoring makes a budget blowout less likely, as well. Managed IT services offer proactive support plus enhanced security. They understand the importance of end-to-end, layered security. They know the threats to a legal firm and can recommend quality precautions. Attorneys need to secure sensitive data and documents to remain compliant. The MSP can suggest secure storage and backup to perform the essential tasks. Further on security, the MSP has the know-how to help your firm become more mobile, but safely. Your tech partner can put systems in place that allow your team to securely work when and where they need to. It also helps to have a dedicated support team available. They'll already know your firm and its technology. This can speed up the response if there are ever issues, plus, you have a consultant to call with questions about new technological innovations. Keep pace with customer expectations and maintain competitive advantage. Enjoy technology support and cybersecurity peace of mind with an experienced MSP. BlueCastle IT is here to help. Call us at 860-215-8960.
A Sigh of Cyber Relief
The passing of the recent COVID-19 relief Bill earlier this month includes funding that will be set aside to address cybersecurity concerns and a rise in the issues that have increased as a result of the pandemic. As we often say when the topic can become divisive or political, regardless of which side you stand on, this is a good thing for everyone. A focus on cybersecurity and guarding individual privacy and rights is necessary, but when it comes to doing the same for government data, it is imperative to the collective good of our country. Two things can happen when something becomes commonplace like the words “data breach”. The good thing is that awareness increases, the not-so-good thing is with that rise in awareness comes a tendency to dismiss how critical it is to react quickly when it happens. We don’t want to get to the point where we’ll “get to it when we can” with a compromise on our data of any kind. When the government puts an emphasis on something, we can expect – or hope, that it rises in importance in our own minds and becomes more a part of the conversation with emphasis on how critical it is to take it seriously. At the time of writing this, the funding was set to include nearly $2 billion. Half of that would be for the General Service Administration’s Technology Modernization Fund, which will help the federal government to launch new information and cyber technology programs. $650 million of it will help the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to increase its risk mitigation services, along with $200 million for the U.S. Digital Service. The U.S. Digital Service was created to pair top technologists into “tours of civic service” along with civil servants to build better tools for the American citizen. This funding and the importance of addressing cybersecurity at the government level comes after the attack last year that is now referred to as the SolarWinds hack, which was one of the largest in U.S. history. The cyberespionage incident was “likely” from Russian hackers and compromised 100 private sector companies and at least nine federal agencies. With breaches and hacks of such a large magnitude happening and directly impacting our government, it is not surprising that there will be funding allocated to address this threat with not only this package, but also with any future directives. Allowing us all to breathe a sigh of cyber relief – for now.
Pivoting to the Practice of Virtual Law
The law profession has been slow to embrace virtual work. It’s a people-oriented business, and there is great reliance on sensitive files and court documents, yet the pandemic pushed lawyers – and the rest of us – to embrace more digital technology. Sure, lawyers were using mobile devices before. They worked in satellite offices, on-site with clients, or from home. Still, the profession’s traditionalists were loathing putting paperwork online or meeting virtually. Now they have to do so. In the United States, 70–90% of firms surveyed by the American Bar Association still used traditional offices in 2019. By early April 2020, 48% were working online, and a further 40% were doing a hybrid of on-site and remote. While many are eager to get back to the office, digital transformation has still taken hold. Let’s discuss the digital technology available to law firms today. Digital Technology in the Law Firm Digitizing documents and uploading them to case and practice management software has many benefits. The law firm gains: collaborative access; streamlined process; improved productivity; storage space previously wasted on boxes of file folders; greater flexibility of interactions with clients familiar with digital upload of documentation; peace of mind data backup is available; centralized systems. The software also adds a layer of accountability, as firm leaders or administrators can see who is accessing what and when. This enables better measurement of productivity and billable hours. Clients also enjoy not having to leave home and find parking to drop off documents. Paperless transactions can speed the process on both sides, especially with virtual forms collecting data. This also avoids the inaccuracies that can come from manual data entry. Another significant development for the virtual law firm? Relying on cloud-based collaboration tools such as Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365). Paralegals and lawyers can work on documents and spreadsheets simultaneously in real-time. With Outlook email and calendar sharing, everyone stays current on any device. SharePoint and OneDrive also offer secure document sharing. SharePoint is an internal file management tool, whereas OneDrive is a bit simpler. Communicating Face-to-Virtual-Face Lawyers now need to meet with clients and opposing counsel, and to appear in virtual courts. Online communication requires a good internet connection, plus a quality camera and microphone to take part in a Zoom or other type of virtual meeting. Other firms are moving to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Those who have used Skype are already calling via data packets transmitted online. And there are other options available: B2B VoIP vendors offer options integrating call forwarding, call queues, and more. With VoIP, the client calls a local number and connects to an employee anywhere without noticing a difference. All these digital technologies can have a positive impact on the day-to-day running of the law practice, yet it needs correct installation, as security is critical. You don’t want confidential documents shared publicly or phone conversations carried out on insecure lines. Enjoy digital transformation efficiency with a managed service provider (MSP) installing the right tools. The technology saves space and frees up resources for other practice priorities. Meanwhile, an MSP will offer its IT expertise at a consistent set fee you can budget around. Plus, you’ll know you have IT help on speed dial if something goes wrong. We’ll make sure your digital transformation – whether short- or long-term – is done right. Contact BlueCastle IT today at 860-215-8960!
It’s Who You Know: Verifying Identity at Law Firms
Trusting identity is foundational to a law firm’s work. In a law office, the documents going back and forth contain sensitive information, and contracts, negotiations, or transactions can't be shared with the wrong parties. The industry needs to be cautious about validating identities. Legal service providers need to achieve compliance and protect clients and their assets. Techniques are changing as lawyers move from in-person conferences to digital document exchange. This article examines four digital-age areas in which lawyers need to validate identity. #1 Phishing Scams Phishing is always a risk, no matter the industry. Paralegals, associates, and lawyers risk inadvertently clicking on malware, especially as this field relies heavily on attached documents going back and forth. A cybercriminal criminal might steal money copying a vendor’s invoices. Everything looks the same, but payment details put the dollars in the crook's bank account. Or they will send an “urgent” message containing a link that goes to a Web page that looks credible. It might seem to be from a bank or the government, but one character in the URL is different. Those who don’t notice the difference will enter sensitive account details into a form that goes to the bad guy. Verification tip: Firm-wide filters can check for malicious attachments before they reach people. Educate employees about always verifying the URL before clicking on a link. Hovering over the highlighted text will show the address where a click will take the user. #2 Business Communication Email Scams Business communication emails scams also often target law firms. In one example, Jared Kushner’s lawyer exchanged emails with someone imitating the ex-White House aide. Emails from prompted the lawyer to share newsworthy information. Verification tip: At the beginning of an engagement, verify the client's private, secure email address. Always confirm that the sender’s email address is the same as you have on file before responding. #3 Outgoing Email Email automation can also lead to problems. The associate allows Outlook to auto-populate the recipient’s email address from the address book. Too busy typing a quick note, he doesn’t confirm that he’s sending it to the right person. But Smith, John is a divorce attorney and Smithson, John is a client at a dental firm. They should not be getting each other’s filings! The law firm Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale, and Dorr sent files detailing a history of whistleblower claims at PepsiCo to the wrong person, a Wall Street Journal reporter. So much for client privilege. Verification tip: Check and double-check your email address list. Set up your firm’s email program to disallow any auto-populating of email addresses. #4 Multi-Factor Authentication One other area where you want to verify identity is when staff access your systems and software. Relying on username and password credentials only isn’t strict enough. Humans make mistakes. They share information that makes their access credentials easy to guess. Your people may not pick complicated passwords or change their access credentials. Data breaches can put professional accounts at risk when people reuse passwords. Verification tip: Adding multi-factor authentication makes it more difficult for the cybercriminal. Even two-factor authentication adds another important level of security. Having the access credentials alone isn’t enough. The hacker also needs to get their hands on the personal device where the authentication code is sent. Need help establishing robust digital practices to confirm client and employee identities? A managed service provider can help. BlueCastle IT experts can review risks and suggest simple, affordable solutions. Improve your identity experience. Contact us today at 860-215-8960!