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Steer Clear of Coronavirus Scams

Posted & filed under IT Security, News.

With the world grappling with a health pandemic, scams are shocking. Regrettably, bad actors are everywhere, always looking for opportunities, and they’re seeing one in the coronavirus. This article outlines what you need to watch out for and how to stay cyber safe.

The last thing you want to read right now is that there’s another threat out there – sorry, but it’s true. Cybercriminals take advantage of fear. They take timely concerns and use them to target victims. Using the anxiety and upheaval around coronavirus is their mission.

Coronavirus Scams

So far, several coronavirus-related attempts to cyberscam people have been reported. There are examples of:

  • emails that appear to come from government health departments;
  • offering a tax refund to get people to click on malicious links;
  • memos to staff that appear to come from large employers;
  • COVID-19 test offerings from private companies;
  • fake websites promising to sell face masks or hand sanitizer;
  • soliciting donations to help fund a vaccine.

What to Watch Out For

Another concern is the number of bogus websites registered with names relating to COVID-19. The site can look legit but is set up to steal information or infect the victim’s computer with malware.

You may get an email promising the attached information offers coronavirus safety measures, or information shared by the World Health Organization (WHO) if you click on the link, or a similar email pretending to be from a reputable news source, such as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

In another example, an email impersonating a healthcare company’s IT team asked people to register for a seminar “about this deadly virus.” Anyone who didn’t question why IT was organizing the meeting clicked to register. By filling out the form, they gave their details to hackers.

What to Do

Be cautious. It’s understandable that you’re anxious, but don’t let that stop you from taking cyber precautions. You should still:

  • be wary of anything that tries to play on your emotions and urges immediate action;
  • question where emails are coming from – remain vigilant even if the communication appears to come from a reliable source;
  • hover over links before clicking them to see where they will take you – for example, in the WSJ example, the Web address was for the “worldstreetjournal”;
  • avoid downloading anything you didn’t ask for;
  • doubt any deals that sound too good to be true (“a mask that stops the virus 99.7% of the time!”);
  • ignore any communications requesting your personal information;
  • don’t be suckered by fraudulent pleas for charity.

Global health organizations generally do not send out emails with advice. Instead, navigate directly to that reputable health institution for real news.

If you’re still not sure about the validity of the communication, check it out. Do so by calling or using another medium to get in touch with the “source” of the received message.

While there is not yet a vaccine for COVID-19, you can put anti-virus protection on your computer. Also, make sure that you’ve applied all available security updates to keep your software safe.

We hope you’ll take care and stay healthy both physically and online in these tough times.

Need help installing security software and keeping your technology safe? Our cybersecurity experts can give your home a tech immunization. Contact PGP Computers today at 763-691-1957 or contact us.

Help Wanted: Should You Be Hiring a Virtual CIO?

Posted & filed under IT Security.

How many seats are there at your C-suite table? A small business might have only a CEO. A mid-sized one may add another one or two C’s — COO? CFO? CMO? But you don’t have to be enterprise-sized to enjoy a Chief Information Officer’s (CIO) skillset. Virtual CIOs help any size business create a tech strategy to meet business goals.

Virtual Chief Information Officer

Every business will shape the CIO role differently. Still, this individual typically has the following responsibilities:

  • planning information technology (IT) strategy
  • budgeting for technology to support business goals
  • keeping abreast of current technology trends
  • evaluating new technologies to improve productivity, enhance operational efficiency, and reduce costs
  • building and maintaining an effective, motivated IT team
  • inspiring and embracing technological innovation
  • developing security, business continuity, and disaster recovery policies

Notice how this role differs from a Technology Director or IT Director. The director is typically more of a hands-on operationally focused IT leader. The TD or IT Director is more likely to be buying IT and managing the technical solutions.

The vCIO is a strategic consultant. He or she needs to understand the day-to-day operations, of course, but this role is more about bigger-picture thinking. As more technology is moved to the cloud and outsourced to partnerships, the vCIO is the outward-facing lead.

A vCIO takes a broad view of business technology needs. They prioritize IT needs and provide methods to improve regulatory compliance. With an eye to ROI, the vCIO builds vendor relationships and reviews the IT teams’ strengths.

How Does a vCIO Help Business?

People may be the backbone of the business, yet you can bet they rely on networks, computer systems, and software applications to get the job done. Processing invoices, collaborating on documents, organizing meetings, video conferencing … business has gone digital.

Without the right technology in place, you could be wasting resources: time and money. Many companies get sold on particular IT solutions and stick with them out of loyalty. With so much else demanding attention, it’s easier to rely on legacy systems to get the job done.

But that’s not necessarily the best thing for the business. A virtual CIO can help identify areas of duplication and wasted resources. Maybe you are paying for more software licenses than you need? An outdated system is slowing you down. You could be under-utilizing your existing hardware. This tech expert explores process and makes recommendations for streamlining business practices.

As digital transformation leaders, CIOs are as critical to cultural change as chief human resources officers. — Gartner

A virtual CIO lets you keep up with the core challenges facing your business. Meanwhile, you’re leaving technology concerns to an expert. A virtual CIO, even a part-time one, comes to understand your business objectives. Then, they ensure your IT infrastructure is the best fit it can be.

Regardless of your industry, it’s safe to say that technology is complicated. Plus, IT is evolving rapidly. Don’t miss out on opportunities to leverage the best tools for your business. Take a strategic approach to IT with the aid of a virtual CIO.Make sure your IT investment is a wise one with the input of a virtual CIO. We can help.Contact PGP Computers today at 763-691-1957 or contact us.

Is Your Business’s IT Ready for the Coronavirus?

Posted & filed under Networking Solutions, Software.

The Coronavirus is spreading as fast as feared. Business must be ready for the worst. One priority? Protecting the health of employees. Preparing the way for remote working is one top recommendation.

News of the virus, which the WHO is now calling COVID-19, has prompted urgent interest in remote work. Business collaboration software, virtual desktops, and private networks can all help. This tech helps business continue as usual, even with quarantined employees.

Get Business Ready for the Coronavirus

It’s difficult to imagine you aren’t aware of the looming health pandemic. Trying to limit the contagion, we’ve already seen big business take major measures. These include:

  • Nike temporarily closed its European headquarters when an employee was diagnosed with the virus. After the first death in Washington state in the U.S., the company also closed its world headquarters for a deep clean of its campus.
  • Twitter told its roughly 4,900 employees to stay home to work.

Other businesses are weighing up the options. Furloughs? Changes to sick leave? Or encouraging work from home. The last option appeals, but how do employees work remotely? How can they continue collaborating with people they used to sit beside, meet in the office, or travel to see? Technological solutions.

The Right Technology for Remote Work

Remote workers want a centralized platform with a simplified (yet secure) login process. Business collaboration software is a great enabler of mobile, flexible work. Replace in-person meetings with voice or video conferencing. Streamline chat, voice, and video in one software platform. Tools such as Microsoft Teams, Google’s G-suite, or Slack, allow business to create team channels.

Business collaboration tools also simplify access to email, calendars, documents, and file sharing. Employees can use a single sign-on to access business tools and data. This supports improved efficiency and increased transparency.

Providing a virtual desktop can provide access to important business applications, as well. Virtual desktops in the cloud allow users to work separately from their personal computers. The software virtualizes the user’s unique desktop environment at any workstation. All the data and applications are stored on a central server. Users access apps, folders, and toolbars from anywhere, with a consistent, secure experience.

Using a cloud-based solution also provides peace of mind. While remote workers access the corporate network, the sensitive data isn’t stored locally. So, the business needn’t worry about the loss or theft of sensitive data. Plus, cloud-based virtual desktops are easy to rapidly install outside a quarantined area.

Worried about securing those remote connections? Another option is a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN connects computers, smartphones, or tablets to a shared or public network as if connecting to a private network. These encrypted connections to the internet secure data and protect employees’ mobile activities.

Mobile Work Helps Every Day

You can hope that your employees stay healthy and your business remains unaffected, but why take that risk? Empowering remote work benefits business, even without the threat of a fatal flu.

Remote teams enjoy greater work-life balance. The workers spend less time commuting and are more productive. Empowered, they also feel trusted and more engaged.

Meanwhile, business can save money on physical space and hardware investments. Additionally, the hiring pool of qualified personnel expands with remote work, and the business can offer its services more globally and flexibly. All that’s true whether the coronavirus becomes an issue for your business or not.

Enabling a remote workforce takes technology. Need assistance installing and connecting your employees? We can help. Contact PGP Computers today at 763-691-1957 or contact us.

Five Business Benefits of Virtualization

Posted & filed under Networking Solutions, Software.

It’s a safe bet your business is always looking for ways to reduce waste. One place you might not yet have looked? Virtualization of your information technology. Choosing to virtualize servers offers several business benefits. Here are the top five.

Let’s first clarify what we mean by virtualization. We’re not talking about a Ready Player One-like takeover of your business. Employees aren’t donning VR headsets to work in an all-encompassing virtual universe.

Instead, we’re referring to a virtualization of servers. The work of multiple physical servers are handled on a single server or a cloud-based environment. Say you have three physical servers: one handles mail, another handles internet and routing, and the third proprietary, business applications. Each of these dedicated servers may not be at full capacity, but you need all three.

With virtualization, the workloads are no longer tied to specific hardware. Software monitors and allocates IT resources. This means many things can happen at once on the same machines. That’s where we start seeing the benefits this article explores.

Virtual Server

#1 Greater Efficiency

With virtualization you can make better use of your server capabilities. Computer hardware running a single operating system or application underutilizes your IT. Organizations running more than one virtual system on a server take full advantage of their tech.

#2 Lower Costs

Virtualizing a server helps reduce spending. Housing many applications on one server, a business better meets storage and processing demands. This can cut down on hardware expenditure.

The business also isn’t paying to power machines it isn’t using fully. Plus, cutting back on hardware in the physical environment can reduce cooling demands. This saves on energy bills while helping the business’s corporate social responsibility goals.

Reclaiming the space used for physical servers, the business can also increase profit generation.

#3 Improved Responsiveness

Virtualization offers greater operational flexibility. A business can respond to market changes with faster dynamic resource management. With a virtual server, you can backup operating systems and applications efficiently. Rather than dealing with hours of downtime, a virtual environment is deployed in minutes. Moving, copying, or saving data from virtualized machines can be point-and-click simple.

#4 Enhanced Disaster Recovery

A severe weather event or malware attack could take a physical server out of commission. The business struggles to install its backup (if it has one) on a new server. With a virtualized server, it’s much simpler to replicate that information.

It’s also easier to do full backups with server virtualization. A business is more likely to have the latest, most up-to-date data available in the event of a disaster.

#5 Reduced Need for Repairs and Support

Owning physical servers means constant monitoring and maintenance demands. Reducing the need for physical hardware can cut back on repairs and demand for support. With fewer servers and related hardware, valuable IT experts can focus on challenging, rewarding work. That helps with employee morale and retention, too!

Gartner (a research and advisory company) has estimated that businesses that virtualize save up to 50% compared to those relying on physical resources. That virtualized business is also increasing their speed and security. Save the staggering costs of downtime, and improve IT productivity with server virtualization.

Ready for virtualization? We can set up the right virtualization solution for your business. Reach out to us today at 763-691-1957 or contact us.

Take IT off Your Plate with an MSP Partnership

Posted & filed under IT Security.

Let’s be realistic. You don’t care about information technology (IT). Or, you do, but only so far as it supports you getting the things you care about done. You’d rather not think about IT at all. Many businesses are that way. That’s fine by us. We care enough about IT for all our clients.

You love developing products, designing campaigns, or determining financial strategy for clients. A managed services provider loves supporting you in doing those things. You don’t have to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of networks, systems, software, and applications. We will. Happily.

Managed Service Provider

The thing is, we typically aren’t aware of what we don’t know. You may have more of a general feeling of unease. You wonder if:

  • your business could be performing better;
  • your team could be collaborating more;
  • your processes could be more efficient;
  • you have the right answers to cybersecurity risks and issues;
  • your business has the best technological tools to meet its needs.

But the learning curve seems too steep, and you have other things to be doing for your business. Researching new technologies, weighing upgrades, keeping up with cybersecurity, and maintaining and monitoring IT are responsibilities you’d rather avoid.

Yet being uninformed is not going to work as an excuse in a breach, and your employees expect high-quality technology in their work. To recruit and retain people who drive business success, you need IT to support mobility, efficiency, and productivity. Your people want the tools to work smarter, not harder.

That’s why many businesses turn to Managed Service Providers (MSPs) for help.

MSPs Make Your IT Their Business

So, IT isn’t what interests you. That’s fine. Partner instead with a service provider focused on IT. You can keep doing what you do best and care most about. But you can be confident your IT strategy is smart and secure.

Plus, you can save money working with an MSP. For one, the MSP gets to know business processes and objectives to help your IT infrastructure run better.

Your IT partner will identify opportunities for greater efficiency. Perhaps you’re paying for software licenses you don’t need, or you could gain greater mobility and improve business continuity with cloud migration.

Your MSP partner will do the research to make sure your business is benefitting from its IT savvy. The MSP doesn’t gain from selling you more than you need. This expert team shops around for the right plans (whether office broadband, mobile phones, or cloud subscriptions). Even small businesses can access the best technological tools.

The MSP can also provide server monitoring and IT maintenance services. You may know you need antivirus protection and firewalls, but that may not be enough. Your IT partner can do a cybersecurity assessment. This lets your business be proactive instead of trying to fix problems later. Gartner estimates business downtime can cost as much as $5,600 per minute or around $300,000 per hour. That’s a financial hit you want to avoid.

Plus, the right MSP tailors its services to your workload size, regardless of company size. The goal is to match your business with the right technology to do things better and cheaper. It may not interest you, but it’s a fun challenge for our IT experts.

Don’t leave your technology and cybersecurity needs unattended. Be proactive with an MSP as your IT partner. Our experts guide IT strategy, secure systems, and suggest solutions to achieve your business goals.

No matter how you feel about IT, we care a lot. Contact us today!Give PGP Computers a call at 763-691-1957 or contact us.