Your SMB’s 5-part checklist to the latest technology

SMBs are becoming increasingly reliant on technology to drive revenue, engage with customers, and grow their business. Still, the vast majority of these companies simply aren’t investing enough cash in the latest tech. In fact, 63% of SMBs only invest 1-24 percent of their annual budget in technology.

If you’re ready to change your company’s relationship with technology, here are a few good places to start.

Make your website mobile-friendly

Four out of five consumers use smartphones to shop for products and services online — a number that will continue to grow over the next few years. This is why it’s important to optimize your website so customers can access information on their mobile devices.

Making your web pages mobile-friendly will increase the overall customer experience, keep consumers engaged for longer, and reduce your bounce rate.

Related Content: Growing your business? Here are 3 things to consider.   

Increase your social media presence

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow you to engage with customers on a more personal level. This technology is revolutionizing the way all companies market their products and engage with consumers. And with 2.77 billion users around the world, it’s really no surprise that social media has such an impact.

Use live chat software to communicate with customers

Live chat tools let your customer service staff communicate with consumers online. Use this technology to discover customer pain points, solve problems, and reduce the costs associated with other communication methods like telephone customer service.

“Thankfully for marketers, there has been a huge shift in how we use live chat today,” says marketing expert Neil Patel. “It’s actually becoming one of the best ways to nurture customers and drive sales fast. Nobody appreciates waiting on hold for 15 minutes or sitting by their email to get a response days later.”

Incorporate collaborative tools into your business

Collaborative technology allows all of your employees to work together on projects, even if they’re away from the office. The latest software integrates with your social media pages, email accounts, and mobile apps so you can improve productivity and automate various day-to-day tasks.

“From tracking who made the latest changes to a document, to how the document was before the changes, to tagging a colleague to review the document, it’s never been easier to manage a project,” says Lifewire.

Keep data in the cloud

The cloud lets you share, store, and manage your data in a virtual space away from your office. The result? You can improve data security and collaboration and access valuable information from any device no matter where you are.

Related Content: 5 next-level cloud productivity benefits

Final thoughts

Want to grow your company? The technology on this checklist provides your business with a solution. Mobile-friendly websites, social media platforms, live chat, collaborative tools, and the cloud are all technologies that can streamline workflows, improve productivity, and enhance communications.

Want to keep reading? Check out 5 signs you’re ready for an IT update.

3 reasons your SMB should migrate to the cloud

With cloud computing, the sky’s the limit. No longer will you need to spend thousands of dollars managing your IT systems. Instead, you can benefit from dedicated and automated IT support and create a virtual office where you access data on your desktop, laptop, or mobile device.

If you’re still debating the cloud, this might help: Experts predict that cloud computing will be worth $162 billion by the year 2020. If you’re not somewhere in those billions, then where will you be?

Here are three reasons your SMB should migrate to the cloud.

1. Reduce costs

Operating in the cloud saves you money. You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment to keep your business running — a cloud service provider will take care of that for you and host your equipment offsite. This means you’ll experience a reduction in power usage, maintenance needs, and support costs. Just think about all the cash you could save!

Long story short, cloud computing proves to be significantly cheaper when compared with a self-managed, on-premise solution. Sounds pretty great, right?

44 percent of medium businesses and 41 percent of small businesses said the ability to cut costs was the top benefit of cloud computing.

2. Prevent data loss

Imagine if a hurricane swept through your company’s neighborhood. Or a fire damaged your onsite equipment. What would happen to your data?

With cloud computing, all of your information is kept in a virtual space, so you can protect it from natural disasters or unforeseen threats. This is incredibly important. For example, consider healthcare. Obtaining important information about patients could mean the difference between life and death.  Having access to your data (even during a natural disaster) is a top priority.

Think of cloud computing as an insurance policy for data loss prevention. You get peace of mind knowing a managed cloud service provider is safeguarding your valuable information. It’s no wonder, then, that so many big companies have invested in this technology. Apple, Netflix, Pinterest — these are just some of the brands that use cloud computing.

3. Better collaboration

Cloud computing lets your entire workforce collaborate on projects without the need for multiple pieces of hardware. Employees can access documents and resources from the cloud and share them with their colleagues in real time — which boosts productivity and mobility.

Coworkers can obtain important information in one place and share files within seconds — capabilities any team can benefit from.

But the collaborative features don’t stop there. In some cases, cloud computing even lets you track your employees’ progress as they work on various projects. But don’t worry. Not everyone can access your valuable information. You can set up access controls that limit certain members of staff from reading and sharing sensitive data.

“Cloud computing is made for collaboration and file-sharing,” says Nick Ismail, writing for Information Age. “Cloud computing lets your team edit files in real time and access them from anywhere in the world. Your team can be anywhere in the world and still work together.”

These are just three benefits the cloud can bring your business. And if you leverage a managed cloud service provider, you can save money during migration, uncover a best-fit cloud solution for your team, and migrate to the cloud in less time. Invest in this technology and you won’t be sorry.

HIPAA compliance in the cloud? 3 things you need to know.

We often hear from clients that they have concerns about maintaining their HIPAA compliance mandate should they want to transition their IT to a cloud-based approach. And, of course, many of their concerns are valid. HIPAA compliance matters.

The cost of non-compliance includes steep fines and potential legal penalties. And, what’s more, a huge drop in confidence from the consumers who trust your company with their Protected Health Information (PHI).

Here are 3 things you need to know about maintaining HIPAA compliance in the cloud.

Related: 3 steps to HIPAA security rule compliance

Business associates have mandates too

There are a variety of cloud solutions: public, private, and hybrid. And each will have their own unique set of characteristics. But no matter what solution a HIPAA-regulated company decides to leverage, one thing doesn’t change.

Any potential partner who will store PHI is considered a business associate by HIPAA. This means you’re required to execute an agreement with that associate that outlines permitted uses and disclosures.

Likewise, should that business associate sub-contract out to another entity such as a third-party data center, they must also execute an agreement with that entity that outlines the same permitted uses and disclosures. Both entities are then liable for maintaining HIPAA compliance.

The good news is, when a company’s data is stored in a third-party data center, that center will likely have military-grade security that massively restricts physical access. What this means in terms of remote access to said servers depends on the specific type of cloud solutions the healthcare provider engages.

It’s likely that the right cloud services provider already has systems and policies in place that meet HIPAA compliance.

Related: HIPAA omnibus rule

You still need to restrict access

Moving your clients’ PHI into the cloud doesn’t relieve you of your liability to protect that data. That includes the electronic protected health information (ePHI) the cloud service provider handles.

You still need to instate proper levels of password complexity to control access to ePHI on the cloud servers. Also, you need required standards on how often employees update their passwords. This should include policies on logging out of unattended devices. Basically, any policies you kept in place at the office-level need to remain in place using the cloud. This is key to maintain your HIPAA compliance in the cloud.

Related: Medical ransomware attacks on the rise

Periodic audits should be standard to your approach

This one is not only mandatory to maintain your HIPAA compliance in the cloud, it should also be obvious to your business associate. As part of the business associate agreement you create, you need to be sure that your cloud service provider and their subcontractors perform periodic audits of their systems and approach to ensure compliance.

Such audits have the power to save both you and your business associates from expensive violations.


HIPAA compliance in the cloud may sound complex. But with the right partner and the right approach, you can enjoy the conveniences of cloud computing and maintain HIPAA compliance at the same time. If the subject sounds like a lot to take on, consider seeking out professional advice and help.

How to Get an A+ in Network Security for Your School

Schools are responsible for not only the education and well-being of students, but also the protection of private data pertaining to everything from health reports and psychological profiles to social security numbers and contact addresses.

As the guardians of so much information, schools should always focus on superior network security.

We’ve come up with three major network security features you can implement in your school to shore up potential ongoing vulnerabilities.

1.) Powerful Passwords

For many students, creating passwords at school can seem like another exercise in creativity. Do any kind of basic survey and you’ll find ineffective passwords that range from the doomed “Password1234” to the sarcastic “JohnnySucks.”

In addition, many teachers lack the technological prowess to instruct students in proper password complexity.

Think of an inadequate password’s effect on your network security like this: You can have an adequate lock on your front door, but if you’re leaving the key underneath the doormat it doesn’t do much good. It’s too easy.

A lazy password is a hacker’s best friend.

The most basic way to secure your network is to create longer, more complex passwords. Complicated passwords should include a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols, and emoticons.

Business Insider suggests creating a password by using the “full-sentence technique.” Start with a single sentence, like “I bought salmon for $20 at the grocery store.” Then, just use the first letter of every word and add in the symbols.

So, the resulting phrase “Ibsf$20atgs” would be a random password that you can remember just by memorizing one sentence.

The longer the sentence, the better, because hackers and/or hacking programs have to work harder when passwords are longer.

Utilizing a password manager to keep track of your stockade of complex passwords is a great way to combine the ease of accessing your various web services as if you had one password with the security that password complexity and variety provide.

Related: The Best Password Managers of 2018

2.) Additional User Authentication

A school network faces a huge challenge in that it is often in contact with a countless variety of devices. Not only do the students and faculty have access to the network via district-provided hardware, but the continued growth of the BYOD (bring your own device) trend means that students are connecting through personal phones, tablets, and laptops created by different brands, which also run on different operating systems.

To further increase security, we suggest implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA). In a nutshell, MFA is the process of identifying an online user by validating two or more claims presented by the user, each from a different category of factors.

We already use multi-factor authentication in the real world. One example is when you go to apply for a passport. The passport application requires a minimum of two forms of identification, such as a state driver’s license and a birth certificate. MFA for your network works the same way.

Your school network should establish a multi-factor authentication process that involves:

a.) The complex password we mentioned earlier.

b.) Something the user has on hand, like a cell phone or tablet.

c.) Biometrics like a fingerprint or optical or voice recognition software.


When the MFA process involves a device on hand, there is an inherent check-and-balance to the system, allowing the network to authenticate the device being used.

When the MFA process involves biometrics, your network can cross-reference requested access with the biometric data on hand.

Whichever way you and your managed service provider choose to utilize multi-factor authentication, it is guaranteed to make it more difficult for intruders to gain access to your network, and to keep your data more secure.

3.) Updated Infrastructure

Many schools have hundreds of computers and other web-accessible devices operating on their networks. And often, the network itself is comprised of legacy equipment such as outdated servers, computers, and other devices.

Often this outdated infrastructure has security flaws. Or else it can no longer stand up to the progressive threats of malware and ransomware. It can also be chock full of bottlenecks and bandwidth issues that slow performance across the network.  But that’s an issue for another post.

Related: Why Traditional Firewalls Can’t Keep up With Modern Trends

For many schools, a migration to the cloud is the best way to shore up vulnerabilities while simultaneously fixing the performance problems plaguing their network.

Rather than making a high capital investment in replacing the vulnerable outdated equipment, switching to cloud computing means taking on a lower monthly cost for superior performance and security.

It can even bring about more powerful web filtering tools that block access to harmful or inappropriate sites across the network.

Report Card Time

Do your school passwords pass the test? Are your students and faculty using multi-factor authentication to ensure the safety of your network? And is that network up to modern security standards? If so, you pass with flying colors. If not, it’s definitely time to chat about how to get your grades up.