What Your Small Business Custom Software Vendor Isn’t Telling You

It’s time we address the common misconception that using a cloud-based software solution is enough to keep a small business safe from rampant cyber threats.

Custom software is big business. Software vendors develop digital solutions specifically for niche verticals, from dental practices to dog kennels to accounting services. Small businesses use these products to manage their practice; handle scheduling, billing, and communication; support sales and marketing; and store critical data. A growing number of these solutions are cloud-based. There is undeniable data security in the cloud. Since data is stored remotely, not at the business’ physical location, users can rest assured that should something happen to their office or equipment, their data is secure.

However, custom software, cloud-based or otherwise, is not a substitute for network security best practices. Small business cybercrime is on the rise. In fact, almost 50 percent of small businesses have experienced a cyberattack. Companies that must meet HIPAA compliance need to be especially vigilant. Cybercriminals target care services more frequently than any other industry, in part because these organizations have such valuable data to steal—private, personal information.

Small business owners are sometimes lured into a false sense of security by their custom software providers. Although custom software and cloud computing afford a host of benefits on their own they aren’t enough to protect your business from threats. In addition to misconceptions about network security, small business owners are often left wanting more from their software vendors in terms of support. Service varies depending on the provider, but small businesses usually require more personalized attention than a software company can offer. Here’s what your small business custom software vendor isn’t telling you.

  1. Small Business Custom Software Doesn’t Protect You from All Threats

Busy small business owners are relieved to learn that by purchasing quality software, they can check a lot of boxes, including data security in the cloud. They breathe a sigh of relief and believe the solution will address all their network security needs. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t true.

Here’s an example. There is a common form of malware called keylogging in which cybercriminals infect your system with software that tracks your every keystroke. With the aid of technology, they sift through your behavior and sniff out useful data, such as login IDs, passwords, and financial information. Cloud computing doesn’t protect you from these attacks, or the myriad other ways determined hackers can infiltrate your network.

  1. Small Businesses Need to Protect “the Edges”

Companies of all sizes should take measures to protect critical data and thwart, or at least slow down, cybercriminals. This includes installing and regularly updating a firewall, installing and updating anti-virus and anti-malware software on all of your computers, protecting your public and business Wi-Fi networks, creating strong passwords, and educating your employees.

Many small businesses do not realize how rampant security threats are or how to fully protect against them. Government agencies and the military employ a multi-layer, defense-in-depth security strategy plan to preserve their critical data. They understand that determined hackers may find a way in no matter what they do, so they set up as many roadblocks as possible to slow them down and give hackers an opportunity to slip up and make their presence known.

Small businesses can emulate this strategy and devise their own multi-layer approach to network security. Cloud computing can be a vital part of the plan, but it also needs to involve other elements, like a firewall, intrusion protection system, VPNs for secure remote connectivity, and Internet content filtering. Custom software providers simply do not provide this protection. It’s not their job to. But it is a small business owner’s job to understand the truth about his or her company’s digital safety.

  1. You Probably Need an Additional Data Backup Service

Your data is your business. Think about all the different components of your operation. Then think about how challenging it would be to recreate that information should something unexpected happen to it. You are storing billing data, payroll and tax records, customer and business credit card information, internal systems, website data such as source code, text and images, as well as social media assets. Is your custom software backing up all of these elements? Probably not!

Businesses need to analyze the data backup services their custom software partner is providing. If it isn’t handling every piece of business-critical data, an additional solution is required. (These tips for choosing a cloud backup provider can get you started.) Test the restore procedures regularly to make sure that if the time comes, they will be able to retrieve their information quickly.

Cloud-based custom software can be a sizeable investment. Certainly, it serves multiple purposes, and software providers are wise to promote those benefits as they sell their products; but they are not a substitute for IT services! Too many small businesses are lulled into a false sense of cyber security by their cloud-based custom software vendor.

How would your business withstand a cyberattack? Do you know where you stand with your cloud software security? Anderson Technologies, a St. Louis IT consulting company, can evaluate your cybersecurity and help you form a plan for preserving your data. To learn more, call 314.394.3001 or email info@andersontech.com today.

Thinking About Skipping a Software Update? Think Again!

A vital part of any IT support program is managing software updates. It’s all too tempting to choose “Remind me later,” but as every IT support team knows, these updates are meant to fix problems, improve functionality, and make your device more secure. The inconvenience of downloading and installing essential software updates is far less than what could happen if you leave your unpatched devices vulnerable to security threats and software bugs.

Though it takes time, the benefits of keeping up with your devices’ software updates is immeasurable. Updates are usually produced and distributed by developers free-of-charge. You’ve already purchased the program; the developers want to make sure you can continue using it in this ever-changing digital environment. Software testing prior to product release only goes so far. Some software problems, as well as many malicious cybersecurity threats, are often discovered after launching the product. Keeping up with software updates helps minimize downtime.

Before you hit the “Remind me later” button one more time, listen to the wisdom of your IT support team and choose to install that update instead. There is no simpler, cheaper, or more effective way to get the most out of your programs and electronic devices.

Updates Are Not the Same as Upgrades

Software developers routinely produce new versions of their programs and operating systems. Unlike software updates, which help your program or device function more securely, these upgrades often offer a revised layout or design, enhanced user functionality, and new or improved features.

Upgrading your software usually is not free, but there are many advantages to remaining up-to-date. Older programs eventually lose compatibility with new software and may no longer be capable of receiving security updates. This can reduce the effectiveness of your devices and your business. Software companies often offer discounts or other incentives to convince you to upgrade software when it is released rather than waiting to buy it later. However, every business should carefully evaluate and decide what the right time is for them to upgrade software.

The best thing to do is discuss your needs with a professional IT support team, such as Anderson Technologies. Based in St. Louis, Anderson Technologies has over 25 years of experience providing IT support to businesses across the country. They are available to help you assess the current status of your operating system and software and will make recommendations for updates and/or upgrades to provide the best computer, wireless, and IT Security for your business. You can reach an IT support professional at 314.394.3001 or by email at info@andersontech.com.

Buying Pre-Owned Computers with Used Software: Know Before You Buy

Buying a used computer can seem extremely cost effective. However, it’s helpful to know what problems may arise. Used computers often come with preloaded software, a tempting way to save money and time. Some programs have non-transferrable licensing agreements that place you in breach of contract situations when they run secondhand. Before buying a used computer, be sure to ask the following questions to avoid potential software licensing infringements.

What type of software license does the preloaded software fall under?

There are many software license types and understanding the agreement associated with each application is important. Is the software licensed as Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), Individual, Volume, Client Access License (CAL), Node Locked, Subscription, Trial, or Free (to name a few)? Can the preloaded software legally transfer to you as the new owner?

OEM software can be especially tricky if you are buying secondhand. OEM software is sold with the original hardware it was installed on. It is important to ask the seller about the software provided with the computer and if all the hardware, such as the motherboard, is from the original computer. In some cases, such as with Microsoft, replacement of the motherboard in any way other than through the manufacturer counts as non-original hardware, and a new license needs to be purchased.

The experts at the St. Louis IT company Anderson Technologies recommend getting answers to these questions before you buy. Many computers are preloaded with automated End User Licensing Agreements (EULA) requiring acceptance of terms and conditions before using the computer and the software on it. If the EULA is signed by a different person (possibly from a different state or country), you could be flagged for a software audit.

What installation media is provided in case it needs to be reinstalled?

This is a precautionary measure in case the computer crashes. If the hard drive failed on a pre-owned computer, how would you restore it? Depending on the type of backup you have, fixing a crashed computer involves replacing the faulty hardware, re-installing the operating system, downloading all drivers, and re-installing the used software. You might have to go back to the computer manufacturer and prove you are the legitimate owner of the computer in order to reload and activate the operating system. “Even when you are the original owner this can be a time consuming process,” says Mark Anderson. “It can be even more daunting when you are missing crucial original purchase information.” Make sure the computer comes with all software license keys and system documentation and keep it handy.

Are software license keys provided and validated?

Some license keys included with the purchase of the computer may only be valid for the original purchaser. While the legality of this type of transaction is under review, it is still prudent to be aware and make sure the used software and any licensing agreements are transferrable to the new owner.

In this increasingly global environment, it is also important to know the differences in laws between countries. Vernor v. Autodesk, Inc., which involved the resale of pre-owned licenses of AutoCAD software on eBay, potentially set a precedent in the United States that software licenses are not resalable. However, this is not the case in other countries. According to Jennifer Baker at PCWorld, the European Court of Justices ruled that, “The exclusive right of distribution of a copy of a computer program covered by such a licence [sic] is exhausted on its first sale.” Meaning once bought, anyone can sell a license in the same way one would sell a movie or video game they purchased.

Is the installed software updated?

Most software companies provide regular updates to their programs and expect owners to update them on a regular basis. If a used computer has preloaded software that hasn’t been updated in a long time, the software may have reached its end-of-life (EOL) and updates are no longer available. In this case, be prepared to spend more money purchasing new software and be sure to factor this into the overall cost of the used machine.

Knowing the answers to these questions eliminates some of the more common mistakes associated with buying pre-owned computers. Discuss your needs with a professional IT support team.

Based in St. Louis, Anderson Technologies has over 25 years of experience providing IT support to businesses across the country. You can reach an IT support professional at 314-394-3001 or by email at info@andersontech.com.

Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis IT company. The information in this article provides general information about computer licensing agreements and is not to be considered specific legal advice.

St. Louis Company Software upgrade

Six Reasons Not to Perform a Software Upgrade

When should I upgrade my software? What do you do when the notice comes to update?

Some blindly click “OK.” Others ignore update messages for months on end. Some now-wary computer users have horror stories about how their digital lives came to a screeching halt for several days due to glitches associated with a software upgrade.

Whether it’s an update to your smartphone’s operating system or Microsoft’s enticement for a free copy of Windows 10, our world is full of opportunities to upgrade to the latest version of everything. Our instinct may be to immediately upgrade, following the logic: “Of course I want the latest and greatest! Think of all the ‘new and improved’ features I’ll be able to take advantage of!”

But wait just a moment. There are good reasons to exercise a little caution.

Here are six to make you think twice before hitting “OK”:

  1. You haven’t recently backed up your data, email, contacts, photos, videos, etc., to an external source – doing so enables recovery if the upgrade goes horribly wrong.
  2. Your hardware doesn’t have the capacity to effectively run the updated software. If you’re running older computers, upgrading to new software may consume more memory and disk space or overly tax the CPU, potentially bringing your machines to a screeching halt and resulting in unplanned hardware purchases.
  3. The user interface of the new software is so foreign compared to the existing version, productivity is negatively impacted while you learn its idiosyncrasies.
  4. All bugs aren’t fully ironed out of the new software. Unless your business absolutely requires a particular feature the new software offers, let other users “stub their toe” on corner-case problems. Wait a few months to upgrade.
  5. You‘ve misplaced the necessary information (software license keys, passwords, etc.), which may be needed during the upgrade process. Locate all required information for the update prior to proceeding.
  6. Updating existing software might result in being unable to access old files, which for business reasons must be left in their original format. Make sure the new software works with older file versions without needing to convert them.

Before hastily updating software to the latest version, consider the impact on other aspects of your business’s technology and work flow. After performing a complete backup, carefully review the software’s requirements before making the decision to move forward. Determine if you will truly benefit from the upgrade.

If you need a second opinion before undertaking a software update, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 314.394.3001. We’d love to help!