While the internet provides endless opportunities for learning, socializing, and self-expression, it also exposes students to various risks. And cyberbullying is one of the most prevalent risks present. As parents or adults with children in our lives, it is our responsibility to create a safe online environment for our children and equip them with the necessary tools to combat and navigate cyberbullying.Continue reading
As another school year approaches, it’s essential for parents to not only focus on buying school supplies and organizing schedules but also on safeguarding their children’s online activities. Cybersecurity is a critical concern, and students can be particularly vulnerable to the risks online. Take proactive steps to educate and protect your child’s online presence, so that you can ensure their safety and provide them with a secure environment for learning.Continue reading
‘Tis the season for love. And with it comes the opportunity for cybercriminals to pitch their romance scams. Millions of people fall victim to these fraudulent schemes every year. In a romance scam, a person posing as a potential romantic partner uses online dating websites, social media platforms, or other online channels to build a relationship with their target, gain their trust, and ultimately trick them into sending money or personal information.
While anyone can fall prey to a romance scam, the risks are particularly high for people who are looking for love online. And at this time of year, you’re reminded of how “important” it is to be in a relationship through marketing. In many cases, scammers will create fake profiles. This includes using pictures of attractive people, and crafting elaborate stories to win over their targets. They may even spend weeks or months building a relationship. They work their way up to asking for money, making it difficult for victims to recognize the scam until it’s too late.
How Do Romance Scams Work?
There are several common scenarios in which romance scams occur. For example, scammers may claim to be in the military, working overseas, or traveling for business, and ask their targets to send money to cover unexpected expenses or emergencies. In other cases, scammers will claim to have fallen in love with their target and ask for money to help them travel to meet, or to cover expenses related to a business venture.
Regardless of the specifics, the end goal of a romance scam is always the same: to trick the victim into sending money. And once the scammers have what they want, they disappear, leaving their victims heartbroken and out of pocket.
Protect Your Heart – And Your Wallet
To protect yourself from a romance scam, be cautious when meeting people online.
Here are some tips to help you stay safe:
♥️ Be wary of anyone who contacts you out of the blue, especially if they are located overseas.
♥️ Do not share personal information – your full name, address, financial details, etc. – with anyone you haven’t met in person.
♥️ Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person, even if they claim to be in a crisis.
♥️ Do your research. If someone seems too good to be true, that’s likely the case. You can run a background check on them using their name and any other information they’ve provided.
♥️ Use reputable dating websites that have security measures in place to protect users from scams. Ask friends or look online if you want to remain anonymous in your research.
♥️ Always trust your gut! If something seems off or too good to be true, it probably is.
Remember, if you suspect that you are being scammed, the best thing to do is to stop communicating with the person immediately. Then report the scam to the relevant authorities. This could be your local police as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
Romance scams are a growing problem. However, by being vigilant and following some basic safety tips, you can protect yourself from falling victim to these fraudulent schemes. Cybersafety means protecting your world in every aspect – that includes your heart and your hard drive!
Make sure your personal and business assets are fully protected by contacting DataGroup Technologies, Inc. (DTI) today! Call us at 252.329.1382 or drop us a line at email@example.com to see how we can help you Simplify IT!
This article originally appeared on the Breach Secure Now! blog.
Managed IT Services vs. In-House IT Specialists: The Pros & Cons
Managed IT services providers (MSPs) or in-house IT specialists – which should you trust to handle your IT infrastructure? This is a question that every business – from startups to small businesses to large corporations – must answer sooner than later.
Determining which solution is best for your business is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly – but we can help. We’ll break down the roles of both in-house specialists and MSPs, examine what each can offer your business, and discover what their limitations might be. After identifying the pros and cons of both, you will be able to make a better-informed decision about the direction that will best suit your company.
IN-HOUSE IT SPECIALISTS
Pros of Having In-House IT Specialists:
• Onsite Availability: Arguably the biggest benefit of keeping your IT management in-house is the ability to have immediate support whenever you need it. From routine issues to major crisis management, an in-house IT team will always deliver the shortest response time. There’s a certain degree of security in knowing that if there’s a technical issue of any magnitude, you can speak with an onsite IT professional within seconds.
• Business-Specific Expertise: Over time, an in-house IT specialist will develop a deep knowledge of the company’s internal infrastructure and systems, which better equips them to be able to troubleshoot issues.
• More Control Over Assets: Some businesses might find it preferable to maintain greater control over their IT infrastructure. Keeping your IT services in-house allows you to oversee everyday IT operations easily.
Cons Of Having In-House IT Specialists:
• Higher Personnel Costs: Hiring internal IT staff can become very expensive. In addition to the employee’s salary, you’ll likely be on the hook for their health benefits (at least in part), paid time off, 401k, payroll taxes, and costs/resources associated with training.
• Off-the-Clock Issues: Let’s assume that your IT personnel works an average of 8 hours a day from Monday through Friday. What about nights, weekends, and holidays? If an unexpected issue should arise when members of your IT team are unavailable to respond, it can lead to a serious loss of productivity due to operational downtime.
• Limited Experience and/or Knowledge of Technological Advances: In many cases, an in-house IT specialist – while skilled in many areas – may not have access to the best and latest technologies. In the IT support world, ongoing training is absolutely critical.
Unfortunately, most small-to-medium-sized businesses aren’t able to support the cost of continual training for their in-house IT team.
Occasionally, an internal IT employee may encounter a problem with which they’re unfamiliar. In this case, an outside IT professional may need to be consulted to resolve the issue, which will incur additional costs for the company.
• Lack of Redundancy: Businesses all too often become overly reliant on a single in-house IT specialist who holds the “keys to the kingdom,” so to speak. All that knowledge residing with one person who can leave whenever they want is potentially catastrophic.
Not only is the company risking the loss of valuable data should the in-house IT specialist “go rogue,” but it’s also setting itself up for an unnecessarily challenging training process for the employee’s replacement in the event of their departure.
• Inability to Implement Best Practices: Businesses that choose to manage their own IT integration have to bear the costs, maintenance, and support of the software and hardware they will use. Limited budgets for these expenses may prevent the company from using the latest and best technologies, which may in turn hamper overall performance.
MANAGED IT SERVICES
Pros of Managed IT Services:
• Round-the-Clock Network Monitoring and Remote Support: One of the greatest benefits of partnering with a managed services provider is that you get network monitoring and remote support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
• Calculable Costs: For a flat-rate monthly fee – often less than the salary of a single in-house IT specialist – you gain an entire team of dedicated engineers with the know-how to manage all your IT needs.
Apart from paying for the services you’ve agreed upon, you won’t have to be concerned about incurring additional expenses due to training staff, certifications, ticket systems, or remote monitoring and management.
MSPs have already invested in the latest enterprise management software, virus protection software, management servers and workstations, and redundant backup solutions – so you don’t have to!
• Service Level Agreement (SLA): This legally binding document lays out exactly which services the MSP will provide for you and what your business’s responsibilities in the partnership will be. The SLA assures you that the MSP will deliver maximum uptime, minimum response time, and consistent quality of service.
• Broader Skill Base: Since they often work with a wide variety of clients spanning many different industries, MSPs are better equipped to recognize and solve more complex and unusual issues than your typical in-house IT specialist.
Most problems can be quickly and efficiently resolved remotely. Managed services technicians are continually learning, training, and expanding their knowledge and capabilities, in order to be able to provide you with the most effective and up-to-date IT solutions.
• Vast Array of Services: MSPs offer a wide range of IT services to meet your business’s specific needs, including (but not limited to) monthly server maintenance, daily server backups, offsite replication, and antivirus licensing/management.
• Shared Access to Modern Technologies and Resources: Managed services providers often partner with IT vendors to get better pricing and deals. Memberships in IT organizations allow MSPs easy access to resources that might not be available to the general public (including your in-house IT specialists).
MSPs typically utilize highly advanced software for monitoring and maintenance – software that would likely be too expensive for a smaller business to afford for their IT functions alone.
• Free Network Consultation and Business Analysis: The initial consultation – offered at no cost or obligation to you — will help the MSP identify which network solutions could best address your business’s specific needs, based on your current infrastructure and future IT objectives. A reliable provider will strive, even prior to the onboarding process, to understand your business and determine exactly what your users need to help achieve the company’s goals.
• Scalability: Managed services providers allow you to scale up to higher levels of service to handle peak demands as your business grows.
• Greater Accountability: When your IT infrastructure is being managed outside the company, the risk of internal sabotage is greatly reduced, if not eliminated.
Cons of Managed IT Services:
• Upfront Costs: Your company’s network applications, internal networking, and software products will need to support cloud integration in order for an MSP to provide its services remotely. Upgrading your current IT infrastructure to cloud readiness may incur significant up-front costs. While this may be tough on your budget at first, the overall cost savings, in the long run, more than make up for the initial investment.
• Limited Onsite Availability: Not having an IT professional onsite may translate into longer response times, which could prove problematic in the event of an emergency. Minimum response time, as defined in the SLA, can assure you that your concerns will be addressed as soon as possible based on the immediacy of the need.
• Minimized Control of Assets: Compared to keeping your IT management in-house, outsourcing services to an MSP will, by necessity, prevent your company from having total control over your infrastructure. This may be more important to some businesses than others. Ultimately, most companies simply want reliable and secure IT services at a price that fits their budget.
Like any other business strategy, the decision about whether to employ an in-house IT team or outsource IT services to a managed services provider is crucial. Managed IT services may not be the best option for every organization.
If your business has only a few endpoints or computer users, it may make more sense to keep everything in-house. If your company has a much higher number of users, a managed services provider may better be able to offer your business the technology and tools it needs to enhance the company’s network, productivity, and overall success.
If you decide to partner with an MSP, the role of an in-house IT team does not necessarily need to be eliminated. Combining the knowledge of internal IT staff with the expertise of outsourced IT professionals can create a collaborative relationship that ultimately ends up benefiting the business – and isn’t that the point?
As a result of increasing cybersecurity concerns, some companies are choosing to outsource the entire security function of their IT, including archiving, data storage, and mobile device management. This hybrid approach allows businesses managing their IT in-house to free up staff to focus on IT projects that will help their company generate revenue.
Whether your business is looking to minimize expenses, boost earnings, streamline processes, or all of the above, your company should consider partnering with a managed IT services provider.
DataGroup Technologies, Inc. (DTI) offers IT services and solutions to businesses of all sizes and industries. We strive to provide significant value and outstanding service to all of our clients by acting as your business’s IT group. If your company or organization could benefit from managed IT services, please give us a call at 252.329.1382 today!
10 Ways Commercial Construction Companies
Can Benefit from Managed IT Services
From conception to completion, many commercial construction projects involve hundreds, if not thousands, of people working from various locations. Each step in the process, including the design and management of each project, is aided by technology.
The commercial construction industry is unique in its technology needs, with CAD programs, construction project planning, procurement of materials, and estimating software among the essential tools that supervisors, estimators, and sales teams alike rely on each day.
The Past, Present, and Future of Technology in the Construction Industry
Historically, the two-dimensional approach of pencil-and-paper building plans made it very difficult to visualize dimensions and requirements. On top of that, the difficulty of physically handling and managing large quantities of rolled bond copier paper made executing a job from start to finish tedious, hard to communicate, and susceptible to error and loss.
With the arrival of Computer Aided Design (CAD) in the 1960s, the construction industry was able to digitize their key processes to great success. The world of construction in manufacturing and printing became an entirely new challenge when CAD went 3-D. Architects, engineers, and general contractors all benefited from the enhanced efficiency and scalability of design with these newer programs.
Today, many contractors, architects, and developers rely heavily on Building Information Modeling (BIM). This revolutionary technology ensures that the processes of planning, designing, and constructing are more efficient and collaborative than ever before.
With less than 1% of annual revenue budgeted for IT needs, the construction industry as a whole has historically spent the least on technology. However, commercial contractors are realizing that if they wish to stay competitive in the industry today, they have no choice but to integrate leading technologies into their everyday business practices. With an increased focus on security and network infrastructure management, commercial construction has begun to turn to managed services providers to handle their IT needs.
How a Managed Services Provider Can Help
Commercial construction companies routinely subcontract certain aspects of their projects because it’s more efficient. In the same way, commercial contractors are better served to outsource the daily management of their IT infrastructure to a skilled, industry-specific managed services provider (MSP).
Managed IT services gives construction firms an entire team of IT professionals capable of dealing with a variety of complex and unusual issues as needed, at a fraction of the cost of a single in-house IT technician. MSPs handle troubleshooting, system updates and upgrades, and new tech implementation, freeing up in-house IT staff to focus on more pressing business needs.
By partnering with an MSP, commercial construction companies benefit from remote monitoring and management of their on-premises IT infrastructure at flexible levels of support. Advanced systems warn of any issues that must be immediately resolved, while ensuring that the network stays up and running at all times.
Whether a construction firm is looking to set up its network infrastructure from scratch or update its systems to minimize the threat of security breaches and data loss, a reputable managed services provider is fully equipped to handle it all.
Here are a few specific ways that MSPs can be particularly beneficial to the commercial construction industry:
1) Lower Operational Costs
Outsourcing IT needs to a managed services provider eliminates the need to pay salaries, benefits, or 401k to an in-house IT team. Furthermore, since most of the MSP’s operations are conducted offsite, commercial contractors can reduce the amount of physical space and equipment needed for IT purposes.
With the state-of-the-art technology offered by a managed services provider, there will be no need for constant tech upgrades, further reducing operational costs. A savvy construction firm can redirect the funds saved by outsourcing to managed IT services towards other areas of the company where the need is greater.
2) Reduced Downtime = Increased Productivity
In the commercial construction industry, time is money. When critical technology fails to operate efficiently or is subject to regular disruption, production schedules are interrupted, leading to costly delays and lost working hours.
Working with a team of IT specialists can greatly reduce downtime related to network issues. Because software and hardware are operating at maximum efficiency, staff can work more effectively and collaborate more easily.
From cyberthreats to system crashes to natural disasters, any number of technology-related events could lead to data loss and extended downtime. Cyberattacks, in particular, can cripple a company in a number of ways: financially, legally, and in the eyes of the public.
Many construction companies are living dangerously, with improperly configured and unmanaged firewalls and extremely basic antivirus systems. Fully managed and layered cybersecurity systems and services can help protect users and data from cyberattacks. A reliable managed services provider with extensive knowledge of even the most sophisticated viruses, malware, and other cyberthreats will ensure that threats are detected and prevented before they strike.
4) Mobile Data Management (MDM)
Since commercial construction companies have people working from trucks, construction sites, the road, and the main office, they need their workers to be able to keep in contact and collaborate – at any time, from anywhere, and on whatever devices they are already using.
MDM allows owners, foremen, and other construction personnel access to important information on the go, as well as remote management of various devices. Wireless connectivity options and the broad availability of Wi-Fi help reduce the amount of time spent waiting for management decisions and information sharing across various teams. With the services and software offered by managed services providers, construction companies can optimize the functionality of mobile devices while still protecting the data in their network.
Enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) allows authorized users to securely share and sync files among multiple devices. Since the construction industry often involves file-sharing outside of the company to clients or professionals in different fields, EFSS is an ideal choice. A reputable MSP can help a firm decide whether Dropbox, OneDrive, or some other EFSS best suits their specific needs and business goals.
A reliable voice-over-IP (VoIP) allows management teams to dial an onsite construction engineer via extension without having to fumble around for a cell phone number. When used properly, VoIP can be a significant time-saving tool that greatly increases communication while keeping it under the corporate umbrella.
5) Cloud Services
With the extensive amount of information that’s generated with each project, it’s important that commercial contractors have solutions in place for long-term data management and storage. Cloud-based services help support the technologies that run a company’s critical core applications, such as estimating, accounting, project management, document management, and scale management.
In addition to providing easier access to info on the go, cloud technology allows secure file-sharing and access across the network, reduces the risk of cybersecurity threats and costs, ensures the speed and quality of technology, and offers disaster-proof storage for the company’s most sensitive data.
Migrating to the cloud also makes it easier for executives and manages to order materials, oversee subcontractors, and manage cashflow. A construction company will inevitably grow, but it will also experience seasons where business is slow. Cloud-based solutions allow construction firms to scale up or down as needed.
6) Regular Maintenance and 24/7/365 Support
Partnering with a managed services provider means construction companies can count on regularly maintained systems and around-the-clock support, cutting down on the probability of technology failure at critical times and allowing businesses to run smoothly without suffering from significant downtime.
Hardware needs ongoing maintenance and updates, and software requires regular patches and upgrades. MSPs perform monthly updates and preventative maintenance, ensuring that hardware and software remain running at peak efficiency to minimize the risk of reoccurring problems.
Many managed services providers offer 24/7/365 support via a remote help desk staffed by a team of IT experts. This “always-on” approach guarantees that whenever and wherever technology-related issues happen, immediate support is available. Commercial contractors that partner with MSPs can expect quick responses to service calls, increasing project efficiency and collaborative communication.
7) Automation of Processes
Commercial contractors have a number of technology tools at their disposal which can automate tedious manual processes, enhance efficiency and productivity, and trim costs to increase profit margins. Still, over half of all contractors rely on pen and paper for everything from bids and estimates to project management.
A knowledgeable IT team can help a construction company identify which of its processes can be automated, recommend the technology tools that will be most effective for the business, and help integrate solutions into the existing IT infrastructure.
8) Data Backup & Disaster Recovery
Two things that construction companies absolutely cannot afford are the loss of valuable data and missed deadlines. Fully managed backup and disaster recovery services ensure that data is safe no matter what while giving contractors the confidence that they can and will meet all important deadlines.
A trusted MSP establishes backup systems that provide for both the security of sensitive information as well as the ability to continue to access that information. A robust disaster recovery plan helps minimize downtime and data loss in the event of a natural or cyber disaster, so businesses can continue almost instantaneously.
In order for a construction company to function successfully, real-time seamless collaboration among architects, engineers, contractors, onsite project managers, and office staff is essential. With frequently changing staff and the number of users onsite, construction teams need support and collaborative tools that make teamwork easy.
Adopting specialized construction planning software and a comprehensive IT strategy are quickly becoming necessities for commercial contractors. A professional IT team specializing in construction industry software and mobile technology can help integrate the proper tools into the company’s infrastructure to facilitate and streamline collaboration.
10) Project Management Software Support
Construction work requires companies to deliver projects on time and on budget. Project management software enables firms to execute projects more efficiently while still delivering top-quality results and improving the overall profitability of the business. Having an experienced IT team supporting this software ensures that it runs smoothly and efficiently at all times.
Managed services providers that specialize in working with construction companies have extensive experience with supporting software such as Sage, JD Edwards, QuickBooks, and AutoCAD programs. Vendor management services allow an MSP to work with a company’s software vendors to prevent excessive downtime should unforeseen issues occur.
Partnering with a managed services provider can help commercial contractors enable a mobile workforce while maintaining control of sensitive data and securing the network. MSPs can maximize the performance of a company’s in-house systems to ensure uptime; transition the business to cloud-based operations and services; provide support for third-party applications by liaising with vendors; and address ongoing technology issues to bring them to a permanent resolution. has been partnering with commercial contractors to provide managed IT services for over 15 years. Our expertise in working with commercial contractor clients makes us the preferred choice for construction firms of all sizes throughout the region.
When you partner with DTI, we take the time to understand your specific business needs and tailor a solution that will enhance productivity and enable you to get the job done faster. Our team of certified IT professionals will assess the current state of your network infrastructure, identify potential risks, validate alignment with your business goals, and suggest opportunities for technical and organizational improvements.
Our industry experience allows us to better manage remote network access solutions, construction management software, design applications such as AutoCAD, and mobile security solutions. We can work with your firm to fully support your internal IT staff or – for a fixed monthly fee – offer comprehensive IT services. Our technicians are available to answer your calls for service or support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
If your commercial construction company is ready to take the next step toward advancing its technological capabilities or you’re not 100% satisfied with your current service provider, give us a call today at 252.329.1382 for your initial IT consultation!
How Can Manufacturing Companies Benefit from Managed IT Services?
Manufacturing is central to a strong, vibrant economy. But in order for manufacturing companies to succeed and prosper, it’s essential that their technology be properly equipped, secured, and optimized.
In today’s world, manufacturing operations like yours rely on information technology for practically every aspect of the business. Manufacturers can communicate with anyone, anywhere in an instant. Advances in technology allow you to better formulate plans, fine-tune production processes, and adapt to market demands with remarkable agility and speed. Orders can be submitted more accurately to vendors, and with greater ease. In short, IT continues to provide better, more efficient ways to work.
Selecting the right technology that your manufacturing business needs in order to thrive is a challenge in and of itself. Maximizing the power of that tech on your own is a far-greater challenge.
Manufacturing is a Complicated Business
Today’s manufacturing environment is progressing more quickly than it did during the Industrial Revolution. With information technology changing just as rapidly, it can feel like an uphill battle for manufacturing companies to fight.
Whether you’re managing production, supply chain, logistics, consumer safety, or regulatory compliance, manufacturing processes can be hard to execute when your operations and businesses aren’t properly aligned. Effectively constructing a network of technology and solutions, along with managing ongoing IT efforts, can put a significant strain on your resources.
Manufacturing IT departments often grapple with the task of supporting a global organization with multiple locations – one that requires data and applications to be shared from a centralized location, no less – while having a fixed budget and limited staff at their disposal. At the same time, the in-house IT team is expected to build competitive advantage and profitability for the business by creatively making use of both IT tools and their own technical prowess.
There’s Got to Be a Better Way (And There Is!)
In the highly competitive manufacturing industry, companies want IT that makes their work easier, more productive, drives efficiency, increases profits, and frees them to focus on growing the business. While that may sound like a tall order, it’s easier than you might think.
With customized IT solutions, your manufacturing company can see significantly accelerated productivity, streamlined production, and the type of uptime and efficiency needed to propel the business to succeed for years to come.
A reliable managed services provider (MSP) with experience supporting manufacturing companies understands the unique IT challenges of your industry, and knows how to build systems that will effectively keep your operations up and running.
By leveraging the talent of a skilled MSP, manufacturers can take the burden of day-to-day network monitoring and incident remediation off the IT team’s plate, freeing them to focus on more important tasks.
Managed service providers are capable of integrating a variety of technologies across production, administrative departments, and management, in ways that are both secure and streamlined.
What Is Managed IT Services for Manufacturing?
Managed IT services is a cost-effective alternative to retaining onsite IT support. For a fraction of the cost of a single in-house specialist, your company gains access to a specialized team of highly trained IT professionals. Backed by a clearly defined service level agreement, a skilled MSP provides proactive management, remote monitoring, and maintenance of your entire IT infrastructure.
The Benefits of Managed IT Services for Manufacturing Companies
1) Reduce Operational Costs
If you choose to go with a managed services provider instead of in-house IT techs, the money you save on salary, sick leave, health insurance, and social security can be used to fund other key aspects of the business.
A managed services provider already possesses all the tools needed to monitor, secure, and manage your IT infrastructure, so you don’t have to invest in these technologies yourself.
With a flat monthly fee, you can confidently budget for all your IT support costs and avoid unexpected expenses.
2) Save Time
The average IT staffer spends most of their time working on network issues, routine system maintenance, and troubleshooting everyday problems – often related to printers or operator errors.
By partnering with a reliable managed services provider, the manufacturer’s in-house IT team is able to redirect their efforts towards more strategic, business-building IT initiatives that will generate revenue for the company.
An MSP has a whole team of trained IT professionals available to help, enabling them to respond faster when problems arise and resolve the issues proactively.
3) Increase Productivity
Manufacturing is a very fast-paced industry. Downtime from a network crash can shatter productivity, costing your company time and money. When downtime starts to affect your clients as well, your reputation is at risk. While some instances of downtime – such as employee error and regular machine maintenance – are unavoidable, you can control the management of your IT infrastructure. With a managed services provider actively monitoring the state of your IT, you greatly reduce the risk of extended downtime, which can save your business money and prevent catastrophic production delays.
4) Streamline IT Processes
As a manufacturer, your primary focus is on streamlining operations and maintaining high levels of production. It may not have even occurred to you that your day-to-day IT processes could also be streamlined for greater efficiency.
Standardization allows for greater consistency in all manufacturing processes, particularly when it comes to rapid recovery when issues arise. Some manufacturers don’t deploy and utilize the same technology across multiple locations. Managing operations with a variety of CRM, ERP, and other software creates a needlessly complicated tangle of communications that hampers employees and the business in general.
A good technology partner will help identify and assess all your IT assets and ensure that these systems are working together well. A skilled MSP can help you design efficient networks that provide seamless collaboration among your staff, outside vendors, sister plants, and other business locations.
A managed services provider can help transition internal office productivity processes to cloud-based services, enabling your administrative employees to work more productively throughout the day.
Technology integration allows you to speed up production on the manufacturing floor, as well as gather and make use of analytics to aid in real-time decisions.
5) Proactively Manage Your Network
Far too many manufacturing companies depend on outdated technology with unreliable systems for both their front-office and production functions. When these assets are not carefully managed, the entire operation becomes subject to chronic inefficiency and productivity lapses caused by ERP system crashes, server issues, email outages, data loss, and even network malfunctions affecting CNC and robotics systems. As a result, your organization’s collaboration will suffer, accessibility will be compromised, and valuable time will be wasted. Instead of staying ahead of IT problems, you find yourself constantly reacting to them.
With a reputable MSP proactively managing, monitoring, and maintaining your network, you can devote your time to overseeing your production line, without having to be concerned with the IT involved in it. A team of dedicated IT technicians works to identify and address minor problems before they lead to critical failures; update software, hardware, and security capabilities consistently to extend the life of your equipment; apply necessary patches and upgrades; and periodically audit your IT systems to detect potential issues.
6) Around-the-Clock IT Support
If your network runs all day, every day, nonstop (and it likely does) – so must your network monitoring. Having a managed service provider remotely monitoring and managing your servers, desktops, and mobile devices 24/7 gives you peace of mind that the network won’t let you down and production can keep moving forward.
When an IT problem arises that you don’t understand, you need help right away. Most MSPs provide 24/7/365 help desk support, ensuring that a highly trained professional will be available to take your call, answer your questions, solve your problems, and get you back up and running quickly. Many issues can be resolved remotely, but IT technicians are also available to work on premises as needed.
7) Protect Against Cyberattacks
Operational procedures and network configurations unique to manufacturing networks make them more vulnerable to certain kinds of malware threats. Many manufacturing companies tend to rely on older software and machines on the production line, and these tools may lack the sophisticated security protections needed to prevent most cyberattacks. A data breach of any magnitude could have a disastrous effect on productivity and cost millions in lost revenue.
With that much liability and money on the line, it’s crucial that you protect your users, systems, network, data, and intellectual property from increasing security threats which could derail your business. Cybersecurity services help defend against harmful viruses, malware, and hackers by using firewalls, intrusion detection systems, virus and spam protection, and responsive incident management.
A reputable managed services provider can reconfigure older technology so that it works securely and safely with newer tools; help detect suspicious activity and respond quickly to minimize the impact of cybersecurity events; and conduct ongoing risk assessments to identify network susceptibility.
When it comes to managing manufacturers’ IT needs, scalability is extremely important. Manufacturing companies often work on large projects requiring a small “burst” of employees and resources. Once the job is completed, the need for these resources decreases and the company can no longer afford to retain the additional employees.
Ramping up your technology with the help of an IT solutions provider is the ideal solution, as increased workloads can easily scale to the cloud with no upfront costs or time delays for you. When the project is complete, your company can easily scale back down to adjust to your current needs.
New service offerings often come with significant upgrades or new software. A trusted MSP can provide the flexibility you need to alter your products and services and add new ones as needed. Having a network that’s easily scalable makes your manufacturing company more agile when it comes to meeting constantly changing demands.
9) Data Backup & Disaster Recovery
In a manufacturing environment, any number of unexpected things can occur – whether it’s a large-scale disaster like a fire, flood, earthquake, storm, or widespread power outage, or a seemingly harmless disruption such as an overheated server room, leak, hardware and software failure, or employee error.
Extended downtime due to a disaster – natural or otherwise – is not only incredibly frustrating, but can significantly affect your bottom line as well. If you struggle to return to “business as usual,” the cost is even greater. Having solid preparedness plans in place for ensuring business continuity and disaster recovery can help you move past the pain of a disaster and get back to full operations more quickly.
When you work with a managed services provider, you have a dedicated team of IT professionals working to keep your systems up and running and your valuable data backed up and stored properly.
10) Cloud-Based Services
Cloud computing has been an extraordinary boost to the manufacturing companies that have embraced it. With a cloud-based system, you can build a connection among all your technologies, from the back office to the factory floor. This provides greater insight into problems and inefficiencies.
By decentralizing your IT functions and making them universally available in the cloud, all users can enjoy the same experience regardless of their location.
However, shifting your data and applications to the cloud can be tedious and complicated. A reputable MSP can ensure that your cloud migration is effective while minimizing the likelihood of downtime during the transition.
11) Mobile Device Management
Manufacturing, like most work these days, has increasingly gone mobile. But if your mobile devices aren’t being properly managed, they can be a major point of concern.
A managed services provider can set up all your employees to use your smartphones, tablets, and laptops safely and securely. This ensures that all your data – both that of the company and your customers – remains protected, even if a device is lost or stolen.
12) Access to the Latest Technologies
Many businesses, but especially manufacturers, have a difficult time keeping up with the latest technological advancements. By outsourcing your IT to a trusted MSP, you gain easy access to the most up-to-date technologies so you can better compete in a tech-driven world.
Moreover, with an outside service provider, these IT solutions are often less expensive than if you purchased them outright. Most IT companies have partnerships with vendors who provide them with new technologies at a reduced cost.
13) Maintain Regulatory Compliance
Depending on what your company manufactures, you may be expected to meet certain compliance and regulatory standards. Compliance issues can cost you profoundly in legal liabilities and regulatory penalties, not to mention your good reputation.
A trustworthy MSP will work with you to ensure that your systems meet these legal requirements and provide supporting documentation to help you avoid fines and penalties for noncompliance
Manufacturing companies have unique technology needs that are best served by working with a qualified managed services provider. With an optimized IT environment as well as cloud, web, and mobile solutions in place, you can greatly enhance the efficiency of your production line. Manufacturers can also benefit from the latest, most sophisticated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software which allows for top-to-bottom cooperation and collaboration.
When you partner with a reliable MSP, you can expect lower cost of ownership, business scalability, streamlined processes, greater continuity, improved security, and increased productivity for your manufacturing company. A team of IT professionals, with its broad range of technical expertise, is able to review your existing technology, help determine where improvements or restructuring are needed, and leverage the tools and processes needed to keep your systems secure, reliable, and protected.
At DataGroup Technologies, we make it our business to help you build yours. We understand the types of challenges that manufacturers face, and we have the proper expertise to design and implement a technology strategy that will improve your productivity as well as your bottom line. We can customize IT infrastructure that’s perfectly suited for every aspect of your operations, from the front office to the manufacturing floor.
With our depth of experience and extensive knowledge base, we are able to troubleshoot and quickly resolve routine network issues, develop processes to disaster-proof your business, identify areas where infrastructure could be improved, and execute these technology upgrades. We provide complete and continuous care of your onsite and cloud assets within an easily budgeted, predictable subscription payment.
When you partner with DataGroup Technologies, our technical services engineers will become an extension of your existing IT department, working side-by-side with your in-house professionals to handle a variety of tasks, from large-scale installations to providing support to staff, customers, and vendors. We can also operate as your entire IT department if you don’t already have one.
If your manufacturing company could benefit from the numerous advantages of managed IT services, give us a call today at 252.329.1382!
Why Your Business Must Take a Proactive Approach to IT
If you’re like most businesses today, you rely heavily on technology to support your daily operations. When your systems stop working properly, productivity grinds to a halt, employees and customers become frustrated, and your bottom line suffers.
A singular IT disaster can set your company back months, decimate your budget, leave staff struggling to pick up the pieces, and seriously risk damaging your reputation. From data loss to network malfunctions, downtime due to IT issues costs businesses in excess of $1.5 million each year in terms of lost productivity and sales.
There are two primary ways of addressing IT support for any business: the reactive approach and the proactive approach.
Some might argue that a reactive approach has its benefits. Common wisdom says that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” If your business is tight on cash, you may be seeking ways to cut expenses – and in general, you don’t see the point in paying for something you might not need.
With a reactive approach to IT support, when something goes wrong you try to get in touch with a technician to come and check your systems, then wait for them to resolve the issue.
The problem with this working model is that it can lead to significant downtime. The technician will first need to analyze the problem before they can get to work on it. If updates or replacement hardware are necessary, business operations could be disrupted even further until the upload or order is completed.
Reactive IT support staff often don’t have the right tools in place to keep tabs on the end user’s experience, instead relying on issues being reported as they crop up.
According to a recent study by Forrester Research, 35% of the time IT support first learns about issues when end users contact the service desk and open a ticket. This is because their support is reactive rather than proactive.
In order for your business to be able to foresee the challenges that may lie ahead, you need to take a more proactive approach to your IT needs. Proactive IT support allows you to better manage your IT budget, secure your data, and avoid some of the major technology risks that your business faces today.
Through continuous monitoring and real-time analytics, proactive IT support provides excellent insight into your IT infrastructure and endpoints from the end user’s perspective. Potential problems are spotted early and resolved before they can jeopardize your business.
Businesses that opt to outsource their IT needs to a managed services provider (MSP) can expect to save time, money, and stress in the long run. MSPs continuously monitor a company’s infrastructure in search of would-be problems and work to remedy those issues before a major catastrophe occurs.
What Is Reactive IT Support?
Let’s dive into this one a little bit deeper.
Reactive IT support involves taking measures to correct problems only when they materialize. It’s often referred to as the “break-fix” model. Under this model, when something goes wrong the business contacts IT support – whether it’s an in-house team or an external company – and makes arrangements to have the problem repaired as quickly as possible. The business is then forced to wait for the IT team to address and resolve the issue, all too often resulting in a great deal of downtime.
The cost of a provider agreement for reactive IT support tends to be lower than a fully managed plan, primarily because this support is implemented on an as-needed basis. If your business already employs in-house staff to provide general IT maintenance, partnering with a reactive support team gives your company access to highly skilled, reliable resources at a budget-friendly price tag.
Having a variable service agreement means you’ll only be billed for the time that’s spent fixing problems, and this can be a very attractive option for companies with limited financial resources. But there’s a catch.
The time that elapses between detecting a problem and getting it resolved can be hours or days, depending on the specific situation. In that time, significant damage could be done to your system. Since a typical IT project often surpasses its original budget by 45%, fixing an existing problem can be both cumbersome and costly for your business.
What Is Proactive IT Support?
Now, for the good news!
With proactive IT support, you can stay ahead of your technology problems. You don’t have to worry about losing productivity, damaging your company’s reputation, or tanking employee morale. Plus, it’s much more budget-friendly in the long run!
Proactive support is all about prevention – mending potential problems before they can snowball into much more severe issues. By proactively managing your IT support needs, you can empower your business to do more with its technology. You’ll get more out of your existing systems, establish new solutions in a strategic fashion, and develop long-term plans for business growth.
Key components of proactive IT support involve automating certain processes and monitoring technology assets to further streamline operations and make analyzing and identifying issues in advance considerably easier.
12 Advantages of Proactive IT Support Businesses
Proactive IT support offers several distinct advantages that can make a considerable difference for businesses. Here are 12 benefits of taking a more proactive approach to your IT needs:
Early Detection of Problems
Through continuous monitoring, your IT support partner is able to identify potential issues before they even occur. Resolving problems quickly prevents them from extending to other parts of your system. More often than not, a problem can be eliminated and maintenance carried out before it’s even detected by end users.
Employees and clients depend on your technology to help them achieve their goals. Software and hardware failures and other IT-related issues cause disruptions that can hamper productivity and foster frustration for all parties involved.
Solving issues proactively means less time sitting around waiting for repairs to be completed. Reducing the risk of downtime empowers your workforce to be as productive as possible.
Productivity and happiness go hand in hand. Giving your staff the right tools for the job creates a more harmonious, happier workplace.
A proactive IT support team can manage every aspect of your cybersecurity, from software updates to employee training.
They’ll create security plans, protect your network against basic threats, and outline steps to take if systems are breached.
Managed antivirus and antimalware programs help keep viruses and malware at bay, while strategic backup procedures ensure that data loss doesn’t occur.
Most managed services providers offer their services for a fixed monthly fee which covers ongoing monitoring, maintenance, and updates, making it easier to budget your IT expenditures accurately and strategically.
You may pay more in a given month than your would in a variable fee arrangement, but you’ll also incur fewer costs as a result of downtime. When tech problems inevitably arise, you won’t have to worry about an unexpectedly high bill for repairs.
Having your systems continuously monitored keeps your infrastructure in good working order at all times. It’s always cheaper to prevent technology failure than it is to clean up the mess afterward.
Team of IT Professionals
When you partner with a managed services provider for proactive IT support, you have an entire team of certified IT experts at your service, instead of just one or two individuals whose daily grind consists of putting out fires or solving routine problems.
These IT specialists recognize how each device on your network plays an essential role in the operations of your company.
Having a team in place to keep an eye out for problems and handle them in a timely manner gives even smaller companies the IT support strength of much larger institutions.
Before the onboarding process even begins, an MSP will perform a strategic analysis of your IT infrastructure to identify any areas of weakness that could impede optimal performance.
Based on automated tools provided by the MSP, you will be able to make informed decisions about your specific IT needs.
Having all the information presented clearly in front of you puts you in the driver’s seat, making it easier to see when you need to scale up.
From carrying out thorough risk assessments to inventorying your IT assets to updating your software and hardware to align with your business goals, MSPs are fully equipped to handle all strategic aspects of your IT.
A proactive strategy allows you to adapt to a changing business environment and meet future challenges head-on. MSPs will work to head off issues that can not only crop up again but worsen over time.
Regular Updates & Patches
Many successful cyberattacks rely on unpatched hardware and software. A proactive update schedule minimizes opportunities for hackers to intrude on your systems.
The most recent patch may also add new features that could improve overall performance.
Proactive upgrades are particularly beneficial for maintaining older technology that may be more vulnerable to attacks. MSPs can schedule these updates for ideal times, ensuring that servers won’t go offline at inappropriate times.
Remote monitoring of your workstations, servers, routers, printers, and other network devices keeps your IT network in good shape at all times.
Knowing that a team of skilled computer experts is regularly testing your systems and thoroughly evaluating them for a wide range of potential problems gives you and your employees peace of mind.
When the team is alerted of an issue, they start working on a fix immediately, often without you even noticing it.
Software problems can generally be fixed remotely, while hardware issues typically require a technician who is physically present on the premises.
Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity
Major events such as fires, floods, hurricanes, and cyberattacks are a hazard to all businesses.
A reliable MSP will set up a robust disaster recovery plan for your business and implement software solutions that will keep your business up and running.
All data is backed up regularly so that, in the event of an emergency, your most crucial information is completely safe and easily accessible.
Around-the-Clock Help Desk Support
Most managed services providers offer 24/7/365 help desk support as well.
Not only does this come in handy whenever there’s an after-hours incident, but it also allows your internal IT staff (if applicable) to focus on projects that add value to the business rather than running around troubleshooting everyday problems.
Managing the health of your IT systems in a merely reactive way is like managing your own physical health reactively. Like many health issues, most IT issues can be detected by early warning signs that could be picked up through proactive monitoring.
By analyzing your business and identifying the gaps, weak points, and strengths, a managed services provider can better determine how to protect your company from emergency expenditures, last-minute crises, unexpected downtime, cyberthreats, data loss, and compliance issues.
When partnering with an MSP, you can count on effective monitoring and maintained functionality of your network, enhanced overall performance of your IT infrastructure, reduced downtime and increased productivity, ongoing support whenever you need it, and more time to devote to your core business.
Taking a proactive approach to IT doesn’t make your problems go away. But it will make them easier to plan for and simpler to manage.
DataGroup Technologies is the premier managed IT services provider in the area, delivering ideal IT solutions to businesses of all sizes.
We strive to provide significant value and outstanding service to all of our clients by acting as an extension of your business’s IT team.
If your organization could benefit from the many advantages of managed services, including proactive IT support, call us today at 252.329.1382 or drop us a line here!
Shadow IT: How Your Company’s Data Is Silently Being Leaked Online
There’s a growing trend creeping into organizations of all industries and sizes: shadow IT. This relatively new term is used to describe any unauthorized cloud applications that employees are using and downloading to perform work-related activities with company data. This can be file-sharing services like Dropbox or survey software such as Zoomerang. The list goes on and on.
Why Do People Use Shadow IT?
When employees are able to find new technologies and solutions that help them do their jobs faster and achieve better results, why wouldn’t they make use of them? Others simply have a set of software and services that they feel more comfortable working with, even if these resources are not company-provided or approved.
The accelerated growth of cloud-based consumer applications has also hastened the adoption of shadow IT. Common applications such as Slack and Dropbox are now available at the click of a button. Companies that embrace a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) culture — allowing employees to use their personal devices such as smartphones or laptops to perform their jobs — face a greater threat of the unauthorized use of certain applications or software.
Security Risks of Shadow IT
Three primary types of cybersecurity risks of using shadow IT include:
When employees are able to find new technologies and solutions that help them do their jobs faster and achieve better results, why wouldn’t they make use of them? Others simply have a set of software and services that they feel more comfortable working with, even if these resources are not company-provided or approved.
The accelerated growth of cloud-based consumer applications has also hastened the adoption of shadow IT. Common applications such as Slack and Dropbox are now available at the click of a button. Companies that embrace a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) culture — allowing employees to use their personal devices such as smartphones or laptops to perform their jobs — face a greater threat of the unauthorized use of certain applications or software.
Unpatched Vulnerabilities and Errors
Software vendors are constantly releasing new patches to resolve vulnerabilities and address errors found in their products. Typically, it’s up to the company’s IT team to keep an eye on such updates and apply them in a timely fashion. But when it comes to shadow IT, administrators can’t keep all these products and devices up-to-date simply because they’re unaware of their existence and active use.
Regulatory compliance is critical for many organizations. There are many standards that businesses have to comply with, from PCI for financial services to HIPAA for healthcare providers. In the event of an audit, your organization could end up facing huge fines, not to mention legal fees and bad PR.
Business Risks of Shadow IT
Outside of security issues, there are also significant risks to your business involved with the use of shadow IT. These include:
Even though boosting efficiency is one of the common reasons that many people start using shadow IT in the first place, chances are high that the end result will be the total opposite. Every new technology should be checked and tested by your IT team prior to being implemented in the corporate infrastructure. This is essential to ensuring that new software functions properly and that no software or hardware conflicts exist.
In a number of cases, shadow IT solutions mirror the functionality of standard products approved by the IT department. Consequently, the company squanders money.
Low Entry Barrier
Anyone with a browser and a credit card can purchase or enroll themselves into applications that integrate with your organization’s critical applications and/or store company data such as client lists, emails, files, etc.
So, What’s The Solution?
There are a number of things your technical staff can do to address the issue of shadow IT use:
- Continuously monitor your network for new and unknown software or devices. This can — and should — be incorporated into routine vulnerability testing.
- Conduct an audit, encouraging employees to come forward about any shadow IT usage they’re engaged in, promising that there will be no repercussions for their admission.
- Once you know what applications are being used, you can set your company firewall to block applications that you don’t want employees to access with company data and devices.
- If circumstances exist where an otherwise-unapproved application or software is deemed necessary for use by certain individuals, require these employees to seek approval prior to downloading. Catalogue these sites by user with their login information for each individual. This way, if an employee leaves your organization or is terminated, you will have a record of their access. This could prevent a malicious attack on the user’s part which could ultimately harm your organization, particularly if company data is stolen and sold or given to a competitor.
- Create a system for ranking and prioritizing risk. Not all applications outside of IT’s control are equally threatening, but you need to at least be aware of what’s being used in order to determine if they’re a threat to security or a violation of data privacy laws.
- Develop a list of approved devices for BYOD use. Make sure that employees understand that only company-approved applications and software can be used in conjunction with their work on these devices.
- Create an internal app “store” for all applications that have been evaluated and authorized for use within the corporate infrastructure. If this isn’t possible, make sure your policies concerning approved device, application, and software usage are clearly denoted in a prominent place that’s accessible to all users.
If your organization could benefit from outsourced management of your IT infrastructure, 24/7/365 monitoring of your network, superior cybersecurity services, cloud computing, and onsite support as needed, give DataGroup Technologies a call at 252.329.1382! We’d be more than happy to partner with you!
Why "Break-Fix" Works Entirely In the Consultant's Favor, NOT Yours
A question that IT companies often hear is, “Why do I need to be on a managed IT plan? Can’t I just pay you to come out and fix things when they’re broken?”
While that’s a legitimate question if you’re talking about your washing machine or your car, that’s definitely not the right approach to a critical and dynamic IT system that your company depends on. You definitely don’t want to wait until something “breaks” before you try to fix a problem.
One “little” virus, cyberattack, or employee slip-up can cause permanent data loss, extended downtime, a violation of data-breach laws, bad PR, loss of customers and sales, and a host of other expensive problems.
Doesn’t sound so good, huh?
Additionally, under a “break-fix” model, there’s a fundamental conflict of interest between you and your IT firm of choice. The IT services company has no incentive to stabilize your computer network or to resolve problems quickly because they are getting paid by the hour.
Therefore, the risk of unforeseen circumstances, scope creep, learning-curve inefficiencies, and outright incompetence all are shifted to you, the customer.
Essentially, the more problems you have, the more they profit, which is precisely what you don’t want.
Under this model, the IT consultant can take the liberty of assigning a junior (probably lower-paid) technician to work on your problem who may end up taking two or three times longer to resolve an issue than a more senior (and more expensive) technician may have taken to resolve it.
There’s no incentive to properly manage the time of that technician or their inefficiency, and there is every reason for them to prolong the project in order to find more problems than solutions.
Of course, if they’re ethical and want to keep you as a client, they should be doing everything possible to resolve your problems quickly and efficiently. However, that’s akin to putting a German shepherd in charge of watching over the ham sandwiches. Not a good idea.
Second, it creates a management problem for you, the customer, as you now have to keep track of the hours the consultant has worked to make sure you aren’t getting overbilled. And since you often have no way of really knowing if they’ve worked the hours they say they have, it creates a situation where you really, truly need to be able to trust that they’re being 100% ethical and honest and tracking their hours properly (unfortunately, not all do).
Finally, it makes budgeting for IT projects and expenses a nightmare, since your IT bill may be zero one month and thousands the next.
Plus, IT systems need regular monitoring and maintenance to protect against the 80,000+ brand-new malware attacks that are released every day – not to mention accidental hiccups in data backup, employee error, hardware failure, sabotage from disgruntled employees, etc. The list goes on.
So, if keeping your IT systems up and running is important to you – as is keeping your network secure from data loss and cybercriminals – then the only option you should choose is a managed services plan from a competent, trustworthy, and reliable IT services firm.
It just so happens that we are very familiar with such a firm!
If your business is overburdened with service interruptions, inconsistent system performance, slow responses to crucial issues, or an unproductive tech staff, managed IT services could be the answer. Outsourcing your IT needs to DataGroup Technologies can relieve the day-to-day stress of trying to do it all.
Managed IT services allows businesses like yours to entrust their IT operations to third-party experts, known as managed service providers (MSPs). The level of service is agreed upon in a Service Level Agreement. A reputable MSP like DataGroup Technologies is capable of handling your entire IT infrastructure or portions of it, depending on your business needs.
Give us a call today at 252.329.1382 to find out how we can help keep your business up and running!
What Is IT Compliance? Here’s What You Need to Know
Any business that promotes and performs digital services, has an online identity, or uses electronic systems to collect and store data is required to meet certain IT compliance standards.
IT compliance regulations are designed to help safeguard the sensitive data of billions of people worldwide by providing security for consumer data, the regulations to secure it, and regulatory compliance to oversee businesses.
Without IT compliance standards and guiding regulations being put in place and enforced, data breaches are more likely to occur, resulting in the loss of financial and sales data, leaks of clients’ private information, and even drained bank accounts which could sink businesses and ruin lives.
Although many of these regulations are mandatory by law, IT compliance standards also incorporate a number of information security best practices which can benefit your organization beyond merely the specified requirements.
Most of these regulations originated in the mid-to-late 1990s, after the Enron scandal revealed how easy it was for corporations to manipulate data for illegitimate gain. As access to and use of technology for all purposes grew, so did the number of ways in which companies could exploit it. As a result, there are now many regulatory bodies around the world that issue rules affecting technology and all of its uses.
Standards for IT compliance can vary greatly by industry, the size of the business, its geographical location, and even the types of customers it serves.
Specific guidelines are laid out for each rule within the standards so that organizations clearly comprehend how to comply. In order to avoid noncompliance with these regulations, every rule must be followed to the letter.
As such, meeting IT compliance standards demands careful planning, defining policies and procedures, and executing them precisely. Failing to comply with these requirements can cost a company millions of dollars in fines and runs the risk of incurring other penalties as well.
Recent trends – such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies and the increasing prevalence of Internet of Things (IoT) devices – have made IT compliance burdensome and bewildering for many organizations. In an effort to achieve and remain in compliance, companies often employ specialized digital tools to continuously identify, monitor, audit, and report adherence to standards.
The role of IT compliance continues to grow, as the electronic sharing and storing of information has an impact on departments such as finance, human resources, and operations – all of which depend on IT services for gathering, disseminating, and reporting data.
Given the amount of data captured and stored by companies today, IT compliance is quite possibly the most important factor in any business.
What Is IT Compliance?
By way of definition, IT compliance is the process of adhering to legal, internal, or contractual requirements for IT systems and processes with regards to the security, protection, availability, and integrity of sensitive data.
Compliance regulations are often centered around the requirements of a third party, such as industry standards, government policies, security frameworks, and terms of agreement with clients and business partners.
In essence, IT compliance involves taking appropriate control of businesses’ or clients’ information, including how it’s obtained and stored, how it’s distributed internally and externally, and how the data is secured.
Being compliant with a particular set of standards means that all relevant aspects of the business required to conform to those standards actually do so, and that the company can definitively prove that fact.
Who’s Responsible for Meeting IT Compliance Standards?
While the framework of IT compliance regulations is established by third parties, companies are responsible for their own IT compliance measures.
Organizations are not only charged with defining, documenting, and analyzing the processes to be adhered to, but also ensuring the availability of information and defining the rules of internal and external communication.
Ensuring that all applicable requirements are implemented in accordance with the rules lies with the individual or department tasked with IT compliance management. This is also where it’s determined which requirements apply to the company in the first place, as well as how they can be implemented in the best way possible. In addition, IT compliance management is tasked with keeping up-to-date on changes in legislation and ensuring that any necessary adjustments to IT are made in a timely manner.
While some companies utilize compliance management systems or software, others may choose to employ a dedicated compliance officer. Both options are intended to ensure proper compliance with and monitoring of the agreed-upon processes and rules.
BENEFITS OF IT COMPLIANCE
Protects Your Business’s Reputation
A single data breach can cause considerable harm to your company’s reputation. It creates the impression that your business can’t be trusted and doesn’t take the appropriate steps to protect the privacy and security of its customers. If customers feel like they can’t trust you with their sensitive information, your business is doomed! By adhering to IT compliance standards, you’re positioning your business to be better protected against data breaches while simultaneously safeguarding the privacy of your customers, clients, employees, and the business itself.
Puts You in Good Company
Many organizations have invested significant time and resources to achieve and maintain compliance with industry-specific guidelines with regards to data security – accordingly, they may be reluctant to partner with organizations that haven’t done the same. Maintaining IT compliance assures prospective partners in your industry that you’ve done your due diligence to secure the data you collect. In doing so, you’re projecting your company as an industry leader when it comes to security and a reputable partner in business.
Builds and Maintains Customer Trust
Modern consumers want reassurance that any personal or financial information they hand over to your business will remain protected. Any proof otherwise will scare away prospects, current clients, and even employees. When your organization proves itself capable of meeting lofty standards concerning digital security and privacy (even those that aren’t specifically required by law), your current customers will feel more secure when using your services and you’ll be more likely to win new business with security-minded customers.
Any company entrusted with collecting and processing customer information must be vigilant to ensure that this confidential data remains confidential. As you begin to implement various protocols in an attempt to meet compliance requirements, you’re essentially working on shielding your network from intrusions. Most IT compliance standards are merely an extension of basic security protocols. Achieving and maintaining IT compliance can help streamline your processes, decrease the chances of outside attacks, and even deter malicious insider attempts. Complying with industry standards can also help identify any gaps in your existing IT security strategy which might have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Common IT Compliance Standards
Every state in the U.S. has data breach notification laws requiring businesses to notify customers in the event that their personal information is compromised. In addition, U.S. companies may be subject to the authority of one or more federal regulatory agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
With respect to IT compliance, every industry has its own set of unique requirements. As such, there’s no single IT compliance standard for all businesses. In some instances, an organization may have to adhere to several different types of compliance regulations, depending on the industries within which the business operates.
Compliance requirements can vary tremendously from state to state, and some apply regardless of whether your business is located in the state. For example, both the California Consumer Privacy Act and the NYDFS Cybersecurity Regulation impose requirements that can pertain to a business in any state, provided that it deals with data relating to these acts.
In addition to federal, state, and local government agencies, any organization charged with protecting data in order to ensure its confidentiality, integrity, reliability, or availability is likely answerable to IT compliance regulations. This last group includes most employers, colleges, and universities.
Businesses most commonly affected by IT compliance – and most in need of setting up a framework for compliance – include financial institutions, retailers, e-commerce, healthcare and health insurance, other insurance institutions, banking, defense, utilities, and credit card issuers. Strict compliance requirements also apply to critical infrastructure in sectors such as energy, government, food, transportation, information technology, telecommunications, and media.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common IT compliance standards to help you determine which regulations may apply to your organization:
Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA)
This government-mandated compliance standard applies to hospitals, clinics, health insurance providers, employers that offer health insurance to their employees, and any organization that stores, collects, transfers, accesses, or otherwise handles healthcare data.
Failure to comply with HIPAA requirements can tarnish a company’s reputation, result in steep fines, and even bankrupt an entire organization.
Key standards enforced by HIPAA include:
- Maintaining privacy regulations that restrict the disclosure of healthcare information without first obtaining the patient’s consent
- Ensuring that businesses rigorously secure any files containing electronic protected health information (ePHI) by implementing administrative, physical, and technical structures preventing unauthorized individuals from accessing patient data
- Implementing a notification system that immediately alerts businesses and patients in the event that a security breach or threat occurs
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
This set of regulations was initiated by MasterCard, Visa, and other credit card companies in an attempt to minimize financial fraud by better securing customers’ credit card information.
Any business that stores, transmits, or processes customers’ credit or debit card data and payments must act in accordance with the rules governing those practices and operations as outlined in PCI DSS.
Compliance with this standard results in greater transparency and increases the trustworthiness of businesses managing these types of transactions, assuring customers that their financial information is protected and they can safely make purchases. Conversely, failing to adhere to PCI DSS requirements could subject a company to substantial financial penalties.
While this particular compliance standard isn’t government-mandated, it’s one that most businesses are compelled to meet. This is because major credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard require businesses to have PCI DSS validation.
In order to meet the requirements of this standard, businesses must develop robust systems and processes for hosting and protecting customers’ financial information. Monitoring accounts and being constantly on the lookout for potential security threats is one way of achieving this. Another option is to implement granular controls which limit who can access different parts of a customer’s account. Limiting access prevents unauthorized individuals from accessing the account information that can be used to steal customers’ identities.
Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)
In the wake of the Enron incident, U.S. Congress passed this federal law for the purpose of overseeing how organizations handle electronic records, data protection, internal reporting, and executive accountability.
SOX ensures that companies reveal complete and accurate financial information so stakeholders and the general public can make informed decisions before choosing whether to invest in the business. In addition, this compliance standard helps minimize the risk of accounting errors and deter fraudulent practices.
Any publicly traded company or business making an initial public offering (IPO) is required to meet this standard. Company boards, management personnel, and accounting firms are also bound by SOX. Failure to comply can result in stiff criminal penalties.
In terms of network compliance, SOX deals with policies regarding where data is stored, establishing access controls, and the flawless installation of backup procedures.
Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA)
Established in 2002, FISMA establishes a minimum requirement for federal agencies developing data protection plans, promotes certain types of security software and systems, verifies third-party vendors, and accounts for the different security needs of various governmental departments.
Essentially, the act demands that federal agencies treat information security as a matter of national security. While government agencies must adhere to FISMA compliance standards, businesses that work with government agencies may also need to be aware of these regulations. Failure to comply with FISMA can result in loss of federal funding and inability to enter into government contracts.
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
This regulation applies to any organization – public or private – that collects and processes the personally identifying information of any European Union (EU) citizen or resident. Any company, regardless of its geographical location, that wishes to do business in the EU or handle the personal or financial data of people from the EU must comply with GDPR standards.
According to the GDPR, organizations must first ask the permission of “data subjects” (i.e., EU citizens or residents) before collecting their personal data. This offers users the opportunity to opt-in or opt-out of data collection. If the individual opts out, the organization must delete any previously collected information.
Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA)
Enacted in 1999, the GLBA requires institutions to inform customers of their privacy policies on an annual basis, particularly in regard to how information is shared with certain third parties. Organizations are compelled to give customers the opportunity to opt-out if they don’t wish for their information to be shared. In addition, companies must disclose what measures they’re taking to safeguard the personal data of their customers.
Financial institutions – such as banks, savings and loans, credit unions, insurance companies, and financial advisory firms – as well as accountants, real estate agencies, and universities are all subject to GLBA regulations.
The three “rules” of the GLBA include: financial privacy (how institutions can collect and share private financial information); safeguarding (how institutions must implement security measures to protect client information against cybersecurity risks); and pretexting (this prevents businesses from collecting data under false pretenses).
There are a number of challenges associated with IT compliance. Following these tips can help your company avoid the extravagant fines, penalties, and other legal consequences associated with noncompliance:
- Educate your employees on all aspects of data privacy and provide them with the tools they need to protect sensitive data.
- Provide mobile and remote employees with laptops and devices that contain security policies and prevention mechanisms (such as remote-wipe capabilities) in order to maintain secure access to corporate data.
- Put authorization mechanisms in place to limit access to downloadable applications. Only allow downloads of approved software and applications.
- Enforce encryption for security and prevent access by devices without secure access.
- Utilize only secure and modern cloud storage solutions.
Ensuring that your organization achieves and maintains IT compliance begins with identifying the regulations that apply to your line of business. Drilling down to the areas of interest for your specific organization can help you design and implement the proper compliance frameworks. This can be a challenging and confusing process, especially if you’re inexperienced in these matters.
While it’s possible to manage IT compliance internally, it’s not the best way to go. The process is lengthy and will only serve to distract you from your core business responsibilities. Why go through all that stress when you can outsource this service for just a fraction of your IT budget?
At DataGroup Technologies, compliance is more than a service we provide – it’s woven into the fabric of all of our IT solutions. We can help you build an IT environment that not only supports your business’s growth but meets the necessary IT compliance standards as well.
Reach out to us today at 252.317.0614 or drop us a line here to see how we can help you #SimplifyIT!