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New Cryptolocker Virus Ransomware

Our Anti-malware partner Trend Micro published this link recently on the new Cryptolocker Virus. It is a nasty virus we refer to as either ‘ransomware’ or ‘extortionware’ due to its behavior for re-granting you access to your files and/or computer for a fee. Unfortunately, while our favorite tools MalwareBytes and SuperAntiSpyware can remove the virus itself and Trend Micro Worry Free can prevent it, once infected the damage is done. We recommend backing off what data files you can and starting with a clean installation. Ideally try to scan the media you save the files to make sure malware doesn’t follow that as well.

Cryptolocker represents a new level of threat. Variants of Windows Antivirus 2011/2012/2013 previously asked for money to ‘unlock’ while stealing data and passwords, but largely left data intact. Cryptolocker brings back the days of Stealth and other viruses that broke hard drives and boot sectors, and the only good defense if you didn’t have good antivirus protection was a good backup.

The best defense against these is a good offense. Corporate-level antivirus is very inexpensive to acquire and manage. Drop a line to us for more information on choosing a solution.

Why Outsource?

By Willie Pena, Webroot

Just a few short years ago, the image of an IT department for small and medium businesses was one of Dilbert-looking technicians noodling around with Cat 5 cable and speaking in a blend of Klingon and Robot. In other words, IT seemed completely remote, complicated and inaccessible to most employees. Additionally, each new hardware and software deployment, including installing malware protection, could take weeks to manually implement across the enterprise, and rarely went smoothly.

One solution – outsourced IT – has found greater acceptance in the past few years as its benefits have become more tangible to even small businesses. It is estimated that globally, 74 percent of companies use some form of outsourced IT solution, up 25 percent from 2009.

Read further for compelling reasons why a small or medium business should consider the IT-outsourcing trend.

Cost savings

Moving IT off-site can save an SMB thousands of dollars per year. As most business decisions are predicated on the bottom line, this is often the main driver in the decision to migrate. Areas of savings include:

Reducing hardware expenses. Servers, storage, cabling, cooling, and datacenter square footage expense can now be on a cloud vendor’s dime, not yours.

No salary or benefits expenses for IT employees.

Potential tax savings by converting capital expenditures (servers), that depreciate slowly over time, to a monthly cost which can potentially be deducted in the current tax year.

The latest software versions – hassle-free

Outsourcing IT means software, including malware protection for endpoints, can be updated automatically by the provider. This obviates the need for a local tech to run around taking workstations offline for upgrades.

Furthermore, updating software not only unlocks newer features, but also closes exploits in older versions that might allow hacker penetration. So it’sworth exploring any platform that can make this process painless and automatic, such as a cloud service.

Focus on your business, not technical issues

Anyone who survived working in Corporate America from the 1980s onwards is familiar with the spectacle and lost productivity that accompanies the proverbial “system going down.”

When outsourcing IT to the cloud, this nightmare occurs less often as data is often distributed redundantly across many servers that are monitored constantly, leading to greater stability and uptime, and less worrying about IT matters.

Improved security

Reputable outsourced IT providers are dead serious about security against malware, zero-day hacks and other intrusions and constantly monitor and update their protection schemes.

For most SMBs, outsourcing will provide a more frequent and secure back-up solution than their existing IT setups. Furthermore, as the data is kept off-site, it is well- protected from a local catastrophe, such as a fire or flooding.

No new employees to manage when scaling up

Scalability is easy with outsourced IT – simply contact the vendor for more storage, memory and processors as needed. There is no longer any need for job postings, interviews, expensive training, personality clashes, worker’s compensation or other common HR issues and liabilities just to get tech personnel to handle the increased operations.

Instead, you can focus your payroll budget on production or sales staff that directly drive revenue.

How to move to the cloud

Prior to outsourcing your IT, draw up a migration plan. Then study the stability and security reputation of outsourcing providers before trusting them with your mission-critical data. Malware protection is increasingly important, so discuss solutions with each candidate to explore what steps they take in the event of a breach.

How do you find a reputable vendor? Check out this list of outsourced IT providers or this one to begin with. Or, delve into the metrics of some serious cloud provider benchmarking tests.

Outsourced IT is no longer something to fear… as long as you do your homework.

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The 2013 Top Ten Technology Trends for Business

In today’s highly competitive global environment, companies are looking for opportunities to minimize costs, increase efficiencies and gain competitive advantage. Business leaders across all industries are focused on IT as a way to accomplish these goals. The use of emerging, disruptive technologies such as context-aware mobile apps and enterprise social networking along with the proliferation of public and private cloud is commanding organizations to assess and manage the impact these technologies may have on their business. Leaders should understand, prioritize and apply these new technologies within the context of their overall business goals.

PwC recently completed the 5th Annual Digital IQ Survey. The survey is designed to assess how well companies understand the value of technology and weave IT into the fabric of their organization. For the first time, the Digital IQ survey was conducted globally and included participation from more than 1,100 respondents. Detailed below are the Top 10 Technology Trends for Business that emerged from the survey. Click on any trend to get a brief point of view from PwC’s leaders in these areas.

The Problem of the Single “IT Guy” Approach

Information technology is now part of almost every business in the country. Keeping computers and systems up and running is a full time job for many companies. Very early in the growth of the business, owners have to make the decision about the need for an IT department. As a cost saving measure, many choose to have an “IT guy” or outsource this service completely.

Having an IT guy has a few advantages- mostly that you have a dedicated employee ready and available to keep the system healthy. But, when looking at the pros and cons of the IT guy, the cons far outweigh the advantages. First and foremost, the IT guy can only know what he knows. There is a single minded focus to this approach. The depth of his experience dictates what he is capable of doing. If the business continues to grow, it is very possible the IT needs will quickly surpass the IT guy’s skill set. The company then begins to rely on outdated IT solutions and possibly gives up strategic advantages in the marketplace. The outsourced IT staff has a deeper knowledge base and is constantly learning. This keeps the company current and keeps IT as a strategic advantage.

Another problem with the IT guy is quite frankly what it costs to have one. When you look at the average salary of an IT guy, a company can easily pay $70,000 or more a year and add 25% on top of that for benefits for that individual. Obviously, the decision to have an IT guy initially meant that there was enough work to keep him busy, but if there is ever a time when that isn’t the case, the company ends up paying someone handsomely for downtime. Outsourcing IT support quickly removes the need to pay benefits and saves the company thousands of dollars a year in annual salary. Also, outsourced staff is either busy or not present- no downtime to pay for. This helps the company’s bottom line regardless of the economy.

Yet one more problem with having an IT guy around involves a common problem that companies run into. There is a natural bottleneck when “everything” runs through one person. Having a single IT guy means he is the sole proprietor for that company’s data and how it is maintained. There have been many cases when the relationship between the IT guy and the company deteriorates which can place the business in a difficult position. Having a single IT guy can be a liability for a company.

Lastly, when a company decides to use an outsourced IT resource, it is important to know what to look for. Outsourcing to a single individual will save money, but does nothing to maintain the strategic advantage. Using a professional service organization maintains a deeper experience and knowledge base because there are more resources to draw from. This allows for more flexibility and creativity in finding solutions for your business.