Is technology working smoothly in your business? For most, there are at least a few challenges and frustrations. However, even those lucky few who think they are in good shape may have hidden issues waiting to be uncovered. Here are some common “gotchas” that can cause a huge amount of grief if they aren’t caught in advance. Check into these potential trouble spots now to prevent disastrous issues later.
Security Updates are Stalled
With all the hacker attacks lately, you’ve surely heard how important it is to apply Microsoft patches on a regular basis. You can set these to apply automatically, and you may have done exactly that. If you think that makes you safe, think again. It is common for security updates to stall or fail from time to time, which means it’s very likely at least a few of your PCs are behind on patching and thus vulnerable to hacks. Your servers require reboots to complete certain patches, and those have to be done manually to avoid unexpected downtime. Those pending reboots can hold up additional patches that need to be applied. Again, you may not be as up-to-date as you think. Better safe than sorry – go check, now.
Default Passwords in Use
You have a password policy in place requiring complex passwords that change every few months, right? Believe it or not, the most common passwords in use are “password” and “123456.” How hard is that for a hacker to guess? For network equipment, hackers try the default administrator passwords that are factory-programmed. If your IT guy never bothered to change them, or you don’t have an IT guy and just plugged it in hoping it would work, you are easy prey.
Thinking You Will Know If You are Hacked
Most people are under the mistaken impression that they will know if they are hacked. Viruses like Cryptolocker make the news because they are so visible and bold. The virus encrypts all your data and requires a paid ransom to release it. These hackers use the “dark web” (a hidden part of the Internet) and BitCoin (a digital currency that is difficult to trace) so that their identities are not revealed. If you get hit with this hack, you’ll know it. However, more often a good hacker will leave no trace. They will get in, steal your data, and get out. Like the Cryptolocker hackers, they too rely on the dark web, where they can sell credit card numbers, social security numbers, and other financial data. They can make a lot of money doing this.
Often as your company grows, your tech will reuse software licenses. If these are paid, and the right type of licenses, that’s just fine, but it’s easy to lose track or make a mistake in how they are used. “OEM” licenses, for example, cannot legally be transferred to another computer or server. Volume licenses let you have multiple activations, so you can keep using them, but you have to pay enough to cover what you are using. That may not seem like a big worry, but there is a very unfriendly organization called the Business Software Alliance (BSA) that seeks out companies with licensing issues. They pay handsomely for tips, to incent employees to tattle on their employers. They even advertise on Facebook these days, so they are becoming more and more visible. If you become the target of an investigation, you will need legal counsel, you could face 6-figure fines, and it will take a tremendous amount of time to resolve. It’s not worth the risk.
Expired Support Contracts
Nearly every tech vendor offers support contracts for their products, whether it’s hardware or software. The expense can add up fast. Vendors often let you choose different plans with different response times – for example, do you want to get replacement parts within 4 hours or is the next business day acceptable? Do you want to be able to call for help 24×7, or will business hour support be sufficient? When things are running smoothly you may feel like a lower level of support is just fine, but if you are in the middle of a crisis, consider what you would want in that case. If you call in only to find you no longer have support, you could spend precious hours just trying to sort that out before you can even start to get the help you need. Downtime is costly. When key equipment like a server or firewall fails, you need immediate assistance to get your business back on track.
Once you get your backups set up, they just keep running…right? Unfortunately not. Backup jobs may work flawlessly for months on end, and then for no obvious reason they start failing. Or you may find that backups appear to work fine, but they were set up incorrectly, so you don’t have everything you need. Or the backups run successfully, but the recovery process fails. There are many points of failure in the backup process. The way to head off these problems is to do recovery tests at least a few times every year, and be sure to monitor the backup jobs in between. When you do a recovery test, you restore entire servers in a test environment to make sure they come up properly. The better quality backup software options have ways that this can be done easily, and regularly; with lesser quality products this can be a very complex, time-consuming endeavor. Don’t forget to test your offsite backups as well. If you don’t run these tests, you may find out the hard way that your backup didn’t work. Businesses that face a catastrophic data loss rarely survive.
Do It Now
Technology is complex, and it is easy to find potential problems lurking just beneath the surface. Everything here is important but not urgent – at least, it’s not urgent until a problem hits. Take action now to prevent devastating issues later.