If you ask an IT pro when is the best time to upgrade, they’ll tell you, “Yesterday.”
New business applications roll out on a monthly basis, and it’s harder than ever for a business to maintain the hardware and software they use, especially if they are straddling the line between on-premise and cloud-based services.
Cyber security is also a concern: 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses, and 60% of these targets go out of business within six months of an attack.
Retiring legacy hardware, securing routers, managing updates, and working with your employees to lower the risks will prepare you for a smooth 2019 and help protect you from costs associated with lagging behind the technology curve.
Retire Legacy PCs and Servers
After January 14, 2020, Windows 7, Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 will no longer be supported.
What does this mean for your business?
For better or worse, inaction is not an option if you want your business to continue to function beyond 2019.
As the support window closes, hackers will leverage known vulnerabilities before they disappear into the sunsetted OS. Windows 7 is everywhere, and cyberthieves have had plenty of time to learn it and exploit it.
Companies can’t afford to be stubborn when it comes to adopting new technology, especially desktop operating systems, which are generally your weakest point because your employees use them every day.
This year will be critical for keeping your company’s IT secure.
It’s also a good time to assess how you’re currently using technology and how it serves the needs of your business and employees. While the growing pains of tech change are unavoidable, you could end up saving money by eliminating redundant machines or consolidating your servers to the cloud.
Every business should plan to retire outdated machines before the end of 2019. At the hardware level, there’s potential for a domino effect of disruption as you transition from Windows 7 to Windows 10, especially if your hardware isn’t compatible. If this is the case, you’ll have to upgrade your desktop computers to models that can run Windows 10. Additionally, Windows-based applications have newer versions that exist in the Windows 10 environment, but the interface and functionality could be different. Even if your employees can keep using the same applications, their workflow could be totally changed.
Depending on whether or not your data is hosted locally, you can transition from a 2008 SQL Server to a cloud-based one. If you’re unsure about transitioning from an on-site server, now is a good time to evaluate the benefits of moving to the cloud, especially from a maintenance perspective.
Secure Your Small Office and Home Office (SOHO) Routers
In May of 2018, the FBI advised individuals with home and small office routers to reboot their devices. You might laugh at the idea of a federal agency telling us to fix a problem by turning a device off and on, however, the malware infections attributed to Russian hacker groups, Fancy Bear and APT 28, were anything but funny.
Prior to the FBI’s directive, malware called “VPNFilter” had infected 500,000 small office and home routers in 54 countries. The malware itself was designed to brick routers, which could result in an entire office or city being totally cut off from the internet.
The consequences of an attack like this keep IT pros up at night, and this is only the beginning.
Security researchers will continue to discover and disclose vulnerabilities in routers while hackers race to exploit them before companies can release a patch.
What does a router attack look like for a small business?
Hackers access your router through an existing vulnerability and rewrite its code so they can use the device to spread the malware to other businesses. You need a unified security approach to protect yourself against this type of threat. That means your business is leveraging antivirus, anti-malware, anti-phishing software, and web-based applications that provide additional cyber security.
You also should invest in a firewall. For a typical Vermont business, a firewall might cost $2000 over a five-year period. An enterprise firewall not only protects you from known attacks, it also learns as other users around the globe get hit by hackers. Firewalls can inspect everything from incoming email to all the traffic visiting your website; you can use them to block websites or configure it to only allow certain ones. Overall, investing in router security will improve the well-being of your business.
Professional Development and Digital Training for Your Employees
When you get ready for bed at night, do you check to make sure all your doors are locked? That windows are closed? That the garage door is down?
You probably do, because you know that it only takes one forgotten lock to risk a home invasion. What if you lived in a home that had a bunch of entryways that were public knowledge but you couldn’t see?
This scenario is analogous to your employees and their desktop computers. All the digital tools they use and programs they run are susceptible to attack.
Employee training does a lot to minimize risk. The curriculum should include both cyber security training as well as workshops exploring best practices for the technology and applications you use. The more your employees know, the more likely they are to notice when something is wrong. This means they won’t click on that phishing email or download that attachment from an unknown contact.
Training also improves employee productivity. If your employees aren’t optimizing utility from tools like Slack, Google Docs, or Office 365, then you aren’t getting a true return on your investment.
The above action items are essential for your business’s success in 2019. You can use the year ahead to align your business with IT best practices, and invest in training and equipment that will support growth well into the 2020s.