Let’s Look at Some of the Best Business Software Solutions

Happy guy looking at camera while sitting by workplace and working with software

All businesses utilize software to a certain extent, but not all companies have the same needs. That being said, there are certain types of software that all businesses can benefit from, regardless of industry or service offerings. We’ve put together a list of business software solutions that companies can utilize to improve operations.

Productivity Suites

Most businesses use a productivity suite, which is basically just a fancy way of talking about a suite of software that includes a word processor, spreadsheet program, presentation software, email and calendar management program, and other productivity applications. In fact, we would say that it is almost a prerequisite for a business to have a productivity suite just for the ability to open and edit files or documents. Some of the most common productivity suites out there include Microsoft 365 Apps for Business and Google Workspace, but there are other more focused productivity suites for specific purposes, like the Adobe Creative Cloud.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

Similar to productivity suites, most businesses use traditional landlines to make and receive phone calls. While this was an accepted practice for some time, the more modern solution is to utilize a Voice over IP application on either a desktop or a mobile device to make and receive calls. Not only does this save you quite a bit in terms of up-front costs and operational costs, but it also makes adding new users to the infrastructure infinitely easier, as it does not involve installing new hardware (unless, of course, you want to use physical handsets).

Password Management

Passwords are a major pain point for businesses, so you need to treat them as such. While passwords can be made complex, this also makes them difficult to remember. This is where password management comes into play; these solutions offer a secure, protected vault for your passwords and can pull from this vault when the credentials are needed, removing the need to remember them entirely. It is a great way to augment your accounts’ security without compromising on password quality.

Antivirus and Other Security Solutions

It goes without saying that you need to be securing your business’ network and endpoints at all times. It doesn’t matter how small of a business you run. Hackers can and will find data on your network that presents some kind of value, whether it is to them personally or to someone on the black market. They might even be out to cause a little bit of chaos and infect your computers just for the sake of doing so. Who can say for sure? All we can say for sure is that you need to secure your network and its endpoints.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Encryption is a powerful tool that helps you keep your data secure, especially while out of the office. A virtual private network can encrypt data sent to and from your device, improving privacy and security while on unsecured networks. It is especially helpful when working on a public Wi-Fi connection or while traveling.

Adding new software solutions to your business’ infrastructure might sound difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. 4Corner IT can help your business implement software solutions designed to improve operations and provide sustainability for your business. To learn more, reach out to us at (954) 474-2204.

Protect Your Business by Updating Your Software

render of hardware with band aids on it. Computer Processor Bug Patch Concept

Software is a critical part of your business. Without it, you would have to do everything manually. In fact, most businesses couldn’t do what they do without their software. That’s why it is so surprising that many businesses don’t actively patch their software. Let’s take a look at our patch management service and why it’s such a huge benefit.

A decade or so ago, keeping your software updated wasn’t as important as it is today. You might get some new features every so often, but that was usually it. Today, things are so much different. It is now one of the most important services that we provide to our clients. This is because threats have become much more prevalent and dangerous to a business.

How Patch Management Works

Basically, your software gets a fair amount of updates. Developers are constantly adding features and patching would-be vulnerabilities. If you don’t have a process in place to patch your version of the software, you can be operating with holes in your network. These holes are exploited by opportunistic hackers and then you have much bigger problems. Companies like ours and in-house IT departments need to consistently patch software to ensure those holes are filled.

Using our remote monitoring and management software we can not only keep tabs on all of your hardware and all of your network resources, we can also use it to quickly update your software. This software needs to be patched as well. In fact, there have been stories of companies that manage other companies’ networks and patch management getting hacked because they didn’t actively patch their RMM tool. Not only is this just embarrassing, it illustrates just how critical the entire process is.

2021 Challenges

When dealing with technology, if you want it to work for your business, you need to realize it’s not simple. Consider for a second all the changes that had to be incorporated over the past year:

  • The need to support remote work
  • New and expanded cloud capabilities to facilitate this remote work
  • Software management needs
  • Frequent updates to these software solutions

Every line item there has a litany of tasks associated with it. It also comes with some downtime. Software patches often require system reboots, which can lead to interrupted productivity.

Easy Patch Management Tips

At 4Corner IT, our technicians can help keep the downtime associated with patches and updates from impacting your staff’s productivity by scheduling these patches to be applied when there’s little-to-no traffic. It’s an easy solution to what could be a major problem.

If you insist on handling this issue yourself, however, here are a couple tips:

  • Know What You’re Using – You need to keep track of the software solutions that you use, just so you can be sure that all of them are maintained appropriately.
  • Respect The Need For Updates – While an individual can maybe get away with missing a software update for a little while, a business doesn’t have that luxury.
  • Maintenance Needs To Be Prompt – Once official software updates are released, they should be tested on a sample group and implemented across your network.

If you would like to get some professional perspective about your business’ software and how to manage and maintain systems that run it, give our experts a call at (954) 474-2204 today.

Tip of the Week: Selecting the Right Productivity Suite

Smiling female programmer working on computer at night, side view.

The productivity suites now available to businesses have come a long way in a relatively very short time. However, when selecting one, it is still crucial to compare your options based on a few key variables. Let’s go over these variables to make sure that the software suite you’re using is the right one for your needs.

Cost of Productivity Softwares

Naturally, we must first discuss costs, as this is perhaps the most pressing variable for most businesses. While it may be tempting to default to the least-expensive option, take a few moments and dig into the features more closely to check for any benefits that may make a slightly more expensive option the most cost-effective productivity suite.

Compatibility With Your Systems

There are a lot of platforms out there—the classic battle between Macs and PCs, and the corresponding Android versus iOS head-butting. On top of these, there are now cloud platforms to consider as well as you decide on the productivity suite you and your team put to use. Consider the headaches that would ensue if half of your team used laptops running ChromeOS, but your productivity suite was only compatible with Windows. As such, you need to make sure your chosen solution has some availability on all (or at least most) of the major computing platforms.

Mobility

On the subject of platform compatibility, it is usually best to select software that has some kind of mobility functionality. There are two reasons for this—first, mobile devices are now used more often than any other kind. Second, with so many people now functioning remotely, the kind of access that mobile options provide contribute a lot of value to the productivity suite’s platform you’re considering.

Security

This is important for obvious reasons, so you will want to check up on the security that each solution features. Today’s two most popular productivity suites, Microsoft Office 365 and Google Workspace, are delivered through cloud technologies. This was once problematic, as you’re effectively handing your data over to an external provider, but nowadays these cloud platforms are built with security at the forefront.

Communications

With communications and collaboration so critical to businesses—especially now—a productivity suite with integrations enabling such dialogues make it easier for teams to accomplish their shared goals. As a result, many of today’s most prevalent options feature some kind of collaboration baked into them, often including an email platform, video conferencing, and/or VoIP.

We can help your business acquire the IT tools such as productivity suites that are needed for modern success. Give us a call at (954) 474-2204 to learn more.

Why Patch Management is Important in 2019 and Beyond

why patch management is important in 2019 and beyond

It might seem plausible for IT managers to believe 2019 was a particularly bad year for patch management issues, thinking perhaps they’ll finally be able to focus on other “more important” security issues in 2020 and beyond, but that is not at all realistic.

In fact, as both employers and employees alike find new ways to harness technologies that help to increase productivity and grow their business, the expansion of new hardware and software options will continue to explode. Of course, along with each new application and device there are invariably imperfections that must be patched. The sooner a business comes to terms with the fact that having a comprehensive patch management system is the price they’ll have to pay to take advantage of new technologies, the sooner their corporate data will become safer and more secure.

Is Patch Management Really That Important?

Many people think the majority of security issues arise from a cyber criminal stealthily creeping through their personal information looking for passwords or social security numbers. In reality, the majority of data breaches (57%) occur from vulnerabilities due to poor patch management practices. Considering the explosion in applications, smart devices, operating system versions, etc., it’s no wonder companies feel overwhelmed and unable to patch security holes fast enough to keep up with all the threats.

A recent survey of 3,000 cyber professionals across the globe, reported 48% experienced a security breach within the past 2 years, with poor patching processes as one of the main reasons for the attacks.  

Things to Look For in a Strategic PM Solution

With these sobering statistics, it becomes much easier to see that poor patch management is a serious issue within the business community. The fact that poor patching procedures often leads to cyber breaches should be a wake up call for those following little or no protocol. Companies who want to reduce their risk of encountering a costly and devastating security breach need to gain the upper hand on this often neglected area by developing a sound plan. Of course, larger companies can afford to hire a complete staff to develop and manage a PM solution, however smaller companies often need to look to an external vendor for help.

When researching vendors who have such solutions, it’s important to consider whether their plan incorporates the entire patch management lifecycle. The basic structure of the life cycle is as follows:

  1. Discovery – assess all technology use
  2. Categorize and prioritize – people, devices, processes, etc.
  3. Create a patch policy – (and keep it updated)
  4. Institute monitoring processes for new patches
  5. Patch test in non-production environment
  6. Manage associated configurations
  7. Patch rollout
  8. Audit results of patch rollouts
  9. Reporting and analysis of results
  10. Repeated review of life cycle for optimization 

Getting Started 

Companies who are beginning to realize they need to take a more serious approach to focusing on and organizing their patch rollouts, can also benefit by taking these additional steps that will help them get on the right track. Start by applying patches for those risks labeled as critical. Develop and implement a data backup and recovery plan. Decide to make a proactive patch management philosophy (and practice) a core component of your technology security strategy.

Centralize and automate the patch application process by employing automated patch software. Evaluate employee end-user rights and only give admin rights to those deemed absolutely necessary. Regularly patch and update the preconfigured computer template used when onboarding new employees. That way new employees will automatically have all the latest operating system patches, along with those for business applications, software, privileges, and other important settings.

If you would like more information on developing and implementing a solid patch management solution for your business, please contact us!

What is Shadow IT?

what is shadow it

Shadow IT is the collective term used to classify all information technology applications and infrastructure that is used in the workplace without authorization of the company’s IT department. This includes software, web applications/servers, hardware, and cloud technologies. 

Employees often bring in applications into the company that they believe will help them achieve their tasks or complete their projects better. This is often the case as well. Shadow IT is often managed and utilized by employees to improve productivity and efficiency. This is where the gray area part comes in.

Why is Shadow IT a Gray Area

Shadow IT is considered a gray area because although the intentions and purpose of the shadow IT brought in are to increase productivity, there is also a security risk involved with this.

Allowing foreign and unauthorized shadow IT to interact and manipulate the company’s data is a big security risk. Members of the IT department are tasked with ensuring the security and compliance of the data that is transmitted through shadow IT sources. This makes their job of securing company data much harder and increase the risk of foul-play or information theft.

Some companies are willing to embrace the innovation and increased productivity brought on by these shadow IT technologies, while others frown upon it due to the increased security risks. 

The Solution?

The purpose of the shadow IT introduced to the company are primarily to increase productivity and ease of task management. The increased usage of shadow IT creates what is called a digital sprawl. This term means that there is an increase in incoherent application or software that is being used in the company. For example, employee A uses Application X to make their spreadsheets while employee B uses Application Y to achieve the same task. With an increase in the number of different applications used and the number of employees, the digital sprawl can easily become difficult to manage.

This digital sprawl raises data compliance issues and can potentially cost companies a lot. This also makes it difficult to govern the use of applications as well as maintain consistency in the company at the macro-level. High amounts of digital sprawl can mean lots of wasted time, effort, and resources for a company.

Governance and Leniency

In terms of a solution, the company should task the IT department to find technologies that they are willing to authorize that will also allow employees to effectively perform their duties. Then, governance of employees to use the standard application will increase company coherence across teams and departments in the company. 

If it proves too difficult a task to eliminate all shadow IT sources, then creating a technology filter is the best option. A technology filter is essentially where all employees must pass the technology they desire to use to the IT department. From there IT can either authorize the use of the technology or deny it. Making a limit to the number of unique services in the workplace is also important. This will minimize digital sprawl while also allowing the inventiveness and creativity of new technologies to enter. 

By recognizing shadow IT for the potential benefit, yet inherent risk that it is, it is easier to make the best decision for the company. Finding the right tolerance for shadow IT in the company is crucial for the security of information. For more information about shadow IT or IT in general, contact us.