St. Louis: A Great Home for Small Businesses, Including This IT Company!

St. Louis, known as the Gateway to the West, may have a “flyover” connotation in other parts of the country, but did you know St. Louis is one of the best places for start-ups, affordable housing, and award-winning free attractions?

St. Louis is 19th on the 30 Hottest Cities for New Business, and 23rd (out of 182) in 2018’s Best Large Cities to Start a Business.

As a small business and IT company in St. Louis, Anderson Technologies is thrilled to be a part of this thriving community!

If you’re a small business owner in St. Louis, what’s not to love about this city?

Sitting on the great Mississippi River is the Gateway Arch—the tallest man-made monument in the United States. The architecture and construction make the Arch unique, and St. Louisans are proud of it. If you’re looking for a beautiful view of this river city, take a tram to the top!

Forest Park is probably the second most well-known location in St. Louis. This backbone of city life is home to many of St. Louis’ free attractions and claims 500 more acres than New York City’s Central Park. There you’ll find the History Museum, Art Museum, The Muny outdoor theater, and the renowned St. Louis Zoo, which continues to hold its place in the top 10 zoos in the United States.

The elegant Powell Hall, where music lovers from all over the Midwest come to enjoy concerts, is home to the award-winning St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. The Fabulous Fox Theater, exquisite and not far from the Hall, hosts Broadway shows and concerts.

Sports lovers are all over St. Louis. The Cardinals baseball team is held in high regard. The St. Louis Cardinals have been in the World Series four times in the last 13 years, and only the Yankees have won more World Series than they have. The St. Louis Blues hockey team also has a broad base of loyal supporters. Red and blue t-shirts and jerseys, depending on the season, are seen all over the city.

The St. Louis Science Center is another major attraction. The Science Center itself is free, but it also hosts amazing exhibits from the Smithsonian and other organizations. There’s currently a “Destination Moon” exhibit through September 3, 2018. From the dizzying OMNIMAX theater to agricultural experiences like the “Let It Grow” exhibit, the Science Center provides creative learning experiences that almost every local child has grown up visiting on school field trips or on a day of educational family fun.

Jefferson Barracks is a little south of St. Louis. It is an active military installation and has a civil war museum and national cemetery where veterans from every American war are buried. Cahokia Mounds, in Illinois, is just across the river. Cahokia is the Midwest’s native ancient civilization site that was larger than present-day London during its peak.

St. Louis is also home to quirkier attractions like Laumeier Sculpture Park, Turtle Playground, and the City Museum, where kids (and adults) can jungle gym through a 600,000 square foot building, go down a 10 story slide, and absorb interesting aspects of the city’s culture.

The sidewalks that line St. Louis’ small businesses bustle with friendly Midwestern faces. Most St. Louisans will look a stranger in the eye as they pass on the street and ask them “How’s it goin’?” and comment on the weather. St. Louis has a diverse population, so you’ll also find many different types of great food. Toasted ravioli and gooey butter cake are St. Louis specialty treats, and we like to claim the invention of the waffle cone at the 1904 World’s Fair. We also enjoy internationally-acclaimed barbecue and tender pork steaks as we watch thunderstorms roll in over the horizon.

And we can’t forget St. Louis Bread Co.—the original name and home of Panera.

While Missouri tends to be known for its humidity and hot summer temperatures, spring and fall are lovely with wildflowers and changing leaves. The old aphorism “If you don’t like the weather, just sit tight for a minute” rings true here. Missouri’s weather morphs with the winds and sometimes likes to fit all four seasons into a week—or a day! Plus the much-maligned humidity fosters brilliant green landscapes, lush trees, and thick grass.

Winter brings ice skating and sledding down snowy hills in Forest Park. Summer means lazy weekends on the rivers or lakes. With fall comes festivals and hiking or leaf-gazing walks through Tower Grove Park. In spring there are fun outdoor adventures at the Botanical Gardens, the Zoo, and Grant’s Farm.

The St. Louis area is a great place to play and stay and a wonderful place to run a small business.

Our St. Louis IT company couldn’t ask for a better home.

Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis IT company but isn’t limited to the St. Louis area. If you would like more information about our IT services, call 314.394.3001 or email us info@andersontech.com.

GDPR: How It Impacts You

On May 25th, the European Union implemented their country-spanning General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Even if you’re not sure what it is or how it affects you, you’ve probably seen the results of this directive in action. New cookie consent notices pop up on home pages, and countless companies sent out emails with updated privacy policies. You may have noticed Anderson Technologies has gone through this process recently. All of this is due to GDPR.

What Does GDPR Change?

GDPR gives citizens in European Union (EU) countries clear rights to their data regardless of who is collecting it or where that entity is located. Some of these rights include:

  • The right to know what happens with their data.
  • The right to be shown all data collected on them.
  • The right to update or modify that data.
  • The right to be forgotten or to have all data relating to them deleted.

It also places the burden of informing and obtaining consent to collect data on the entity collecting it. This means it is illegal to use email lists from a newsletter to send promotional advertisements without the user specifically agreeing for you to do so. Most importantly, visitors who refuse to allow their personal data to be collected must receive the same experience as those who allow the collection of their data.

It also demands that those who collect or process personal data do so with data protection at the forefront through means such as pseudonymization, full anonymization of data, and encryption. It becomes the business’s responsibility to protect personally identifiable data and to know that all vendors and third parties with access to it have equivalent security measures in place.

Companies can be fined for failure to comply with GDPR guidelines.

Does GDPR Affect Your Company’s Website?

There is a good chance some aspect of GDPR affects you even if you don’t actively do business in the EU. Personal information can include names, addresses, email addresses, and IP addresses. To collect any of this, even through the use of cookies, explicit consent is required. It’s hard to find any website with zero visitors from EU countries. If even one EU citizen’s data is gathered, then the GDPR relates to you.

The good news is…

Unless you’re actively working with the EU, in which case you’ve probably already implemented compliance standards, only a few sections of the GDPR affect you. And if you don’t collect or transfer any personal data through cookies, contact forms, newsletter sign-ups, or analytics, then it doesn’t matter how many people from the EU visit your site.

The bad news is…

Personal data is collected in ways you might not think about, and just because someone is already signed up for your services or newsletter doesn’t mean their previous consent is compliant. Some means of data collection you might not think about are Google Analytics or share buttons on your site that connect to social media. Also, passive consent (i.e., pre-filled check boxes to sign up for emails or providing an email address that will be used for marketing in order for the user to download an eBook) is no longer allowed.

All consent must be optional and freely given.

Is the EU Going to Come After You?

Keep in mind that if you are seriously concerned about GDPR compliance and the responsibilities your business has in regard to the data you collect, you should contact a lawyer who specializes in GDPR compliance for full legal guidance. The information here is meant to provide a general understanding regarding GDPR and shouldn’t be taken as legal counsel on compliance issues.

For most US-based small businesses that do not have working relationships within the EU and do not intend to court them as potential clients/vendors, the immediate risk of not being 100% compliant after May 25th is minimal. That’s not to say you shouldn’t take practical steps to become compliant if the law affects you. Non-compliance can have steep fines of up to 10-20 million euros or 2-4% of total global turnover—whichever is higher. But those are for serious violations and a last resort after contacting the business about non-compliance and issuing warnings to resolve any problems.

What’s important is that a reasonable effort to comply within the means of your business is made with user privacy and data protection in mind.

Making Your Website GDPR Compliant

The first thing you need to know is whether or not you collect data from EU citizens.

In order to do that, you need to know what data, if any, you collect. This can include analytical data, physical and email mailing lists, names/IDs in comments or forums, and IP addresses. Then it’s time to get consent. Depending on what you collect, there are tools available to help. If you run a WordPress site, this guide can be helpful in figuring out what issues WordPress has already resolved and what issues you need to address.

  • Cookie Consent Bar — You’ve probably seen a lot of these lately. If your site installs any cookies, whether for the functioning of the website, collecting analytical data, third-party cookies for plug-ins, etc., then the user must not only be notified, but allowed the option to not have them activated. There’s no need to figure out how to do this all on your own. If you’re not sure if you need a consent bar, Jeffalytics created a flowchart to help figure it out. There are also plenty of plug-ins and add-ons available that will do this for you, and some of them are free. Not all these plug-ins are user-friendly or even fully functional, so your developer should verify that cookies are not added until the user hits accept. Cookies required to run the site can be excluded from the block as long as your Privacy Policy explains why.
  • Consent Checkbox Beneath Forms — Whenever you directly collect information, such as asking for name and email address when signing up for a newsletter, it is a good idea to have a checkbox stating that by clicking it the user understands how you are going to use and store their data. If you want to use that email for promotional materials, you can’t without their consent. You can offer a checkmark box for this option during the sign up, but it cannot be pre-checked or a requirement to sign up. The user must check it themselves.
  • Google Analytics — Not surprisingly, Google has already done a lot to bring themselves into compliance, but the tools they offer are not in complete compliance since most are meant to collect personal data. So what can you do to fix this without sacrificing all that valuable data? You need to turn on IP Anonymization. Google made this process easy for users by anonymizing all but the final set of numbers in users’ IP addresses. This means you will lose some geographic data, but generally only in local areas. You will still know the country and city of origin.
  • Opt-Out — All users must have the option to not only request all the data you collect on them but to ask you to change or delete the data if they wish. This process should be made clear in your privacy policy and quickly implemented upon request. It’s important to keep a record of all contact with users about their personal data and log when data was modified or deleted. 
  • Privacy Policy — It is important that you have a privacy policy on your website that explains in easy-to-understand, non-legal terms all aspects of your data collection and retention. This is intended to present users with the what, when, how, and why of your data collection, and to inform them of their rights over the data. This is also a good place to display a list of cookies used on your site and their functions. Many of the cookie consent bar plugins provide a short code that will generate this list for you. Your privacy policy should also explain how the user can contact you in order to exercise their rights over the data you collect on them. All communication should be simple to perform and recorded by your business. If you don’t have a privacy policy yet or aren’t sure what needs fixing on an existing policy, NIBusiness Info has a free, fully explained and customizable example available for download.
  • Notification of Breach — Perhaps the biggest change from current data practices is the GDPR’s requirement that if your data has been breached, it must be reported within 72 hours of you learning of it. The GDPR also states that the individual whose data is compromised as a result of the breach must also be notified “without undue delay” if the data poses a considerable risk on the rights the GDPR provides EU citizens. This is not required, however, if the data has been made unusable to unauthorized access through means such as encryption.

GDPR may be frustrating to implement, but its goal is to change the way companies look at data collection and retention. It’s just as important in GDPR to know how you protect your customers’ data as it is what data you collect. Security, accountability, and understanding are goals every business should strive for when handling user data. Even if you don’t do business with the EU, it’s a good idea to perform a network security audit to see how safe your company’s data is and if there is room for improvement.

If you’d like help making your website GDPR compliant, contact Anderson Technologies by phone at 314.394.3001 or by email at info@andersontech.com.

Quotables: Should Your Business Use Niche Software? (Business News Daily)

Check out Mark Anderson’s recent guest contribution on Business News Daily providing readers with advice regarding niche software for business!

Read the full article on the Business News Daily website:

https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/10951-niche-software-pros-cons.html

Are you in need of expert IT consulting?  Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis IT consulting firm that specializes in system administration for small businesses.  Let us help you today!  Give us a call at 314.394.3001 or email us at info@andersontech.com.

What are Quotables?  This is a category in our posts to highlight any professional publications that benefit from our expert IT consulting advice and quote us in articles for their readers. 

IT Glue: Holding the Keys of Your IT Kingdom Together

At Anderson Technologies, your business’s IT security is our highest concern.

To that end, last year we implemented a documentation platform called IT Glue after recognizing the benefits of storing critical information in a single, organized repository. Our team consolidates knowledge, building a shared, encrypted library that helps address your needs better than ever before and ensuring your network isn’t reliant on how well one person can remember details.

What Is IT Glue?

IT Glue is an efficient documentation repository that keeps your relevant IT information readily at hand in a customizable environment. Documentation platforms help managed service providers maintain their internal processes and client credentials.

The website securely stores configurations, domain expirations, contacts, locations, passwords, security specifics, wireless data, backup schedules, and documents in its easy-to-access dashboard. Information is updated as needed by various team members, but controlled access allows the data to be viewed by the client via separate accounts as well.

Another helpful feature of IT Glue is that it easily integrates with other tools IT consultants use—like their PSA (Professional Services Automation) application—with two-way retrieval of data. This ensures information entered in one is automatically synchronized to the other. Too often, clients that Anderson Technologies inherits from other managed service companies arrive with minimal or outdated records. Documentation platforms make record keeping easier and more integrated while strong security implementation keeps the data safe.

Keeping Your Sensitive Information Locked Down

Multifactor Authentication

To login to the secure documentation platform, users must activate multifactor authentication (MFA). After entering a username and password, MFA requires the use of a third-party app configured on a mobile device to generate a single-use, six-digit code that expires after 30 seconds. Once the code is entered, the user is granted access.

Multifactor authentication provides an important added layer of protection to keeps accounts secure by preventing unauthorized logins. If someone has the password but not the MFA device, any login attempt will be unsuccessful. The concept is similar to showing your ID when using a credit card in a store. Secondary verification mitigates the chances of a thief taking your stolen credit card on a mall shopping spree.

Passwords

IT Glue organizes passwords so users can easily access the multiple accounts for websites, email addresses, computer logins, and applications clients use every day. Credentials are organized in a user-friendly way, and URLs can be launched with the passwords populated. This saves valuable time, whether you’re monitoring servers and firewalls or updating a web page. IT Glue allows for granular permission levels as well as user-based permissions and group permissions, allowing contributors to specify who should be able to access each addition to the system.

Legal Compliance

SOC 2 compliance means that IT Glue is audited by a third party and its security and best practices are verified. Among other things, this helps companies comply with HIPAA—an essential for those providing IT consulting services to health organizations.

IT Glue’s website says, “To pass the audit for SOC 2 compliance, IT Glue had to demonstrate best security practices in terms of its physical infrastructure, the software that it uses, the personnel involved in governance, both automated and manual processes used, and data. The audit can only be passed when each of these areas of IT Glue’s system are compliant with SOC 2 standards.”

Organization Equals Efficiency

Efficiency for our IT team means your IT service is more capable with these shared resources – providing resolutions faster and reducing your frustration and down time.

IT Glue’s dashboard allows for speedy access by keeping track of recently accessed data. It also offers two types of searches—organizational and global—which helps our IT professionals quickly find information with just a couple keystrokes. Instant indexing of all uploaded data helps expedite the process for troubleshooting and problem solving.

Anderson Technologies tracks client domains within the system to keep DNS records readily at hand and has configured the platform to send an email alert if a domain is expiring. Our team documents license keys for apps and programs, allowing us to quickly install programs on new computers. IT Glue logs all user access as well as deletions and revision history within the app, providing a full access log for each team member.  By combining this data with a robust feature set, the platform gives us the ability to thoroughly document client information for more efficient service.

The key to achieving the full potential of a process documentation platform is to realize it only manages as much information as you provide it. This means it works best if clients help keep it updated with any changes, such as passwords and other credentials that may be needed in the future.

Elena Estrada, Anderson Technologies’ IT Support Coordinator says, “Whenever we’re notified of a change in the client’s environment, we add that information into IT Glue. Keeping us up to date is essential. When clients fail to share updates with us, it can get confusing. The information stored in IT Glue is only helpful when it’s accurate and current.” An important feature for documentation repositories is input of information by users.

Anderson Technologies is committed to efficient, accurate, and professional service. Using IT Glue as a documentation repository is one of the ways to serve you better. If you would like more information on IT consulting services, call 314.394.3001 or email us info@andersontech.com.