Extend The Life Of Your Hard Drive

Eventually, every single hard drive at your company will fail. No hard drive is meant to last forever. The longest likely lifespan for a hard drive is 5 years…and that’s a generous estimate. It’s more likely that your hard drive will fail much sooner. However, there are ways you can take care of your hard drive to extend its life.

Data Backup
But first, we must note the importance of backing up date. This is critical for businesses of any shape and size, especially those that store data that would take days or weeks to replicate if lost…or businesses that store data that can’t be replicated at all. For example, say you are graphic design firm and you ignore the importance of backing up data. Suddenly, your employee’s hard drive fails (because it will at some point). That data is no where else to be found and now your employee must spend weeks replicating the work he already did. The fallout from data loss can be massive: angry clients who need their work done, wasted time, wasted money, and loss of customer trust.

For backup, we recommend a tri-fold approach that stores data in three places: on the hard drive of the computer, on an external local backup, and on an offsite backup. The offsite backup is crucial because if your business location suffers from a flood, fire, or other natural disaster, all of your data is gone if it is only stored on site. For offsite backup, the only thing we recommend is Carbonite, a cloud backup solution that continually backs up data so you don’t even have to think about it.

Back to the main point of this blog, let’s talk about how you can increase the longevity of your hard drive and save some time and money in the process.

Handle with care
Hard drives consist of a glass plate, a spinning head, and a read & write head. When your device is turned on, the hard drive is always spinning and when you are writing to the hard drive, the read and write head is moving back and forth. Whether it’s a laptop, desktop computer, or external drive you can’t shake it around, drop it on the floor, and move it a lot. You could reduce its lifespan or break it all together. With desktops and external drives, never move them when the hard drive is spinning (when the computer is on). If you must move them, make sure the device is powered down completely. Laptops are made to be a little more rugged but you should still avoid moving them when the hard drive is reading and writing. Put the laptop to sleep when you move it to get the maximum lifespan out of your drive.

Control the temperature
One of the biggest causes of early hard drive failure is overheating. The heat that a computer puts off causes the header and plate to expand and possibly collide, rendering the hard drive useless. It was found that the best temperature for a hard drive is 30-40 degrees Celsius, according to How To Geek. If your hard drive is running hot, you can use special fans to cool it down..

Defragment your drive
Fragmentation happens when your hard drive starts to fill up and stick data anywhere that it can find space. It is a lot of work for the hard drive to then search for that data. This hard work reduces the overall lifespan of your drive. Defragmenting helps reduce the amount of time that your read and write head looks for data. Give your hard drive a break by defragmenting it.

Shut it down
Though it has never been proven that shutting down your device is good for your hard drive, it can’t hurt to shut it down at least at night. If you are running a business and you have many computers, this will save you a lot of money on energy bills. If you are not going to use a device for many hours, it is best to shut it down completely. If you use your device on and off throughout the day, it is best to leave the computer on. This is because hard drives use the most power when they are running and when they are powering up.

Use a solid state drive
If you can’t get past the hard drive limitations, you should consider using a solid state drive instead. Solid state drives don’t have moving parts and therefore are much more durable, shock resistant, and they run cool. What’s the catch? They are expensive and you get a lot less storage for your dollar. However, if your company can afford it, it is a wise investment to move data over to solid state drives.

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Security Threats To Small Business

Amarillo may seem like a small, tight-knit community. Even as business owners, we don’t often think about things like internet security and hackers. Amarillo is bustling with small to medium sized local businesses and each of those businesses is at risk to having their information breached and stolen, whether we want to admit it or not. Small businesses actually make a desirable target for criminal hackers because they often don’t take the right security measures to protect not only their data, but also their customers’ data.

No, a small business might not be the target of the Chinese government or Russian hacking groups but there are threats out there that are common. Here are the top security threats to your small business:

Employees

Employees are a security risk simply due to the mistakes that human beings often make. Often, this mistake comes in the form of an email or visiting a malware-laden website. Employees will receive a phishing email that contains attachments, then they will open the attachment, allowing their computers, and then the network, to be infiltrated by hackers. The same thing happens when they accidentally or purposefully visit an infected website, which is all too easy. This highlights the importance of having strong virus protection and educating all employees about staying safe online. Ex-employees are also a risk. When someone works for a company, they need to know all of the passwords for all of the accounts that they use. But what happens when they leave that company? They still know the passwords. Accounts need to be terminated and passwords need to be changed, especially if that employee left on bad terms.

Outdated hardware and software

Outdated operating systems like Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 put businesses who still use them at a substantial risk. These systems are no longer supported which means there are no security updates and no patches for vulnerabilities. This allows hackers to get in quite easily and steal your information. If any malware infects a workstation (which is a matter of when, not if) the entire network could be affected.

Weak passwords and using default passwords

One of the simplest, yet most common security risks comes in the form of passwords. A strong password is one that has lower and upper case letters, numbers, and characters. Although it is frustrating, there needs to be a different password for each account and it needs to change every few months. Passwords are the first defense and the first weakness when it comes to security. Default passwords on hardware such as internet routers also need to be changed to something unique as these are easily hacked.

Card payment systems

Recently, the laws surrounding card payment have changed. Merchants are now required to have systems that read the new chip cards, rather than the magnetic strip cards. The deadline for this change was October 1st. The liability of fraudulent card activity has shifted to the merchant if they do not have the new card readers. There are many regulations surrounding card payment systems…and for good reason, as credit and debit cards are all too often the route that hackers take. Criminals can even hack into point of sale systems and steal information as the card is swiped.

Limited knowledge

At many organizations, there isn’t a dedicated IT staff that is constantly monitoring systems, watching for invasions, updating software, and implementing new hardware. This is because it is expensive to keep people like that on the payroll. Small to medium sized businesses who can’t afford an IT staff must do something else to protect their business and their information. It is a huge security risk to not perform the duties listed above.

There is another option. The best way for small to medium sized businesses to maintain their network and keep a tight grip on security without hiring a full time staff is to utilize a Managed Service Provider (MSP). It is the job of an MSP to make sure everything listed in this article is no longer a threat. It is the first priority of an MSP to make sure your systems are secure, your information is backed up, and your business keeps on running.

If you are interested in learning more about what a Managed Service Provider can do for you, click here.

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Cybersecurity Predictions for 2017

New challenges will arise in 2017. Ransomware will branch out into different variants and become harder to prevent as well planned attackers become smarter. Non-desktop devices such as mobile devices and iwatches will become a larger focus for hackers. Adobe, Apple & Business Email softwares have all been looked at as possible targets for attacks in the next year. Here are a few of our predictions for 2017:

Ransomware growth will slow, but but the methods and targets will diversify. Ransomware has proven to be a cash cow for cybercriminals because of their many unpredictable delivery methods and unbreakable encryptions. Although 2016 saw a tipping point for ransomware, new targets and new variants will push cybercriminals to diversify and work harder to steal business data. While there is nothing that can protect potential targets from ransomware attacks 100% of the time, it is best to block the threat at its source, via Web or email gateway solutions.

Passwords & credentials get a major reboot. Many businesses have learned the hard way that it’s no longer acceptable to have simple, common or outdated passwords. In 2017, better password management services will gain traction as businesses understand how vulnerable they are.

We predict that cybercriminals will use Mirai-like malware in DDoS attacks. Webcams that people didn’t think twice about securing became the stronghold for the Mirai DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks that took down major websites in 2016. Unfortunately, we also predict that vendors will not react in time to prevent these attacks from happening in 2017.

Hackers will target the credentials of privileged users like IT professionals, CEOs and vendors. While organizations have applied security to applications and data that are most critical to their business, these preventative measures simply aren’t enough anymore. In 2017, savvy organizations will finally get serious about protecting not just systems, but privileged users by identifying them, monitoring their access and closing off access to what they don’t need. This is never a problem for cat-man-du or our staff.

Business Email Compromise becomes a simple and very attractive mode of attack. BEC is about hacking an email account or tricking an employee to transfer funds over to a cybercriminal’s account. There is nothing special about the attack, except perhaps the research required to gain insights into the best way to create a believable email. BEC is especially hard to detect because these emails do not contain malicious payloads or binaries, but enterprises should be able to block these threats at the source using Web and email gateway solutions.

We predict that more software flaws will be discovered in Adobe & Apple products. Microsoft had many vulnerabilities revealed in 2016, but that number will be surpassed by Adobe & Apple in 2017 disclosed through the Zero-Day Initiative (ZDI). These vulnerabilities will allow hackers to create more exploit kits, which is a template for certain ransomware that allows cybercriminals to create their own brand of ransomware. Vulnerability shielding is the only way to proactively and reliably protect against these vulnerabilities when using popular software by Adobe & Apple.

These 2017 predictions challenge endpoint security, a security approach combining proven threat-detection techniques for known and unknown threats with advanced protection techniques such as application control, exploit prevention and behavioral analysis, sandbox detection, and high-fidelity machine learning. Training employees & hiring a reliable Business Technology team such as our own can contribute to the security culture needed to fortify a business’ defenses for 2017 and beyond.

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