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.

7 Reasons Why Your Business Should Consider Managed IT Services

There are reasons why more and more businesses are opting for managed IT services, as opposed to break-fix—reasons that include proactive management, cost-savings, quality, breadth of service, and peace of mind.

As small business dependence on technology increases, so must the focus on IT-related issues. Most companies cannot function without reliable, secure internet and computer systems. Many are storing increasing volumes of data digitally, which makes IT security even more important for themselves and for the customers they serve.

Managed IT services is commonly likened to automobile maintenance. You take your vehicle to the mechanic routinely in an effort to get ahead of issues that could affect its performance and longevity. Not to mention that failing to do so could cost you a fortune. A growing number of small businesses are approaching IT in a similar way, opting for ongoing, routine maintenance, rather than only calling the experts when something breaks. Let’s compare the break-fix approach with managed IT services and consider how a long-term, strategic approach to IT could benefit your business.

Break-Fix: As the phrase implies, in this reactive approach IT vendors only engage with clients when something is broken and needs attention.

Managed IT Services: With the managed services model, clients pay monthly to retain ongoing, proactive IT support. This typically covers everything needed to make sure business technology runs smoothly.

The benefits of managed IT services include:

  1. Proactive Approach

With the managed services model, your IT partner takes a hands-on approach to preventing technical issues that interrupt productivity and cost your business time and money. Everyone is incentivized to get ahead of problems and to create the most secure and efficient systems possible for your business. Together, you’ll avoid potential IT hiccups, rather than just scrambling to fix them when they occur.

  1. Reliability

The break-fix model locks you into always putting out fires. The atmosphere can be stressful and frantic. There’s no time to discuss long-term goals or ways to help your business run more smoothly. With managed services, the goal is to avoid those fires in the first place. You can trust the outsourced IT services partner is doing everything it can to help your business.

  1. Ongoing Protection Against Cyber Threats

Cybercrime is projected to cost businesses an estimated $2 trillion by 2019. No company can afford to ignore this. Criminals unleash new strains of malware all the time. The number of zero-day threats discovered has been steadily rising, according to research from Symantec. Businesses must monitor and update their layers of protection continually. With managed services, IT specialists do this for you and work to minimize the chances that you will become one of many businesses that lose time, money, and data to cybercriminals.

  1. Aligned Goals

For the most part, when IT firms work on a break-fix model, they are not incentivized to help clients avoid future problems. Of course, a reputable, trustworthy IT partner should still do its best to provide exemplary services, but there is something to be said for the alignment of goals that the managed IT services model creates. Both parties work together to create and maintain the best systems possible—systems that run smoothly and at optimum speed while remaining malware-free.

  1. Breadth of Offering

If you are only calling your outsourced IT services provider when something stops working, you probably aren’t taking time to discuss all of the other ways that it can help your business. Managed IT service providers can do so much more than preventing fires, including handling IT security, backups and disaster recovery, network and computer performance, remote access, the IT needs of new employees, and compliance-related issues.

  1. Cost-Effectiveness

A managed services approach can prove more cost-effective, especially long-term, than break-fix because the client and the outsourced IT services partner work together to stay ahead of what otherwise might develop into more costly problems if left unmanaged. The right outsourced IT services partner can also drive cost-savings by helping you make smart purchasing decisions about things like equipment, software, and storage.

  1. Peace of Mind

With IT, the stakes are high. It is easy for someone who isn’t an expert to make a mistake of consequence. One of the biggest benefits of managed services for busy professionals is peace of mind. They can check “IT” off their to-do list and rest assured their company’s IT needs are being handled professionally.

With the managed IT services model, your business gains a dedicated team that is constantly thinking about your company and its interests. Anderson Technologies, a St. Louis IT consulting company and managed IT services provider, is invested in its clients’ success and takes an active and ongoing approach to ensuring it. To learn more, call 314.394.3001 or email info@andersontech.com today.

A Guide to Employee Cybersecurity Training

When it comes to small business cybersecurity, you could be doing everything right, but it just takes one wrong click from a well-meaning employee to undo all your hard work. Here’s what to cover during business cybersecurity training for your team.

One of the most overlooked steps to small business cybersecurity is employee education. Cyber criminals are stepping up their game and increasingly targeting small businesses. Every employer must find the time to educate its team members about digital safety. The global cost of cybercrime is projected to reach more than $2 trillion by 2019. It’s worth taking the time to provide thorough cybersecurity training to your employees.  While doing so, make sure to include the following topics.

  1. Spear Phishing Emails Are on the Rise

Spear phishing is a more sophisticated form of phishing in which criminals target a particular victim rather than a wide audience. These emails often appear to be sent by legitimate sources, such as a colleague or trusted vendor, and are designed to trick the recipient into providing personal information, like a credit card number or password.

Spear phishing emails targeting employees increased by 55 percent in 2015, according to research from Symantec. Warn your team to:

  • Be skeptical every time they’re asked for personal information.
  • Hover over links and email addresses to ensure target URL credibility.
  • Refrain from downloading attachments unless they’ve verified the sender.
  • Ask you or your outsourced IT services provider for help when in doubt.
  1. The Art of Password Management

Cybercriminals use software that helps them guess people’s passwords. Do not make their job easier. Teach your employees the importance of creating effective passwords. You can also consider implementing a password management tool for employees to use as an added security measure. Your cybersecurity training should include the following tips:

  • Do not use the same password for everything.
  • Do not use real words that can be found in the dictionary or obvious things like the name of your business.
  • Use a combination of numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and symbols.
  • Change passwords on a regular schedule.
  1. The Web Can Be a Dangerous Place—Get Out of Autopilot

It’s easy to be lured into a false sense of security as you browse the web. It’s so familiar, and you may have been using it without incident for work and personal purposes for some time.

Business owners must teach their employees that the internet can be a dangerous place. In fact, nearly 75 percent of legitimate websites have security vulnerabilities that could put users at risk. Business owners need to:

  • Create guidelines for appropriate digital behavior. Seedy content breeds seedy behavior, so keep your employees off inappropriate sites at work.
  • Teach employees that legitimate sites can have vulnerabilities.
  • Install and maintain an enterprise-level firewall coupled with safeguards such as a subscription for content filtering and intrusion protection.
  • Use anti-virus and anti-malware programs that include “safe search” features that help flag sites that have been compromised.
  • Consider partnering with a managed IT services provider who can make sure your business implements these steps correctly.

These tips are just the beginning. Cybersecurity training for every employee, even administration and management, proves itself to be invaluable in the event of a potential threat. For more information on what your employees need to know about small business cybersecurity, including what to do when they click a link they shouldn’t have, check out An Employee’s Guide to Preventing Business Cybercrime.

Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis IT consulting company that can help your small business educate its employees about effective cybersecurity practices. For more information on our cybersecurity training services, call 314.394.3001 today.

Build a Small Business Website That Exceeds Expectations

The right web development partner can help bring your vision to life and show you ways to make it better.

A company website is an important representation of your business and a mark of credibility. It’s a resource for potential clients who want to learn more about your offerings and a way to generate new leads and sales, thanks to the power of search engine optimization (SEO).

But creating a small business website is not without challenges. It can be time-consuming, costly, and frustrating. If you do not properly optimize your web design and backend configurations, you could create an exasperating experience for your users and limit your organic traffic.

With the right partner and strong communication, you can build a digital presence that does your small business justice and even have a little fun along the way. Just ask Bruce Honts, division manager at Missouri Valley Environmental of Texas, a full-service industrial water treatment company.

Web Development That Is “Almost Too Much Fun”

When Honts and his team connect with potential clients, they want those prospects to be able to go online to learn more. He knew his business needed help developing a “robust” website that could confirm its legitimacy and create a digital footprint. “Our goals were to show the professional nature of our business and to explain our capabilities,” he said.

Honts was referred to Anderson Technologies, a St. Louis IT consulting company that provides full-service web design and web development, as well as other services. Honts came to the table prepared with a clear idea of what he wanted but also with an openness to expert insight and an eagerness to learn about web development best practices.

Farica Chang, Director at Anderson Technologies, explained that Anderson Technologies is more collaborative and hands-on than many website development companies. “We’ll execute the client’s vision in a way that is well-designed and considers the user experience while keeping business goals in mind,” she said. “We strive to do the best possible job, even if it takes a little longer, so our clients enjoy the collaboration and ultimately take pride in the end result.”

Honts described the web development process as easy and almost too much fun. “It was hard to go back to my regular work when the project was over,” he joked.

Advice for Small Business Owners Outsourcing Web Design

To make sure your small business website development process goes smoothly, Honts recommends providing details on what you want, including screenshots and images to illustrate your intent, but also trusting the expert’s input.

“I was pleasantly surprised and pleased each time I saw how my ideas became reality,” said Honts. “Every step of the way, I went, ‘Whoa—that is better than I imagined.’ [Anderson Technologies] took my ideas and magnified them. The end result was even better than what I was envisioning.”

Strong communication is also critical to an effective partnership. Just as you should strive to clearly articulate goals and preferences, your web development partner should be prepared to share constructive feedback on an ongoing basis. This open dialog will help ensure you produce the best small business website possible.

For the development team, one of the greatest testaments to a job well done is a referral. Missouri Valley Environmental of Texas is a division of AECSI Corporation, and after seeing the new website, AECSI Corporation reached out to Anderson Technologies to discuss a partnership.

Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis IT consulting company that offers a breadth of services, from managed IT to web development, web hosting, and ongoing web support. If you are looking for a professional (and fun!) small business web development partner, call Anderson Technologies at 314.394.3001 today.

The Small Business IT Checklist for New Hires

Make sure your new employees are productive from day one by checking all the boxes on this IT to-do list.

Finding and recruiting the right talent is one of the most challenging and crucial components of running a small business. Once you’ve welcomed new members to your team, it’s important that they can hit the ground running, not only because it’s good for productivity, but also because their onboarding experience is a reflection of your company.

Show new employees you are organized and committed to providing an environment that breeds great work by taking the following actions—and do it before they walk through the office door, not while they wait awkwardly for their workstations to be ready. These tips will also help you preserve your small business network security and ensure your recruits adhere to cybersecurity best practices.

Checkbox   Determine how every new hire’s job function affects IT needs

Hopefully, you have clear ideas of your new hires’ responsibilities before you made offers. Now consider how these duties affect IT requirements. The nature of their roles will help you assess the following:

  • Should they use a PC or a Mac?
  • What size monitor do they need?
  • How much memory do they need?
  • What software programs do they require?
  • How mobile are they? Will they be traveling frequently and/or need the ability to work from home?

The answers to these questions will help you choose the right computer and hardware for the position. If you work with an outsourced IT services company, the experts there can do this for you. They can also make sure you do not overspend or throw money away on a low-quality machine.

Checkbox   Set up the computer

An outsourced IT services partner will set up the new computer with the particulars of the job function in mind. Whether you’re hiring a vendor or doing it yourself, consider how your office is wired, and be sure to get the computer on the network before the employee arrives. If he or she will primarily work from an office desk, use a hardline connection to the server room (rather than relying only on Wi-Fi) to minimize connectivity complications and reduce network security issues.

If your new hire will use an existing computer, make sure your IT partner migrates data from the previous user to the appropriate parties before creating a new user ID.

Checkbox   Connect to the printer

Set up and test the connection to the printer. If new employees will be handling confidential information, such as HR documents or company financial information, consider if they need a dedicated printer, rather than printing to a shared device.

Checkbox   Create an email address

Before creating new email accounts, make sure you or your outsourced IT services partner thinks about whether employees need to access email remotely; if so, be sure their configurations can securely accommodate this. Remember to tell new hires to change their passwords, and share password security best practices.

If appropriate, you or your IT partner can help your employees set up email on their mobile phones and walk them through remote access guidelines once they have started.

Checkbox   Determine permissions level

If you have a file server, determine which directories the employees need access to. Anderson Technologies recommends providing access to folders and files on a need-to-know basis and limiting administrator privileges to curb the ramifications of a potential cyberattack.

Checkbox   Set up relevant software applications

Install and create accounts for all necessary software programs. Be sure to track all software license keys in a central place so you’re prepared for a potential software audit. An outsourced IT services partner can do this for you and keep track of when software was purchased and when subscriptions need to be renewed.

Checkbox   Prepare for any necessary IT training

Create a user training plan so your employees feel comfortable with your technology, software, and approach to IT security. Provide education from the onset so they know exactly what to expect. If you’re working with an outsourced IT services provider, ask the provider what level of training it can provide to your staff.

Checkbox   Ask the new hire to review and sign your policies on confidentiality, email and web use, and business network security

Make it clear from the beginning that all employees are expected to abide by strict cybersecurity rules and best practices. This especially includes password security. Are social media sites or personal email prohibited during the work day? Now is the time to share any restrictions. Present them in writing, ideally as part of your new employee handbook.

Don’t have an existing employee guide to cybersecurity best practices? Our Anderson Technologies’ eBook, An Employee’s Guide to Preventing Cybercrime, a comprehensive educational resource for small businesses, is coming soon. Check back in January!

Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis IT consulting company that provides outsourced IT services, including employee onboarding, IT security, cloud services, hardware and software acquisition, and more. Call Anderson Technologies at 314.394.3001 today for your IT needs.