What is a VoIP Phone System?

What is a VoIP Phone System?

VoIP Phone Systems for Business

If you are a small business owner, chances are your business started out with maybe one or two phone lines from your local phone company.  As businesses grow and start adding new employees and diversifying into different departments, the need for a more robust phone system becomes apparent.  Simple analog phone lines will no longer get the job done.  And managing personal or company owned mobile phones can quickly become cumbersome.

Yes, there are analog phone systems available to companies.  However, these systems are quite dated by today’s standards, requiring a lot of on-site equipment to handle all connections.  However, there is a newer more modern system for handling company phone calls and office communications, known as a VoIP phone system.

VoIP stands for Voice over IP, which refers to the system’s ability to convert analog (voice) communications for transport over existing Ethernet networks.  Essentially, a VoIP phone system can be added to an office network by taking advantage of existing cabling.  Because of this flexibility, implementing a VoIP phone system is a quick and  cost-efficient way of adding multiple phone lines to an office.

And the cost savings doesn’t stop at implementation.  On average, companies can save 30% to 50% on their monthly phone bills. Why are VoIP phone systems more cost efficient?  It is because with traditional analog lines, the service provider typically charges a fee per line, as each line is a discreet phone number.  However, a VoIP phone system typically only requires one phone number and relies on an IP PBX, a virtual switch box that routes phone calls to its intended extension.

VoIP Phone System Features

Yealink DECT Desk Phone

Along with being cost efficient to maintain and operate, VoIP phone systems offer additional benefits that traditional analog phone systems may not offer:

  • Multiple Extensions
  • Mobile and Desktop Apps
  • Auto Attendant / Digital Receptionist
  • Accessory and Headset Interoperability
  • Speakerphone and Intercom Modes
  • Call Routing and Ring Groups
  • Conference Calls
  • Easily transfer calls to coworkers
  • Voicemail Transcription and more

If you are considering upgrading your phone system, call us at 912-216-4050 and we will help you decide which features you may be of interest to you.  We have experience implementing professional phone systems for businesses in the Greater Savannah Area and beyond.

 

The Troubles of Delayed Maintenance – An I.T. Horror Story

The Troubles of Delayed Maintenance – An I.T. Horror Story

We are celebrating spooky season with a horror story of IT done wrong, a cautionary tale warning about the perils involved when a company does not consider their IT infrastructure a priority.  Hear the tale of a company that decided to do business without a Managed IT Service Plan in place.

It is no secret that Allegiance Technology Solutions is a Managed IT Service Provider.  For those unfamiliar with that term, Managed IT Service refers to outsourcing your IT support and maintenance, rather than hiring internal IT employees.  Depending on the size of your business, Managed IT Service plans provide a cost-efficient technology support system that makes sense from a financial standpoint.  With a good Managed IT Service Provider, you can have peace of mind that the technology your employees rely on will be supported and maintained, so you can focus on growing your business.

However, there are companies out there that can’t justify the monthly overhead costs associated with a Managed Service Plan.  They believe they can’t afford the monthly cost, or they don’t see the value or benefits of having a Managed Service Plan in place.  So they put off such things as required maintenance or scheduled updates.  Although a company can ride for some time without proper maintenance, eventually their luck will catch up with them, and problems occur.  A mission critical application crashes, or hardware starts to fail.  Eventually, something is going to fail.  And it usually happens at the worst time possible, right when you need it to work the most!

The Case of the Reluctant Accountant

Case in point: XYZ Accounting Services, a fictitious name for a real Certified Public Accountant company, recently experienced such a problem.  XYZ prepares taxes for many clients, and heavily relies on a specific application to process, record and file tax documentation on behalf of their clients.  The application was running on a very old server running Microsoft Windows Server 2012.

Yeah, the Windows Server version that was based on the horrid, unbeloved Microsoft Windows 8.  Shivers!

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 without a Managed IT Service Plan

Remember this interface?  The one that Microsoft wants us to forget?

XYZ had contracted our services many times over the years to fix one-off technical problems, choosing to pay our emergency support rate rather than agree to a monthly contract.  Despite several conversations about the benefits of a Managed IT Service contract, XYZ stubbornly refused our monthly service, thinking it was cheaper to pay the emergency fee on an as needed basis.

On a recent emergency support call, it was discovered that the hard drives in their aging server were starting to fail.  After several hours of work, we set up a band-aid solution for them so they could continue to work.  We warned the head of XYZ Accounting Services that their server was beginning to fail, data might become corrupted, and the hardware needed to be replaced ASAP.  He asked for a quote to replace the server.

After receiving the quote, XYZ decided the cost was going to be too much to handle.  And the aging server continued to limp along.  Until one day, a few months later, it could limp no more.

Again, Allegiance Technology Solutions was called upon to provide emergency support.  But the server had served its last record.  It had computed its last calculation.  It was time to release that old server to the great junkyard in the sky.

The server had to be replaced, there was no band-aid solution that was going to work this time.  After lengthy discussions, and a quick turnaround from our support team, a new server was being built while the data from the old server was being recovered.  And a new Managed IT Service contract with Allegiance Technology Solutions was born.

Finally, the new server was in place.  The application was installed and the data had been restored.  But after working for a few days, XYZ employees realized that not all of the data they were expecting to see was there.

Duh! Duh Duhhhhh!

Gasp!  Our horrors were confirmed!  The data was corrupted!

Our team went back to work, doing a deep scan of the failing hard drives.  We were able to use advanced data recovery tools on a Linux computer to recover more data, which was eventually restored to the new server.  XYZ was finally back up and running!  And they will be able to run for many years with a new maintenance agreement in place.

If Only…

If only XYZ Accounting Services had chosen to use us as their Managed IT Service Provider BEFORE there was a problem.  We would have had daily backups ready to restore their data.  We would have performed proactive hardware and software maintenance, increasing the reliability and longevity of the system.  We would have been able to advise XYZ about upcoming hardware replacements way before there was a failure.  And their emergency and weeks of downtime would have been completely avoided.

Life After Death

We are happy to say that XYZ is now a Managed IT Service client.  XYZ has learned a valuable lesson in technology maintenance, that it is something that should not be ignored.  Now their emergencies are no longer emergencies, as they have the service and expertise of Allegiance Technology Solutions just a phone call away.

Now, XYZ’s computers are protected by world-class antivirus software.  Server data is now being backed up daily.  We have remote access tools installed in case their staff needs quick access to tech support.  We have 24-hour security monitoring in place to alert us of security issues and real-time server health.    And now they have a proper network with professionally installed Ethernet cabling, enterprise class wi-fi access points, and internet protected by industry standard firewalls.

What About Your Business?

If you own a business and are interested in protecting your technology assets, increasing security, or just want to avoid a catastrophe like the one above, contact us today and we can discuss a Managed Service Plan that fits your business needs.  Until then, stay safe out there!

 

 

 

How Does the Dark Web Impact Small Businesses?

How Does the Dark Web Impact Small Businesses?

Identity theft is an unfortunate occurrence that is all too familiar with most business owners, but do those individuals know where the compromised data will end up? Often, these business owners are unaware of the virtual marketplace where stolen data is purchased and sold by cybercriminals; a place known as the “Dark Web”.  An article on Lexology explores what the Dark Web is, what information is available for purchase there and how it impacts small businesses.

What is the Dark Web?

The Dark Web, which is not accessible through traditional search engines is often associated with a place used for illegal criminal activity. While cybercriminals tend to use the Dark Web as a place to buy and sell stolen information, there are also sites within it that do not engage in criminal activity. For many, the most appealing aspect of the Dark Web is its anonymity.  Our previous article, Shining Light on the Dark Web describes this little-known section of the internet in greater detail.

What is for sale on the Dark Web?

Information sold on the Dark Web varies, and includes items such as stolen credit cards, stolen account information from financial institutions, forged real-estate documents, stolen credentials and compromised medical records. Even more alarming, the Dark Web contains subcategories allowing a criminal to search for a specific brand of credit card as well a specific location associated with that card. Not only can these criminals find individual stolen items on the Dark Web, but in some cases, entire “wallets” of compromised information are available for purchase, containing items such as a driver’s license, social security number, birth certificate and credit card information.

What is stolen personal information used for?

When stolen information is obtained by criminals, it can be used for countless activities like securing credit, mortgages, loans and tax refunds. It is also possible that a criminal could create a “synthetic identity” using stolen information and combining it with fictitious information, thus creating a new, difficult to discover identity.

Why are stolen credentials so valuable?

Stolen user names and passwords are becoming increasing popular among cybercriminals, but why? Identity thieves will often hire “account checkers” who take stolen credentials and attempt to break into various accounts across the web using those user names and passwords. The idea here is that many individuals have poor password practices and are using the same user name and password across various accounts, including business account such as banking and eCommerce. If the “account checker” is successful, the identity thief suddenly has access to multiple accounts, in some cases allowing them the opportunity to open additional accounts across financial and other services. 

Why should small businesses be concerned about the Dark Web?

Since the Dark Web is a marketplace for stolen data, most personal information stolen from small businesses will end up there, creating major cause for concern. With the media so often publicizing large-scale corporate data breaches, small businesses often think they are not a target for cybercriminals, however that is not the case. Cybercriminals are far less concerned about the size of a business than they are with how vulnerable their target is. Small businesses often lack resources to effectively mitigate the risks of a cyberattack, making them a prime target for identity theft as well as other cybercrimes.

At a recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) conference, privacy specialists noted that information available for purchase on the Dark Web was up to twenty times more likely to come from a company who suffered a data breach that was not reported to the media. The FTC also announced at the conference that the majority of breaches investigated by the U.S. Secret Service involved small businesses rather than large corporations.

How can you reduce the risk for your small business?

To reduce the risks of a cybercriminal gaining access to your company’s information or network, you must ensure you have proper security measures in place. The FTC has a webpage that can assist with security options for businesses of any size.  In addition, it is crucial that your employees are properly trained on security, including appropriate password practices.

Allegiance Technology Solutions provides 24-7 Cybersecurity Monitoring services for our Managed IT Service clients. Our service will proactively monitor the Dark Web for you and notify you immediately when your data is found to be compromised.  There is minimal effort needed to protect your business when you partner with us.  We will automatically monitor for your organization’s email domain on the Dark Web. If we find anything floating around out there, you can rest assured that you will be notified, and we will be there to help protect your personal and company data.  When it comes to the security of your company data, we want to provide you peace of mind so you can focus on other areas of your business.

Shining Light on the Dark Web

Shining Light on the Dark Web

What is the Dark Web?

By now, you may have heard of the Dark Web.  Perhaps it was featured on a news broadcast or it came up during a conversation with your techie friends. The Dark Web refers to the infamous private corners of the internet that are only accessible through special software that mask your IP address. On the Dark Web, you can do just about anything, from joining a book club to hiring an assassin. Maybe you want to play a chess match online? Yes, you can do that! Looking to purchase stolen credit card information? You’re in the right place!

 

What makes the Dark Web so… dark? After all, there is much more to it than illegal activity, much like the activities you could engage in on the public internet.

The Dark Web gets its fame for a few good reasons: anonymity and privacy. While innocent activity does occur on the Dark Web, its notoriety comes from the crime that occurs there.

Criminal Activities

Cybercriminals access the Dark Web routinely. In fact, many rely on the Dark Web to obtain the info they require to carry out their crimes. Cybercriminals also come to the Dark Web to sell or exploit the information they have already compromised. Which brings us to the real problem: Cybercriminals are buying and selling stolen data to carry out a plethora of crimes.

For those of us who understand how to protect their identity online, we may feel confident that we’re doing everything properly to prevent our data from ending up in the wrong hands.  But how do we know with certainty that we’re safe? There’s only one true way to find out: A Dark Web scan.

What Is a Dark Web Scan?

Simply put, a Dark Web scan searches for breaches and compromised credentials for your online accounts.  This type of scan can help identify if your email address has been involved in any data breaches and what information was compromised in that breach.

The value of performing a Dark Web scan is undeniable. Uncovering that you’ve been involved in a breach allows you to take steps to ensure that your compromised data isn’t used against you or on your unauthorized behalf. Although it is impossible to recover your stolen data once it hits the Dark Web, there are actions that you can and should perform following the discovery.

If you are interested in seeing if your accounts have been compromised, contact us so that we can perform a one-time Cybersecurity Risk Assessment for your business.  Not only will we perform a Dark Web scan, we will also survey your business environment, compile the data and present you with a report of issues found. Keep in mind that 24-7 Cybersecurity Monitoring services are included in our standard IT Managed Service plans.

Your Data Is found on the Dark Web – Now What?

If you discover that your data is available online, what should you do to protect yourself?  Change your passwords immediately following news of a data breach for any sites and services that you use. Once a breach is identified, changing your password on that account and any other account you may have reused that password on is critical.

Moving forward, passwords should never be reused across accounts. All passwords should be complex, difficult to guess and reasonably long. You may want to consider a few options:

  • Create a passphrase, which many consider best practice.  A passphrase is a series of words that may make no sense as a sentence, but will be harder for cybercriminals to crack due to its length.  Passphrases are much easier to remember than a series of random letters, numbers and symbols.  Here is an example passphrase to help you visualize the idea: Water-Orange-Telephone.
  • Remembering several difficult to guess passwords is no easy feat. A password manager is highly recommended for added security and convenience. This will allow you to store all your passwords in one place, requiring you to remember only one strong, difficult password.
  • Two-factor authentication is also a great added security feature to confirm your identity. 2FA, also known as MFA or Multi-factor authentication, will require a second form of identification aside from your password to gain access to your accounts.  This might come from a code sent as a text message to your phone or email, or in a dedicated authentication app.  If you decide to use an authentication app, use one from a trusted service provider, such as Microsoft Authenticator or Google Authenticator.

A One-Time Scan Will Not Protect You

A Dark Web scan can help you identify current risks and data breaches you have already been involved in, but what happens next? Maybe you were involved in multiple data breaches. You found what data was compromised and you changed your passwords as a follow-up. Does that mean you won’t be involved in another data breach next week? Or perhaps you were already involved in another data breach that has not yet been brought to light. If you don’t continuously search the Dark Web, you are putting yourself at risk of the unknown. The next time your data is compromised, it may go unnoticed or unused for days, months, or even years.  If you aren’t constantly monitoring, you are potentially leaving your data up for grabs for cybercriminals to use at their leisure.

Dark Web Monitoring – The Protection You Need

Allegiance Technology Solutions provides 24-7 Cybersecurity Monitoring services for our Managed IT Service clients. Our service will proactively monitor the Dark Web for you and notify you immediately when your data is found to be compromised.  There is minimal effort needed to protect your business when you partner with us.  We will automatically monitor for your organization’s email domain on the Dark Web. If we find anything floating around out there, you can rest assured that you will be notified, and we will be there to help protect your personal and company data.  When it comes to the security of your company data, we want to provide you peace of mind so you can focus on other areas of your business.

Cybercriminals are relentless and show no signs of slowing down. They will continue to wreak havoc on every industry where they can profit. Much like cybercriminals, the Dark Web is not going away either. Remember, after all, it’s a place where you can innocently join a literature club, or you know, steal someone’s entire identity.​

 

 

5 Reasons Data Backup and Recovery are Crucial for Businesses

5 Reasons Data Backup and Recovery are Crucial for Businesses

Data backup and recovery have developed as crucial components for digital security and stability in today’s technology-driven world for both individuals and businesses. Over the years there has been sudden growth of data and an increasing dependence on information stored on personal technological devices. Whether it be photos, documents, or critical business knowledge, the potential loss or corruption of personal data will lead to catastrophic consequences for individuals or companies.

Five reasons why data backup and recovery services are necessary for businesses and individuals:

  • Protection against data loss – Backup and recovery systems ensure that your data is safe and secure in the event of a system failure, natural disaster, or cyber-attack, protecting you from data loss and potentially catastrophic consequences.
  • Business continuity – For businesses, data loss can have a significant impact on daily operations, customer service, and revenue. A backup and recovery system ensures that your business can continue to operate even in the event of  data loss.
  • Compliance requirements – Many industries and businesses have regulatory compliance requirements that mandate data protection and retention. Backup and recovery systems ensure compliance with these requirements.
  • Cost savings – Data loss can be costly, in terms of both time and money, as it can result in lost productivity, lost revenue, and additional costs associated with recovery efforts. A backup and recovery system can help reduce these costs by minimizing downtime and speeding up recovery times.
  • Peace of mind – Backup and recovery systems provide peace of mind, knowing that your data is safe and secure, and can be restored quickly in the event of a data loss.

In today’s era where most information is now paperless and all online, keeping data safe has become obligatory for both individuals and businesses in many similar ways.

At Allegiance Technology Solutions, we are experts at data backup and disaster recovery.  In fact, backup and disaster recovery services are included in our standard IT Managed Service plan.  If you aren’t sure about your company’s data retention policy or have questions about your backup and recovery systems, contact us or give us a call at 912-216-4050.  We are here to help.​

 

 

5 Key Things to Know About Cybersecurity

5 Key Things to Know About Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a critical and continuously growing field that focuses on protecting computer systems, networks, cyber threats, malicious activities, and much more. Now more than ever, technology is present in almost every aspect of our daily lives, and cybersecurity is an essential element of protecting people or company’s data.

The five phases of dealing with cyber-attacks:

  1. Threats: Cybersecurity threats come in many forms, including viruses, malware, phishing attacks, identity theft, and data breaches. Understanding these threats can help you take proactive steps to protect yourself and your information.
  2. Prevention: There are several measures you can take to prevent cybersecurity threats, such as using strong passwords, keeping your software and operating system up to date, and avoiding suspicious links and attachments.  For more information, refer to our other security blog posts and learn some ways to stay safe online.
  3. Detection: It is important to monitor your computer systems and networks for signs of potential cybersecurity threats. This may involve using security software and regularly checking logs and other data for suspicious activity.
  4. Response: In the event of a cybersecurity breach or attack, it is important to have a plan in place for responding quickly and effectively. This may involve isolating affected systems, alerting relevant parties, and conducting a thorough investigation.
  5. Education: Education and training are key to preventing cybersecurity threats. It is important to stay informed about emerging threats and to educate yourself and others about best practices for staying safe online.

Cybersecurity is an ongoing process that requires vigilance, education, and the right tools and strategies to protect your computer systems, networks, and data from potential threats.

Allegiance Technology Solutions provides 24-7 monitoring services for our Managed IT Service clients. Our service will proactively monitor the Dark Web for you and notify you immediately when your data is found to be compromised.  We service the Greater Savannah GA area, so contact us online or call us at 912-216-4050 if you are interested in using our cybersecurity protection services for your business.