Protecting your IT when employees leave in difficult circumstances

So it didn’t work with your newest employee, in fact it didn’t work out would be an understatement…they left under quite a cloud! 

A recent Symantec study states that “half of the employees who left or lost their jobs in the last 12 months kept confidential corporate data and 40 percent plan to use it in their new jobs.”

  • You’ve got the work laptop/computer back, but have they deleted things?
  • How do you know what they were doing and looking at before they left?
  • They used their own devices for work, do they still have their work material?

What to do when employees don’t leave on the best terms

The vast majority of staff finish employment and move on with no issues. But occasionally people leave in less harmonious circumstances, or they are just plain dishonest. We’d like to cover off on some of the basics to ensure that your risks are minimised for if, or when, this happens to you.

Importantly, it makes a big difference what systems you use and how you are set up, so keep that in mind. For the purposes of this simple article, we assume you are a small to medium kiwi business, with a fairly simple IT setup, using one of the lower-level Microsoft 365 licences for your email document storage and sharing.

Set up the employee properly when they join and have proper security

To get the best outcome when an employee leaves you need to start when they join the company. 

Practice ‘need to know’ access to systems and data:

  • People only get access to what they need for their job
  • This includes ensuring your work, documents, emails, etc are protected by permissions appropriate to the user. If they don’t need access, they don’t get it!

Set up an off-boarding system

The obvious (we don’t want to tell you how to suck eggs with your HR, but people sometimes don’t do these things, or forget) things to do when the person leaves:

  • You probably have an induction process when someone joins, but do you have an off-boarding process for when people leave? 
  • Ensure the off-boarding process is promptly followed. 
  • Ensure the off-boarding is responsive enough to handle an employee disappearing at no, or very little, notice.
  • Promptly close off email and other systems access.
  • Promptly close off remote access.
  • Take back company owned devices.
  • Ask specifically if there is any company data in their possession and if so, make a plan with them for retrieving it.

 The not so obvious things

Of course IT being the mysterious being it is to most of us you might not consider the less obvious things to do:

  • Don’t let people use personal devices for company work – give them the tools they need, and ensure those devices are properly set up by your IT.
  • Setup your business so that ALL work data/information is only ever stored in company systems. Do not allow people to save work anywhere else. Make sure they have a company owned folder they can save drafts and working documents to, if this is needed.
  • Have remote wipe enabled, meaning you can remotely wipe the data from any devices they have accessed. The next time they connect to the Internet, the data is wiped.
  • Review activity logs; these are detailed, but can give you a picture of what the person was up to.
  • If they delete emails or files, systems like 365 and Dropbox Business keep files for a ‘retention’ period and during this time you can restore them.
  • Use a company password manager such as LastPass so that people actually don’t know their passwords, so if they leave you (or your IT support) remove their access and they can’t get into anything.

Use technology to protect your organisation

If you are on a lower level 365 licence, such as Exchange Online, Business Basic or Business Standard, then talk to your ITA partner about the benefits and costs of moving to a higher licence with more security features such as 365 Business Premium. For example, configure 365 to prevent bulk downloading of company data, etc.

In summary

Put in place protections now, so that you have them there before you have a problem. Once the person has left, it is often too late. In general, these suggestions are a good place to start with ensuring your business is protected. 

If you need a hand with any of these steps get in touch with our team at Ultra IT.

What is Microsoft Planner and how can it help your business?

What is Microsoft Planner and how can it help your business?

Many businesses in Northland use Microsoft Planner. Planner is a tool within the Office 365 suite. Planner is an easy way to organize teamwork with intuitive, collaborative, and visual task management. Planner is simple, easy to use for new users, and included in the licensing for Office 365 users. 

Advantages of Planner:

Planner improves teamwork by organizing an Office 365 group or team’s tasks, files, and conversations.

Planner helps to organize your tasks by adding one or more Planner tabs to a team channel. You can then work on your plan from within Teams, remove or delete your plan, and get notified in Teams when a task is assigned to you in Planner.

All tasks are easily accessible in one place: Plans comprise content-rich tasks that contain expected details, such as due dates, and extra elements like color-coded labels and files.

Automatic chart report: Planner automatically visualizes task status into pie and bar charts for you with no setup required.

Work where you want: Use Planner wherever you’re working. At your desk? Open Planner from On the go? Update tasks from your mobile device. In Microsoft Teams? Select the Tasks app powered by Planner and Microsoft To Do.

Connect across Microsoft 365: Planner is part of Microsoft 365, so it’s highly secure like your other Microsoft 365 apps. Microsoft 365 also connects Planner with Microsoft To Do, SharePoint, Power Automate, and other apps for efficient task management.

Manage all your tasks in Microsoft Teams: Planner and Microsoft Teams work well together. The Tasks app in Microsoft Teams combines all your team tasks from Planner and individual tasks from Microsoft To Do with advanced collaboration tools.

How to add planner:

  • In your team channel, select Add a tab +.
  • In the Add a tab dialog box, choose Tasks by Planner and To Do.
  • Create a new task list to make a new Planner plan and add it as a tab to this channel.
  • Use an existing task list to choose an existing Planner plan to add to a tab in this channel.
  • Choose whether to post to the channel about the tab, and then select Save.
  • The tab will be added alongside your other team channel tabs, and you’ll be able to start adding tasks to your board.

Six Tips to use planner well

Use the buckets:

Microsoft Planner lets you create buckets for various tasks. Within each bucket, you can create specific assignments.

The calendar feature:

The calendar is very important for keeping everyone on task. Items in the calendar can be assigned both due dates and a specific task owner. This helps individuals know who is responsible for what and also whether or not they are on schedule.


You can create a checklist to keep on top of tasks. This checklist can be a list of necessary actions for this project. As the assigned user works their way through the project, they can check off individual items on the list. This creates an effortlessly easy visual to be able to track progress.  

Categorise tasks easily

You can create easy visual categories for tasks by color-coded labels and priority. For example, you might split things up into “low-priority,” “medium-priority,” and “high-priority” based on deadlines. This is visually easy for your team to follow as they can see what is coming up on their calendar and what is a priority.

Easily integrates with 365

With Microsoft Planner, you can integrate easily with 365. This means that you can take advantage of Office 365’s own calendar and reminder features. This helps keep your employees focused and on track every time they open up their e-mail.

Connects to the Cloud

Members of the team can upload various files as attachments to different projects and cards.  Once the file is attached to Office 365 Planner, everyone has access to it via the cloud. You no longer have to worry about vital information being unavailable to the rest of the group.

In Conclusion:

Planner is a wonderfully simple, yet effective way to manage projects across a team and to improve communication and efficiencies.

For further information, please feel free to reach out to us here to discuss how planner can be used by your team.

Is the cloud right for your business?

Cloud services have been shaking up the industry for years now, and its adoption by small and mid-sized businesses is driving cloud computing’s growth.

Yet while there are many benefits to migrating to the cloud, it isn’t the solution for every situation. This article will explore some reasons why your business may not suit the cloud.

Don’t get us wrong. There are many business benefits of working in the cloud. These include:

  • consistent access to the same applications as on-site colleagues for every user;
  • no need to install software on every individual’s device;
  • upgrades and security patching made easier for the IT team;
  • faster setup and easier scaling (up or down as needed);
  • enterprise-level security without having to reinvent the wheel at the individual system level;
  • built-in redundancy offering protection against a single point of failure.

Still, cloud computing isn’t a silver-bullet solution. There are areas of the business that you may want to think twice about before migrating to the cloud.

Proceed to the cloud with caution

Consider how a move to cloud computing could affect your business. Don’t blindly sign up to put everything online. For one thing, cloud migration makes your business reliant on internet connectivity. If your small business struggles with a dodgy internet service provider (ISP), solve that before moving to the cloud. ISPs that suffer frequent outages or slow speeds are not great hosts for cloud computing.

In situations involving large amounts of data transfer, such as video editing, it doesn’t make sense to work from a cloud server.

You’ll also want to think twice before putting sensitive data in the cloud. Switching to cloud servers can improve security for many small businesses, and the move also gives them access to encryption and redundancy, but if data security is a concern (or a compliance issue), do a deep dive into providers’ cybersecurity efforts.

If you use custom software and data transfer, you may also want to reconsider migrating to the cloud: it may have never been designed to work in the cloud. New cloud-based software may promise all the same features and cost savings, but make sure you understand what that software does and doesn’t do.

The cloud option may not be right for you if your needs are going to change as your business evolves. Cloud vendors are going to try to keep you dependent on their solutions, and they don’t always make it easy for you to move to new software when you need different or new features.

You also run the risk of becoming a multi-cloud organization. This is when different teams at your business each have their own cloud software. This can give users access to best-in-class applications, but it can also lead to unwieldy computing complexity.

Supporting your cloud decisions

Successful cloud migration also requires good customer support. If your IT team is overworked (or nonexistent), you need a vendor with accessible cloud support. Alternatively, you could work with a managed service provider to support your transition to the cloud.

Considering a move to the cloud? Consult with our cloud computing experts first. We can guide you to a well-established cloud provider with a wide range of services. We’re also here to help with the migration. We can help make sure the solution suits your needs and the transition goes smoothly. Contact us here.

Top IT Tips for 2022

Top IT Tips for 2022

A New Year is a definitely a chance to kick things off the way you mean to go on.

For Northland businesses, we have compiled some key IT tips that can help your business to thrive.

#1. The Remote mobile working office is here to stay:

If Covid has taught us all one thing, it is the need for flexibility around how we work. Agility is fast becoming one of the key differentiators of a business’s success. Creating easy ways for your team to communicate by enabling an all-in-one solution for communication, collaboration, will ensure that you stay connected and productive.

#2. Security, security, security!

We know we say it all the time, but Cyber threats aren’t going anywhere. Keep the focus on security in 2022, as every business, no matter the size is at risk. Don’t risk losing time and money to a data breach or ransomware, instead talk to your IT company about the following:

  • Getting a cybersecurity audit done.
  • Securing all email.
  • Have notifications for remote workers to know when they are connecting to unsafe networks.
  • Put a disaster recovery plan in place.
  • Ensure backups of all data are secure.
  • Implement a password management system.
  • Prohibit third-party apps on work devices.

#3. Make sure I.T is in the 2022 budget

In this era, I.T is an area where you don’t want to be taking shortcuts. Budgeting for your I.T is a wise move to ensure that you have continuously upgraded internet access, software and hardware upgrades as required. Unreliable internet service can cause downtime that has a run on effect with productivity, and can even lose your business valuable clients. Skimping on your I.T budget can lead to much bigger costs further down the road.

#4. Safe and Professional Email addresses

This might sound basic, but if you haven’t already shifted to a professional email, 2022 is the time to do this. Using a gmail account or similar doesn’t make a professional first impression, and more importantly is a security risk. We can easily help you to upgrade to reliable business-grade emails. Our team at Ultra IT can easily help you to navigate this.

#5. Audit your Equipment

Taking time to do an audit of your current technology, and how it is performing can identify any potential problems and streamline processes. There are still some supply issues with computer hardware, so make sure you are aware of what your business is likely to need in 2022, including any new employees, plus upgraded equipment, so you can plan ahead. If you can give us as much notice as possible, we can make sure that we do our best to source what you require.

#6. Partner up with a managed service provider

Now is also a good time to hire a managed service provider. Partnering with an IT professional helps you make good technology decisions that can ultimately save you a lot of money. Getting advice from industry experts who understand the increasingly complex world of technology, security, and optimizing IT resources is an investment that ends up being a lot more economical then having the ambulance at the bottom of the hill.

Don’t worry if all of this feels overwhelming, our team at Ultra IT can offer you many options to help you have a stress free year with IT in 2022. If you would like further information, please feel free to contact us here.

The Christmas IT Checklist

2021 may be the Christmas that we all collectively exhale and exclaim “Thank goodness this year is over”.

However, before you rush out the office door for Christmas time, mistletoe and wine, here are a few quick IT tips, to ensure you have a relaxing break.  

Every season you’re going to need good support from IT professionals. Keep your technology in tip top shape, and you’ll have a happier holiday season. A few preparations before leaving for Christmas holidays, will ensure a relaxing time for all. Here we help you with a quick check list:

Staffing and training:

Have you got your organization covered over the Christmas and New Year period? While everyone rushes off, it pays to ensure that your organization has adequate staffing levels, and/or availability of key resources. 

If you are working on a skeleton staff, make sure that there is a backup contact in case of any information security or cyber incident. Also make sure that the staff running the show, actually know what they are doing! Many a security event has happened when staff are not adequately trained.

Business Continuity Plan:

This is also a good time to review your company’s disaster recovery/business continuity plans, to ensure they cover these scenarios:

  • Contact information for key people e.g. staff, suppliers, authorities, couriers, support.
  • Clear descriptions of responsibilities for individuals
  • Making important information readily available such as alarm codes, building access codes, passwords.
  • Have passwords and codes changed and has your plan been updated to reflect this?
  • A process for communicating important messages to your customers

Out of Office on:

Nothing irritates customers more then not getting a quick reply. Be sure to communicate your office hours clearly to your customer, along with clear back up contact numbers.

Start telling customers your availability as soon as possible. Communicate it via as many avenues as possible:

  • Social Media.
  • Email communication.
  • Invoices.
  • Posters.
  • Ensure customers receive clear contact details, back up numbers, email contacts and clarity around dates.
  • Make sure your Email out of office is switched on (possibly for external emails only), and your message is clear.
  • Add a temporary message to your mobile phone so you are not disturbed.
  • If you run social media accounts, consider archiving them for a few weeks so that you don’t have to ruin your summer monitoring social media.

Update and upgrade IT

If Christmas is a busy time for you, ensure that your technology can handle more traffic. Review system integrations to make sure front-and back-ends can communicate smoothly. Identify any issues or bottlenecks in advance to be able to upgrade or update any IT that needs help.

If you do need major IT upgrades or system changes, postpone them until after the holidays. Don’t mess with what works right now if you don’t have to do so.

Safeguard business data

Unfortunately, cyber criminals don’t seem to take a holiday. In fact, holiday season is a ripe time for cyber-attacks, as people are distracted.

In 2020, the greatest number of daily attacks in the last quarter of the year were on December 31.

Make sure you are protecting systems, detecting threats, and defending against attacks. A security assessment can help determine what you are doing well and could be doing better. Please contact your Ultra IT team member to discuss your specific concerns.

Social Media

Beware what you share!

Whilst social media is a great tool to share holidays snaps, it pays to remember Social media can be difficult to keep these connections private, with a potential audience of…um… the entire world! The impact on the privacy of your devices, your sensitive information and even your personal security plays as a key disadvantage of social networking.

There is an abundance of fake accounts, trolls and fraudsters online, who seek to obtain and collect your personal information for possible criminal activity. Be strict with your privacy settings and be vigilant of the things you post. Avoid accidentally sharing information that could hint at:

  • Login Details – email addresses, usernames and passwords. For example, potential answers to security questions ‘What was your first pets name”
  • Promoting that you’re out whilst your house/workplace is unoccupied

In conclusion…..

If it is a slow time in your office, it can also be an ideal time to clear out old data and perform maintenance on PC’s such as clean the dust, move old data, and clean up user information. Take a break!

Some people will be working over the Christmas and New Year period, and if you are we’d like to THANK YOU for keeping the country running and services/goods flowing!

But for those of us who are taking a break – PLEASE – make sure you do get to switch off and have a real break away from your business / mahi. We all need to switch off for a while every year. Be well, stay healthy and return ready for an awesome 2022!

Plan to refresh your IT/Online strategy

Things are moving so fast, and IT/online technologies are moving faster. What opportunities can you create, or gaps can you plug, with a smart IT/online strategy?

Ponder on this and give us a call in the new year to discuss how information, communication and online technologies can serve you. The team at Ultra IT wish you a happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

Upgrading to improve productivity & Security:

It’s hard to know where to start when prioritising the upgrade of hardware. Here are the top things we see that businesses could upgrade to improve productivity and add security.

Upgrading those ‘old school’ phones

First, let’s start with those traditional landline phones. Sure, they’ve done their job well for decades, but switching to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has many advantages. Don’t overlook the benefits of:

  • streamlining voice and data services to save on bills and long distance;
  • employees using VoIP communications wherever they have access to an internet connection;
  • accessing features such as call waiting, screening, recording, auto attendant, and voicemail transcription;
  • gaining greater flexibility to scale up and down as needed so you don’t need to pay for phone lines you don’t need;
  • integrating calls with customer relationship management software for better data insights.

Saving, Sharing, and Revising Documents

Next up, those filing cabinets. For one, they may be an eyesore, plus, they’re taking up valuable real estate in your space. Today, many printers allow you to scan many pages at once and easily scan documents into content management software.

Moving to online document management also opens you up to many productivity gains. The software often supports optical character recognition (OCR), which makes scanned content searchable. Plus, the documents are available online, where and when employees need them. This is helpful in remote or hybrid work setups, but it also helps ensure you have a backup of critical documents if disaster strikes.

If you’re still filing documents in cabinets, you may have paper-based processes, too. Forms and folders get passed around for different people to sign off at various stages. This makes it easy for workflow to bottleneck or, worse, for documentation to get lost in the physical shuffle from place to place.

In a step up from this, a business might at least move documents around via email attachments. Everyone gets a chance to see the document and make comments. Then, some poor soul takes all responses and correlates them for the next round of revisions.

Replace these old-school approaches with online business tools built to enable collaboration. Microsoft 365, for example, allows people to work on documents at the same time. There are no more worries about version control, and everyone can track the file’s progress.

Enabling Remote/Hybrid Work

Cloud-based collaboration software not only helps with document exchange. Microsoft 365 also allows users to communicate efficiently via the Teams channels. They can also start video meetings, share screens, and co-work on files and PowerPoints. Plus, integrating Outlook contacts and calendars helps efficiency and scheduling.

All this helps support employees working remotely or coming into the office only some of the time. With online documents and databases, everyone can get work done without coming on-site. Plus, VoIP business calls forward directly to phones or laptops for seamless communication.

Put Away the Post-its, Too

One last thing we’d love to see people replace in their offices? Those Post-its with handwritten passwords stuck to the bottom of computer monitors or oh-so-stealthily under the paperclip organizer in their top desk drawers.

We all have many passwords, and we understand the impulse to write them down, but a safer strategy is to use a password manager. A password manager stores, generates, and manages passwords in an encrypted database. A password management solution – such as Keeper, LastPass, or LogMeOnce – is more cyber secure than that sticky notes.

Feel free to reach out here to discuss any questions you may have about your individual business needs.

Written by Gill Brown

Cyber Security: Expect the best – prepare for the worst!

Cyber Security – “It will never happen to me!”

“Expect the best –  prepare for the worst”

Paul* runs a medium sized business in Northland.  He honestly never thought that he would be the victim of a cyber-attack. After huge expense, and lost productivity, he now speaks to anyone that he can about the importance of sorting out cyber security.

“I just wish that I had taken the time to get it sorted, as it’s so simple and yet it had such an impact on our business, costing us money in lost productivity”

Whilst we don’t want to scare anyone, cyber security is a huge concern for our clients right across Northland. Here are some recent statistics:

The weekly average number of ransomware attacks detected in June of 2021 was more than 149,000. A year prior, it was only 14,000 – making an increase of 966%!

(Source: Fortinet’s FortiGuard Labs 1H 2021 Global Threat Landscape Report)

Most companies now recognise the urgency around sorting out cyber security, however, these are still some common objections that we hear:

Top Four Reasons New Zealand businesses don’t sort out their Cyber Security:

  1. It’s just not a priority.
  2. It will never happen to me, as it only happens to large overseas companies.  
  3. It costs too much money.
  4. I don’t know where to start.

#1. It’s not a priority:

“It’s just not a priority for me right now, and I don’t have time to deal with all of that!”

Believe us when we say, we hear this often from Northland companies. We totally get it. You are doing a thousand things, time is precious, and cyber security just feels like another overwhelming ‘thing’ to take care of.

Many of our clients have felt the same way. What they have found however, is that the time it requires to be on the front foot and take care of security is far less time than it takes to sort out issues caused by attacks.

In fact, we often hear from clients who wish that their I.T provider had warned them, nagged them, and actually made them sort it out!

By the time they have had an attack, they come to us with days, weeks, and even months of lost productivity, plus the costs of having to sort the issues out.

“There was this horrible moment when I realized there was absolutely nothing I could do”

Amy Pascal, the former co-chairman of Sony Pictures on the cyber-attack on the studio that revealed her private emails.

#2. It will never happen to me:

“I’m putting my head in the sand and covering my ears singing lalalalala.  Cyber security attacks only happen to big companies – and definitely not here in little old New Zealand.”

We all want to think the best about life, and positivity is wonderful. But sometimes it is best to ‘expect the best, but prepare for the worst’. 

We know you are a great person, you work hard, and you live in New Zealand. However, Cyber-attacks do not discern where you live, what industry you work in, or how nice a person you are.

Cyber-attacks prey on those that are overly trusting, can’t be bothered, and think that it will never happen to them.

“If you spend more on coffee than on IT security, you will be hacked. What’s more, you deserve to be hacked.”

Richard Clarke – White House Cybersecurity Advisor 1992-2003

#3. It costs too much money:

“Sorting out my security costs too much”

Let’s break this down a little. What are the actual costs of a Cyber-Security attack?

  • In the UK, the average cost of all the cyber security breaches these businesses have experienced in the past 12 months is estimated to be £8,460.
  • For medium and large firms combined, this average cost is higher, at £13,400
  • 35% of businesses report being negatively impacted because they require new post-breach measures, have staff time diverted or suffer wider business disruption.

(DCMS Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2021).

Plus, there are the other costs like:

  • Loss of reputation
  • Loss of productivity – meaning clients may have to go elsewhere for a while until you get sorted out. They may not come back.
  • Loss of good faith and trust in your company especially if you are involved in confidential information.

The cost of taking the most prudent and essential steps might be a lot less than you think. By getting a couple of things done, many businesses could significantly increase their level of safety.

#4. I don’t know where to start…

“I’m confused, overwhelmed and have no idea where to start!”

We hear this often from clients and we absolutely understand how overwhelming it can all feel.

Here at the ITA, we have years of experience of looking after cyber security for many different companies, across varying sectors. 

The first step is for us to make a time to sit down with you for a complimentary chat, specific to your business.

This is a great starting point in order for you to get an overview.

Once we’ve discussed your individual needs, we can devise a plan together, working out what your priorities are specific to your business, any legal requirements surrounding security, and a budget and time-frame to instigate this plan.

Too easy!

Contact us here to make a time to have a complimentary chat about your own security requirements.

(*Name changed for confidentiality)

Feel free to reach out here to discuss any questions you may have about your individual business needs.

Written by I.T Alliance




Cyber Security – The Risks and what you can do…

Ransomware threats are on the rise globally, and Cyber Security is the buzzword, even here in Whangarei, and Northland.

Not only is there a very real threat present for businesses large or small, it is also now your responsibility to ensure that you have clear protocols and guidelines around data and cyber security. 

It is no longer a question of IF you need to sort out your security, it is a question of WHEN. 

Cyber Security is a team sport

Just like the All Blacks don’t get a try because of one player, Cyber Security is a team effort. That means that the whole team needs to know the game plan, needs to understand the role they play, and what they need to do to help you win at Cyber Security. 

How to train your team:

Here are some ways to increase ownership of Cyber Security across the whole company, and help everyone to come on board with fighting against potential hackers. 

  • Create an IT policy handbook for your company and discuss this as part of the hiring process. This will allow for accountability to be set up front. 
  • Run regular training programs on security. 
  • Regularly remind employees to update and upgrade technology. 
  • Monitor applications downloaded onto work devices. 
  • Have a clear policy for people bringing in their own devices.
  • Train your employees to recognize phishing emails and other scam.
  • Add multi-factor authentication to remote access.
  • Help them understand the risks associated with using unsecured wireless networks or unencrypted devices.
  • Limit Access: Configure credentials so that employees can access only what’s needed to do their job. One employee may need to read certain files but have no need to edit them. 
  • Encourage staff to only collect the data that is really required. 
  • Remind everyone to be very careful about sharing sensitive data.
  • Manually check financial details

Let’s start with the House-Keeping

Whilst some of these things may seem very obvious, the threat to our security can sometimes be closer to home than we expect.  Maybe it’s not the anonymous Russian cyber-criminal that you need to worry about, but Sam the office gossip, who can’t help having a peek at the boss’s computer after hours. 

Remember if anyone can get into your computer, and your computer is linked to the network, they can potentially access files on another computer, and access sensitive information and emails. 

Internal Physical Security Check:

  1. Do you take precautions and make sure that you lock the office door?
  2. Does your computer have a screen-saver that automatically comes on when you jump up for your fifth coffee of the day?
  3. Does your computer have a password? If so, is it complex and known only to you? Note: Using your dog’s name, when you talk about your dog all the time, might not be the best idea. 
  4. Is your drive encrypted?

External Security:

  • Are you using 2FA (Two factor authentication): 2FA is a fantastic way to ensure that it is much more difficult for people to access your data. 
  • LastPass: This is a great centralized tool to manage your passwords. Teach your staff about the importance of strong passwords, and changing them regularly. 
  • Backup your data: Make sure you have your data backed up both in the cloud or on an external server. 
  • Password protected files: This creates an additional layer of security both internally and externally. 
  • Safe-Links: Safe-links check every attachment that comes to your computer and download it in a sandbox to ensure it is safe before it comes to your computer. 
  • Install regular software updates.
  • Update your default credentials 
  • Use firewalls and email filtering
  • Is the WIFI secure? Or can anyone driving past easily jump on to your company’s Wi-Fi?

Have your Plan B sorted:

Whilst nothing is foolproof at the moment, limiting your risks will ensure that you also limit downtime and help you to get your system functioning again as quickly as possible.

Reach out and contact us here about what is required for your company, and what is the best way to create backups. Using different storage types and having at least one off-site is often advantageous. 

Whilst Cyber-Security can feel overwhelming, we here at Ultra IT can help you to formulate a plan, create a checklist of what is required first, and help you to win the battle against cyber threats. 

Feel free to reach out here to discuss any questions you may have about your individual business needs.

Written by I.T Alliance

Computer shortage – What can you do?

What do you get when you mix together a global pandemic, an increase in people working from home, plus a lack of silicon chips?

You guessed it!

A global shortage of computer equipment.

Whilst any one of those things would normally have a massive impact on supply, the combination of all of these factors has created the perfect storm.

Unfortunately, this isn’t something that is going to go away overnight either.

In fact, current predictions on the supply of technology are anticipating supply will not return to the ‘new normal’ until mid-2022 to 2023.

What is the impact of this shortage?

#1 Economics 101 – Supply and Demand:

Yes, folks, unfortunately with the increased demand and lack of supply, the predicted net result is an increase in prices across all computers.

#2 Expect delays:

Patience is a virtue… Remember that old saying? Well now we really have to put it to the test. What used to take a matter of weeks, is now taking a matter of months. In fact, for some equipment the delivery dates are just “to be advised” as it is still unknown when they will be available. 

So what can you do?

Whilst this all seems a bit doom and gloom, we have some ideas that can help you to make sure that you manage this situation the best that you can:

#1 Make a plan:

Rather than waiting until you have three new eager recruits, or that old computer takes its last breath, hatch a plan now:

  • How is your business plan impacted by the need for technology?
  • Are you in a growth phase that means you will be hiring new employees?
  • What are your expected needs for upgraded computers within the next 3-6 months?
  • Do you need to ensure your team can work remotely?

#2 What if you need to hire more staff that need laptops:

So often a new hire is due to start next week, and someone says they will need a laptop. That could be an expensive issue if they can’t work for 6-8 weeks.

#3 Recycle:

Recycle and Reuse! Start looking at your team to match use. For example, maybe you need to buy a high end user an equally high-end laptop. That flash laptop may then be able to be passed down to someone who has more standard requirements. Moving hardware around internally and assessing needs can help with managing the shortage.

#4 Keep a spare handy:

Much like a spare tyre, a spare computer can be a life-saver if required. Maybe you used to trade in your old computers, now ensure you keep spares where possible. If that doesn’t fit the cash flow, plan your procurement cycles for the next 3-6 months and beyond.  

#5. Be prepared to make quick decisions on purchases:

If you need a device quickly, be prepared to make a decision on purchasing more quickly then you have in the past. The reality is that it may not be in stock tomorrow.

#6. Be Flexible:

Many brands and models are now out of stock, which means that your IT company will not have as many options available. The longer the list of specifications you require, the shorter the list of choices. To help with this, try to be flexible in your requirements so that your needs can be more easily met.

So what has created this shortage?

  1. Asia and tech – Asia is to tech what crackers are to cheese. With a large part of the world’s technology production coming from Asia, COVID had a massive impact on production and supply of parts. 
  2. Laptop Laptop Laptop – The world has gone mad for laptops. With the new way of working remotely, companies have been moving from p.c’s to laptops, or buying up laptops to ensure their team is able to work from anywhere.
  3. Shipping – New shipping constraints, less planes flying, increased air freight costs, plus ships being unable to dock, have meant that even when the supply is available, the time computers take to arrive is longer.
  4. Silicon Chips –  The global shortage of silicon chips is due in part to  the pandemic, trade policy, regulation, plus this increased demand.
  5. Bitcoin: Video cards have also become in high demand for those that are into Bitcoin. The better the video card, the more money you are likely to make. Hence another increased demand.  Why graphics cards cost so much right now | PCWorld
  6. Mobile phone: Adding to the heat on the demand for these chips, is the continued demand for mobile phones. Basically if it has a plug or battery in it, it probably uses lots of chips. You can read more about the chip shortages here: Chip shortages will continue until 2023, superfoundry TSMC says | PCWorld

What not to do:

Whilst it is tempting to rush out and grab anything that you can get your hands on, it is best not to buy random equipment as a temporary stop gap. This will potentially create additional support costs to your environment in the long term, and may even compromise support from Vendors where equipment isn’t compatible.

How can we help you?

  • Getting expert advice is important as it means that you have recourse if the equipment doesn’t work together.
  • Create a plan with your I.T provider to best suit your business plan.
  • If you are wanting to order hardware, please get in touch with us ASAP.

In this climate, it will be better to have an order placed now rather than wait until it’s too late.

Feel free to reach out here to discuss any questions you may have about your individual business needs.

Written by I.T Alliance

Social Media Scams – not so innocent fun!

Beware the fun social media scam! What may initially seem innocent enough, having a question asked about what your favourite car is, or your star sign, may quickly become a security headache. Many fun social media questionnaires are set up by hackers to steal your identity.

For instance these quizzes might ask for details such as:

  • What was your first job?
  • What was the name of your first-grade teacher?
  • What car did you learn to drive in?
  • What was your first concert?

These popular quizzes promise to tell your “rock star” name or your “silent film villain” name. You know it’s as reliable as the Magic Eight ball, but you play along anyway. We all need a laugh, right?

Except that the people really laughing are hackers. Many of the questions posed are also security prompts used to verify your identity online.

Cybersecurity experts agree: don’t take these quizzes. It’s not as if there is any real value in filling out the social questionnaire. You’re simply taking the bait and risking having your personal data stolen.

Avoiding Social Media Scams

Here are some tips to help keep you safe from social media hackers:

  • Don’t get hooked by clicking on that post that seems too good to be true, especially shocking, or scandalous.
  • Be wary of any quiz that asks for information that could be relevant to your online password.
  • If you must quiz, fill out questionnaires on reputable websites only.
  • Avoid quizzes that ask you to provide your email address.
  • Contact companies through trusted channels only.
  • Make sure that you are dealing with the proper entity’s real website and not a look-alike site created by a scammer.

Also, think twice about apps that change your face into a cartoon character or a painting. Facial recognition is a more common security tool. Be cautious about letting unknown apps collect your photos and facial details.

What to Do If Your Online Accounts Are Hacked

#1 Have your devices inspected by a respected IT provider that you know. 

This is one more area to be wary. Scam artists will set up sites that appear to be affiliated to the manufacturer or phone numbers that appear to go to technical support specialists. It’s best to take your devices to a physical repair shop with a real human doing the work.

#2 Change your passwords. 

When your account is hacked, you’ll want to change that password immediately. Plus, as annoying as it is, change passwords for all accounts accessed on the compromised device. The hackers may have installed a malware that tracked all data transmitted on the device.

#3 Set up credit monitoring. 

Notify any financial institutions or credit card companies if those accounts are hacked. You’ll likely need to have them issue you new cards with fresh account numbers. You can also ask them to monitor your accounts for fraudulent transactions. You might also set up credit monitoring with your region’s credit reporting agencies.

Keep in mind that criminals can be patient and may not use your information right away. So, don’t think you’re in the clear because nothing happens in the first month.

Worried? It’s okay we can help you….

Need help protecting your devices and online accounts? Easy, all you need to do is get in touch with us to find out how to best protect yourself. You can email us  to have a complimentary chat.