Cyber Security Awareness Training

There is no greater peril to online companies than exposure to cyber attacks. Common as they are—and expensive—sinister cyber threats can often lead entire companies to collapse.

As a Sydney-based cyber security service provider, it saddens us to see online businesses being dismantled this way. With the right set of tools and strategies, most cyber attacks can be easily prevented.

The main problem is that many online businesses aren’t even aware they have been or are currently being attacked by cybercriminals. How do you defend yourself if you don’t even know there is a threat?

From early detection to early prevention, here’s how you can train your business team to be on the lookout for potential cyber attacks—and resolve them all.

Why is Cyber Security Awareness Training Important?

Statistically, the main reason company breaches happen can often be linked back to human errors. But, this is not necessarily due to negligence or malice but rather due to a lack of capability.

What sort of capability?

Well, firstly, the capability to recognise advancing threats. Here, we’re referring to company employees. Even the most well-intentioned employees can fall victims to a cyber attack whilst still lacking considerable insight to detect the exposure.

Phishers, for instance, can masquerade as employees, superiors, or potential business collaborators to get their hands on sensitive data. So, the ideal solution would be to stop them in their tracks before more significant damage occurs.

Should that fail, there’s also the capability of knowing when an intruder has already found their way inside your company data. You also have to understand how to report and deal with any surging issues, even with this knowledge. However, getting to the point of eradicating existing cyber attacks can be a difficult task.

What Should Cyber Security Awareness Training Focus On?

There are a variety of essential topics concerning cyber security awareness training.

Phishing, spam, malware, ransomware, and social engineering are some of the most common cyber security threats. You would need to thoroughly explain them to your employees and emphasise the variety of ways they can manifest.

One way to do this is to organise presentations and play videos or show your employees real-life examples of previous phishing scams. All employees need to be wary of suspicious online personalities, contracts, and offers. Therefore, you would do well to share insider tips with your team, so they better recognise obvious red flags.

Here are the areas in which cyber attacks can occur the most.

Password Security

Passwords are the first barrier that a potential intruder would encounter. Since passwords are so prevalent in all areas of our internet-based lives, their importance and strength may be often overlooked.

However, coming up with lacklustre passwords might seem like a non-problem to employees. Still, it may expose the company to greater danger. Therefore, suggest that your employees get creative with their password strength—and frequently change them. Showing your employees just how damaging cyber attacks can be could also help them take password strength more seriously.

Email and Social Media Dangers

There are unspoken guidelines on recognising email and social media red flags.

Namely, employees would greatly benefit from clear indications and policies which would inform them which link and email types they ought to avoid responding to.

Internal Guidelines

In the same vein, there should be clear guidelines regarding the protection of all company data. That means that employees should be regularly reminded what information must never be divulged to outside entities.

Immediate Reaction

Finally, you should trust your employees that whenever they encounter something problematic, they should immediately report it. Even when uncertain, they will always have a superior to rely on and won’t let suspicious activity pass unnoticed.

How Should Cyber Security Awareness Training be Organised?

While there are various ways to establish cyber security awareness, the following key points should be covered as a priority:

Compulsory Training for Newcomers

Every new employee should be immediately acquainted with the basic practices to ward off cyber security attacks. That way, all risks of committing rookie mistakes will be avoided, but the company will also paint itself in a more professional light.

Keep Up to Date

Follow cyber security trends in the attack and defence area and regularly upgrade the preparatory courses. Both older and newer employees should be informed of any critical issues as soon as possible.

Test, Test & Test Again

From time to time, you may decide to test your employees to see if they have missed a red flag or other notable vulnerabilities. If and when you do note a flaw, it is advised you point out the mishaps and offer the employee a solution on how to manage them better next time. The more you test, the more familiar your entire team will become with recognising possible online gravities.

Get Coached by Professionals

Hiring a potential training provider is the tie that binds your business to utmost safety. You needn’t look too far; at Essential IT, we’ve provided this service to countless companies in Sydney, Australia and beyond. Our team is one of the best companies that offer cyber security awareness training. With cyber security Sydney, you and your data are in safe hands.

Top 4 Benefits of Using Managed IT Security Services

Have you ever considered using managed IT security services for your company?

If not, you definitely should!

Considering how the world is becoming increasingly dependent on internet technologies, the number of potential targets for cybercriminals is undeniably rising. Cyber security attacks are, if anything, further improvements – both in terms of subtlety and insidiousness.

Consequently, a large number of businesses are focusing on strengthening the security of their networks, databases, and systems. Yet, this is neither an easy or a cheap task.

Consequently, many businesses are focusing on strengthening the security of their networks, databases, and systems. Yet, this is neither an easy nor a cheap task.

The viable alternatives include hiring a professional, internal cyber security team or training the existing IT services team, focusing on cyber security.

Again, whilst neat, both options are time-consuming and hefty, budget-wise.

For this reason, a potential solution would be to partner up with managed IT security services, also known as Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs).

What follows are the benefits that managed security services for IT can bring along.

1. Far More Cost-Efficient

The primary reason for resorting to managed IT security services is their cost. As it turns out, using managed IT security services is significantly cheaper than using other cyber security managers.

Whether the business considers constructing its own Cyber Security Operations Center (CSOC) or hiring outside professionals – who usually come as entire teams – the overall costs for such an endeavour to mid-to-large organisations might add up to above $1 million.

Additionally, since such teams can function as an ‘in-house’ service, the hiring business will become responsible for the individuals offering these services and the teams’ needs concerning constant technological upgrades.

MSSPs, on the other hand, offer their services for an astoundingly lower price.

They are hired at-need and can simultaneously collaborate with several businesses. Furthermore, the amount they charge is not fixed and depends on both the client and the particular task at hand.

Related Reading: Cyber security Sydney

2. Experience, Knowledge, Versatility

As we saw, MSSPs do not have one fixed client and constantly solve different kinds of issues. Because of this, they are typically much more versed in dealing with various cyber security problems.

They operate 24/7, constantly monitoring the entire system they are tasked with protecting. They are also able to locate any vulnerabilities across multiple platforms. Thus, they can point out potential weak spots in the business networks, data, or systems.

Following this – and due to their experience – MSSPs can easily recognise an advancing threat. Most cyber security attacks can be uprooted before they are even properly executed. This is partly because managed IT security services are good at tracking them.

Due to the regular occurrence of such attacks, MSSPs are equipped with a plethora of new and diverse technologies which internal cyber security teams may not be acquainted with. They are precisely the types of tools that will enable rapid detection and elimination of cyber threats.

These tools, along with the professionals’ expertise, can also guarantee that when a threat slips through and enters a business’ cybersphere, it will be dealt with as soon as possible before it causes any significant damage.

3. In-house IT Benefits

It is easy to see how not only a company but its internal IT service team can also benefit from hiring an MSSP.

Firstly, the internal IT services team will be relieved of the enormous responsibility of cyber security and will be able to delegate their time to other areas of the business.

Secondly, the business would not have to spend copious amounts of money training the in-house IT team to become a cyber security team.

Finally, suppose the internal IT team does need to learn something related to cyber security (for whatever reason). In that case, they will have some of the best experts to assist and mentor them at hand throughout the process.

4. Positive Side-Effects

Managed IT Security Services can prove beneficial in other, more general, ways.

For example, MSSPs need to be constantly up-to-date with all shifts in cyber security and data regulations, aspects that many companies might not always be aware of. The MSSP will help the company keep track and abide by such standards.

Similarly, businesses may often purchase IT security packs that are not used to their full potential. An MSSP would notice this and utilise all the company’s means at its disposal.

Time to Reach Out

So, what now? Joining forces with an MSSP is as easy as giving us a call. We provide excellent cyber security services to businesses in Sydney, where our offices are based.

If you’re interested in forming a strategic defence plan to protect your business, don’t hesitate to contact us today!

Why All Remote Businesses Should Use MFA

With each passing day, hackers and cybercriminals improve their tactics and strategies. Therefore single-factor authentication (SFA) is no longer the safest method of securing your data and accounts. The most used SFA is a simple username and password form, which can easily be cracked.

Another method commonly being used in Australia and throughout the world is multi-factor authentication (MFA) to add another layer of security. We’ve improved our clients’ cyber security tenfold by simply adding another layer of authentication.

This article will dive into how MFA may be appropriate for your business and why you should consider using it.

Related reading: Cyber Security Sydney

Multi-Factor Authentication Advantages

The major advantage of multi-factor authentication is that it increases the overall security of your business by ensuring your staff prove their identity with more than just a username and a password. As this report suggests, in 2020 businesses in Australia experienced a whopping 40% more phishing attacks than the previous year and have been receiving fraudulent messages 15 times more during the pandemic.

Implementing the usage of multi-factor authentication elements such as a fingerprint or a physically made hardware key increases your business’s likeliness of overcoming attacks from cyber criminals. Think of an SFA like a car with a seatbelt but without airbags to paint a picture for you. MFAs are cars with seat belts, airbags, and a 5-star ancap safety rating. Easy switch and worth the investment, right?

MFAs are particularly important given that cybercriminals can easily use tools to gain your team’s login credentials and access vulnerable data and resources. Simply by adding one more layer of authentication, hackers cracking tools and password sniffers can be rendered useless.

How do MFAs Work?

As you’ve probably got the gist of it, multi-factor authentication operates by requesting extra information for authorisation, like one-time passwords. They are abbreviated as OTP and are the most prevalent MFA elements that users will be used to. OTPs are four to eight-digit credentials that you may get by email, SMS, or even a specific mobile application.

When using OTPs, a new code is produced regularly or whenever a user requests a verification. The pattern of the code is constructed using a seed variable provided to the user when they make registration initially, as well as another element such as an adjunct counter or a time limit.

The majority of the MFA algorithms rely on 1 out of 3 forms of extra data that you need to fill out, such as what you know, what you own, and other personal things. This is sometimes known as personal authentication.

Finally, biometrics such as fingerprints or facial recognition can be used for extra-strong security. These are, evidently, very hard to counterfeit. Before we bore you with the technical nitty-gritty of MFAs, let’s move on to the more pressing question our clients often ask us.

When Should Our Business Use MFAs?

The answer to this will change depending on the exact needs of your business. Still, the baseline response to this question generally stays the same—MFAs should be used when digital resources are accessed from outside the physical walls of the office.

Think Emails, VPNs and accessing cloud storage from home. As for how often an employee should fill an MFA depends significantly on the sensitivity of the data you need to protect and will change on a case-by-case basis. We recommend some of our clients have their employees use an MFA once per day and every time a device is restarted.

Why do Remote Accessible Businesses Need MFAs?

The most common reason why businesses refuse to adopt an MFA is that they feel it is a little cumbersome and complex. However, suppose remote and in-house companies do not use a multi-factor authentication method. In that case, they increase the risks of data leaks and security breaches.

One Ponemon Institute study declared that, on average, the price businesses pay due to data breaches is $6 million. While not suffering as severe attacks, smaller firms do incur comparable monetary losses. It is also critical to acknowledge that multi-factor authentication is quickly going to be a big requirement to avoid costly repairing expenditures that could have been avoided.

Cyber security intervention programs do not compensate for those expenses. Furthermore, fixing your cyber security vulnerability does not compensate for the original deficit, for instance, if the sensitive data is breached or your technology has gone down for a lengthy period.

Another key reason is that remote workers are inherently more vulnerable to cyber-attacks because they might not actively work inside the organisation’s network anymore. Personnel might also utilise their gadgets to perform their tasks; thus, the company cannot have complete authority over their equipment. VPNs are progressively being used by businesses to get remote access to the internet. They’re usually safe; however, the VPN’s end-to-end encryption can be rendered useless if an attacker already knows the credentials.

The Bottom Line

With cybercriminals getting more advanced year in and year out, SFAs don’t cut it anymore. When dealing with valuable data and multiple remote teams, it’s imperative to add that extra layer of security to your business—MFAs do just that. If you are looking to make your business less vulnerable to cybercrime, Essential IT will be happy to provide a free IT assessment and implement MFAs into your business’s processes.

How To Avoid a Ransomware Attack

Ransomware is one of the more devastating ways your business can be affected by weak cyber security. Read to find out how to avoid it and get tips from the experts.

With work from home measures becoming more prominent Ransomware attacks have been a hot topic for many business owners over this past year.

Without getting too technical, a ransomware attack typically involves the insertion of malware into a device. The malware is designed to either corrupt, delete or steal data until a ransom for its restoration is paid.

As a leading firm in Sydney’s cyber security space, we have seen firsthand the increase of ransomware attacks. Some studies indicate Australia alone experiencing a 25% ransomware increase in 2021. Worse is that among the most affected are crucial industry sectors like health service providers, finance and legal services.

Your business should take the necessary steps to upgrade overall cyber security to avoid becoming a target. Luckily, we’re here to help. The team at Essential IT has put together some of the most effective things you can do today to mitigate your exposure to ransomware attacks.

Let’s break it down quickly.

A Good Defence is Your Best Offence

Ransomware’s biggest strength is its ability to quickly infiltrate, encrypt, and corrupt your data. This entails targeting and bypassing traditional security technologies that most businesses utilise—emails, attachments and any communication apps or programs that the company’s employees use regularly.

Having strong encryption for all files, educating employees on security awareness, constantly updating your software and adding new layers of security are the most important things you can do to prevent most attacks from happening in the first place. But that’s easier said than done, so let’s look into these things in more detail.

Out With the Old, In With the New

Update your hardware. Aside from using incredibly old software or never updating your systems, the team at Essential IT feel that hardware is often the most overlooked culprit in any ransomware attack. One of the most well-known ransomware attacks came with the WannaCry virus. This ransomware cryptoworm targeted the national health service in the UK.

Part of the reason why it was so successful was that the operating systems were attached to old machines that no longer supported any updates. This made it incredibly easy to hack the system and stay inside. Therefore, making sure your devices are up-to-date is equally as important as their actual systems being up-to-date.

Look to DNS Filters

Most employees and business executives are usually unaware of ransomware attacks before it’s too late. One of the ways they can infiltrate your business operations is through a virus disguised as business software or applications. This is where finding the right web filtering solutions is critical and where DNS filters can come in handy.

DNS filters are programs designed to aggressively block any unknown application, add-on, ads, files, or software. By utilising advanced AI technology, DNS filters can identify websites using suspicious programming such as deep fakes, which can help prevent you from interacting with illegitimate websites. If you’ve ever been emailed links with fake login scripts to programs like Microsoft 365, you may have been exposed to a form of ransomware attack. Often, these fake scripts are expertly crafted, and their legitimacy can be very difficult to prove from the naked eye. This is where DNS filters are highly efficient, as they will block these sites from ever loading on your computer in the first place. This is vital for protecting you from accidentally offloading sensitive information to criminals on the dark web. Our team at Essential IT have years of experience helping our clients identify the most suitable high-quality DNS filters for their businesses.

Backup, Backup, Backup

Another thing businesses often forget to do is back up their data. As IT professionals, we cannot stress enough how important this is to do. The best way to protect your organisation is always to have a plan B—which could be as simple as having another location to save your files. This is an excellent way to stop the spread of a ransomware attack. Having multiple places to store your data instantly reduces potential hackers’ leverage over you. After all, they can’t ransom you for data you have access to.

Most companies already do this, but it’s nevertheless highly recommended you find and use the best storage areas, additional local disks, and multiple cloud services. This way, you can prevent worse-case scenarios from happening, ensuring that your backup data is always safe in the event of environmental disasters or advanced cyber attacks.

Never Underestimate Proper Training

The call is coming from inside the house. This rings true in b-grade horror movies and many ransomware attacks. It is undeniable that employees often represent the most significant security risk to your company. Not out of foul play or ill-intent, just because we are all humans that make mistakes. Not only do one out of three everyday users not use passwords on their devices, but almost half of all employees believe that opening an unknown attachment is not cause for concern. Furthermore, this report shows that most employees regularly open attachments disguised as invoices or receipts and that 25% use the same cloud services at work and home.

Adequately training employees can prove a challenge, given the technical complexity involved with ransomware attacks and the behaviour necessary to stop them. However, it should be any business owner’s priority to train technologically illiterate employees—as an investment in this corner of their education will pay dividends when ransomware attack occurrences plummet.

The Bottom Line

Avoiding a ransomware attack requires a lot of time, commitment and resources. No one-and-done solution can instantly upgrade your systems, train your employees, buy you new hardware and improve security mechanisms for any sensitive files. That’s why being aware of the different kinds of threats ransomware attacks can present is how you can begin protecting your business.

Top 5 Business Cyber Security Threats

The digital world has expanded exponentially over the last few years; the raging COVID-19 pandemic catalysed the speed of which. Most people have become accustomed to working from home—and many businesses have had to tackle the numerous cyber security challenges that this change in work environment has brought.

Too often, our Sydney Cyber security team read reports and hear stories of businesses cutting funding to their cyber security budget—convincing themselves that their money will be better spent elsewhere. We can presume that this isn’t just occurring in the landscape of Australian business but also around the world. It could also be presumed that the ongoing financial impacts of lockdowns and the consequences that come with them are likely influencing these decisions.

In this article, we will briefly explain 5 cyber security threats businesses in all industries face—and explain why cutting funding to battle this rising threat is a big mistake.

Endpoint Security

When working from home, lack of endpoint security is the number one cyber security threat that can affect your affairs. It doesn’t matter if you’re a part of a small, medium or large business, or perhaps even a freelancer or trader working from home; strong endpoint security is necessary. Endpoint security assumes taking measures that will prevent any endpoints (laptops, phones, tablets etc.) from being penetrated through a network.

As many home offices are not equipped to handle or deal with security breaches with the same robustness as business places, many remote workers’ endpoints have been targeted by cybercriminals. Standard protocols are thrown out the window. Some employees are likely to use many devices on the same unsecured networks, significantly increasing the chance of a security breach. By ensuring your employees have the appropriate antivirus software installed on work/home devices and educating them on cyber security, you can greatly reduce your businesses exposure to cyber crime via endpoint breaches.

This brings us to the next most significant threat.

Mobile Malware

The exponential use of mobile phones, both in our personal and professional lives, has dramatically increased the odds of employees being targeted by mobile malware. A significant error is businesses allowing employees access to corporate networks via unchecked and unsecured mobile devices. These actions correlate to an influx of malware attacks occurring through employees’ mobile devices.

This is especially true when employees aren’t provided with antivirus software and made aware of the consequences various kinds of malware can have on the businesses they are working for. We have seen bank trojans, click fraud advertising, remote access tools (RATs), and ransomware attacks, some of the most common kinds of mobile malware.

Deepfakes

Deepfakes are no longer a cyber security threat belonging to futuristic sci-fi movies and conspiracy theorists—they are a real threat. They can be very damaging to unsuspecting businesses. In layman’s terms, a deepfake is an AI program that analyses a person’s photo/video history to plant that image onto another person or thing—essentially falsifying their actions and speech. If done correctly, the attacker can impersonate an employer, for example, which can lead to damaging consequences.

Through deepfakes, cybercriminals may be able to give harmful instructions to employees, facilitate phishing attacks, or aid and abet hackers to storm and overrun security systems.

Phishing Attacks

While representing a much newer cyber threat, phishing attacks are the cyber version of identity theft. Phishing is when a hacker emails a person, employee or boss with a slightly altered email to gain access to personal or sensitive information.

Phishing made up one-quarter of all data breaches in 2020 and a staggering 78% of all cyber crimes in the last two years. Businesses should be aware that phishing schemes through cloud applications are one of the most common ways hackers can access company data and information.

Cloud Jacking

Much like the name suggests, cloud jacking is the process of infiltrating a business’s cloud computing service. Most cyber security experts will note that, besides phishing, this is one of the most frequent ways hackers gain access to a business’s sensitive information—seeing as many businesses may have cut funding to the security services in place protecting cloud services.

Hackers can gain information about employees’ sensitive data and company communications or manipulate operations and logistics, eavesdrop on important meetings, or even take over an entire cloud system. More concerningly, they can also plant phishing schemes into various documents that other employees have access to, helping spread malicious files through the workplace.

Conclusion

It may seem obvious, but protecting your company from cyber-attacks should be a priority for all businesses in 2021. Although spending may need to be cut across the board, Essential IT recommends it is not at the expense of your cyber business security—especially during this unprecedented time of remote work.

Finding the right Sydney IT security service is just the start of your journey towards a better business. To protect your business from cyber security threats, we have mentioned and many more, contact a member of our team today.

We’d be happy to help!

4 Myths About Managed IT Services: Busted

When it comes to any form of managed services, especially managed IT services, it’s easy to understand the frustration of people being burned out from poor quality experiences in the industry.

In a nutshell, managed IT services include a group of professionals tasked with providing infrastructure, network, management, security, organisation, and customer support and reporting to a person or organisation. It’s a relatively new practice, so it’s common for some providers to bring lacklustre work—and thus a bad reputation—to the entire industry.

Because of this, there are a lot of myths out there that perpetuate the idea that managed IT services are a bad investment. And while this is not an episode of Mythbusters, it’s essential to recognise fact from fiction when it comes to hiring the right kind of service.

Myth #1: Managed IT Services Are Too Expensive

It’s common to hear how hiring a provider will break the bank for you or your company. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Managed IT services can work within the scope of your business, but they can also work as a third-party service.

More importantly, they primarily function on a pay-per-month basis, significantly less costly than hiring an entire IT department. Standard pricing ranges between $150 and $200 per month to manage a whole system operation. When you compare this to the average industry cost of hiring an employee at $50 per hour within your company framework, this range for monthly pricing is a bargain—and that’s without factoring in office space, training expenses and any other costs associated with in-house employees!

While prices vary significantly based on the type of work you want to be done, they will still end up being substantially lower than having to build an entire department from the ground up—and a drop in the ocean compared to what a security breach or IT failure could cause your company. Ransomware attacks cost businesses an estimated $20 billion in 2020 alone.

Myth #2: Managed IT Services Mean the End of IT Departments

Apocalyptic scenarios such as ‘X will overtake X’ or ‘this change will remove his/her job’ are pretty common in most workspaces, especially when it comes to IT outsourcing. This is untrue because managed IT services are infrequent compared to whole departments. Still, they are also statistically minuscule in comparison.

A survey by CompTIA highlights this fact. Only 6% of all companies that hire a form of managed IT provider choose to fire their in-house IT departments. While they may be more affordable, most businesses stick to what they know best. Moreover, there’s no reason for both the departments and providers not to coexist since they will most likely be doing different tasks. 

Myth #3: Managed IT Services Cannot Integrate With the Workplace

Similarly to the previous myth, the fear of some form of internal confusion or conflict arising because a company is hiring third-party providers is unwarranted. As with most new services, it takes time for employees to understand the role that managed IT services carry out within a business—and 9 out of 10 times, it has nothing to do with the work atmosphere. It will have no measurable effect on work culture.

Moreover, there’s a learning curve for both the current employees and the provider—whether that’s teaching how to use a system, helping manage logistics, giving technical support when needed, or anything else in-between. Hiring a managed IT service will have little effect on the day-to-day operations of other employees—rather it will affect only specific hardware and software infrastructure.

Myth #4: Managed IT Services Will Take Over Control Of Business Operations

Managed IT services only deal with the amount of control and authority given. Even still, most operations have to do with upkeeping various kinds of hardware, keeping up with software updates, and whatever tasks the company provides. While a good managed IT service can always chip in with any recommendations they would make for business to be quicker and more efficient, the hierarchy of authority remains a top priority.

In a business, there should always be a clear split between responsibilities and roles that each cog fills in the machine, aiming toward the mutual goal of raising revenue or increasing profits. On their own, managed IT services pose little to no risk of ‘taking over’ any significant business operations without prior approval, just like no one employee would have the power to overthrow another.

In Conclusion

Most businesses will need to learn and adapt to the new reality of mixing business operations with technology—with many already having been forced to play their hand due to the unforeseen circumstances of COVID. With thousands of employees now working from home due to the pandemic, cybercrime is up 600%.

Perhaps this statistic will be what helps businesses overcome these common myths about the managed IT services—enabling them to embrace all the strengths this industry can bring to their business.

How Much Should You Be Spending on Managed IT Services?

One of the most common questions businesses trying to establish an IT service will ask themselves is ‘how much money should we allocate to it.’

While a basic Google search may come up with multiple answers based on median incomes and general city statistics, it’s not a cut-and-dry answer. As with most things, the cost of managed IT services relies heavily on several factors.

Knowing how much to pay for managed IT services means understanding them first.

Specifically, what will affect the spending?

What Are Managed IT Services? 

Think of managed IT services as an all-round service for all your tech-related problems. It’s usually a company tasked to monitor, maintain and support a system of users. It’s like having an in-house IT department, but it often comes at a much lower cost.

While managed IT services may vary in what they offer for the price; they almost always include monitoring and maintenance, cyber security, account and asset management, proactive support (for users and hardware), and frequent reporting.

They’re essential for two reasons.

One, they not only regularly update your systems to help with seamless workflow integration, but they also keep your data backed up and safe. According to IBM, data breaches are on the rise and are estimated to cost businesses $3.86 million on average as of 2020. Managed IT services help run your departments’ data and keep your network stable while you’re using them. More importantly, a good managed IT service will help fix any ongoing tech-related issues at a moment’s notice.

Two, they significantly lower the costs in comparison to having to hire full IT staff. Depending on the arrangement, a managed service can cost anywhere between $100-$300 per month. In comparison, having an entire IT department can cost a business upwards of $50 per hour per person. This does not include training, equipment, or any other office-related expenses.

How Much Do Managed IT Services Cost?

There’s no fixed rule to this—however, there are different ways to estimate how much managed IT services will cost your business. Knowing which one is most applicable to your business is essential, as it could help you save on IT costs in the future.

Fixed Fees

Much like it says on the can, a fixed fee is where an IT service asks for an exact amount of money to be paid each month. This tends to be the most common type of fee, which can be customised depending on the chosen package or further negotiations.

Typically, most arrangements can cost anywhere between $100-$200 per month. What you get at this price may vary, but it usually includes the aforementioned list of services. Beyond this general budget estimate, additional fees and costs are dependent on your needs. However, this all-inclusive model is usually fit for most businesses looking to have a stable and efficient tech service.

Per Hour

Suppose you’re not a fan of using a service for a prolonged period or would prefer to pay only when it’s necessary. In that case, a per-hour charge for managed IT services is something you can opt for.

For example, suppose you’re experiencing issues with your software. In that case, calling an IT service to help deal with your problem will be a short-term solution that can cost anywhere between $50 and $100 per hour. If the problem in question isn’t a prevalent one, then this is a much more affordable form of service than having to pay every month—however, prices can go through the roof if there are numerous problems or recurring tech issues in your business.

Retainer

Managed IT services can also come in the form of a retainer. This is the process of hiring a service for an estimated amount of time at a reduced rate that’s been negotiated beforehand. This is an excellent choice for any business that needs an annual check-up, a company needing to fix a specific problem, or a business needing to deal with a repetitive problem without unloading a whole service for it.

Retainers are some of the more expensive purchases a company can make—but also potentially some of the most affordable ones, depending on how much the business has budgeted beforehand. Often retainers are used by much larger companies, who need high-quality IT services on standby to fix errors before they balloon up into more significant problems.

Final Word

If time is money, then allocating a good amount of both is necessary when planning to onboard managed IT services onto your business.

While there’s no exact estimate for calculating the exact costs of having a managed IT provider, having one, in general, is what will ensure productivity and profitability for your company. Whether it’s a monthly fee or pay-per-work, ensuring that your company is protected and functional should be on top of your priority list.

Don’t think of managed IT services in terms of dollars, but rather in terms of safety and longevity!

To discuss your managed IT support needs, contact us today.

Essential Steps to Finding the Perfect Managed IT Service Provider

good IT Managed Service Provider (MSP) will quickly establish itself as a vital and cost-effective extension of your in-house team. Select them well, and you can rest assured your network infrastructure and mission-critical applications will always offer peak performance.

However, with so many providers to choose from, how do you distinguish the exceptional from the average or ineffective? We’ve come up with a few handy tips to help you search for the perfect external information technology support partner.

Look for a support partner committed to developing long-term client relationships

Effective managed IT services should present solutions that will meet your current needs and develop a long-term roadmap outlining the steps that will help your network play its part in growing your business and getting you to where you want to be in, say, five years.

This roadmap should be a flexible work-in-progress, with those leading it possessing the agility to adapt to changes in your business or the landscape more generally and incorporate new technological developments.

A commitment to ongoing, straightforward, honest communication between provider and client is key to enabling the ongoing IT infrastructure improvements that will help fulfil your business ambitions over the long term.

This all largely hinges around trust. You should have confidence that your chosen provider is working in your best interests by offering impartial, dependable advice based on best practices. Due to their expert knowledge, the power balance is stacked firmly in favour of the provider. Trust will, for instance, reassure you that you’re not being encouraged to invest in expensive solutions you don’t need for the financial gain of your provider.

Of course, trust must be earned, and this can take some time. Therefore, the other significant advantage of finding an MSP committed to long-standing relationships is their opportunity to win your trust over time through the consistent quality of service, a customer-centric approach, and a demonstrated ability to meet and exceed your expectations every time.

Make sure they’re willing to take the time and get to know your business

Because every business has different needs, tailored IT services and support approach is an absolute must. Suppose a potential provider looks to be offering you a cookie-cutter solution. In that case, it might be time to continue the search! There is no one-size-fits-all solution that could meet the unique needs of every business.

Once engaged, your chosen partner should commit to developing a thorough understanding of your current network set-up, business needs, challenges and future ambitions. Regardless of budget, resources, or your work’s nature, a solution can be developed to resolve issues and boost performance.

Make sure your chosen provider starts by conducting a thorough audit of your current network set-up. These insights will make sure they can make the most appropriate recommendations for your network management in the future. This might include server upgrades, changes to your data backup process, or new approaches to your use of cloud computing, amongst many other things.

Another vital element of the getting to know you process involves asking about your future business objectives, vision and goals. That way, plans can be made to solve immediate problems and set you up for future success.

A proactive approach is essential

Although having access to 24/7 technical support from an expert team committed to resolving urgent IT issues quickly and effectively is important, your external support partner should be doing so much more in support of your business. Improving your network to boost performance and preempt problems before they arise is equally crucial.

One of the best things about MSPs is that they live and breathe everything IT, every day. This means they are continually across all the latest innovations in an incredibly fast-moving space. This is excellent news considering enterprise technology has come a long way in recent years and is a more affordable and realistic option for small and medium businesses today than it has been in the past.

Therefore, choose an external IT support provider with the high-level technical knowledge needed to appropriately and proactively advise you on the latest industry-leading technologies to consider.

Find a support partner that can support your ‘new normal’ way or working

An increasingly remote workforce is likely to demand new approaches to security, device management and collaboration.

The modern MSP will insist on robust security measures as standard due to an awareness that network security is more critical post-2020 than it ever has been before. This results from the new and emerging risks associated with having more people accessing business data from more devices and locations.

Substandard cyber security measures bring real threats that can wreak havoc over your network and cause significant financial losses and reputational damage associated with data loss. Making sure you have the latest strategies and tools in place to protect your critical information and applications and allow for business continuity and swift disaster recovery in the event of a breach should therefore be a top priority when looking for your ideal IT support partner.

On top of that, businesses with remote workers will require effective platforms that enable their people to collaborate from geographically disparate locations as they did when they were all working from the same location.

Microsoft Office 365 has proven itself to be a popular solution during the past 18-months, supporting mobility and collaboration by offering secure access to business data from any device or location. A good MSP should be able to make intelligent suggestions for the most appropriate platform for your business and the approach to set-up and implementation that will make sure you get the best out of it.

Essential IT and our team of experts can proudly claim to offer all of the above and a wide range of additional support services! We’re always happy to chat, so give us a call today and ask us how our strategic thinking, long-term outlook, and proactive approach can benefit your business.

4 Problems a Quality Managed Service Provider Can Solve

There’s a wide range of reasons a business might choose to engage the services of an IT Managed Service Provider (MSP). The unfettered access to an entire team of experts passionate about information technology.

Whether it’s everyday services and support around technical glitches that you’re looking for, or the implementation of an entire system redesign, an MSP has the potential to eliminate network headaches and set your business up for future success. The list of problems they can solve is endless. Below we have listed just four.

Supporting the changing IT needs of a growing business

Start-ups and smaller businesses often entrust their networking needs to a team member whose core area of expertise is not IT. However, as a business grows, its IT requirements become more complex. Without expert input, team members may find themselves ill-equipped to effectively meet the changing demands, meaning a greater risk of technical glitches, costly downtime and security breaches.

This is why an MSP can prove to be such an invaluable investment. They can work with you to provide 24/7 technical support to see any issue resolved quickly and effectively. All it should take is one quick phone call. An expert will take ownership of your problem, fixing it with the support of an entire team of experienced IT professionals.

Once resolved, your MSP will take further steps to identify the root cause, implementing a solution that will prevent the issue from recurring in the future.

Your MSP will also take a more proactive approach, conduct ongoing network monitoring, and suggest improvements to ensure your infrastructure remains primed for peak performance.

Often as a business grows, it tends to end up with a network comprising various outdated, legacy systems, which don’t necessarily complement each other in the best way. With innovations constantly becoming available, an expert IT support provider can help you consider the best alternatives by cutting through the technical jargon.

And it doesn’t stop there! Tell your MSP where you want your business to be in five years, and they will work with you to develop a plan that will support this goal.

Consolidating and streamlining your ‘new normal’ approach to working

In 2020, businesses were forced to think on their feet and implement new strategies to enable collaboration and data access due to the sudden requirement for most employees to work from home.

In what continues to be such an uncertain time, business owners have often scrambled to find solutions to see them through lockdown periods, using a combination of tools and platforms such as Gmail, Zoom, Dropbox, Google Hangouts, Asana, Wrike, and the list goes on.

However, with COVID-19 set to be with us indefinitely, it’s time to ask yourself whether the measures you put in place initially will remain fit-for-purpose in supporting your remote workforce over the long term.

One solution clients have found particularly beneficial is Microsoft Office 365, which essentially incorporates elements of all of the above tools as part of one single platform. In particular, its Teams function offers secure access to business data and applications from any device or location, with many additional features such as virtual meetings, live document editing and instant messaging.

If Microsoft Office 365 isn’t something you’ve considered already, it’s worth giving some thought to now. It offers a comprehensive suite of collaboration, storage, and access tools. It is also likely to provide a more cost-effective approach by negating the need to pay license fees for multiple different platforms to get the same result.

Your MSP can work with you to identify the right platform for your needs – whether Microsoft Office 365 or otherwise – before supporting migration, implementation, set-up and user education.

How the situation with COVID-19 evolves from here is anyone’s guess. For that reason, agility will be critical. Currently, we are in a stop-start period, with lockdowns and their associated restrictions changing daily. Ask your MSP to help you consider a two-tiered approach – one process for periods when more workers are on site and another for implementation in a snap lockdown, with workers once again required to stay home.

Your network set-up must allow for business continuity, whatever the current pandemic situation.

New normal = New security risks. Are you prepared?

In addition to enabling a longer-term approach to your ‘new normal’ way of working, an MSP can also help you rethink your security measures to avoid cyber attacks and data loss. It’s the perfect (and arguably most important) time to do this, given the new and emerging risks associated with the increased demand for remote network access from an increasingly disparate workforce.

Consider requesting a security-specific network audit. This will shed light on any current gaps in protection and inform recommendations for improvements. Alongside any additional security measures put in place as a result of this audit, your MSP can also conduct ongoing network monitoring, detecting and resolving potential threats before they can cause serious havoc.

Alongside all of this, an MSP can make sure you have an effective disaster recovery plan to enable a speedy recovery in a cyber security breach.

Helping you get the most out of the cloud

The cloud has established itself as the go-to for many businesses regarding secure, scalable and affordable data storage solutions. But with so many possibilities – public, private, and all manner of hybrid solutions – it can be overwhelming for the uninitiated to figure out the most appropriate use of the cloud for their business.

Instead of placing the idea of utilising the cloud into the too hard basket, why not ask your MSP for their advice on cloud migration? They’ll help you navigate any compliance issues that may dictate how and where certain information can legally be stored and create a cloud solution with the right mix of elements to fulfil your distinct business objectives.

Fundamentally, entrusting the management of your network and mission-critical applications to an external expert means less stress and more time for your people to focus on their areas of passion and expertise. This will help ensure the delivery of quality products and services and allow you to concentrate on further evolving your business.

Four Key Ways to Revamp Your Managed IT Services

As any business evolves, it’s crucial to ensure your Information Technology solution evolves alongside it. As the demands of your business change, so too will the demands on your network.

Suppose you have, for instance, experienced a period of growth or are expecting one soon. In that case, you’ll probably want to upgrade your systems appropriately to ensure you have the infrastructure in place that will best support your changing needs.

Your existing system might have been fit for purpose when supporting a smaller operation, but once the increased pressure of a growing company is placed upon it, you could find yourself running into problems if you don’t commit to some necessary changes.

And it’s not just the changing demands of your business itself that you need to factor into your IT decision-making. If the past eighteen months have taught us anything, it’s that we need to be agile enough to make quick and intelligent choices in the face of whatever changes are thrown our way by the current global situation,

Whatever your reasons for exploring how you might change things up, if you haven’t already this might be a good time to consider bringing in some external expertise, particularly if you don’t have access to high-level IT skills in-house.

Whatever you do, don’t wait until you start seeing the effects of a system that’s no longer up to the job. You want to avoid frequent and lengthy downtime at all costs due to the knock-on effect on productivity and customer experience. The best position you can take is to pre-empt whatever changes your business is likely to experience and start planning for them.

Below, we’ve listed four areas of your IT approach that every business should be considering paying some attention to right now …

An overarching look at your current infrastructure, and how it might need to change

If you know you need to make changes but are clueless about where to start, a managed IT service solution could be the way to go.

Before you make any decisions, ask your potential or chosen provider to conduct a thorough audit of your current setup. From this, they should be able to use their learnings to make informed recommendations based on your business’s current and anticipated needs.

They may, for instance, discover your hardware and software are either outdated or that individual elements of your network system are not working together effectively. This can often be the case where a small business has managed its own IT needs in-house. Systems have evolved out of necessity rather than being built on a solid strategy.

Don’t risk putting your business at a disadvantage when it comes to functionality and efficiency, particularly when you consider your competitors are likely already utilising at least some of the latest technologies.

Managed IT service providers live and breathe everything IT and remain constantly up-to-speed on the latest innovations in a fast-moving space. It might be that only one or two significant changes are needed to bring your system up to scratch or, at the other extreme, a complete overhaul or digital transformation might be the best recommendation.

If budget is a concern, consider which aspects of your network support your most business-critical functions. It is these aspects that you should prioritise investment in.

The good news is that enterprise technology is now much more cost-effective and attainable for small to medium-sized businesses. This includes a plethora of automation tools that can be deployed to eliminate routine and time-consuming tasks while enhancing productivity and profitability.

An external IT partner with high-level technical expertise should be able to advise on the new, industry-leading tools you might want to consider and outline the benefits to your business.

Once you’ve worked with your external partner and have agreed on the upgrades required to improve your network to a level that will work for you, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to think about it again for the next five or ten years. You should be having ongoing conversations with your IT support provider, with further changes suggested and implemented whenever required and appropriate. It’s all about taking a long-term, forward-looking approach.

Consider taking advantage of more cloud solutions

If this isn’t an area you’ve explored to any great extent in the past, it should be on your radar by now. It’s no exaggeration to say cloud computing is the future of IT, thanks to its ability to offer a secure, scalable and affordable platform for storing all your critical business data.

Turning to the cloud means you can say goodbye to the expensive overheads and frequent frustrations of maintaining a physical on-premises server.

You may have avoided the cloud because compliance issues legally require you to keep certain sensitive information housed on-site in the traditional way. But this doesn’t mean a cloud environment is not an option to support other aspects of your business operations.

There are so many cloud options available, from public to private cloud, to combinations of both alongside the retention of some physical elements. Your IT support partner will be able to look at your distinct circumstances and come up with the best hybrid managed cloud solution for you.

This means you’ll enjoy all the advantages of the cloud (where appropriate) while maintaining that extra level of compliance and control over particularly sensitive business data by having it stored physically on-site.

Is your COVID approach still fit-for-purpose?

The global pandemic will no doubt have impacted every business in some way. At the time, many will have experienced a mad scramble to get something in place to allow operations to continue despite the unprecedented circumstances. While we may well have been anticipating these steps would be nothing more than a temporary fix at the time, this has turned out to be a false assumption.

A year-and-a-half in, and it’s starting to look like COVID-19 will change the way we work for the long haul. Ask yourself whether the measures you put in place during that initial panicked period in early-2020 will remain up to the task long-term.

Further changes may be needed to ensure your people can continue to work effectively from remote locations using various mobile devices while enjoying uninterrupted, secure access to all the company data and programs they need to do their jobs.

If you haven’t yet fully committed to a platform such as Microsoft 365 – which has proven its worth as a vital tool for supporting collaboration amongst geographically dispersed teams – this could be the time to invest. The suite of Teams tools it contains offers secure access to your business data from any device or location, with other features including virtual meetings, live document editing and instant messaging.

Depending on how the situation with COVID pans out, you may even consider a two-tiered approach … one to be used during the more COVID-normal periods and another to be implemented in the event of a snap lockdown, as we have seen happen recently up and down the country. In such uncertain times, flexibility is critical.

Your managed service provider will work with you on these different approaches and support you and your team to adapt as things change.

You can never be too secure!

A rapidly evolving IT space, alongside new risks associated with our ‘new normal’ way of working, means it’s impossible to revisit and rethink your security measures too often. You will run the real risk of potentially debilitating damage – operationally, financially, and reputationally by failing to do so.

Security 101 – check all your hardware and software is up-to-date, as older versions are much easier to hack. Beyond that, your external IT partner can conduct a security-specific audit of your network and implement any extra preventative measures to boost protection.

Over and above this, they will provide ongoing monitoring and raise the alarm where a threat is detected. If managed the right way, your IT partner should be able to resolve the majority of potential issues before they have the chance to escalate and cause any serious disruption.

When it comes to security, at Essential IT, we always come back to our motto of “Process, people, technology.” With these three crucial elements aligned in the right way, you can be confident of having the cyber security defences your business requires.

And don’t forget, a significant part of any commitment to security and disaster recovery plan should include a process for regular data back-ups to avoid crushing data loss and put you in a position to make a strong recovery and quickly regain business continuity in the event of an attack.

If you’re serious about continuing to evolve your business and taking it to the next level, the functionality and efficiency of your network infrastructure should be one of your top priorities. Talk to one of the dedicated Essential IT team members about our Managed IT Services Sydney to find out more about how we can help.