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Vertikal6 Named PBN’s Best Places to Work for 4th Consecutive Year

Vertikal6, a full-service IT consultant, was recently named as one of the 2017 Best Places to Work in Rhode Island. Vertikal6 will represent the title of one of Rhode Island’s Best Places to work for the second consecutive year. This statewide survey and awards program is designed to identify, recognize and honor the best places of employment in Rhode Island, benefiting the state’s economy, workforce and businesses. The 2017 Best Places to Work in Rhode Island list is made up of 60 companies.

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Why Your Business Needs a vCIO to Succeed

If you have plans to expand your business, your technology needs to scale with you and support your growth. But, your IT team is too busy with day-to-day tasks to perform comprehensive assessments, research the newest tech innovations and create a strategic roadmap for the future. Hiring a costly executive to oversee your IT might be out of the question, but you’re not out of options. Enter a virtual CIO, or vCIO – an expert or team of experts focused on managing your high-level IT needs, for a fraction of the cost of an in-house CIO.

Here are four reasons your business needs a vCIO to succeed:

Creating a Plan for the Future

Your IT might be keeping pace with your needs today – but, without a strategic plan for growth, the technology underpinning your business gives you headaches or fails altogether. A vCIO assesses your current technology infrastructure and consults with you about your business goals to develop a detailed roadmap for the future. This ensures that your hardware, software, applications and other technology solutions align with your needs, and that you’re not wasting time and money on technology that won’t bring you closer to your goals.

Ensuring Business Continuity

Do you have a backup and disaster recovery plan in place? Do you know where your data is stored and how to access it if your primary systems fail due to a natural disaster, cyber attack or employee error? A vCIO designs a disaster recovery strategy tailored to your business, so you’re protected from every angle. They monitor your network 24/7 for potential disruptions and resolve them before they impact your business. Additionally, a vCIO mitigates the risk of downtime and data loss while updating or migrating systems.

Making Smart Investments

New products and services always sound good – but, how do you know if they’ll actually provide a strong return on investment? Virtual CIOs stay up-to-date on tech innovations and understand which ones will support your business now and into the future. Your vCIO can also help you prepare for aspects of the transition that would otherwise cause unexpected hiccups. Make decisions with confidence, knowing that you’re choosing the best investments for your business.

Meeting Industry Requirements

Whether you’re in healthcare, retail, financial services or another industry, you face a long list of regulations – and failing to comply results in crippling fines. Virtual CIOs develop industry-specific experience, so they can help you meet regulations such as HIPAA and PCI, stay current with standards and protect your customers’ data – and your reputation. They can also make recommendations on the best software programs and applications for your specialized business needs.

Virtual CIOs help you achieve success by adding value to your operations – without the full-time salary, benefits and office space of an in-house CIO. Interested in learning how a vCIO can impact your business? Contact us today to find out.

Why Should You Consider IoT? The Good, the Bad and the Integration

As technology progresses, we’re finding new ways to keep all of our devices connected for a seamless user experience. This idea is called the Internet of Things (IoT), and it works for more than just computing devices – it also includes mechanical and digital objects.

From microwaves, washing machines and lamps to televisions, projectors and security systems, connecting your technologies is a powerful concept. Gartner predicts that IoT will be a $1.9 trillion industry by 2020. So, what do you need to know to take advantage of this trend to grow your business?

The Good

The IoT helps you track behavior in real-time and enhances situational awareness, but what does that actually mean for you? Imagine it’s 6 pm, and you’re cooking dinner while listening to music. You connect your mobile device to your surround-sound television. Your technology keeps track of your activity, and IoT uses that information to analyze what you’re doing, viewing or listening to in real-time. Using that data, you’ll gain a customized experience. You skip a slower song, and your devices react by adjusting algorithms to produce fewer slow-tempo songs. Now, imagine how you can use IoT to enhance your customer’s experience. You can use the data you collected to figure out when their technology needs updated or to identify breaches based on location and trends.

The Bad

It’s important to note that the more devices connected to the Internet, the more vulnerable your information is to unauthorized users. By connecting your mobile device to your home security system, your business’s Wi-Fi, your email and more, you open up a variety of entry points for hackers and other cyber criminals to access and manipulate your systems. But, even the bad isn’t all bad – a reliable IT partner can keep your endpoints protected by multiple layers of security.

The Integration

When considering an IoT approach, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What are the goals of my business?
  • What is my realistic budget?
  • Which solutions make the most sense for my business?
  • Should I integrate technology all at once or in stages?

A managed service provider can help you answer these questions while ensuring IoT devices are properly integrated and secured. Integration begins with identifying your needs, determining which solutions work best for your business needs, then deploying those solutions, testing services post-deployment and protecting your endpoints.

Adopting the IoT approach impacts your business significantly. The vast amount of data and services available can shape your daily workflow. For more information on how IoT can affect your business, or to start implementing IoT, contact us today. We’ll help you work through the good, the bad and the integration.

5 Lessons 2017 Taught Us About IT Disaster Recovery

We can look back on 2017 as the worst of times – when it came to disasters, at least. Severe weather, data breaches and global hacking attempts affected thousands of businesses, costing them an estimated $926 to $17,244 for every minute of unplanned downtime. Instead of letting the unthinkable damage your business, fight back with these five strategies:

  • Back Up Your Data to the Cloud

Following Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria, hundreds of businesses found their physical equipment and servers submerged in water. Storing data on-site is convenient, but an unexpected disaster can wipe away years of information in the blink of an eye. Migrating your data to the cloud means your information is protected and readily available – and you’ll never have to start from scratch.

  • Prepare for a Remote Workforce

Even after the Thomas wildfire in California was contained, smoke and poor air conditions made it impossible for many employees to return to their offices. Anything from a severe storm to surprise pest control treatments can force employees out of their workspaces, so have a plan in place that will allow your team to access necessary tools from any Internet-enabled location.

  • Monitor for Breaches and Respond Quickly

A massive breach of data from Equifax – one of the three largest credit agencies in the US – lasted from May to July and wasn’t reported publicly until September. The Social Security, credit card and driver’s license numbers of more than 145 million consumers were compromised, and victims rushed to protect themselves against potential identity thieves. Avoid losing your customers’ trust by proactively monitoring for breaches, shutting them down promptly and providing a full inventory of the damage to those affected.

  • Don’t Underestimate Human Error

People are unpredictable – that’s why 90 percent of cyber security issues stem from human behavior. Employee negligence is the number one cause of data breaches at small to medium-sized businesses. Comprehensive training can close the gap, but it’s not foolproof. Combine your team’s efforts with strong cyber security policies.

  • Update Outdated Software Programs

The WannaCry Ransomware Attack, which resulted in hackers taking control of more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries, targeted a weakness in outdated software for which a patch was already available. Hospitals, airlines, police departments and more were brought to a halt, and paying the ransom did not result in the return of data. Update your software regularly to fix vulnerabilities and avoid becoming an easy target for hackers.

Don’t panic. A solid IT disaster recovery plan will protect your business and get you back up and running with minimal – if any – hassle and downtime. Unsure where to start? We learn the ins and outs of your business to develop and implement a customized recovery plan. Contact us today to get started.

Four Ways Cloud Computing Can Future-Proof Your Business

We hear a lot about the cloud and cloud computing lately. Some businesses don’t actually know what the cloud is, what it can do for them or where they can even find it – let alone start using it. The cloud isn’t just a passing fad – cloud computing is here to stay and it’s quickly become the best way to future-proof your business.

So what is the cloud, exactly? At its intrinsic level, it’s a collection of computers, servers, and databases that are connected together in a powerful way that users can lease access to share their combined power. Cloud computing is scalable so that buyers can choose to increase or decrease the amount of computing power they need.

Sounds a bit intangible, doesn’t it? Send your company’s precious data up to this “cloud” in the sky, and then what? “Is it worth it?” “Will it help my business grow?” “Is it safe?”

Yes, yes and yes. Major business owners are comfortable enough with cloud computing to future-proof their business, and the impact is global. Media giant Forbes, whose focus is business and IT, has projected that cloud computing will be a $162 billion industry by the year 2020. As it stands now, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is at 19% meaning more and more industries are making the cloud business-critical. Their report also stated that 74% of IT CFOs attribute the most measurable growth to cloud computing.

So what does this mean to you and your company? If you’re looking to ensure your business has longevity in this economy – no matter your niche – then you need to seriously consider making the move to cloud services. Here are five ways that cloud computing will future-proof your business:

  1. Security for your data – The cloud’s security architecture is multi-layered, and safeguards against the weaknesses that allow cyber attacks to occur. There are different types of security controls employed: deterrent controls, preventative controls, detective controls and corrective controls. All of these things work in tandem to protect your sensitive information and intellectual property, especially where federal compliance regulations are an issue.
  2. Unlimited mobility – Self-hosting your legacy software and platforms for years places a major stressor on already overworked network servers. The time spent maintaining your hardware and its performance can cost you both productivity and dollars. Application hosting in the cloud gives users the real-time ability to access data from any device, anywhere and at any time. Your staff could be spread across the globe and still collaborate in real-time on projects.
  3. Scalability – The cloud grows with you. The combined computing power of users in the cloud is scalable so that buyers can dynamically increase – or decrease – the amount of computing power they lease. That flexibility is quite a cost-saver when you consider the impact on your IT budget if you have to upgrade your on-premises servers after you have outgrown your old network.
  4. Cost reduction – Given the speed of cloud growth and accessibility, it’s been easier, faster and less expensive for software developers to roll out applications as compared to traditional onsite platform development. That cost savings gets passed on to users. You don’t have to buy hardware until you need it, and you don’t have to plan for peak capacity, since most traditional servers are only used at 15% of their capacity. You only pay for what you use.

Lost production hours are a killer when you’re trying to migrate data from one network to another. Firms that handle their own migration on average take 2 months and up to $3,000 to do it. Partnering with a managed IT services provider (MSP) to handle your move to the cloud reduces – and even eliminates – downtime and speeds up deployment by managing your data with new integrated tech solutions, upgrading your performance seamlessly. That’s where we come in.

Moving to the cloud is power. Power to give your company future longevity. And the best way to harness that power is by partnering up with a great MSP, one whose expert team can handle the entire process from start to finish. Give us a call and let us help move you into the future with cloud computing.

What? You’re Not Using Office 365? Five Reasons Why You Need to Start Right Now

microsoft office 365

If you missed your invitation to the party, here it is. Chances are that your competition is already using the Microsoft Office 365 suite of tools to maximize their productivity and grow their business, so why aren’t you? This is a powerhouse of a platform that will change your business culture and deliver immediate results, and now it’s more affordable than ever.

O365 is more than just another software product – it’s an integrated experience of applications and services with a familiar face. It encompasses Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote and OneDrive – available on ALL of your devices, no matter the operating system. That’s right – O365 is OS-agnostic and works on Windows-based PCs, Android devices, Mac OS and iOS. It also offers the options of these services: Exchange, SharePoint, Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams. Overwhelming, isn’t it? We’ve got a solution for you. (Hang in there, we’re getting to that.)

Microsoft has been providing solutions for some of the biggest companies in the world for decades. Now, with O365, they’ve raised the standard for business growth. Imagine bringing together all of your people, processes and technology and being able to manage all of that productivity seamlessly, all through cloud computing. Office 365 makes that a reality. And if you’re not onboard with it yet, here are five reasons you need to be:

  1. Ramp Up Your Productivity

Giving your staff the tools to produce their very best work not only raises morale but positively affects your bottom line. The 2018 “Forrester Consulting Report on the ROI of O365” concluded that the group of applications and services that make up O365 cut support time by 50%, saved mobile/field employees at least one hour per day and afforded analysts, managers and sales people the opportunity to make better and faster decisions because they had information in real-time. More productivity means better revenue and happy clients.

  1. Worry-free IT Performance

O365 integrates seamlessly with your existing system and network. With 24/7 support available, you don’t just add O365 to your productivity tool box, O365 becomes your tool box. To get every last drop out of all the services that make up Microsoft Office 365, you need a great partner to manage it. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

  1. Cost Reduction

Office 365 is more affordable than ever (subscriptions start at $12.50 per user per month) with all monthly updates and service packs included, and also 1 TB of cloud computing storage per user. Small to medium businesses will love the reliability and security, but even the largest of firms will benefit from this powerful suite of tools. Forrester also concluded in their report on O365 that the delivered 3-month ROI was a whopping 378% (source: 2018 Forrester Research “The Economic Impact of Microsoft Office 365”).

  1. Increased Data Security

Worried about your data’s safety when it comes to cloud computing? Don’t be. Microsoft Office 365 offers choices, like Hybrid Cloud Computing, and incorporates exclusive, proprietary security features to protect your sensitive data. They have also added in a Compliance Manager to help you meet the standards necessary to keep you in business.

  1. Real-time Collaboration with Ease

Dream it, design it, create it – then edit and share it in an instant with anyone on any device to any device in real-time. With features like multi-party HD video conferencing, content sharing, team chat and shared calendars, your people can collaborate with the person in the next room, next regional office or across the world seamlessly. Think of all the time and resources wasted in the past trying to get everyone on the same page for a project, using the same processes and technology. With O365 implemented, those days are long gone.

We mentioned before that all of the tools, processes and services encompassed within Microsoft Office 365 can be overwhelming if you don’t where to start. And if you’re not properly managing it – or it’s beyond the scope of your IT department – you’re not getting the full benefits or tapping its complete potential. You need a solid managed IT services provider in your corner.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We can offer you seamless integration with your existing servers and network, 24/7/365 assistance, transparent fixed monthly billing (so there aren’t any surprises) and show you and your staff how to wring every last drop out of O365’s platform. You concentrate on running your business, we’ll handle your Office 365.

What are you waiting for? Give us a call today, and let’s discuss how O365 can grow your business!

5 Reasons You Need Unified Communications

As Told by Our Experts

Communication is essential to the success of your business. Whether you’re collaborating with team members or meeting with new customers, it’s imperative that you optimize the communication process. But, you knew that. Not because some fancy corporation told you it was crucial, but because 95% of people in the workforce say that face-to-face interactions are essential to building long-term business relationships. But, did you know that unified communication solutions are your best chance of boosting the way you collaborate? We asked our experts and here’s why they said it’s your best option:

  1. Gives You Call Control | When someone contacts you, whether they’re looking for more information on your products or looking to purchase your services, are they instantly connected with the right person? Maybe… sometimes. But, what about those other times – the times when someone calls and becomes frustrated with the back-and-forth of call transfers and hold time? Unified communications (UC) puts you back in control. When someone calls, you’ll know precisely why they’re calling before you say “hello,” helping them get to the right person the first time.
  2. Integrates Your Platforms | Deploying a new process and system is difficult if it doesn’t work with your current software solutions. That’s why integrating with existing platforms is an essential part of the decision-making process. UC connects with your instant messenger, fax machine, web applications, video conferencing devices, CRM and more to leverage efficiency and minimizes downtime.
  3. Enhances the Way You Conference Call | There’s just something about meeting customers and team members face-to-face that helps drive conversations. The majority of communication is nonverbal, between facial expressions and tone of voice. That’s why video conferencing has a ton of benefits for the workplace. UC makes conversing in real-time feasible. By using IP addresses, you can talk with, and see, multiple people from all different locations without skipping a beat.
  4. Increases the Availability of Your Team | When conversing with your team, you probably find that it’s easier to get your answer quickly when you go see your colleague in person. But, did you know that you’re wasting more time looking around the office than if you were able to contact them directly? With UC, you can instantly message or call your colleague to get the answer you need quickly and efficiently. Whether someone is working from home, in a meeting or gone for lunch, you’ll reach them without stepping away from your workspace.
  5. Places Accountability Where It’s Due | One of the largest downsides to traditional phone systems is that you never know which employee is talking to which customer (unless you ask). With UC, you trace every call from dial to “end call.” If you’re talking to customers, you’ll know with whom they’ve previously conversed, and if you’re talking internally to your team, you can track and record your conversations with colleagues.

Deploying unified communications is only one way to make communication easier. Are you ready to ramp up the way you conduct conversations?

 

Contact us today to learn about our other telecom and managed services – let’s optimize your productivity.

Protect Your Household with OpenDNS Family Shield

managed IT solutions[img src=”/wp-content/uploads/sites/1706/2018/01/Blogimg-Protect-Your-Household.jpg” class=”aligncenter”]

By Meredith Carroll, Senior Consultant

There’s a lot of focus today on how to keep our businesses secure from malware, fraud and other malicious activity. However, once we leave work at the end of the day, our homes are not off-limits to cyber attacks either! At Vertikal6, we recommend that our clients use OpenDNS, a secure, ultra-reliable service with real time security, and they also offer a free tool for home use.

OpenDNS Family Shield can protect your internet-connected devices and automatically block connections to fraudulent websites that are known for phishing, adult content, and other malicious activities.

Pre-configured to block adult content, OpenDNS Family Shield provides the ability to toggle the filter at any time, allowing you to set it up and forget about it. The settings will apply to every device (with no complicated set up or software to install): laptops, smartphones, tablets, DVRs, game consoles, TVs, anything that connects to the Internet. It’s a simple and straightforward way to protect kids from inappropriate contentonline. In addition, because FamilyShield leverages the OpenDNS content filtering system, the list of sites being blocked is constantly updated, 24/7.

You can download OpenDNS Family Shield for Free here.

If you’d like to talk with us about implementing for an organization of ten or more users we have additional packages that provide more granular protection and visibility. Contact us today at info@vertikal6.com or call us at 401-825-4401.

Protect Yourself with More than “Password123”

protect yourself password

By Meredith Carroll, Vertikal6 Senior Consultant

Everyone is used to the routine … change your password, make sure it’s not easily guessable, don’t re-use the same one. The challenge is that passwords are frequently a weak point in an organization’s security program, and once they are guessed, hackers have access to a wealth of information.

A cost-effective way to augment password protection is by implementing multifactor authentication. With multifactor authentication, your password is used in conjunction with a one-time passcode, offering greater assurance that the right person is accessing the electronic resources.

Many people have used multifactor authentication with their banks. You log into your bank’s website, and before getting access to your accounts, you receive a PIN via text that must be entered into the site. This is an example of multifactor authentication.

So, where should you consider using multifactor authentication right away?

  • VPN: For users who work outside the office and use VPN to connect, multifactor authentication is a significant security addition. VPN is available from anywhere in the world, and once a malicious user knows your password, your network is easily compromised.
  • Email and Cloud-based Applications: Email and cloud-based applications are readily accessible from almost anywhere and contain a wealth of valuable information. Adding multifactor authentication will prevent hackers from getting access to your mailbox and your data – even if they know your password.

As with any security mechanism, it’s important to consider the value of the information you’re protecting and the risk it presents if it falls into the wrong hands. Additionally, consider how easy or difficult the security measure is to use – and make an informed decision about if it’s right for you and your company.

Tis the Season… to Practice Safe Online Shopping

practice safe online shopping

By Meredith Carroll, Vertikal6 Senior Consultant

The holiday shopping season is quickly approaching! According to Deloitte’s 2017 Holiday Retail Survey, shoppers are planning to spend 51% of their holiday shopping budget online, compared to 42% in stores (this is the first year that online sales are expected to exceed in-store sales). With incredible online deals, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and mark downs that now lead right through the holidays – who can resist!

While online shopping makes our purchasing (and lives!) that much easier, unfortunately, we also see an increase in shopping scams during the holiday season. These include fake shipping notifications, purchase receipts and gift card offers. Use our tips below to have an enjoyable and safe holiday shopping experience:

Fake Shipping Notifications and Purchase Receipts: There’s nothing like a shipping notification or receipt for something you didn’t buy to catch your attention. When you receive these emails, be sure to look carefully at the sender and the full website address of any links in the message. If you are unsure of the validity of the message, head to a browser and type in the URL of the website, rather than clicking on the link in the email.

Gift Card Offers: Over the holidays, there is a big uptick in the number of fake gift card offers that are sent via email. As with any email message, always check who the sender is carefully and open a browser to visit the company’s website instead of clicking on the link in the email.

Reputable Vendors: Always stick with reputable vendors when shopping online. If the website is new to you, consider using Paypal as your payment option! Always be sure the website starts with https:// — the “s” indicates that all communications with the website are encrypted and secure.

We hope you have a very happy holiday season! If you have any concerns about the emails you are receiving, give us a call at 401-825-4401 and we can help you evaluate it.