All posts by Nicole Hlinovsky

IT and Your Health and Wellness Practice; 5 Key Technology Needs

Do you own a small to midsized health and wellness practice? Focusing on building your clientele and providing top notch services to your clients should be on the top of your to-do list. However; it is important to take the time to consider your technology needs and to explore some options on how to address them.

A number of smaller businesses attempt to handle their own IT and technology needs. While this may seem like it is the most cost effective way to manage technology, hiring a professional managed service provider to take over this aspect of your business will prove to be the best option. Read on to learn more about how a managed service provider can help your health and wellness practice.

#1 HIPAA Compliance

As a health and wellness provider you will need to make sure you are HIPAA compliant when it comes to communicating with your patients and maintaining their records. Studies indicate that up to 60% of small businesses are not prepared for a HIPAA audit. Avoid having to pay penalties and fines by utilizing a managed service provider to help your business to achieve compliancy.

#2 Your business needs a backup plan

Small businesses are forced to close their doors every year after facing the aftermath of a disaster. Whether your business is the victim of a fire, flood, power failure, or hacking; many small businesses do not have a backup plan in place to ensure business continuity in the event of a network failure. A managed service provider will not only help you to devise a backup- plan, they will also manage your backup appliance which will store all of your data so that you can recover from a disaster and get back to business as usual.

#3 Technology may be what’s holding your business back from growing

Numerous small businesses shy away from investing in VoIP service. Even a smaller business can benefit from this technology. VoIP helps you improve communications with customers and employees and will provide you with options to expand services to customers and increase the number of ways that customers can communicate with employees of your practice.

#4 Social Media is the best free marketing tool available

If you don’t know how to tweet, post on Instagram, or find followers on Facebook, you are missing out on key opportunities to use social media as a free marketing tool to grow your business. It is essential to stay relevant with today’s society and learn how to create and maintain accounts on social media sites.

#5 Technology is always evolving

Technology changes on a daily basis. Software is constantly being updated to improved versions and hardware is constantly being introduced to the market with more advanced capabilities. Let your managed service provider help you determine when you need to upgrade your current software and hardware to remain competitive in your market.

4 Ways to Limit Downtime after a Disaster

Many small businesses are forced to find out the hard way they were not prepared for a disaster. Hacking, fire, flood, or extended power failure can happen at any time and destroy your business. You may not even realize how dependent your business is on technology until you loose access to your network devices and data.

Follow these four steps to limit downtime after disaster strikes:

#1 Create a business continuity plan and test your plan quarterly
To prepare for the worst, you must not only devise a comprehensive plan, you must test it quarterly. Network threats are constantly evolving and technology is continually advancing. It is imperative to test, evaluate, and update your backup plan on a quarterly basis to ensure full business continuity when disaster strikes.

#2 Hire a reputable managed service provider to handle your network security, data storage and encryption, and to manage your backup appliance
An IT professional will provide you with expertise in protecting your network from hackers. They will make sure all of your data is securely encrypted and stored. Your managed service provider will also help you select and maintain a backup appliance to store your data. Hire a provider capable of tackling all of these important tasks designed to protect your business in a disaster.

#3 Purchase the right backup appliance
Your IT provider should recommend a backup appliance with advanced capabilities designed to reduce your downtime after disaster strikes. While it is extremely important to have a backup appliance that stores your encrypted data, you should invest in an appliance able to perform numerous tasks. It could take days to restore all of your settings and the apps installed on your devices. Buy an appliance that also stores all of this information for a seamless transition to your backup appliance. Don’t try to cut corners when making this important purchase. Your backup appliance could save your business from complete ruin.

#4 Train your employees on how to handle a disaster
Teach your employees your business’s continuity plan inside and out. They should be able to identify their role in the plan and know exactly which tasks to perform in a systematic order to get back up and running. Designate roles and run a practice drill. For example, have one employee designated to deal with the disaster itself. Prepare them to contact your insurance provider, attorney, the authorities and anyone else that may need to be made aware of the situation. Assign another employee to contact your managed service provider to make the switch to your backup appliance. Define employee roles in a disaster and practice carrying them out. A few hours of preparation will save time and money down the road.

IT and Your Family Business – Five Key Technology Needs

Do you own a successful family business? Check out these five simple tips on how to improve your business’s technology without having to spend a fortune.

#1 Forget using expensive POS equipment and take advantage of apps that can be installed on your iOS or Android device

Why spend thousands of dollars on expensive POS software and hardware for your small business? Thanks to the development of affordably priced apps, you can use your smartphone or tablet to process credit card transactions, manage inventory, and perform any other task you previously completed on a POS system. The technology and equipment used to operate these systems changes rapidly. Invest your money somewhere else and use an app that can be updated regularly without incurring numerous expenses.

#2 Upgrade to the Cloud

A lot of small businesses still use outdated systems of paper files, calendars, appointment books, and accounting. By upgrading to the cloud, all your information will be stored in one centralized location with a searchable database that will save you time and money. There are a full-range of affordable cloud-based and mobile tools specially designed to manage customer scheduling, signups, time tracking and billing, amongst other tasks.

#3 Increase your online presence

No matter what type of business that you own, spending time developing an online presence is a great investment. Open social media accounts and provide your customers with incentives to frequent your business. Let them make appointments online, sign up for a rewards program, and access any pertinent information they may need about your business. Use social media as a free marketing tool that can reach thousands of people in your area.

#4 Update your network security protection

Many small business owners develop close relationships with their employees and feel that their sensitive information is secure. What they fail to recognize is that most threats come from the outside world and that small businesses are often considered an easy target for hackers looking to steal financial data. Audit your network security regularly and make sure your employees are well trained in how to avoid falling victim to phishing and ransomware attacks.

#5 Devise a backup plan and invest in a backup appliance

The time to address your “what if…” case scenarios is before a disaster strikes. What if there is a fire, flood, network hack, power outage, or theft? Every business, regardless of size, needs to have a disaster recovery plan and a backup appliance that stores your pertinent data. Consult with an IT professional for the best advice on a backup appliance and to help you devise a plan that will ensure business continuity in the event of a system failure or security breach. It is also imperative that you test your disaster plan several times a year and make any necessary changes and improvements.

The Worst Advice We’ve Heard about VoIP

As more businesses update to VoIP in an effort to improve communications with customers and employees, a number of low-quality equipment retailers and service providers are offering substandard advice on how to upgrade to VoIP. Depending on the nature of your business, many customers’ first impression of your business will be made over the telephone. It is worth investing in the right VoIP equipment and service provider to guarantee a favorable impression.

  • Don’t go with a service provider that asks you to find your own internet provider independent of your VoIP service provider. In the event that you experience call quality issues prompting you to contact your VoIP provider, they will blame these problems on your internet connection. Consequently, when you call your internet service provider about these issues, they will in turn tell you to contact your VoIP provider. Get all your VoIP services from a provider capable of setting you up with everything you need. This includes: your phone service, internet access, and your phone equipment. Don’t get stuck in the finger pointing game!
  • Don’t use services such as Vonage or Magic Jack to save money. No matter what they promise you, these providers aren’t even able to provide quality residential services much less business services. You will encounter problems such as echoes and latency. Don’t gamble with your business’s reputation by using cheap VoIP providers that will provide you with subpar services and a poor connection.
  • Don’t go overboard if you are a small business owner. Some providers will attempt to sell you more equipment than you actually need. The truth about VoIP is that it is very easy to add on to your exiting system should your business grow in the future and need to add things like additional phone lines. This technology is designed to be a cost-effective, easy-to-use business solution full of features to improve your business’s communications. The right provider will help you to determine what is best for your business based upon its current needs.

The bottom line is that you get what you pay for when it comes to VoIP equipment, installation, and service. Don’t cut corners in an effort to save a few dollars. Don’t listen to anyone that promises a bargain priced provider can supply you with the same quality of service as a more established provider. When it comes to VoIP equipment, installation, and service; consider it as a significant technological investment to improve your business’s overall communications and budget accordingly.

Should You Purchase Cyber Security Insurance?

Contemplating whether you should invest in cyber security insurance for your small business? Learn more about the protection offered by this type of insurance, the types of coverage available, and the pros and cons associated with purchasing a cyber security policy in the article below.

Pros:

  • Cyber security insurance minimizes your financial liability in the event of a security breach. Your insurer will cover a portion of the financial loses you suffer as a result of a cyber-attack. There are typically two types of coverage offered by insurers; first party and third party. First-party insurance usually covers damage to digital assets and business interruptions. Third-party insurance covers liability and the costs of forensic investigations, customer notification, credit monitoring, public relations, legal defense, compensation, and regulatory fines.
  • Mandatory data breach security notification laws in the U.S. have made third-party insurance a popular option for businesses. The amount of time and resources used to comply with data breach security notification laws can easily bankrupt a business. A third-party policy designed to protect your business’s most important digital assets is a judicious risk-management strategy.

Cons:

  • This insurance coverage does nothing to minimize the damage to your reputation after a cyber-attack. Many businesses sustain irreparable damage to their reputation following a security breach. Your insurance will not help you to improve your image or help you to regain the trust of your business partners, customers, and employees.
  • All insurers do not offer the same level of protection and it may be challenging for a business owner to choose the right type of coverage. Since this type of insurance is relatively new to the market, many businesses are not fully aware of what is excluded or included from their policy. There is also a latency in coverage for intellectual and proprietary property. Before purchasing a cyber security policy, make sure you know exactly what is covered.

Who should invest in cyber security insurance?

If you aren’t confident in your IT cyber security protection and would suffer catastrophic financial losses in the event of a security breach, you may be interested in purchasing cyber security insurance. Take the time to thoroughly research your options and find a policy that protects your greatest digital assets.

The bottom line is that adequate protection is your best defense against cybercrime and you are better off investing in a reputable managed service provider to handle all aspects of your business’s cyber security needs. While the insurance will help defray some the financial repercussions of a cyber-attack, it does little to protect your business’s reputation. Use your resources on preventing a cyber-attack, instead of trying to recover from one.

 

Are You Prepared for a Cyber Attack?

Is your business prepared for a cyber attack? Recent data from Symantec’s 2016 Internet Security Threat Report shows that small businesses are becoming a larger target for cybercriminals. Last year, cybercrime activity targeted small businesses 43% of the time. This is a sharp increase from previous years. Learn more about how you can gauge your preparedness by answering the questions below.

Question #1 Do you have a backup plan?

In the event of a cyber attack you may lose access to your computer system. Customers may not be able to reach you, your website, or to access any account information they may have established with your business online. Businesses can improve preparedness by being proactive in having a business continuity plan. Being aware of the impact that any disruption will have on your ability to conduct business can help you to develop and practice a strong backup plan. The goal of your plan should be to return to business as usual within minutes. Devise a plan, test your plan frequently, and make continued improvements to your plan.

Question #2 How secure is your data?

Whether you store your customers’ financial information or if your online records contain proprietary information essential to the success of your business, having this data fall into the hands of an unscrupulous hacker could spell disaster for your business. It is imperative to establish safeguards ensuring your data is being properly encrypted and stored. Create a firm set of essential security practices for your employees to follow and train them to make cyber security a priority in the workplace. Protect your business’s reputation by making every effort to keep all data secure.

Question #3 Are you aware of the various types of cyber threats?

Cyber threats evolve daily as hackers relentlessly seek out ways to access your sensitive information. Small businesses are often bigger targets for hackers because many of them do not employ the same strict security standards that larger corporations do and they are also less likely to detect a data breach until it is too late. Many small businesses handle their own IT and security management leaving them susceptible to numerous web threats. Learning about the various online threats used by hackers will help you to prepare for a future attack. While viruses are still one of the most successful ways that hackers can infiltrate your system, they are also using ransomware and spyware to gain access to confidential info and exploit it. Knowing how to identify cyber threats will help you to avoid some of the tactics used by hackers to obtain your passwords and other private information.

Common Misconceptions About IT

Whether you are a business owner in search of a managed service provider to handle your business’s standard IT needs or if you are currently handling your company’s own IT related tasks and are contemplating outsourcing, learning more about common misconceptions associated with IT services will help you to decide what is right for your business’s needs.

Misconception #1 Managed IT Services are only meant for large businesses

The truth is that outsourcing your IT needs to a managed service provider is the most efficient and cost effective way to go, even for small businesses. A lot of small business owners attempt to tackle IT related tasks themselves. Not only does this take away money and resources from the development of your core business, it also leaves you more vulnerable to network threats. The average business owner does not have the time, knowledge, or resources available to fully protect their business from evolving web threats. Furthermore, if your small business has compliance requirements such as HIPAA, you cannot take the chances of failing an audit or breaching policy. A managed service provider well versed in HIPAA compliancy can help your small practice to achieve and maintain full compliancy.

Misconception #2 All IT providers are equal

Just as you would shop around and research an accountant or attorney before trusting your business’s confidential information, the same is also true when it comes to an IT provider. Avoid going with a freelance IT tech that is not affiliated with a reputable service. If you are going to entrust the security of your company’s financial information and that of your customers, you need to be 100% sure that the service provider you hire has a proven track record of satisfied clients. Read reviews online and check out the IT provider’s website. Check their standing with BBB. Select a service provider that has a demonstrated track record of success in providing customers with comprehensive IT support.

Misconception #3 My business is doing just fine with a basic IT setup

Maybe you are unaware of all the benefits of cloud storage, VOIP phones, and updated hardware or software; or maybe you believe your business is operating just fine without investing money on more advanced technology. Unfortunately, many businesses become obsolete by not choosing to embrace technology. This is the digital era and businesses need to learn how to utilize modern technology to grow. Regardless of your industry, your company needs to worry about data backup and security. To remain competitive, you should be exploring ways to use technology to expand. Maintaining status quo is never a good business strategy.

Is a Managed Service Provider Right for You? 3 Reasons Why Your Business Needs One

Reason #1 Free up time and resources to invest in and focus on your core business

Make a commitment to grow your business in 2017. Free up your time and resources so you can devote them to business development and existing customers. Even if your business only has a small number of employees, you should not have to handle your own IT management. Spend your time doing what you do best; working hard to develop your business, manage your staff, and taking care of your customers. Your ROI will make you regret not outsourcing your IT needs sooner.

Leave IT tasks to the professionals, such as a managed service provider holding the skills necessary to perform IT tasks quickly and thoroughly. Let your managed service provider install your cloud server, provision a Microsoft Office 365 account for your business, set up your cloud storage, and keep your security software current.

Reason #2 It’s impossible to stay one step ahead of the multitude of security threats that could cripple your business

Even if your small or midsized business can afford an in-house IT professional to tackle your day to day IT needs, you will need someone with extensive security training to combat online threats. Viruses, ransomware, and malware are always evolving and can cripple a business within seconds. Hackers work around the clock to exploit personal and financial business data and to use it to extort money from your business or to resell online for criminal purposes. Small to midsized businesses are bigger targets for hackers because they typically do not have the most current protection against online threats and are therefore more susceptible to attacks. A managed service provider will make sure that the technology used by your staff; whether it be a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or pc, has the most up to date protection against common web threats.

Reason #3 Peace of mind is priceless

What would you do if you suffered from a server failure? Have you devised a comprehensive backup plan in event of a failure? Do you practice your backup plan and know how long it would take you to get back up and running with business as usual after a crash? The right managed service provider will help you to develop a backup plan and invest in a backup appliance that can have you fully back up and running within minutes of a crash. You won’t have to worry about losing critical information that could bring your business to a standstill or leave your customers in a lurch. The peace of mind you can get from trusting a managed service provider with your IT needs is well worth the investment.

Are You Adhering to HIPAA Security Policies? What Your Small Practice Needs to Know.

To ensure HIPAA compliance and avoid heavy fines, your practice must develop internal policies and procedures supporting all aspects of HIPAA legislation. It is your responsibility to train staff in implementing and following HIPAA policies and procedures enforced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. At any time, your business may be audited and will need to prove compliancy to avoid martial fines and potential criminal charges.

What are the requirements set forth under HIPAA regulation?

  1. Covered entities must put in place safeguards to protect private health information and ensure they do not use or disclose your health information improperly.
  2. Covered entities must reasonably limit uses and disclosures to the minimum necessary to accomplish their intended purpose.
  3. Covered entities must have procedures in place to limit who can view and access health information as well as implement training programs for employees about how to protect health information.
  4. Business associates of your practice also must put in place safeguards to protect your health information and ensure they do not use or disclose your health information improperly.

How can you protect your business against HIPAA violations and fines? For most small to mid-sized businesses, hiring a managed service provider experienced with HIPAA is the most reliable and cost-effective way to ensure compliancy.

Your service provider will assist you in establishing:

  • Physical safeguards that limit facility access and control without appropriate authorization. This includes establishing company policies about use and access to workstations and electronic media including: transferring, removing, disposing and re-using electronic media and electronic protected health information.
  • Technical safeguards that allow only the authorized to access electronic protected health data. Your managed service provider will set up access controls including: using unique user IDs, an emergency access procedure, automatic log off and secure data encryption and decryption.
  • Auditing reports and detailed tracking logs containing comprehensive records on hardware and software activity.
  • IT disaster recovery plans and offsite backup appliances. Having a backup server and detailed business continuity plan are key to ensure that any electronic media errors or failures can be quickly remedied and patient health information can be recovered within minutes of a server crash­­­­­.
  • Implementing transmission security safeguards required of HIPAA for compliance to protect against unauthorized public access of Electronic Personal Health Information (ePHI). This encompasses all methods of transmitting data; whether it be email, Internet, or even over a private network, such as a private cloud based server.

Pressure Testing Your Business Continuity Plan

Are you looking to pressure test and update your current business continuity plan (BCP)? If not, you should be. Testing your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) not only provides essential employees with real case scenario experience in carrying out your business’s plan of action; it also helps you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your plan. This article will provide you with some tips on how to test your BCP and objectively analyze the results.

Tip #1 Test, review, and revise

Taking the time to pressure test your BCP is only one step in a three-step process. After performing a test you need to devote as much time and energy into reviewing and revising your plan. The main objectives of a BCP are to minimize losses, reduce downtimes, and lessen the impact a system failure has on not only you but also your customers. Once you perform your test, you need to review your results and make all necessary suggestions for improvements. Outline a plan to implement all your revisions and monitor their success during your next test. Almost as important as the testing is making sure you update your documentation with new updates and discoveries found during testing.

Tip #2 Consider upgrading your backup appliance

Your business has spent countless hours and dollars in devising the strongest BCP possible. When it comes to purchasing a backup appliance, this is not the time to cut corners. Look at the purchase of your backup appliance as an investment. An advanced appliance is built not only to restore your data in the event of a server crash, it is also capable of restoring all your apps and settings which will significantly reduce the amount of time you need to devote to getting back to business as usual. An advanced backup appliance is the best piece of equipment you can buy to protect your business in the event of a server crash or system failure. If you are not satisfied with the amount of time it takes to get back up and running during a pressure test, consider upgrading your backup appliance.

Tip #3 Test your BCP quarterly

Many businesses make the mistake of testing their continuity plan on an annual basis opposed to testing it more frequently. You should test your plan quarterly to maximize its effectiveness and keep all your data as current as possible. As your business grows and technology evolves, it is important that your continuity plan grows with it. Your BCP should progressively match the growth of your business which is why every business should pressure test BCP on a quarterly basis.