Employ best practices to keep your systems running smoothly.
As someone who has been in the IT game for a while now, trust me when I tell you that “updates” is a word that comes up a lot. From business networks to cybersecurity, technology never stays the same for long.
Software programs frequently require updating to the latest version. Businesses need to have a plan for keeping software current and staff apprised of workflow changes.
A quick note on software updates
I’m willing to bet that you have some experience keeping your devices current. But what really goes on during a software update?
A software update can be viewed as a sort of “patch” for the current iteration of a program. Updates typically include a set of changes designed to fix or improve upon pre-existing software, including:
Removing bugs from code
Providing new tools or features
As you can see, updating consistently is important to maximizing your software’s value. But perhaps nowhere are updates more essential than for cybersecurity. When an update comes out designed to address security vulnerabilities, time is of the essence for implementing it. If you don’t, the software may become vulnerable to malicious actors, which can jeopardize the overall effectiveness of your business.
Putting it into practice
With so much riding on keeping systems and programs current, what exactly is the best approach for ensuring that each new update is promptly installed?
There are several strategies that can keep you and your team moving forward without creating a lot more work for yourself in the process.
Automatic updates: Whenever possible, enable automatic updates. These will keep your systems running efficiently and safeguard your business from security breaches.
Create an inventory: While it may require some heavy lifting up-front, establishing an inventory of all programs and systems can be incredibly helpful for staying on-top of security updates and software patches.
Stay apprised of update schedules: To avoid surprises, it never hurts to have familiarity with when certain vendors push out updates. Microsoft, for example, consistently puts out updates on the second Tuesday of each month. Adobe follows a similar pattern.
Create a personal schedule: When you are running a small agency, it may be difficult to find time to take care of necessary updates while overseeing everything else that goes into a successful enterprise. One strategy to overcome this is to set aside designated time each week for carrying out this work. Be sure to make it consistent week-to-week, month-to-month, and year-to-year, and don’t waver once it is established.
Communicate clearly: No one is an island in business, and changes to your systems and programs will impact the workflows of others. Clear and consistent information delivered before, during and after an update is critical when performing an update. Employees need to know what types of updates are going on, how long they might take and how it will ultimately impact their day-to-day activities.
A solution for your solutions: There is an old saying that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and that holds true for something like software updates. If that sounds familiar to you, it may be worth considering adopting a technological solution for your software solutions.There are many tools that can make tracking and managing your critical software updates easier. Check out this article for more on getting started.
Hiring help: It is never a bad idea to seek out help from a professional for your IT-related needs, even if you have a small shop and minimal technology requirements. Of course, this can pose challenges for the small business owner, in that you must assess whether to bring on a full-time worker or outsource your needs to a third party like a managed service provider (MSP). Luckily, you don’t need to make this decision alone! Check out Alliant National’s blog about this topic, which you can read here.
Enjoy a secure system
The work of IT never ends, and this poses real challenges when it comes to software updates. Yet like anything else, solutions exist. Carefully planning your updates, staying hip to the latest changes and getting assistance when needed can help you strengthen the IT systems on which your business success relies.
Take charge of your devices and accounts to get your digital house in order.
We have all been there at some point: Your desktop has become a cluttered mess. Your computer is overrun with outdated or unnecessary software. Even your update notifications have become unmanageable.
If you can relate to this, it is probably time to better organize your digital presence. By taking advantage of the following steps, you will instill your digital life with a greater sense of control and order, lowering your anxiety and maximizing your productivity as a result.
The Power of Folders
The first thing to do is to tackle your cluttered desktop. Start by setting a hard limit on top-level folders and then stick to that limit for each tier of your digital folder tree. Pick a number large enough to accurately encompass the various ways in which you use your device but small enough to instill your machine with a sense of order. More than likely, this number will need to be larger than five, but you should strive to keep your final number under ten. Like any goal, the numerical limit you select should force discipline but ultimately remain feasible.
For this blog, we will use the number seven, splitting the difference. Begin by establishing your top-level system of seven folders on your desktop. Think about how you can segment the different materials on your computer in the most generalized way possible. Perhaps consider a file for photos, a file for client documents, a file for any personal items and so on. After that, navigate inside each folder and once again create no more than seven sub-folders to further organize all files that you have lumped together into your top-level folders. Repeat this step for as many levels as you need.
Throw Out and Back-Up
Perhaps the most satisfying step in any organizing project is throwing out items you no longer need. First off, empty your recycling bin. Then ask some hard questions about each file you have. Is this something you need on your hard drive? Are you holding onto it for any legitimate purpose – whether it is professional, personal or even sentimental? The trick is to balance scrutiny and regret. Throw out everything you can, but if you have doubts about an item, keep it. Just make sure it is properly filed away in your newly-established folder system.
You can also assess your software programs and internet browsers. Uninstall any programs you no longer use to free up space on your machine. Delete your browser’s cookies and temporary files. You can also deploy a disk cleaning software application, but be sure to select one with good reviews.
After you have arranged your files and deleted as much as you can, backup everything that remains on your machine. There are several approaches you can take here. You can store your data on the Cloud with end-to-end encryption. You could save it to an external hard drive. You could even burn your data to a CD. Fortunately, mobile devices already support automatic data backups, and there are numerous software options out there that are cost-effective and relatively easy to use.
Enable Alerts and Updates
To ensure that you are staying organized in your digital life, you should enable automatic software updates. The endless update notifications we receive these days can be annoying and cumbersome – but the updating process is an incredibly important step to ensuring your online security. By implementing automatic updates, you will kill two birds with one stone. You will reduce the amount of manual updating you have to do and likely cut down on the volume of notifications you receive.
Tracking activity in your important digital accounts is another key piece of digital organization. You should consider activating alerts on your banking accounts in particular. Many banks offer a wide range of alert services that can help you manage your money. From low balance and unusual purchase alerts to notifications about large ATM withdrawals, it makes a lot of sense to take advantage of these free services.
These days, we all spend a considerable portion of our time online conducting large amounts of personal and professional business. Understandably, our devices can get disorganized. But by following these steps, you can reduce clutter, streamline processes and finally reclaim a measure of control over your digital life.
Can you spot when you’re being phished? One of the first steps is fully understanding what phishing is. Unfortunately, it’s not as fun as heading to the stream with your waders. Phishing can take place via phone call, text, or email, but the latter is the most common place. The attacker will pose as a legitimate institution in an attempt to get secure information from their target. Some examples include those spam calls you receive from the “IRS” robot asking for your social security number.
Over email, things can get a little bit more malicious. It’s common sense to know that an unsolicited robotic voice asking for your social security number isn’t legitimate. However, what happens when you receive an email with a link that you wouldn’t usually give a second glance to? Cyber attackers rely on that lack of attention to target vulnerable users. Here are some ways to tell if the email you’ve received is a phishing email:
Remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Those flashy designs advertising expensive items for free could (and in all likelihood will) result in identity theft.
Be mindful of emails from unknown senders insisting that you act urgently. The attacker is trying to pressure you into acting without thinking.
Watch out for unknown hyperlinks and attachments. They’ve gained popularity over recent years. They avoid giving you all the details in the email to avoid looking immediately suspicious and urge you to click on the link for more information. Never click on a link from an unknown or untrustworthy sender.
All of that might seem like a lot, but knowing what to look out for is the first step in protecting yourself from cyber-attacks. After a while it will all become like second nature. There are also plenty of other preventative steps that you can take to ensure that you and your inbox are protected.
Spam filters can go a long way toward stopping malicious content from getting to your inbox at all, and you can update your browser’s security settings to block fraudulent websites from opening at all. Setting up two-factor authentication with your financial institutions and any website where your bank data may be stored can help protect you as well.
Jigsaw and Google have partnered to keep an up-to-date phishing quiz to see if you’re ready to identify phishing attempts that may come your way. You can take it here.