A Behind-the-Scenes Look at a St. Louis Web Design Process

Thinking about launching a website for your business? St. Louis web design services vary in scope and level of service. Here’s what you need to think about.   

These days almost every business can benefit from a website. Even if you have a brick-and-mortar store or a sales process built on referrals, customers and prospects expect you to have a digital presence.

St. Louis web design services vary from expensive custom web design companies to cheap, do-it-yourself options like SquareSpace or solutions offered by web hosting providers like Frontier.

Anderson Technologies, a St. Louis web design company, falls in the middle. It caters to small businesses that need professional websites but want to avoid the cost of complicated custom builds.  These companies want to focus on their clients and don’t have the desire, time, or expertise to tinker with do-it-yourself web design tools.

If you are building a website for the first time, or updating an existing one, it is important to realize that it is a process, whether you go it alone or with a partner.

The Importance of Discovery

A website is often a business’s first impression. At the very least, it is a digital representation of your brand. It’s important that it accurately represents your company and conveys the right message to your audience.

Farica Chang, director at Anderson Technologies, explains that she kicks off every web design project with a general discussion in which she asks important questions to understand the client’s general design aesthetic, likes and dislikes, main messaging, and goals for the site.

“Every client is different. We want to take the right direction from the beginning, rather than discovering a major issue in the middle of the development process,” she explains. The initial conversations make creating a digital presence easier for everyone and ensures clients end up with a site that serves their objective.

Kelley Vonarx, CEO, Operations & Marketing, of VonArx Engineering, a civil and structural engineering firm based in St. Louis, recently partnered with Anderson Technologies to build her company’s first website. “Most of our competitors and colleagues have a website, so we wanted to be right there with them,” she explains. “A lot of our work comes from referrals, but personally, even if I get a referral from someone, I still get on the internet to check out the company before I do business with them.”

When choosing a St. Louis web design services partner, Vonarx notes the importance of picking someone you have a good rapport with. “Working with Farica, the whole process was really easy. She made it that way!”

Vonarx says the discovery meeting was valuable, and that Chang’s questions helped her think about things she otherwise wouldn’t have. “Then we watched things come to fruition. We got to see a mockup of the homepage, which was really exciting. Throughout the whole process, we communicated with Farica. We would share information, and she would give suggestions and make sure we were on track,” she says.

The end result was even better than Vonarx expected: “We are a small company so doing something like this was big for us. Seeing it launch was really exciting and even better than we thought it would be.”

The Benefits of a Professional Web Design Partner

For many small businesses, especially those without tech experience, it makes sense to find a St. Louis web design service that is a “friendly medium between custom development and doing something by yourself,” says Chang.

She explains that although Anderson Technologies has resources with deep technical knowledge and custom web design, development, and hosting capabilities, it also leverages third-party platforms like WordPress, which make it easy to build sites without starting from the ground-up. This saves clients time and money.

Vonarx “highly recommends” partnering with a web design expert to save time and improve quality. She has strong tech skills, including experience with HTML, but when Vonarx experimented with a free do-it-yourself tool before reaching out to a vendor, she wasn’t happy with the results.

Another advantage to partnering with a web design expert is that it should ensure your site is optimized for performance so it loads quickly.  Your developer should keep search engine optimization (SEO) in mind, meaning the site content is Google-friendly so people can more easily find it. A professional St. Louis web design partner should also always make sure your website functions properly across all devices and screen sizes, from mobile phones and tablets to desktop computers.

Are you thinking about creating a website for your business? Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis web design company that specializes in providing friendly web design and development services that don’t break the bank. We work to make the process simple and even fun! For more information on our services, email info@andersontech.com or call 314.394.3001 today.

What Is a Network Security Audit?

You can’t improve your IT processes and keep your data secure without a complete picture of your IT infrastructure. By conducting a network security audit, you’ll understand what is working and what needs to be improved so you can proactively get ahead of issues and improve your systems.

Cybersecurity threats are on the rise. Small businesses need to take cybersecurity seriously.

A network security audit, sometimes referred to as an information security audit, is a technical assessment of your IT systems. It’s conducted by a professional IT firm that uses physical processes and digital solutions to assess the quality and security of your business network environment, including your operating systems and all your applications.

When you work with a managed IT services or IT consulting company, a network security audit is an important fact-finding step, akin to a look under your car’s hood by your mechanic. It’s a way for the managed IT firm to get a complete picture of your business and spot potential holes in your security that could leave you vulnerable to hackers.

As part of a network security audit, your IT partner may conduct an IT infrastructure audit—an assessment of your IT architecture that covers areas beyond cybersecurity, such as performance and cost-savings opportunities. Both processes are complicated and technical, but the results don’t have to be. Your managed IT partner should be able to present its findings in plain English and recommend easy-to-understand actions based on the report.

A network security audit should include review of the following:

  1. Firewall

The IT partner should review your firewall configuration, check for security vulnerabilities, and make sure it is being patched regularly with the necessary firmware updates.

  1. Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Software

The audit will determine if all systems, including your servers, are protected by updated anti-virus and anti-malware software.

  1. Active Directory

Microsoft’s Active Directory is a centralized way of managing all the users, computers, and security policies on Windows domains. Your business should be managing its Active Directory on an regular basis, which means removing inactive computers and user accounts from the system as needed. This helps reduce security threats posed by stale accounts with network access and passwords that never get updated.

  1. Password Approach

The audit will determine the effectiveness of your company password policy. For example, are you prompting your employees to use strong passwords and routinely change them? Are you deactivating previous employees’ accounts promptly? These are crucial components of cybersecurity.

  1. Backups

Every company needs a process for backing up business-critical data and testing it regularly to ensure effectiveness. The audit will review your approach and pinpoint any shortcomings in your strategy.

These are just some of the aspects of a comprehensive network security audit. To identify all security vulnerabilities, your IT partner will also review your approach to data sharing, remote connectivity (how your employees access company assets when they are home or traveling), and internet content filtration (whether you block sites that violate your company’s internet policy).

Why a Network Security Audit Should Include an In-Person Assessment

The network security assessment should pave the way for a blueprint of your IT security plan. At Anderson Technologies, our experts use the audit to identify critical risks and help our clients prioritize their resources.

When conducting a network security audit, Anderson Technologies installs a sophisticated software tool on the client’s server to probe the network, gather information, and compile findings. Additionally, its experts go onsite to review the client’s setup in person. That is the only way you can truly assess the health and performance of IT equipment and ensure systems are wired correctly. For example, a software probe can’t tell you if too many systems are running from the same power source or if someone has plugged a space heater into the same surge protector as the computers, a common mistake in the winter months.

Next, the firm analyzes all the digital and on-the-ground findings and boils them down to key takeaways and prioritized action items for business owners. That is when the network security audit really proves its value—when it helps a business and its managed IT services partner find ways to stay safer and improve the business’s IT infrastructure.

Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis managed IT services and IT consulting company that performs network security audits and IT infrastructure audits for clients. It specializes in making meaningful recommendations based on findings and working with clients to improve their approach to cyber security. For more information on the company’s services, email info@andersontech.com or call 314.394.3001 today.

Taking Email to the Cloud: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at an Office 365 Email Migration

This St. Louis business enlisted Anderson Technologies to migrate its email hosting to the cloud and to provide ongoing managed IT services so it could have more peace of mind.

Denise Rathbun, director of operations at Jamplast, first learned of Anderson Technologies when she received an invite to one of its free cybersecurity trainings, which it hosts for local businesses and community members.

Jamplast is a leading distributor of raw plastic materials and biopolymers based in the St. Louis area with a distribution center in Mt. Vernon, Indiana. Last spring, Rathbun began meeting with companies so she could choose a partner to help with an Office 365 email migration and to provide managed IT support. She invited Anderson Technologies to submit a proposal.

In the end, Rathbun chose Anderson Technologies because she was impressed by its people and setup, and she appreciated that it was a family-owned, local St. Louis business. “We were looking for a partner that would be proactive and make suggestions and recommendations before problems arise. Anderson Technologies seemed like a good fit,” she says.

Anderson Technologies kicked off the partnership by conducting a network audit, in which it examined Jamplast’s IT infrastructure and made recommendations for improving security and performance. Jamplast had been having trouble with its email reliability and connectivity, and its team was interested in moving to a cloud-based solution.

“Our email system went down every time we lost power,” explains Rathbun. “This was detrimental to our sales team. It was hard for them to perform their job when they couldn’t send or receive email.”

After assessing Jamplast’s architecture and needs, Mark Anderson, principal of Anderson Technologies, suggested migrating to a Microsoft Exchange Online Plan, which is part of the Office 365 product suite. With Office 365 services, email is hosted in the cloud, rather than on a physical server onsite. This means email services aren’t disrupted if the building loses power or its connection to the internet. It also adds a level of security since emails are backed up in the cloud and makes it easier to access email remotely.

A Fast and Secure Approach to Better Email

Before Anderson Technologies began the Office 365 email migration, it suggested improving Jamplast’s backup processes. “They found the fastest and best option and ensured no data would be lost during the migration,” says Rathbun.

Anderson Technologies had to make sure all users had updated versions of Microsoft Office prior to the Office 365 email migration since some versions are not compatible with Office 365.

Securely migrating all Jamplast’s email, contacts, and miscellaneous data was a massive undertaking. The Anderson Technologies team worked “extremely hard to minimize downtime during the transition,” says Rathbun. “Luke Bragg [senior systems administrator] did a great job of explaining technical issues in a way that made sense to non-technical people.”

Today, the Jamplast team has peace of mind knowing its email is set up, and backed up, properly. Rathbun appreciates the security of having a dependable managed IT services partner, especially since ransomware and other cyber threats are on the rise in St. Louis and beyond. She notes that from time to time, Jamplast employees receive phishing emails, in which cybercriminals try to trick recipients into clicking nefarious links that would infect their computers with viruses.

“It is nice knowing you have an IT partner that has your back, and that if something did happen, they would be able to get you back up and running quickly,” she says. “I can’t imagine life without that or without Anderson Technologies.”

Rathbun adds that she values the level of customer care she receives. “After the Office 365 email migration, Mark Anderson called to get my thoughts and to make sure we were taken care. I don’t think you would get that type of service from a larger company.”

Are you considering an Office 365 email migration? Anderson Technologies is a family-owned  managed IT services company in St. Louis dedicated to providing quality service and exceptional care. Contact us today by emailing info@andersontech.com or calling 314.394.3001.

The Truth about Data Recovery Services

Have you ever accidentally deleted a file and wondered how to get it back? Now imagine your business lost all its data. This happens more commonly than you may think. Data loss is a real and growing threat to your business. Here is what you need to know about data recovery in St. Louis and beyond. 

The data recovery services industry specializes in retrieving and restoring data that has been lost or damaged. The culprit can be a natural disaster, like a flood or fire, or it can be a cyberattack, a power outage, a technical malfunction, or even human error.

Restoring lost or damaged assets becomes simpler when a business has a plan in place for backing up critical information. Data recovery experts can work from wherever the backup data is stored—an external hard drive or cloud-based solution, for example—to retrieve the missing data.

It’s easy to think, “It won’t happen to me,” but data loss happens all the time. In the U.S., 140,000 hard drives fail each week, yet 58 percent of small and mid-sized businesses are not prepared for data loss, according to this recent infographic by Clutch, created in honor of World Backup Day.

Cybercrime—in particular, ransomware—is on the rise in St. Louis and beyond. These attacks compromise company data, and they can be catastrophic; 60 percent of small companies victimized by a major cyberattack go out of business within six months, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance.

To improve their chances of successful data recovery, St. Louis businesses must take preventative measures that include a comprehensive approach to backing up data. Should your business have trouble retrieving an important file or data source, consider these three steps.

  1. Don’t Panic

Losing a file can be harrowing, but take a minute to catch your breath and think clearly. When you delete a folder on your computer, it hasn’t necessarily been wiped from your operating system. Unless the system has written new data to the same area on the disk, your information is likely still on the machine. Often, data can be retrieved if you connect with the right experts quickly. Of course, accidentally deleting a file or two is quite a different scenario than losing an entire hard drive or being victimized by a cybercriminal, but regardless of the breadth of your data loss, try not to let emotion override good decision-making.

  1. Choose the Right Data Recovery Expert

If you have in-house IT experts or an outsourced managed IT services provider, give them a call. If not, you can do some troubleshooting yourself. But depending on the scope of the data loss, you may need to find a reliable data recovery services company.

Some data recovery firms request that you mail in your failed hardware and then charge you based on how much data they recover. You could be left footing a hefty bill if they are even able to retrieve the data. There are no guarantees.

An expert who can visit your office is probably a better bet. Although it’s important to act quickly when it comes to critical data recovery, make sure to research your options carefully.  (This is one of the many reasons why it is better to have a data recovery plan in place before you lose something.) Try reaching out to colleagues for vendor recommendations. Data recovery takes skill, and who you partner with could determine the outcome of your predicament.

  1. Be Prepared

Data loss costs companies $1.7 trillion a year. Mitigate losses by taking precautions. Use a dual-destination backup approach in which you back up data onsite (to an external hard drive, for example) as well as remotely via a cloud backup provider. Regularly test your backup recovery strategies to ensure you can quickly and effectively restore data.

Using cloud-based software can help you mitigate data loss in the first place. For example, solutions like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive offer file version control so you can easily retrieve earlier iterations of files if you mistakenly overwrite something.

Most business owners don’t realize the importance of data recovery services until they need them. Anderson Technologies specializes in data recovery for St. Louis businesses. It uses sophisticated backup and data recovery tools to support its managed services clients as well as to help new customers in need. Its data recovery experts have been able to successfully retrieve data that other vendors could not. For more information, email info@andersontech.com or call 314.394.3001 today.

Why St. Louis Businesses Are Embracing Cloud Computing Services

There’s a lot to like about cloud computing. St. Louis businesses can benefit from the cost-savings, security features, and ease of collaboration facilitated by cloud-based solutions. Here’s what you need to know.  

Worldwide spending on public cloud computing will increase from $67 billion in 2015 to $162 billion by 2020, according to IDC, a global market intelligence firm. This surge is fueled in part by a growing number of small and medium-sized businesses adapting cloud computing. St. Louis companies are investing more in IT across the board. According to a recent report, technology hiring in the St. Louis area is on the rise for the second half of 2017. More companies are expanding in or relocating to St. Louis, which is part of what’s driving the trend, but in general, St. Louis small businesses are investing more in digital marketing, mobile, and big data. Cloud services can play a crucial role in data security, and they also offer a host of other benefits.

What is Cloud Computing?

In the past, businesses stored all their data and ran their applications on company-owned and managed servers in their offices. Now, they can do these same functions online. When someone says they’re using cloud-based software, that software is delivered via the internet, as opposed to the “old days,” when we used CD-ROMs to physically install programs on our computers. If a business is using the cloud as part of its data storage approach, that means it is storing critical business information somewhere other than a server onsite. The information lives online.

Let’s take a closer look at why small businesses are using cloud-based services.

  1. Affordability

Cloud computing services allow smaller companies to leverage IT technology that was previously reserved for businesses with big budgets. For example, rather than having to invest in its own network of servers, a small business can pay a monthly fee to leverage cloud computing services. With cloud computing, it is also easy to scale services up or down as your business needs change.

  1. Security

Storing data in the cloud, ideally as part of a hybrid approach in which you back up data locally and online, offers businesses of all sizes important security benefits. For example, if your server crashed or your office was hit by a natural disaster, you’d have peace of mind knowing your data was also stored remotely.

The security benefits of the cloud extend beyond data storage. If you use cloud-based software, or software as a service (SaaS), your software is automatically updated with important security patches. These security updates help protect you from digital fraudsters, who are constantly looking for new ways to infiltrate your system.

The increase in cybercrime also contributes to the growing adoption of cloud services. St. Louis businesses identify cybersecurity as a key concern, according to the previously cited report. If an employee clicks a link and unwittingly downloads ransomware, the damage could extend beyond that machine. New strains of ransomware can encrypt your entire network, even your local backup servers. If you were backing up data to the cloud, you would be able to work with your IT provider to wipe your system clean and start anew from your last backup.

It is worth noting that not all cloud backup providers are created equal, and they are not immune from hackers. Cybercrime targeting the cloud is on the rise. A dual-destination backup approach is just one part of a comprehensive IT security plan.

  1. Increased Efficiency

Cloud-based services make collaboration easier. A simple case in point is when multiple team members are working on the same file. Rather than sending the document back and forth and tracking changes, a system where edits can be easily lost or mismanaged, businesses can opt to use a cloud-based program, such as Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox for Business. Then, multiple users can work from the same master document easily.

When your data is in the cloud, you can also access it remotely, whether you are onsite with a client or working remotely.

Those are just a few of the reasons to consider cloud services. St. Louis businesses should work with an IT specialist to determine what is right for them. Anderson Technologies has a team of St. Louis cloud services specialists who can assess your IT needs and determine, execute, and manage the most cost-effective, efficient, and secure plan for you.

For more information on our cloud computing services, email info@andersontech.com or call 314.394.3001 today.

The Surprising Ways an IT Consulting Firm Can Help Improve Your Business

IT consulting is a catchall phrase for partnering with tech experts to solve an IT-related business challenge. Let’s take a look at the pivotal role technology consulting can play for a small business.

People often think of IT services as a way to help mitigate cybercrime and ensure their business technology runs smoothly. That is true, but small business owners should also consider the role IT can play in facilitating growth and helping them to achieve their business goals.

If you have an IT-related problem you don’t know how to solve, technology consulting may be the answer. An IT consulting firm can help you tackle such challenges as:

  • Designing your IT systems so they can easily scale as you grow
  • Assessing how vulnerable your business is to cybersecurity threats
  • Moving, expanding, or setting up a new office
  • Managing system and network administration
  • Choosing the right software with the help of a software consultant
  • Determining if and how you should move to the cloud
  • Determining what type of equipment to buy and where to purchase it at the most reasonable price
  • Conducting a general or industry-specific compliance audit

This frees up your time so you can focus on business operations and what is most important to you.

If you needed legal or accounting help, you would turn to a lawyer or an accountant. The same holds true for IT! Technology consulting is a professional service that small business owners can use to protect, grow, and improve their businesses.

IT Consulting and Compliance Audits

Your IT partner should be able to offer an infrastructure assessment where they investigate your existing equipment, processes, software, backup approach, remote access connectivity, and more to evaluate performance, highlight risks, and suggest a plan for improvement. This helps to prioritize your IT spending and address potential problems before they turn into costly IT headaches.

Part of this process may include working with a software consultant who will examine what programs you are using to assess their effectiveness and safety. He or she may potentially recommend more cost-effective or better-performing alternatives, or even assist in migrating to cloud-based solutions.

A cybersecurity audit is a process in which an IT consulting firm assesses your network security and data security, uncovers vulnerabilities, and suggests clear actions for addressing them. The audit should include a review of your firewall, network servers, workstations, software applications, user accounts, Wi-Fi, and even your approach to password security. This will help your business protect itself against all kinds of cybercrime, including malware, viruses, and ransomware, which is on the rise in St. Louis and around the world.

A compliance audit is a review of an organization’s adherence to industry guidelines. These can be conducted by government agencies, third parties, or even in-house. For example, if your company accepts credit card payments, it needs to be in compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a set of security standards designed to make sure companies protect customer data. Healthcare companies must adhere to HIPAA regulations, and financial institutions typically have an entire compliance department dedicated to making sure they are “playing by the rules.”

IT security is an important part of all these compliance processes. Your IT partner should be able to run its own compliance audit to assess your performance, and it should be able to assist you if and when you are dealing with audits and certification processes run by third parties, including government agencies.

Technology consulting is a fast-growing specialty, in part because of the crucial role technology and data play in a business’s success. The right IT consulting firm will help you make the best decisions when facing IT challenges or opportunities, whether you are devising a plan for growth, buying new equipment, filing for IT-related certifications, or preparing for, or running your own, compliance audits.

Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis IT consulting firm that loves working with clients to help them reach—or, better yet, exceed—their business goals. Reach out today by sending an email to info@andersontech.com or calling 314.394.3001.

Is Your IT Services Company Taking You for a Ride?

Technology can be complicated, which makes assessing your IT services challenging. It can be hard to determine if you are paying too much or investing in unnecessary IT services. St. Louis IT company Anderson Technologies provides tips to ensure your business spends its hard-earned money wisely.

It’s easy to overpay for IT services. St. Louis small businesses don’t always have the technical prowess to confidently assess a proposed IT approach, and understandably so! They are experts in their industry, but that doesn’t mean they are experts in IT. They must trust their partners.

Unfortunately, there are vendors who take advantage of the complexity of IT and hide behind jargon to propose investing in solutions that aren’t necessary.

Small businesses have become increasingly reliant on technology. The right IT approach can help give you a competitive advantage by increasing employee productivity and improving customer experience. Plus, cybercrime against small businesses is on the rise, which makes devising a multi-tiered approach to network security paramount. However, there is a difference between educating businesses about the real and growing threat of cyberattacks and using scare tactics to pressure them into purchasing solutions they don’t really need.

Anderson Technologies provides reliable IT services in St. Louis as well as to clients nationwide. We’ve seen questionable business practices firsthand, and we pride ourselves on our honest and transparent approach to managed IT services. We want our clients to be as informed as we are, which is why we’re committed to education. We have even started offering free cybersecurity training sessions where we teach employees how to stay safe online.

How to Avoid an IT Horror Story

Too often, small businesses learn the importance of due diligence and trusting their judgement the hard way. Recently, we met a business that made a large investment for a server that was more sophisticated than needed per the suggestion of a long-term IT services provider. After the vendor installed it, they informed the small business that their company had been sold to a larger IT firm and would now be charging much higher rates for its services. Needless to say, this did not go over well.

As a provider of IT services in St. Louis, we met another business paying monthly for a second internet connection designed to kick in if the main line encountered a problem. The backup ISP’s connectivity and configuration was never tested. When the business encountered technical problems with its primary service and failed over, the secondary connection didn’t work effectively.

Even reliable IT services companies with good intentions may unwittingly suggest investing in IT solutions that aren’t imperative to your business. To help you assess a proposed IT solution, consider the following best practices:

  • Always ask your vendor, “Do I really need this?” The IT services provider should be able to answer in plain English. Too much tech jargon is a red flag.
  • Ask the vendor if there are any simpler or more cost-effective solutions than the one they have proposed. Be wary of over-engineered approaches in which IT vendors design things that are more complicated than necessary, and thus costlier to administer.
  • Get other opinions. The small business we mentioned that was duped into buying a server it didn’t need shopped around to compare prices. The thing is, it asked other vendors to bid on the same over-complicated solution. Rather than asking vendors how much they would charge you for the same solution, present your tech challenge from scratch and ask how they would solve it.
  • Be wary of scare tactics. Cybercrime is real and protecting against it is a necessary investment, but it shouldn’t be used as a means to sell frivolous services. Also, if your IT services provider is suggesting you have connectivity or server speed problems that you and your staff aren’t seeing firsthand, ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable.
  • Be sure the IT vendor took the time to understand your business requirements in the first place. Perhaps your company’s IT needs are light—email and some web browsing. You probably don’t need the fastest connection on the market. If they aren’t asking about your minimal business requirements, be skeptical.

IT services are complicated, sure, but they don’t need to be over-complicated. Think of it like your telephone: You don’t need to know the intricacies of how the phone company provides a dial tone when you pick it up, you just care that when you punch in a number, you are connected to the person with whom you want to speak. Your computer network should operate in much the same way.

When you have a reliable IT services partner you can trust, you will be confident you aren’t paying for services you don’t need, or paying too much for the ones you do.

If you think you’re being taken advantage of or would like a second opinion, give Anderson Technologies a call. We are a St. Louis IT services company dedicated to providing honest, simple, and effective IT solutions. Reach out today by sending an email to info@andersontech.com or calling 314.394.3001.

St. Louis IT Company Anderson Technologies Launches Free Onsite Cybersecurity Training for Its Clients

St. Louis IT company Anderson Technologies is committed to educating its clients, as well as St. Louis at large, about cybersecurity and IT best practices. As part of that mission, it is offering free cybersecurity training workshops in which participants learn how to protect their computer systems from cyberattacks.

Small business owners have a lot on their plate. While it’s understandable that cybersecurity and other IT issues could fall through the cracks, there’s simply too much at stake to let that happen. Cybercrime targeting small businesses is on the rise everywhere, and St. Louis is no exception. By adhering to IT best practices, employees can mitigate their risk of being victimized by a cyberattack, including ransomware. In fact, it’s one of the smartest things they can do to help protect their business.

The team at Anderson Technologies strives to deliver clients the best managed IT services possible. It also wants to educate them. That’s why it recently unveiled a free Onsite Cybersecurity Training program to provide educational workshops about IT best practices. The IT company offers the sessions free of charge and holds them at clients’ offices for their convenience.

Mark Anderson, principal of Anderson Technologies, understands audience members have varying degrees of tech proficiency, so he designs his talks to resonate with non-technical staff members as well as those with deeper domain knowledge. Topics covered include:

  • Cybercrime and how it can impact you and your business
  • The importance of a multi-layered security approach
  • Creating reliable data backups and a strong disaster recovery plan
  • Why you need a hardware firewall and business-grade anti-virus/anti-malware software
  • Digital best practices all your employees should follow

Anderson also teaches participants how to recognize phishing emails and how to safely make company purchases online. After his presentation, questions from the audience are encouraged. He says the Q&A is one of the most valuable portions of the session.

The St. Louis cybersecurity and IT company ran its first free cybersecurity training seminar this April at Smile Station Dental, where Anderson fielded questions about password management and what to do if you think your computer has been infected with malware.

Even if a business has taken the proper precautions to protect its data from cyberattacks, an employee can unwittingly infect the network with malware by clicking a nefarious link or downloading a dangerous attachment. These scams have become tougher to spot as criminals get better at spoofing legitimacy. The increasing difficulty is what makes education even more crucial. By teaching its clients best practices and how to recognize red flags, Anderson Technologies believes it can help keep them safer online.

“Education is power,” says Anderson. “We want everyone to be as knowledgeable as possible, which is why we offer these workshops as a value-add for our clients, as well as to others in the St. Louis community. We believe educating users about cybersecurity best practices can save everyone trouble in the future and help limit the number of cyberattacks.”

As part of its mission to educate the St. Louis community about cybersecurity, the IT company has also produced an eBook, An Employee’s Guide to Preventing Business Cybercrime. Educating every employee, at every level of the organization, is an often-overlooked step of cybersecurity. This guide is specifically designed for small businesses and emphasizes that every employee has a role to play when it comes to keeping a business safe from mounting cyber threats. The eBook is available to download for free.

Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis cybersecurity company committed to providing quality IT services to St. Louis and beyond. If you’re interested in setting up a free cybersecurity training session at your office, contact Anderson Technologies by sending an email to info@andersontech.com or calling 314.394.3001.

Encryption: The Small Business Owner’s Secret Weapon

With small business cybercrime on the rise, business owners need to do everything they can to protect themselves and their data. Here’s how encryption can help.  

Encryption is a way to secure your data, either while it is stored on a system or device, such as a hard drive or smartphone, or while it is in transit, such as being transmitted across networks.

Encryption comes from the Greek word “kryptos,” meaning hidden or secret. When data is encrypted, it is transformed so only the intended parties can read it by utilizing a secret key. This is done automatically with the help of encryption technology, which uses an algorithm called a cipher to “disguise” your data and allows people with the right key to decrypt, or unscramble, the information and view the plain text. (For a more in-depth description of how encryption works, review this article from MakeUseOf.)  Encryption is used routinely in the digital realm to keep businesses and customers secure. For example, encryption protects your financial information at the ATM, or when you are making an online purchase if you are patronizing a site using SSL.

For small businesses, encryption is an underutilized form of protection. When your information is not encrypted, you make a hacker’s job easier. Should they infiltrate your network, they will be able to easily use the plain-text information they steal. However, if your data is encrypted, they won’t be able to interpret it, or you will have at least made it much more challenging for them to do so. (Cybercriminals can take steps to decrypt data, but it requires tools, expertise, and time, so you’re very likely deterring all but the most persistent ones.)

The Role of Encryption in Healthcare Cybersecurity

Cybercriminals target the healthcare industry more frequently than any other sector. IBM’s 2016 Cyber Security Intelligence Index, a survey of IBM’s Security Services clients, found that companies storing patient data experience 36 percent more security threats than organizations in other verticals. These companies are targeted frequently because of the high-value customer data they possess. People’s personal health and financial information are prime targets for thieves who use it for identity theft or ransomware attacks. While many businesses use some form of encryption to protect data in transit, too few use the strategy to protect data at rest. Healthcare data encryption is especially critical. Considering the increased role portable technology devices like laptops, mobile phones, and flash drives play in business operations, and the rise in data security threats, this is particularly important.

A security breach isn’t just bad news for your clients whose information has been compromised, it is also bad news for your organization. According to the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule, organizations must “provide notification following a breach of unsecured protected health information.” If the breach affects more than 500 individuals, the organization also has to inform the media. That is certainly not the kind of press anyone is looking for.

Here is where encryption comes in. The incident is not considered a breach if the individual’s information is protected and the business can prove that the data has a low probability of being compromised. This is assessed using a variety of risk factors. Encryption is cited as one of the technologies and methodologies for “rendering protected health information unusable, unreadable, or indecipherable to unauthorized individuals.” In short, encryption can protect your customers and your company in the event of a security breach. (More information about this rule is available here. Businesses should read and understand HIPAA rules in their entirety and work with their legal counsel to understand their ramifications.)

According to the latest healthcare cybersecurity report by Redspin, Breach Report 2016: Protected Health Information (PHI), there was a 320 percent increase in the number of providers victimized by hackers in 2016 compared to the previous year. Most of these attacks targeted smaller offices. This annual report routinely includes recommendations for reducing vulnerabilities, and year after year, encryption makes the list. The latest iteration acknowledges the growing role laptops, smartphones, and flash drives play in companies’ day-to-day operations and, in light of this, describes encrypting data “at rest and in motion” as a “sure-fire, but still often neglected, way to avoid the breach report.1

Encryption is a valuable protective measure for all small businesses regardless of industry segment. It is a proven way to help protect your valuable data and should be part of your small business’s approach to data security.

Do you need assistance with small business data encryption? Anderson Technologies, a team of cybersecurity specialists in St. Louis, has extensive experience working with small businesses to keep their organizations secure. To learn more, call 314.394.3001 or email info@andersontech.com today.


1Breach Report 2016: Protected Health Information (PHI), February 2017, by Cynergistek and Redspin, pg. 18

Is Your Company Wasting Marketing Dollars? The 7 Billion Dollar Ad Fraud Problem

Too often, advertisers pay for digital ads that weren’t actually seen by a human. Here is what your small business needs to know before investing in paid digital marketing. 

Digital marketing encompasses the tactics businesses use to raise awareness about their offerings and drive sales online, from social media advertising to search engine marketing to mobile and video ads. While small businesses aren’t spending as much or as often in this realm as their larger counterparts, digital marketing spending has increased across the board. Seventy percent of small to medium-sized businesses said they will increase their digital marketing budgets in 2017, according to research from GetResponse as reported in Entrepreneur.

Digital marketing is so popular because it works. Marketers use cutting-edge technology to target their audiences with increased precision and with increasingly personalized messages. They can monitor their efforts in near real-time and make changes based on data to optimize their results. But it is not just advertisers who are interested in digital marketing. Cyber criminals also recognize an opportunity.

What You Need to Know about Bots

Let’s say you own a local dental practice and decide to invest in digital advertising to connect with residents in your area. At the end of the campaign, you are told your ad was seen 500,000 times, a fraction of which generated clicks. But what if you learned that some of the ads you paid for weren’t seen by real people, and that even some of those clicks were fake?

It is estimated that $7.2 billion ad dollars were wasted globally as a result of fraudulent traffic last year, according to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), which conducts in-depth studies on ad fraud in partnership with the digital security company WhiteOps. Most ad fraud stems from bots, computer programs that masquerade as real people and can even scroll and click. Bots can be used to spread malware and harvest personal data, and they are disrupting the digital advertising ecosystem.

The tech company Zvelo offers a nice summary of how this works: “Ad fraud happens when a bot attempts to imitate legitimate web traffic (acting like a real person visiting a website) and generate additional (but fraudulent) web page views (and therefore revenue) for the website publisher. The advertisers’ budgets are compromised, as their dollars are being wasted on ads being served to bots rather than humans. This results in the advertisers and the end users paying the price for this fraud, as well as being exposed to the risks associated with malicious and fraudulent bots.”

Most publishers do not knowingly charge their advertisers for fraudulent traffic, but ad fraud can be challenging to police. Just this past December, Russian hackers pulled off what has been dubbed the “biggest ad fraud ever.” They created domains and URLs which appeared to belong to real publishers, including ESPN and Vogue. Then they created a bot farm to generate fake traffic to these pages. Much of digital ad buying is automated. Computer programs determine where to serve ads on behalf of advertisers, based on the advertisers’ target audience. The fraudsters were able to trick these algorithms. Via automated buying, advertisers served their legitimate ads on these nefarious sites to fake visitors—the bots! Digital advertising often uses a pay-per-click pricing model, which means advertisers pay every time a user clicks their ad. Well, these bots did a lot of clicking, so the hackers were getting paid big bucks — $3 million to $5 million a day!

What Small Businesses Can Do to Protect against Ad Fraud

Before you go swearing off digital marketing forever, know that members of the advertising ecosystem have teamed up in the fight against ad fraud. For example, the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) was created by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to find ways to eliminate fraudulent traffic and combat malware.

For small business marketers, the first step is awareness—you must realize this problem exists. Then you need to find partners you can trust. Reputable companies like Google go to great lengths to protect advertisers. When choosing a digital advertising partner, ask them about the steps they take to identify and prevent ad fraud, as well as about their approach to viewability, which refers to how they determine whether or not an ad was seen and counted as a billable impression. Facebook is another fantastic tool for small business marketing in part because of its easy-to-use, self-serve platform, but also because it is vigilant about sniffing out fraudulent traffic.

If you will be doing extensive advertising, consider investing in a third-party solution that can help track your ads and monitor for ad fraud. White Ops, Integral Ad Science, FraudLogix and Forensiq all offer these types of solutions. Simply visiting their sites will help you learn more about the fight against ad fraud. Additionally, observe your traffic during the length of your campaign, and if something seems suspicious, reach out to your partner. Warning signs include stats that seem too good to be true, i.e., suspiciously high click-thru rates and abnormal patterns, like every impression served to a particular site generating a click.

Digital ad fraud is complicated, but the bottom line is simple. You need to choose your partners wisely and take education into your own hands. Doing so allows you to take advantage of digital marketing’s tremendous potential while mitigating wasted spending.

Cybercrime extends far beyond advertising and can affect every area of your business. Are your employees in the know? Anderson Technologies, a team of cyber security specialists in St. Louis, helps small businesses educate their employees about effective cybersecurity practices. For more information on our cybersecurity training services, email info@andersontech.com or call 314.394.3001 and check out our free eBook, An Employee’s Guide to Preventing Business Cybercrime.