As small businesses change and grow, the ability to quickly scale up — or down — becomes a necessity. Adding new employees, for example, requires the company to adapt its phone system to accommodate the need for more lines.
That is harder to accomplish using traditional on-premise telephony systems due to higher setup and maintenance costs, the need for hardware on-site and reliance on IT support. A cloud-based phone system, on the other hand, would enable small businesses to manage communication services in a less costly, more streamlined and agile manner.
Benefits of a Cloud-Based Phone System
1. Fully-Integrated Communications System
Business tools that operate in the cloud are easy to deploy, enabling employees to stay connected whether they are in the office or on the go. In this way, the cloud provides a consistent business presence and helps to increase productivity with seamless access to CRM tools, email, instant messaging, voice and videoconferencing.
2. Control Over Modes of Communication
A cloud-operated system puts businesses in the driver’s seat, allowing them to pick and choose what features they need, with access to turn them on or off easily. Also, cloud solutions give employees anytime, anywhere access via a smartphone, desk phone or softphone to all their calling features.
3. Top Line Business Features
A cloud-based phone system would give small businesses access to the types of network applications that one would typically find at larger corporations. These include features such as a Virtual Assistant, Auto Attendant, Never Miss a Call or Call Center solutions.
4. Mobility and Ease of Use
Today’s workplace is increasingly mobile, and small businesses especially need to be able to operate from multiple locations. With a cloud-based system, small business employees have access to features that allow them to log in from anywhere so that they can be reached while on the go, giving customer-facing and revenue-producing employees greater control over their productivity.
5. Time Management and Efficiency
Web-based customer portals enable IT staff to manage their system more efficiently. With insight into the installation, service configuration, trouble tickets, training, billing and call analytics, this full access to a customer’s system and account allows them to spend fewer resources on project management and focus more on work that adds to the bottom line.
6. Flexibility to Scale Up (and Down)
As a business grows, so does the need to hire new employees, open new offices and onboard new customers. This requires a communications system that can scale up — or down — as the need arises. With a cloud-based phone system, businesses can add as many extensions as they need to accommodate heightened call volume, or, if necessary, simply call in to deactivate these extra extensions. Unlike traditional systems, businesses only pay for the extensions they need for as long as they need them.
7. Business Continuity
Working with a phone system “in the cloud” allows businesses to remain connected to their customers no matter the environment. A cloud-based communications system is likely to be unaffected by outside factors such as severe weather or other issues that may keep employees from getting to the office.
8. Improved Customer Service
With the Virtual Receptionist (VR) or Auto Attendant feature, businesses can easily direct calls to various departments and even create greetings unique to a given department. For example, a business could set up a holiday greeting in advance (via the administrative portal) and pre-set it to revert to the non-holiday greeting on a specified date. It could also add an on-hold message about special promotions or commonly asked questions.
9. New Service Features Added Easily
During busy seasons, some businesses will add premium calling features to increase call-taking efficiency and maximize staffing. Call Groups, for example, allow incoming calls to ring on multiple extensions. Call Queues provide a “dynamic waiting room” for callers that let businesses customize the on-hold experience and better manage call volume. Both help to decrease voicemails, missed calls and busy signals, enabling service to as many callers as possible.
10. Cost Savings
Cost savings are another benefit of cloud-based phone system. Moving telecommunications off of PBX platforms and to the cloud can be less expensive relative to monthly service rates versus that of a traditional system, helping to reduce costs and, ultimately, increase profitability.
If your company is looking to reap the benefits of moving to the cloud, then contact us for assistance.
What happens to your phones when the power goes out, the internet is down, or the old copper lines are down from a natural disaster? Are your customers going to get a busy signal? How quickly will they call the competition?
Phone System Backup Plan
With a standard phone service there would be nothing to prevent the busy signal from happening. With phone service from Farmhouse Networking all calls have the ability to be automatically forwarded and routed to virtually any person, device, or location. Plus our platform includes connectivity to multiple carriers for redundancy purposes, so no single carrier issue will impact your business.
Disasters might not be under our control, but business can continue to happen even when they occur.
If your company is concerned about losing calls or looking to add the protection a cloud phone system provides, then contact us for assistance.
It’s an unfortunate reality but our workforce can often times be our worst enemies, often creating vulnerabilities and leaving our systems open to hackers, viruses, data breaches and data loss. More often than not, we do this through completely harmless, everyday activities like opening compromised emails and links.
As a leader in your organization it’s your role to monitor your team and arm them with the knowledge of good security practices. Without implementing a company-wide security training program, you leave your systems vulnerable to a host of attacks.
Another crucial step in preventing system attacks, is to configure a firewall to monitor user activity and website visits throughout your organization. An Acceptable Use Policy is helpful in establishing what your organization will and will not allow from its employees.
Curious how we can help you establish a more secure company infrastructure?
We’ve got a bit of bad news. Ransomware attacks are on the rise. Don’t think so? In 2017 alone, ransomware attacks rose a whopping 250%, with those attacks hitting the U.S. the hardest
Below are just a few of the attacks that led to such a staggering spike in malicious activity as well as several new trends.
In May 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack affected computers worldwide running the Microsoft Windows OS. This ransomware cryptoworm worked by encrypting data and demanding ransom payments by made in Bitcoin. The attack was estimated to have impacted 200,000+ computers in 150 countries, with damages exceeding hundreds of millions of dollars.
The NotPetya virus was similar to its 2016 predecessor, Petya in that it encrypts the master file table and demands a Bitcoin ransom to restore access to the files. The reason NotPetya was so damaging and different from Petya is that NotPetya spread on its own and did not require human intervention in order to spread.
RANSOMWARE TRENDS TO KNOW
• Ransomware as a Service (RaaS):
RaaS refers to the practice that allows attackers to rent ransomware infrastructure in lieu of developing it themselves. It’s widely believed that this practice will continue to grow in popularity.
• Boutique Ransomware:
Boutique ransomware is ransomware that typically affects the attacked for a shorter duration and is sent to hundreds of thousands of potential victims instead millions or more at a time. This trend is likely to continue in 2018, as developers of malware try and continue to add ransomware to new methods of attacks.
Did you know that malware accounts for 20% of all security incidents?
And that’s just one threat! Your data, no matter how proactive you are from a security standpoint, is constantly vulnerable to a multitude of security threats, the list of which is constantly growing. From ransomware, worms and phishing attacks to human error, your data needs to have a multi-layer defense in place to not only prevent downtime but recover quickly in the event that disaster strikes.
The following are just a few staggering facts about just how vulnerable our systems are to attacks and outages:
• According to Microsoft, the potential cost of cyber-crime to the global community is a $500 billion, and a data breach will cost the average company about $3.8 million!1
• A whopping 1 in 131 emails contain malware2
• 230,000 new malware samples are produced every day, and that number is projected to continue growing3
• It will take the average business about 197 days to detect a breach on their network4
It is official – the month of September marks three years in business for Farmhouse Networking. We have been truly blessed by God to have been able to serve the Grants Pass and surrounding business communities by providing exceptional IT managed services. We look forward to many more years of giving you the highest level of support possible so that you can focus on getting business done. With this anniversary we plan on rolling out some enhancements to our monthly service offerings:
Enhanced Monthly Maintenance
Standard Maintenance: For those who are not current managed clients, these basics have always been a part of our service offering:
5-year Technology Plan & Budget
Full Network Inventory
Hard Disk Checkups (Bi-Monthly)
Hard Disk Defragmentation (Monthly)
Temporary File Cleaning (Weekly)
Anti-Virus Software (Constant Monitoring)
Operating System Updates (Weekly)
Error Log Monitoring (Constant Monitoring)
Power Settings Management (Constant Monitoring)
Windows Services (Constant Monitoring)
Continued Improvements: Over the past 3 years we have also added the following features to our service at no additional costs:
Ticketing System Portal
Email Support to Create Tickets
Security Incident Response Plan
Vendor Information Tracking
Third-Party Software Updates (Monthly on Firefox, Chrome, Acrobat Reader, ….)
Email Blacklist Checking (Daily)
Warranty Checking (Monthly on All Major Brands)
Operating System Intrusion Detection (Constant Monitoring)
Support for MacOS & Linux (Constant Monitoring)
Server Applications (Constant Monitoring)
Hardware Events (Constant Monitoring)
Enhancements to Come: In September, we will be adding these new exciting features to our service:
DNS filtering – this will further protect your network from external threats by stopping accidental surfing to malicious sites. It also can increase productivity and network speeds by limiting wasteful frivolous surfing during company time.
Dark Web Scan – Each monthly client will have the “Dark Web” scanned to see if any email addresses connected to the company have been involved in a previous password breach.
Weekly Security Newsletter – Farmhouse Networking is partnering with a national security non-profit to deliver up-to-date news and information about how to stay safe online. These weekly newsletters will be packed with valuable information and delivered to everyone in your organization.
As our service offering has expanded, we have deepened our ability to monitor our customers networks to proactively respond to alerts before they become problems. We have continued to add levels of protection to make sure that our clients systems are safe from the ever-expanding list of threats. All this has been done at no additional cost, despite inflation, up to this point. To continue offering this high level of service, Farmhouse Networking is making a couple small changes to its prices that will be effective September 1st, 2018.
Monthly Maintenance Clients – our services are based on a per device basis and the cost per workstation will be $25 per month for remote maintenance and $50 per month for full service maintenance. All other prices will remain the same for every other device on the network. This will only effect clients whose contracts are renewing after September 1st, 2018 – any renewed before that will keep their prices the same for the next 12-month term.
Small Business Clients – those who do not have a server and have less than 5 workstations, our hourly rate will be $80 per hour for on-site service and $40 per hour for remote service (billed in 15-minute increments). That is only $10 more for on-site support and $5 more for remote support.
Standard to Medium Clients – those with a server or more than 5 workstations, our hourly rate will be $120 per hour for on-site service and $60 per hour for remote service (billed in 15-minute increments). That is only $10 more for on-site support and $5 more for remote support.
Tier-3 Clients – those technology companies that utilize our advanced expertise to better serve their clients, our hourly rate will be $40 per hour for remote service (billed in 15-minute increments). That is only $5 more for remote support.
Charity Clients – those non-profits that pay for support, our hourly rate will remain at $70 per hour for on-site service and $35 per hour for remote service (billed in 15-minute increments).
For all our monthly maintenance clients, we will be calling to schedule our semi-annual meeting to check-in with you during the month of September. At that time we will be performing another network inventory to insure that all network assets are covered properly under your current contract. We cannot thank all our clients enough for your continued use of our IT services. We look forward to continuing to serve you.
Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds, for riches don’t last forever, and the crown might not be passed to the next generation. After the hay is harvested and the new crop appears and the mountain grasses are gathered in, your sheep will provide wool for clothing, and your goats will provide the price of a field. And you will have enough goats’ milk for yourself, your family, and your servant girls.
Strange to think that the current wireless security protocol has been in use for over a decade, but with the release of WPA3 certification today the Wi-Fi Alliance has made some serious strides towards a more secure wireless security standard.
Offline Password Guessing – Attackers will now only get one guess per offline packet instead of unlimited. This will force them to interact with the wireless device directly which will make their attacks easier to detect and easier to shut them out.
Forward Secrecy – Even if the attacker is able to record a data stream and crack the current password, they will not be able to read the recorded data – only new data flowing over the network.
192-bit Encryption: – Enterprise users and tech savvy small businesses will be able to take advantage of deeper encryption for more secure connections
Wi-Fi Easy Connect – Simple to use, secure way for home users to connect their devices by scanning a QR code instead of entering a complex password.
This new security protocol mixed with the latest 802.11ax (that could bring 10 Gigabit speeds to wireless) will make 2019 a banner year for wireless technology.
If your company is interested better wireless security or faster wireless speeds, then contact us for assistance.
The Internet of Things refers to any object or device that sends and/or receives data automatically via the Internet. This rapidly-expanding set of “things” includes tags (also known as labels or chips that automatically track objects), sensors, and devices that interact with people and share information machine to machine.
WHY SHOULD WE CARE?
• Cars, appliances, wearables, lighting, healthcare, and home security all contain sensing devices that can talk to another machine and trigger other actions. Examples include: devices that direct your car to an open spot in a parking lot; mechanisms that control energy use in your home; and other tools that track your eating, sleeping, and exercise habits.
• This technology provides a level of convenience to our lives, but it requires that we share more information than ever. The security of this information, and the security of these devices, is not always guaranteed.
• Though many security and resilience risks are not new, the scale of interconnectedness created by the Internet of Things increases the consequences of known risks and creates new ones.
Without a doubt, the Internet of Things makes our lives easier and has many benefits; but we can only reap these benefits if our Internet-enabled devices are secure and trusted. Here are some tips to increase the security of your Internet-enabled devices:
1. Keep a clean machine.
Like your smartphone or PC, keep any device that connects to the Internet free from viruses and malware. Update the software regularly on the device itself as well as the apps you use to control the device.
2. Think twice about your device.
Have a solid understanding of how a device works, the nature of its connection to the Internet, and the type of information it stores and transmits.
3. Secure your network.
Properly secure the wireless network you use to connect Internet-enabled devices.If your company is going to use full disk encryption or has compliance requirements that you need consulting for, then contact us for assistance.
Mobile devices enable Americans to get online wherever they are. Although mobile devices — from smart watches to phones and tables — can be extremely useful and convenient, there are also potential threats users may face with such technology. It’s important to understand how to protect yourself when connecting on the go.
DID YOU KNOW?
• 56 percent of American adults own a smartphone.
• More than half of mobile application (app) users have uninstalled or decided not to install an app due to concerns about their personal information.
1. Use strong passwords.
Change any default passwords on your mobile device to ones that would be difficult for someone to guess. Use different passwords for different programs and devices. Do not choose options that allow your device to remember your passwords. (We recommend LastPass Mobile App to keep track of password, encryption of the phone and fingerprint scanning for unlocking your device.)
2. Keep software up to date.
Install updates for apps and your device’s operating system as soon as they are available. Keeping the software on your mobile device up to date will prevent attackers from being able to take advantage of known vulnerabilities. (Unfortunately the carrier that you choose is in charge of the OS updates on the phones, but allow auto updates on all other apps.)
3. Disable remote connectivity.
Some mobile devices are equipped with wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth, that can connect to other devices. Disable these features when they are not in use. (Look out for NFC also as this will allow access based on how close someone gets to your phone – think crowded elevator.)
4. Be careful what you post and when.
Wait to post pictures from trips and events so that people do not know where to find you. Posting where you are also reminds others that your house is empty.
5. Guard your mobile device.
In order to prevent theft and unauthorized access, never leave your mobile device unattended in a public place and lock your device when it is not in use.
6. Know your apps.
Be sure to review and understand the details of an app before downloading and installing it. Be aware that apps may request access to your location and personal information. Delete any apps that you do not use regularly to increase your security. (Also do not root your phone or install apps from any place platforms app store.)
Broadband and information technology are powerful tools for small businesses to reach new markets and increase sales and productivity. However, cybersecurity threats are real and businesses must implement the best tools and tactics to protect themselves, their customers, and their data. Visit www.fcc.gov/cyberplanner to create a free customized Cyber Security Planning guide for your small business and visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect to download resources on cyber security awareness for your business. Here are ten key cybersecurity tips to protect your small business:
1. Train employees in security principles.
Establish basic security practices and policies for employees, such as requiring strong passwords and establish appropriate Internet use guidelines, that detail penalties for violating company cybersecurity policies. Establish rules of behavior describing how to handle and protect customer information and other vital data.
2. Protect information, computers, and networks from cyber attacks.
Keep clean machines by having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Set antivirus software to run a scan after each update. Install other key software updates as soon as they are available. (Our managed monthly service contract customers already have this taken care of.)
3. Provide firewall security for your Internet connection.
A firewall is a set of related programs that prevent outsiders from accessing data on a private network. Make sure the operating system’s firewall is enabled or install free firewall software available online. If employees work from home, ensure that their home system(s) are protected by a firewall. (We don’t recommend the free stuff as you always get what you pay for.)
4. Create a mobile device action plan.
Mobile devices can create significant security and management challenges, especially if they hold confidential information or can access the corporate network. Require users to password protect their devices, encrypt their data, and install security apps to prevent criminals from stealing information while the phone is on public networks. Be sure to set reporting procedures for lost or stolen equipment.
5. Make backup copies of important business data and information.
Regularly backup the data on all computers. Critical data includes word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files. Backup data automatically if possible, or at least weekly and store the copies either offsite or in the cloud. (We recommend backup copies in both)
6. Control physical access to your computers and create user accounts for each employee.
Prevent access or use of business computers by unauthorized individuals. Laptops can be particularly easy targets for theft or can be lost, so lock them up when unattended. Make sure a separate user account is created for each employee and require strong passwords. Administrative privileges should only be given to trusted IT staff and key personnel. (Definitely agree with the separate users and least
7. Secure your Wi-Fi networks.
If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace, make sure it is secure, encrypted, and hidden. To hide your Wi- Fi network, set up your wireless access point or router so it does not broadcast the network name, known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Password protect access to the router. (Also make sure to segregate public guest traffic from private traffic.)
8. Employ best practices on payment cards.
Work with banks or processors to ensure the most trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud services are being used. You may also have additional security obligations pursuant to agreements with your bank or processor. Isolate payment systems from other, less secure programs and don’t use the same computer to process payments and surf the Internet.
9. Limit employee access to data and information, and limit authority to install software.
Do not provide any one employee with access to all data systems. Employees should only be given access to the specific data systems that they need for their jobs, and should not be able to install any software without permission.
10. Passwords and authentication.
Require employees to use unique passwords and change passwords every three months. Consider implementing multifactor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gain
entry. Check with your vendors that handle sensitive data, especially financial institutions, to see if they offer multifactor authentication for your account. (Multifactor should be implemented on all web based applications from third party vendors.)
If your company is concerned about cybersecurity and wants to take the needed steps to protect yourselves, then contact us for assistance.