Bitlocker hard drive encryption is the encryption software that Microsoft builds into every version of Windows 10 Professional. It physically encrypts the data on your computer’s hard drive so that even if your device is lost or stolen no one else can retrieve information off of it.

This is important to your business because most states, including Tennessee, have mandatory disclosure laws for data loss. In short, data you store on your customers is or may have been stolen or hacked, you have to let them know. And that’s not an email or phone call any business owner wants to make.

Encryption is so important in today’s environment that it has become a standard for all of our managed service customers. We turn it on by default for any computers that support it. For computers that do not support it, we recommend upgrading to one that does.

If you want to have a free discussion about cybersecurity and how to better protect your business call or email us today, 865-240-2716 or info@jmaddington.com

Ars Technica and the BBC are reporting that the travel insurance and currency exchange company Travelex has been breached. Hackers have allegedly been inside the company’s network for 6 months and stolen customer information including:

  • Credit card info
  • Date of birth
  • Insurance numbers

These incidents are shockingly common yet only the big companies make the news. Data from Datto says that most small businesses either have suffered a similar attack or have been targeted by one.

How are you safe-guarding your clients’ data?

I came across a website recently that decried contracts for IT services claiming that they were all written in the interests of the IT provider and out to get small business owners.

Here are three reasons you want to look for companies that not only have, but require, well-written contracts. #2 and #3 are items you should look for in any business contract you sign.

1. They Have Insurance

I can’t stress how important this is to you. Your IT company’s insurance protects you as a client as well, especially if you ever have to bring a claim against them. Any decent insurance in the IT industry requires that the underwritten maintain contracts. No contracts are a sign that they don’t carry proper insurance which leaves you as a business owner holding the bag if things go south.

2. You Lock in Rates

The costs for IT technicians and the costs for companies to carry insurance is only going one direction, up. Contracts allow you to lock in rates at today’s prices instead of tomorrow’s. Without a contract, your IT provider is free to change prices whenever they want.

3. The Contract Protects You

A well-written contract has language in it to protect your business with clauses like:

  1. Mutual non-disclosure agreements
  2. Non-compete agreements
  3. Agreements not to hire each other’s employees
  4. Specific processes for working out issues, if they arise, including court jurisdiction. (i.e., specifying a local court, instead of one in Texas or Deleware even if that is where the business is legally incorporated)

Given that your IT provider has access to nearly 100% of your data is responsible for keeping you secure I can’t imagine a reason you wouldn’t want to sign a well-written contract that protects your interests.

Call us today and we’ll walk you through the ways we protect our customers, but digitally and legally. 865-240-2716

We are all familiar with this time of year. Yep, the time when the glamour of setting New Year Resolutions is ever before us. This pressure doesn’t have to be scary or taunting, and we can actually join in on the fun without fear of failure… If we do it correctly. Here are 3 tips to setting tangible goals for your company, in the name of New Years Resolutions.

  1. Call it a goal, not a resolution.

Evidence proves that words are a predictor of success… or failure. The word resolution means only a decision. Goals, on the contrary, is a person’s ambition… an aim, or desired result. I know I’m not the only one that needs more motivation, than a decision, to stick to something.

2. Make your goals public.

Share them with your team. Have accountability. Get others involved so you’re not overwhelmed.

3. Be sure every goal ties back to your mission and your vision.

Last but not least this one is a twofer. If your goal doesn’t tie back to a higher level goal, mission or vision you should re-evaluate if it is the right goal. Second, people are far more likely to accomplish their goals when they understand the why behind them. Tying your goals to higher level end states ensure that you understand how this goal is helping you reach a further milestone in life or business.

Jon, is this going to be a problem?

A customer just wrote me to ask about the email Google sent out to admins everywhere warning them that they are about to turn off access to “Less Secure Apps,” Google-speak for anything that uses a regular username and password.

If your organization uses G Suite in some specific ways

Yes, this is going to be a problem.

  1. If you use Outlook 2013 or very specific versions of Outlook 2016 to access your Google Mail it is going to stop working with Google
  2. Virtually every copier/scanner/fax that sends to email using a Google address is going to stop working with Google
  3. Old applications that use a regular username and password to send out of Google are going to stop working with Google (typically these are line of business or custom applications)
  4. Your iPhones and Androids from the Precambrian eras will not work with Google anymore.

So, what do you do?

Talk to your IT company. If you have had applications custom developed for you that send out using Google talk to the developer and have them switch you over to an API based email-application (they will know what those words are. If they don’t fire them and call us.)

If you are lucky enough to have a managed IT services provider ask them at your regular business meeting how they plan to handle this for you.

And, as always, you can call us and ask if/how/when it is going to affect you.

HELP! Someone has hacked Jim’s email and just tried to place a $15,000 order at Verizon.

-Actual Customer, December 10th, 2019

As the owner of an IT Company that specializes in security and managed IT services I hate getting emails like this. Primarily, because they are 99.99% avoidable.

Managed IT service providers have known if for a long time: all of their customers need to be on multifactor (MFA, sometimes called two-factor) authentication. To this customer’s credit, they were already in the process of implementing MFA, but Jim hadn’t been set up yet.

Research from both Google and Microsoft shows that MFA stops over 99% of password based hacks. Our standard operating procedure is to recommend it to all of our customers. Beginning in 2020, we will require our manged customers to opt-out of it if they don’t want it, it is so important.

MFA is simply adding another layer of security to your account. In its simplest and most effective form you get a push notification on your phone requesting that you approve a login. Other forms may email or text you a code that you have to put into a website.

How do I do it?

It was 2:45 PM, I had just walked into the office after being out at appointments all day. The team I was working with at the time had a major issue: a customer’s main software was down and their server was doing funky stuff.

One engineer had in-depth diagnostics pulled up that showed that, well, everything was broken. Another engineer was overseeing the work but didn’t have much else to add.

After a few minutes, the issue was escalated to me.

One of the things I’ve learned troubleshooting problems in life, tech, personal, financial, IT support services and managed IT services, anything , is that when everything appears to be going wrong there is usually a single root cause. If it’s foundational, then everything will break and it will appear very complicated.

I quickly noticed a file on the desktop. Its name implied that a team prior to us had been working on the server and turned off a Very Important Feature.

I turned Very Important Feature back on again.

Five minutes later everything was up and running and all of those complicated diagnostics were showing fine again.

Takeaways

  • Simple root causes underly problems that appear complicated. I knew to look for the simple thing because with so many things broken there had to be a foundational issue. In relationships, its often simply that two people aren’t communicating, in finances revenues don’t match expenses. There is an inverse relationship between the number of things on the radar and thing causing them.
  • Observation beats technical know-how. I wasn’t the smartest guy in that room, that was the other engineer. I wasn’t the most experienced, that was the one watching him. I was just the one to stop and look around at the situation before diving headfirst into the weeds.
  • Bad decisions multiply. I still don’t know who turned off the Very Important Feature. My guess is that either the customer did or a vendor in a related space to ours. Either way, the decision to allow a team less experienced team than us take the first crack at the issue cost this customer more money than if they had called us in the first place.
  • Culture matters. The first two engineers did the exact right things in escalating the issue as rapidly as they did, which ultimately resolved the issue quickly. They both avoided target fixation and worked in a team that valued the results over who got the credit. The culture of the team produced a process that brought value to our customer.

Quick take: Prices for domains ending in .org will be going up over the next several years. If you have such a domain we recommend that you purchase as many years on it now as you can.

The full version: There are multiple companies globally that administers the domain name system we use to connect to websites, send emails, etc. The company that currently manages .org has announced that they will (potentially/probably) raise prices on .org domain names and renewals.

Currently, they are only talking about 10%/year increases, or $1/year. However, there is nothing that prohibits them from raising the fees higher or faster than that.

The critical thing to remember if you renew now for a long time, such as 10 years, is to use an email address that you will still have access to and use in 10 years for when the domain renewal reminders come in! We manage domains for all of our customers precisely to avoid domain names from accidentally lapsing, resulting in downed emails and websites.

Over the weekend our street lost power, two trees downed by a storm on power lines. The power company had us all working again two hours later and the county was out the next morning to clean up the trees in the road.

They left the trees out of the way but on the roadside overnight. A neighbor said that they were told anyone who wanted could come and get wood but that the county would haul it away in the morning.

Two things about me: I like power tools and I love fires. I was out of firewood and looking for an excuse to buy a chainsaw.

Two hours later I was up the street with a new chainsaw, my six and eight-year old boys and our van, all with our headlamps on in near-freezing weather. Two hours after that we had successfully cut up and hauled away about one rick’s worth of red oak. It won’t be ready this season but it will burn great next year.

Takeaways

  • Make Decisions: A proactive mindset in all areas of life yield results. In this case, I got a chainsaw and some firewood for the price of either.
  • Be Aggressively Proactive: Don’t wait for things to get done. Acting now brings about the end state you want tomorrow.
  • A little help goes a long way when there is a leader — someone who can articulate clear decisions and advance proactive action. I yielded the saw, but my boys actually did all the hard work of loading the van and stacking the wood at home. But, they needed clear direction first.
  • It takes work. All of us worked to get the firewood, it was hard and cold.
  • You make your luck. This was a fantastic opportunity for us, not just because I wanted a chainsaw but because I was able to have an experience with my boys that they will carry with them. It would have been family time regardless, in this case, before the storm ever came I knew I was looking for those moments with my boys, along with chainsaws and firewood. When it all came together it made for an easy call because I already knew what I wanted.

My wife sent me the link late Saturday night. I was exhausted from driving non-stop through fog and rain for 13 hours and then hitting the gym for a run to loosen up. The product was perfect, all the parts for a swing set my kids would love. It was almost too good to be true but the online store was set up on a major site that I assumed would back me up if it wasn’t real, plus my mother-in-law had found it and she’s pretty thorough. So I charged my AMEX and went to sleep.

Three days later I went to check on my order and the site was cleared out.

Ghost town.

No swing set parts for Christmas.

And I was out $173.

I contacted support for the major site who told me — in essence — they were not going to do anything and that I should contact my card company if I wanted resolution.

I popped open my American Express app on my phone — from a Starbucks between meetings — and told support what happened. Five minutes later a new AMEX was being overnighted and I was refunded my $173.

This was personal but there are lessons for leaders at any level of any organization.

Takeaways

  • None of us are too smart to fall for a scam. Not you, not me, no one. I catch a lot of this stuff for a living, but at the right moment I was still susceptible
  • Long-term risk mitigation matters. I use American Express because of their reputation for extraordinary customer service. When I chose the card I chose one that would back me up when it mattered. One great decision made years ago continues to protect me.
  • Vendors matter. I’ve had to work with American Express on fraud issues before. They’ve never let me down, that’s why I stay with them. Who is there for you when it matters?