How 5 Critical IT Issues Are Compromising YOUR Business

Are you sure your company’s IT technology is efficient and secure?

In a recent study of St. Louis small businesses, Anderson Technologies found common technology problems. While not all apply to every business, it’s important to be aware of IT issues that could one day strike your company. It’s also best practice to evaluate your business’s individual IT needs—you may have a weak spot you never noticed before!

Without your knowing, an issue may have been improperly addressed by professionals. During our initial infrastructure assessments, we found a disheartening number of instances when another IT support firm told a company it resolved a problem when it unfortunately hadn’t. Could this be happening to you?

In our recent study of businesses audited in 2017, Anderson Technologies found a pervasive set of problems that included firewall misconfiguration, missing Windows patches, lax password policies, unchecked backups, and failing workstation hardware. After receiving IT consulting from Anderson Technologies, these St. Louis businesses experienced vast improvements in security and performance.

In the event of a hacking breach or physical devastation, the following five components work together for security and prevention of lost data. An evaluation of these common problems, along with help from your managed IT services provider, can bring your business up to speed.

  1. Hardware Firewall: Your Fortress Barrier (Or Is It?)

The number one issue we discovered was problems with firewalls. One hundred percent of the small businesses we assessed operated with hardware firewalls that were either out of date or not performing to their utmost capability.

Envision your firewall as a fortress barrier. If the wall collapses, the entire city becomes vulnerable. A firewall protects your system from outside attackers and is your first line of defense. To be effective, firewalls must be updated regularly, and patches should be audited. If an update isn’t applied properly, it’s imperative that it be corrected quickly.

There are two types of firewalls. The first is a hardware firewall. This physical device stops a threat before it ever gets into your system. The second is a software firewall, a security application installed on your computer or server. Many small businesses believe a software firewall provides adequate protection, but it allows the threat onto the local area network before it can be stopped. In other words, a software firewall is not a wall fortifying your city of information. It’s the guard who raises the alarm that the enemy has already infiltrated.

To make matters worse, one-third of the companies we analyzed did not have anti-virus and anti-malware software on their servers! Make sure you’re not a sitting duck for a hacker to target.

At Anderson Technologies, we use a multi-layered approach to cyber security. If malware makes it through the first layer, there should be other defenses available to detect and stop it before it reaches your vital information.

  1. Keep Your PC Agile: Microsoft Windows Updates and Patches

The number one reason for keeping Windows updated is for security; the next is to make sure the operating system is running at maximum efficiency.

If your computer’s operating system isn’t updated with the latest patches reviewed by your security team, your computer is more easily compromised. Many times, if you’re not prompted for the update, you may think that your computer is automatically updating. It’s wise to seek out updates or patches that aren’t pushed through. Keep an eye on them, or have a managed IT services provider monitor these updates in case something doesn’t get installed properly or shouldn’t be installed due to a vulnerability.

Aside from security, Windows updates fix software problems and keep your operating system running smoothly with the latest technology. Using earlier versions of Windows, such as Windows XP, Vista, or early versions of Windows 7, compromises your security. Some of these operating systems are no longer supported by Microsoft, which means Microsoft is no longer making security updates and patches for those versions. For instance, Microsoft stopped releasing updates for updates for Vista in April 2017.

Every St. Louis business we audited last year had major problems with their Windows updates and patches. All companies were missing critical security updates and patches, and almost 70% of them had other general software problems. Don’t let your computers lose their agility or security.

  1. A Responsible Key Keeper: Password Policies

Do you use the same passwords for various sites or systems?

Are your passwords set to never expire because you or your employees have a difficult time keeping track of multiple credentials?

Forty percent of the companies we audited last year had their passwords set to never expire. This is a major liability. Never changing a password increases the likelihood it will be compromised and used to access secure information. Changing passwords routinely using a password protocol (and ensuring those updates are not predictable) will help your business stay ahead of the hacking game. Although your employees may feel that having secure passwords is difficult in a constantly changing environment, there are applications that can help. Using an application such as LastPass provides a secure repository for your access credentials and keeps your employees from having to remember complex passwords.

Stolen passwords are something Anderson Technologies hears about regularly. They’re going to continue to be a problem until businesses make it a priority to come up with a system for managing strong passwords.

In addition to periodically updating your passwords, outside IT support can help you put a company policy in place that ensures employees are creating complex passwords that truly protect your business.

  1. Fire Drill: Audit Your Backups for Integrity

Backing up servers is vitally important to any business. If something happened—a flood, fire, or malware attack—would you be able to recover?

Do you know how often your backups occur? Do you know how to make sure they’re working? Do you know how to recover your data? If not, check out our blog on why you need better backup solutions.

In a fire drill, each component of the evacuation is carefully tested. Could your backups withstand such a test? Even if you know you have a solid backup system, you should still regularly check it for issues and test it periodically, or have a managed IT services team do this for you. We often see flaws in backup systems due to IT companies who say they have addressed backup weaknesses but failed to catch a vital issue.

Backups can be performed in a variety of ways. Many businesses choose to back up to cloud services. If you choose this route, you could recover your data from anywhere and on any machine. Other businesses choose to back up to a local source, like an external hard drive that can be taken off premise. Either way, the goal of the backup is to have your system up and running again quickly after a disaster.

Depending on how often your data changes and the specific regulations within your industry, backups should happen regularly, whether it’s every hour, every day, or every week.

Half of the companies we audited had some, but not all, data backed up, and another seventeen percent of businesses had no backup system in place at all.

Do you need to rethink your system backups?

  1. The Aged Workhorse: Antiquated Workstation Hardware

Technology ages rapidly.

The capabilities of current computers versus even five years ago is astounding. Machines are much more efficient than they used to be in their processing and energy consumption.

If your hardware is seven years old, you’re working on an ancient workhorse needing to retire.

Over 80% of our audits last year had issues with workstation hardware. If you’re on an antiquated machine, you probably notice the slow speed or glitches. Many businesses operate on a limited budget and may feel they aren’t ready to prioritize hardware purchases because the existing machines still work. Time lost due to slower machines, data lost due to hardware malfunctions, and potential risks of unsupported software are much more expensive than purchasing new hardware.

Computer processor speed, solid state disks, memory capacity and screen quality have all made incredible progress in the last few years. Each of these enhances the user experience and makes your computers and employees vastly more efficient.

We found that workstations were less than half as likely as printers to be kept up to date and monitored. Computers should be replaced at least every five years to keep them up to speed and at their greatest security advantage. Your server’s functionality is no different. Just because you might not work on them every day doesn’t mean they aren’t working for you! It’s time to retire that old machine and employ a nimbler one to improve your day-to-day processes.

Do you think your company could be suffering with any of these issues?

Contact Anderson Technologies’ IT consulting team to help resolve any of these problems. Email us at info@andersontech.com or call 314.394.3001 to start addressing your business’s security issues today.

No Bones About It: Infected WordPress Plugins Could Cripple Your Website

Anderson Technologies combines web hosting services with unparalleled customer service to help a local business stay online: “To be with Anderson Tech is really comforting because I know that I’m in good hands. Any communication I have is going to be forthright, honest, and addressed.”

Customer service and availability are what keeps your business thriving, something Greg Thompson of Country Acres Pet Resort and Country Acres Rescue knows all too well. When Country Acres’ websites stopped loading consistently and started bombarding visitors with malware-laced links, Anderson Technologies stepped in to find a solution to keep Thompson and his team doing what they do best—providing a home away from home for pets and connecting rescue animals to their forever families.

Hosting Provider Frustrations Are More Than Pet Peeves

In summer 2017, Country Acres’ websites started slowing down and crashing, so Thompson contacted his web hosting provider. “Each time they would say, ‘We’re so sorry, we’ll get right on it!’ and either the situation would continue to be unresolved, or we’d see an improvement and then shortly thereafter [the problem] would start occurring again.”

After working his way through the chain of command, Thompson finally got the web hosting provider to admit that their servers had been breached, leaving Country Acres’ two websites vulnerable to malicious malware injection. “The other company had not been honest or forthright at all about the true problem,” Thompson explains. “I got frustrated enough that I started looking at a way out.”

This problem isn’t uncommon. Over 30 million websites were hacked in 2017 alone, equating to about 80,000 websites infiltrated daily. Malware hacks can cause sites to slow down dramatically, or worse, inject code into site data to trick visitors into clicking popups containing malware or viruses.  When a company’s website is its primary method of connecting with new and returning customers, being unavailable for even one day can make a significant impact on business.

Thankfully, Thompson brought his malware problem to Mark Anderson, principal of Anderson Technologies. Once Anderson explained that Country Acres’ websites could be easily migrated to a more secure hosting provider, Thompson was ready to join forces and invest in his business’ success.

Cloud-Hosted Servers Prove to Be the Cat’s Meow

As soon as Thompson described the exasperating situation to Farica Chang, director at Anderson Technologies, the team jumped into action. “Web traffic is an important part of Country Acres’ visitor interaction,” says Chang. “It was imperative to get them up and running on our secure hosting solution as soon as possible.”

First, the Anderson team migrated both websites to their own cloud servers before cleaning up the code. This way, the sites lived in a safe environment and weren’t in danger of being reinfected with the same malware. Once isolated, the team performed a full investigatory scan and isolated the 642 files injected with malicious code.

After removing the suspicious code, the Anderson Technologies team tested every page of both Country Acres websites to ensure that the malware had been completely eradicated. An infected WordPress plugin had to be repurchased because the original license expired under the old hosting provider, and the new plugin was patched to prevent similar malware infiltration.

The results were almost immediate. “I saw an instant increase in our business, actually,” describes Thompson, “because when people go to your website and it doesn’t work or doesn’t load, a lot of times they just look elsewhere. It was a really important fix and looking back on it now, I wish I had done it sooner.”

Cyber Security Is Man’s (and Machine’s) Best Friend

Though Anderson Technologies was able to get Country Acres’ websites back in business in a matter of days, some fixes aren’t as straightforward. “Everyone with a website should be concerned about its security,” says Chang. “Automated code allows hackers to cast a wide net and look for vulnerabilities on many sites simultaneously. Every day our security monitoring tools send us alerts regarding malicious web bots trying to gain access to client web servers.”

Caution and prevention are enormously important when it comes to cyber security, but a partnership with a dedicated IT team is invaluable in times of unexpected crisis. Thanks to quick action and professional communication, Country Acres continues to provide malware-free services to all its two- and four-legged customers.

“Basic, traditional customer service,” is what Thompson says ultimately makes Anderson Technologies stand out from his previous web hosting provider. “It was refreshing to actually call up and have somebody answer the phone and return emails. You take those things for granted when you’re with a company that’s doing what they’re supposed to do, but after what I’ve been through it was pretty refreshing.”

Whether you need a new hosting provider or your website just isn’t performing optimally, contact Anderson Technologies today for a free consultation.


Snapshots of Furry Friends from the Anderson Technologies Family

Image at Top of Page (clockwise): Nicki, Howl, Oren, Mochi, Daisy

Image Below (clockwise): Emmett, Spoons & Sonny Boy Williamson, Sophie, Luna

Snapshots of furry friends from the Anderson Technologies family (clockwise): Emmett, Spoons & Sonny Boy Williamson, Sophie, Luna

Cyber Security Training for Employees: What Does Common Sense Mean?

The new year is here, and a useful resolution for every small business is training employees on how to stay safe online. Many small businesses rely on their employees’ common sense when it comes to password creation, email threats, and avoiding unsavory websites, but what exactly is common sense in cyber security terms? Someone untrained in cyber security techniques won’t have the same kind of common sense as someone steeped in the latest security threats and updates. That’s why formal cyber security training for employees should be an important part of every business.

Your small business can benefit from more in-depth cyber security training for your employees, and the best course of action would be to enlist the help of a local IT consulting company or your managed IT service provider. They are the experts and know what common mistakes can lead to trouble for your business and your bottom line. Regardless of who provides the training, there are a few key topics any instruction on common sense habits should include.

Secure Passwords

Passwords remain the most wide-spread form of identity verification on the internet, so how a user creates a secure password is important. For years, websites and apps demanded passwords of at least eight characters, capital and lowercase letters, at least one number, and a special character. Most people think they have a strong grasp of what makes a secure password. Unfortunately they’d be wrong, thanks to new cyber security guidelines.

Last year the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released the Digital Identity Guidelines. This report states that the current method of password creation is making passwords more predictable because people “have only a limited ability to memorize complex, arbitrary secrets, so they often choose passwords that can be easily guessed.” When a site enforces the letter, number, symbol requirements, people tend to make predictable alterations to that easily-guessed password, or they end up writing down the password in order to remember it. Neither option makes the password very secure.

The new guidelines suggest that users be allowed to make longer, more memorable pass phrases that are not easily guessed. Memorability is more important than complexity. Randomized passwords are still the strongest option, but may lack memorability. A password manager such as LastPass or Dashlane could be the best solution, allowing the user complex, randomly-generated passwords without the need for memorization.

Email

Emails are key to most phishing and spear phishing campaigns, so training your employees on this cyber security threat is crucial. Criminals hope to trick an unsuspecting user into clicking on a link or attachment that leads to or contains malicious content. Thankfully, common sense generally tells people not to click on a random link pasted into the body of an otherwise empty email, even if it comes from someone on their contact list. But, as with passwords, our understanding of common sense needs to be updated.

Spear phishing campaigns have become dangerously sophisticated, and knowing how to stay safe online means being skeptical of anything that feels a little off. Emails from companies about services you didn’t buy, unexpected closure of accounts, or missing information are all ways criminals lure you into clicking on a link in an email.

Teach your common sense to look beyond the layout and familiar logos. Spear phishing can often be identified by misspelled email addresses or country codes that don’t belong to the company. A user must be vigilant, as these changes are subtle and sometimes hidden by a name in place of an email address. Hover over the links or name to reveal the full address without clicking on it. Make sure to double check anything that doesn’t make sense.

Another way to ensure you’re not caught by a spear phishing attempt is to always go to a company’s website manually rather than from a link provided. Some criminals use links that send you to a fake mirror website to trick you into logging into your account. The criminal records your login information and then has access to the real account with you none the wiser. By choosing to go to your account from another tab or window without clicking the link, you can verify if something is actually wrong with the account without the risk of giving up your information.

Surfing the Web

Common sense for how to stay safe online starts with the business owner. Installing an enterprise-level firewall is the first and best defense against a cyber attack. These can often be configured to your business’s needs and block content you don’t want employees viewing on a company computer. Sites with disreputable content are prime targets for cyber criminals. Ensuring your employees never access unsafe sites will protect your company.

It’s also important to activate any “safe search” functions within your browser and on your anti-virus and anti-malware programs. This runs any site you search for through a list of sites known to be compromised. These sites can come up in any search without you realizing it. Criminals create websites meant to trick you into thinking it is a legitimate business and even hack into real sites. Safe search is another layer of common-sense IT protection.

These are just a few of the common sense procedures your employees should follow. For cyber security training and in-depth answers to common sense mistakes, turn to Anderson Technologies, a St. Louis IT consulting company that offers on-site training seminars for small businesses. Let our expert consultants teach you what to avoid to keep your business safe. Contact Anderson Technologies at info@andersontech.com or call us at 314.394.3001.

Three Critical Reasons to Choose a Wired Network for Your Small Business

You may be sacrificing speed, security, and stability if you’re running solely on a wireless network. Traditional wired internet has many advantages for small businesses.  

When it comes to network security and speed, it’s important to start from the ground up. Is the network for your small business wired, wireless, or a combination of both? On what equipment does the network run? What’s the difference between wired and wireless networks? While wireless networks have advantages, Anderson Technologies recommends a wired connection whenever possible. Here’s why.

Speed

One of Anderson Technologies’ clients experienced dramatically slow speeds on its wireless network prior to signing up for managed IT services. While the business paid for a 300-megabit connection, its laptops only accessed 1 to 12-megabit speeds! Its internet service provider was more than happy to increase bandwidth on the wireless router, but this added expense didn’t improve the usability of the network.

The Anderson Technologies team analyzed the office’s wireless network and discovered it broadcasted on a frequency with considerable interference from competing devices in neighboring offices. They upgraded the router and firewall hardware, which enabled the network to broadcast on unused, clear bandwidth.  As a result, the client’s speed is now far closer to the 300-megabit connection it pays for.

Wireless networks are constantly competing against natural phenomena like lightning, other wireless networks in the area, and radio interference.  All of which affect speed and performance. One of the biggest disadvantages of wireless networks is that they lose speed when the number of competing devices increases.  With the expanding utilization of the Internet of Things, this problem will only continue to grow.

The Internet of Things (IoT) offers convenient features for security systems, lighting, and even appliances. However, these gadgets depend heavily on your wireless network. Have you ever noticed a loss in network speed around internet-connected devices? This is a common problem.  Small businesses are increasing their reliance on IoT for the accessibility they provide, but the investment may be hurting their wireless network speeds.

Ultimately, wired networks are significantly faster than wireless ones. While Anderson Technologies’ client was happy to approach the 300-megabit speed for its wireless network, hardline wires can run at gigabit speeds. No matter what the provider-rated speed of a wireless connection is, real-world speed is always slower due to overhead, competing devices, interference, and network traffic. The advantage of a wired network is that it guarantees a faster speed from the beginning, and unlike a wireless network, it won’t lose speed when exposed to interference.

Stability

Compared to a wireless connection, a wired line isn’t affected by nature, equipment, and competing devices. Once installed, a wired network rarely breaks. This stability is vital to small businesses.

Another Anderson Technologies client previously experienced poor performance on its wireless network. In the middle of important tasks, the network would drop and then slowly come back online, requiring multiple restarts a day—losing valuable time and energy.

When Anderson Technologies performed a preliminary audit of the environment, the team immediately discovered the problem: poor equipment. The client was running the entire network on barely home-grade wireless access points (WAPs). On top of that, the WAPs were not situated optimally to provide wireless for the entire office.

Enterprise-level equipment is important for every small business network but especially for wireless connections. This technology is already running at a disadvantage, and subpar hardware won’t provide the wireless network a business needs.

If your business runs mostly on portable systems like laptops and other mobile devices a capable wired network is still possible. Investing in a dock for laptops is a great solution. They aren’t costly, and when a laptop is docked, it can access the advantages of a wired network.

Security

Wired networks also outperform wireless when it comes to security.  As seen in the recent KRACK threat, wireless security isn’t as robust as we once believed. With a wireless connection, web traffic travels via radio waves, and even encrypted traffic can be captured with proximity and the right malicious tools. It is more difficult for a criminal to access a hard-wired network.

Out of 600 small and medium-sized businesses surveyed for the 2016 State of SMB Cybersecurity Report, half had been breached in the past 12 months. While bigger targets make the news, this trend means the chances of your network coming under fire are high. Small businesses dealing in confidential internal and client data can’t afford to be hacked.

With threats to small businesses on the rise, many still don’t consider themselves vulnerable. Half of the small businesses surveyed at a recent conference said their wireless networks were not partitioned from visitor access. That means clients waiting in the foyer—or cyber criminals—were accessing the same network that housed confidential client data. Data sent on public wireless networks is simply not as safe as when a wired network is used.

Optimize Your Wireless Internet

If you do choose to go with a wireless network, here are some tips for getting the most from your connection:

  • Identify busy wireless frequencies, and broadcast your network away from that traffic. This can help your network obtain the speed you pay for.
  • Keep public and private access to your network partitioned. Visitors and users off the street don’t need to access private data vital to your business. Partitioning your network provides the customer service of a wireless network while keeping your business safe.
  • Consider using a wired connection for stationary desktops and install docking stations for laptops. This allows fast, secure, and stable access to the wired network, while keeping a wireless connection available for mobile work.
  • Update network equipment regularly.
  • Use enterprise-level equipment.
  • Contact an IT provider for tips catered to your business’ specific needs and goals

Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis IT consulting firm. Let us help you weigh the options of wired vs wireless networks for your small business. To see if you qualify for a free network audit, email info@andersontech.com or call 314.394.3001 today.

The End of the Tax Year Is Here: Invest in Small Business IT Support Services and Infrastructure

Investing in small business IT support services and hardware is always a good idea, but it can be an especially smart tactic at the end of the year. Now is your last chance to increase expenditures and tax-deductible purchases before we close the books on 2017. Here are the most important IT fixed assets to consider. 

With the year drawing to a close, many small business owners are looking for ways to reduce their taxable income and increase deductions. Investing in small business IT support services and hardware are good ways to achieve your tax strategy while also keeping your company secure.

Evaluating the following three critical components is strongly recommended:

  1. Your Firewall

A firewall is a vital component of your network security infrastructure. It monitors all traffic that enters or leaves your network and is configured to block dangerous traffic.

Technology evolves quickly, and new and improved firewall models regularly hit the market, providing true business value. Cyber crime is on the rise in St. Louis and beyond. Digital fraudsters work tirelessly to launch new attacks and outsmart cyber protection tools. Keeping up-to-date with advancements in cyber security is a way of staying a step ahead of cyber criminals. Plan to replace your firewall every four to six years.

Higher-end firewalls have other benefits for St. Louis businesses, like centralized cloud-based management features, advanced security options, internet content filtering, and granular reporting capabilities. They allow small businesses to easily analyze their traffic and spot ways to improve network speed and reduce risks. For example, you’d be able to see if an employee spends too much time on YouTube watching videos that eat up bandwidth. You could also block sites with a few clicks.

Contrary to a common misconception, a firewall is not a “set it and forget it” piece of equipment. If you don’t have the time or knowledge in-house, your business needs a St. Louis IT services partner to help monitor your firewall. If you have a higher-end model, it will likely handle updates automatically, otherwise this must be done manually.

  1. Your Server

The term “server” refers to the software used for processing requests and delivering data across your network and the internet and to the physical device that runs the server software. A server should not be an old PC running in the corner of your office.

Servers are categorized by the type of service they provide. For example, web servers facilitate client computers’ web browsing and other web-based activity. A general-purpose server typically supports file serving, email, databases, and anything else your business needs to function properly. Large businesses utilize multiple servers, whereas many small businesses can get by with one. It all depends on the number of users, devices, volume of requests, and data you are processing.

Servers improve network performance and reliability, make it easier to share and store data, and increase network security. Servers can also be cloud-based. In this model, you don’t own the server or keep it on-site; instead, you access a remote instance that is owned and managed by a server company.

If your small business has ten computers or more, it may benefit from installing a server, but consider having an IT services provider perform a network security audit to evaluate your infrastructure first.

  1. Your Data Backup Solution

Data is a small word with big meaning. It encompasses everything from client contact information to credit card numbers to proprietary files. Your server helps team members share data among themselves more easily, but the role backups play in protecting that data—from cyber crime, human error, natural disaster, and plain bad luck—is just as important.

As the year draws to a close, take a moment to examine and test your approach to backing up and recovering data. Are you storing files onsite, in the cloud, or both? (We recommend both for maximum protection.) How often are you running the backups? How easy is it to retrieve your files? A managed IT services provider can help you run this assessment.

Investing in your network security is more than just a way to garner tax savings. Currently 58 percent of small businesses are not prepared for data loss, but that is changing fast. According to an infographic by Clutch, 78 percent of small businesses will be backing up their data in the cloud by 2020. Don’t be one of the 22 percent who wait three years to start protecting your business. Data backup and recovery is one of the most important small business IT support services you should employ.

Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis IT services provider with a track record of protecting small businesses like yours. We work with our managed IT services clients to help them design the most effective and secure IT infrastructure for their business. If you are ready to update your network, we can help with every step of the process, from analyzing your existing infrastructure to researching and purchasing the best equipment for your needs. For more information on our St. Louis IT services, email info@andersontech.com or call 314.394.3001 today.

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

As we reflect upon the year, we want to thank you for placing your trust in us.

Last year our family spent Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Surrounded by the enduring history of the Pilgrims, our visit highlighted the importance of the Mayflower Compact and brought out the Pilgrims’ spirit of resilience, sense of right, and desire for religious freedom.  We cherish the opportunity Thanksgiving gives us to reflect on our predecessors’ sacrifices and accomplishments.  We are eternally grateful to them.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving spent with family and friends!

Hadley, Luke, Amy, and Mark, Thanksgiving Day 2016, Plymouth, MA

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.

Cyber security threats are on the rise. Small businesses need to take cyber security 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 cyber security, 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 cyber security.

  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 cyber security 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 cyber criminals 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 cyber attack, 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.

Cyber crime—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 cyber attack 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 cyber criminal, 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.