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The Top 8 Necessities of a Business Continuity Plan

As the old saying goes, “Life isn’t about shielding yourself from the rain, it’s about discovering to thrive in the hurricane.” However, if you’re a small business, you initially need to preserve your data from the rainfall before you can pay for to dance in the hurricane with no concern. Natural disasters and cyber-attacks can hit you unexpectedly, costing your business thousands in revenue.

Your equipment might be destroyed, your workplace may be flooded as well as your essential service information breached. While some companies can take swift action to guarantee their stock and business are safeguarded from catastrophes, many of them have a tendency to forget the risk these tragedies present to their IT facilities as well as information.

Here are the Top 8 necessities your organization should include in developing a business continuity plan.

Is Your Business Prepared for Extended Downtime?

To countless business owners, it does not seem to pose a problem– and inevitably, this is where things fall apart. Information loss as a result of a disaster or any other factor can cause considerable harm to a business, leading to extreme effects such as total service downtime. Protecting your information shouldn’t be a strategy you wait to develop until after it’s been devastated. Here are the steps you can take to alleviate the risks calamities could present to your information as well as IT framework.

  1. Acknowledge the demand for information safety, protection as well as healing in times of calamity.
  2. Combine your key resources as well as produce a group that is accountable for executing your catastrophe back-up as well as recuperation strategy.
  3. Recognize the key locations that need to be attended to. In case of a disaster, what are the procedures that absolutely need to function to maintain your service going and what is required to be done so they still operate efficiently?
  4. Prepare a strong catastrophe recovery-business continuity plan. You can employ your in-house IT group or bring a managed it services provider onboard to do this.
  5. Create a checklist of all the software programs, applications and also equipment that are vital to your service process.
  6. Take account of floor plans, physical access information, entry-exit protection codes or anything pertaining to your business in the plan.
  7. Include material about your backups in the calamity recuperation and company strategy.
  8. Conduct simulated drills as well as audits to guarantee your strategy is executable and also provides you the intended outcomes.

All of this can feel like an immense undertaking, specifically with an organization to manage and a disaster to be on the look-out for! That’s why most SMB’s count on trusted managed service providers to do it for them, while they focus on their core area– running their service and partners.

Don’t Let a Disaster Blow your Data Away!

An unanticipated emergency situation can wipe out your service, however a proper information continuity strategy can aid in its endurance! So what should an excellent service connection strategy cover?

A checklist of your most important connections

Among the most important components in your organization connection plan is a list of all your essential contacts who must be informed of the catastrophe. This can include all your C-level execs, HR supervisors, IT Supervisor, client encountering supervisors, and so on.

An extensive checklist of your IT stock

Your organization continuity strategy must consist of a list of all the software programs, apps as well as equipment that you make use of in the day-to-day operations of your service. This listing ought to identify each of those as important or non-critical as well as point out information relating to each of them such as:

  • The name of the application/program.
  • Version/model number (for software/hardware).
  • Vendor name as well as connection details for each of them.
  • Warranty/support schedule details.
  • Contact information for client support for these applications.
  • Frequency of use.

Relevant Backup Data

Data backups are crucial to your disaster rehabilitation and so your service connection planning ought to feature information regarding data backups. It should state exactly how usually information is supported, in what styles as well as where. It should likewise mention what document back-ups are readily available– preferably, you need to be protecting ALL data as soon as possible! Especially if your business is transitioning its operations to remote work, you need to be prepared for anything.

What’s your Alternate Plan?

See to it your service connection program notes a backup procedures strategy that will certainly enter play in the event of a catastrophe. Examples consist of substitute operations such as options to function remotely or even to allow employees to bring their very own gadgets to work (BYOD) pending the time regular company premises or devices are ready.

Layout and site

Your service connection plan must also consist of a layout of your workplaces with the exit as well as entrance points plainly marked up, so they could be utilized in case of any sort of emergency. It must likewise mention the site of data centers, phones, essential IT devices and similar hardware.

Process classification

See to it your company continuity strategy specifies the standard operating procedures (SOP’s) to be complied with in the event of an unexpected emergency.

It’s Time to Start Planning!

Are you thinking business continuity planning is convoluted? Do not quit! A bunch of little & average sized companies don’t produce a company connection strategy thinking it is way too much of a problem. But this can easily show to be disastrous to your company eventually. A skilled MSP can aid you comprehend company connection preparing and also even aid you create a service connection plan that is best suited for your business!

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How to Improve Your Business’ Cyber Defense

Today, countless entrepreneurs set up an anti-virus software for their cyber protection and stop there. Nevertheless, there are actually numerous means to breach a system without triggering anti-virus applications. And especially in today’s evolving remote work world, you’ll need more than just a simple firewall to stop your data from being breached.

Cyber-criminals are actually producing various malware quicker than antivirus solutions may identify all of them (around 100,000 updated infection forms are introduced every day), and expert hackers will frequently assess their developments versus all readily accessible systems prior to launching them onto the internet.

The Scary Truth

Regardless of whether you possessed an ideal anti-virus solution that might sense as well as prevent all risks, there are actually countless cyber threats that can get around anti-virus software completely. For instance, if a cyber-criminal is able to manipulate a staff member to click on an infected email or link, or perhaps “brute force estimate” a low-strength password, all the anti-virus applications on earth couldn’t save you.

There are actually a number of weaknesses a hacker may prey on: the physical level, the individual level, the network level, and also the device level. You need to have a security strategy that will definitely enable you to swiftly detect as well as address violations at each level.
The physical level pertains to the PC’s as well as other devices that you store in your workplace. This is actually the simplest level to secure, yet is actually frequently abused. For example, employees lose devices with sensitive information such as smartphones or USB’s, which fall into the wrong hands.

For the physical level, you should:

  1. Retain all PC’s and also equipment under the oversight of a worker or even stored away in all opportunities.
  2. Solely permit approved team members to utilize your equipment.
  3. Never connect in any kind of unidentified USB gadgets.
  4. Demolish outdated computer hardware prior to tossing it away.

The Biggest Threat to Your Business

The truth is, 95% of protection occurrences include human mistakes. Ashley Schwartau of The Security Awareness Company states the most significant blunders a firm can make are “presuming their workers recognize internal safety strategies” as well as “presuming their staff members care sufficiently to comply with plan”.

Right here are some means cyber-criminals make use of human shortcomings:

  1. Attempting to brute-force deciphering passwords.
  2. Fooling workers to open up suspicious e-mails or go to endangered sites.
  3. Deceiving workers to reveal delicate info.

For the human level, you should:

  1. Implement obligatory password modifications every 30 to 60 days, or after a worker is lost.
  2. Train your staff members on ideal techniques every 6 months.
  3. Supply rewards for safety mindful actions.
  4. Disperse delicate details on a requirement to understand basis.
  5. Need 2 or even more people to approve any kind of transfer of funds.

A Strong Network Makes Your Security Work

The network level describes software application strikes supplied online. This is without a doubt one of the most typical avenue for strikes, impacting 61% of services last year. There are all sorts of malware: some will certainly spy on you, some will certainly siphon off funds, and some will certainly lock away your data.

Nevertheless, they are all transferred similarly, either with spam e-mails or suspicious websites, or with “Drive by” downloads.

To defend your business versus malware:

  1. Do not utilize service gadgets on an unsafe network.
  2. Do not permit international tools to access your Wi-fi network.
  3. Utilize firewall programs to safeguard your network.
  4. Make certain your Wi-fi network is secured.
  5. Utilize antivirus applications as well as maintain updates. Although it is not the perfect security solution, it will certainly secure you from one of the most typical infections as well as aid you to observe abnormalities.
  6. Utilize applications that identify dubious program actions.

Don’t Leave Your Data to its Own Devices

The mobile level pertains to the digital tools your team utilizes on a day-to-day basis. Cyber security awareness for mobile devices usually trails other technology, which explains the reason there are 11.6 million compromised devices in any instance.

There are many traditional methods for compromising mobile devices:

  • Customary viruses & ransomware
  • Suspicious applications
  • Extortions to your business internet system

To protect your equipment you should:

  1. Utilize strong passcodes.
  2. Utilize encryption.
  3. Utilize distinguished cyber defense software.
  4. Allow remote data clearing possibilities.

What You Can Do

Just as every source of protection would certainly have been pointless without an HQ to relocate security strength to where it’s required most, Cyber IT defense-in-depth strategy requires to have an individual who can check each level for dubious data movement and also react as necessary. With a managed IT services provider, those concerns are gone as you have a whole team of IT engineers you can count on 24/7 for your cyber defense while you can focus on running your business.

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Cloud computing grants businesses the flexibility, scalability, and security to be successful with remote work.

Why Cloud Flexibility & Remote Work are the Future

The Flexibility of The Cloud & Remote Work

How does cloud flexibility allow for a remote work environment? When you migrate to the cloud, your data is hosted in an off-site data center instead of on premise.

You can then work from any location as long as you have a device connected to the internet. By eliminating the restrictions of an on-site server, you can increase your mobility exponentially.

You can work from anywhere as long as you have the right credentials, a secure device and an internet connection.

Remote Work Promotes Business Continuity

Business doesn’t stop for anyone. Having the option to work off-site has many benefits. When you consider how chaotic things can be you start to appreciate the flexibility of the cloud.

Many businesses struggle and even fail after a natural disaster or an unforeseen event. The Pandemic of 2020 showed us that the world can come to a crashing halt at any given moment. Investing in your firm’s future is not about ignoring an uncomfortable reality, but adapting to it.

We learned in a matter of a few short months how quickly the standard model can fail when tried. And a pandemic isn’t the only natural disaster that brings these conflicts. If you live in the east coast, hurricanes, tropical storms and other weather events can limit access to your business. Storms cause outages and often floods. What happens to your business then?

For small businesses, the recovery from hurricanes and other natural disasters might take years — if they even recover at all.  After Katrina, Louisiana businesses suffered a lot of damage.

Those with data backup & remote capabilities can function in these types of circumstances since they are not limited by a physical office space.

Small Businesses Struggle After A Disaster

Many small businesses are not as lucky as the larger franchises, however. According to a government study, 40 percent of small businesses never reopen following a weather-related disaster. The reason for that is unfortunate but simple: a halt in productivity is a halt in revenue. Businesses that shut down during these disasters are still growing, don’t have adequate cash reserved to repair damage and pay bills once they stop operating.

Even without any physical destruction to property, businesses that shut down can lose money and fail to pay for their monthly overhead. We’ve seen this happen to shopping malls and retail stores. A retail store owner will pay a mall for space but when they shut down, there’s no money coming in. As a result, the store closes down.

How about if an employee gets sick or has to suddenly leave town? How about businesses that are impacted by earthquakes or reconstruction?

Companies whose workers can work remotely have a better chance at survival than those who rely on in house servers and technology.

What’s worse, none of these events are within the control of a business owner. Not having remote capabilities is like living in a house without insurance or an alarm system. You’re at the mercy of the elements.

Remote option Increases Productivity Even in Unforeseen Situations

Another example is when an employee gets sick, or has to care for a sick child, and can’t get to the office. Without the flexibility of the cloud and remote work, the will inevitably fall behind.
If they are able to work from home, however, business can continue without major interruption.

Working from Home Business Can Continue with The Cloud

The benefits of cloud computing and remote work are for more than managing disasters and illness. When workers have access to their files and data, they can make last minute changes to a project or document. They can collaborate and improve the quality of the work outside the office as well.

Conversely, an employee might want to make progress with the work they are doing to prepare for a busy week coming up. That way they can clear up their schedule and move on to other projects and tasks. Employees can access their important files through the cloud at a moment’s notice.

When given remote access, employees experience a boost in productivity. Having a quieter environment away from the distractions of the office makes a big difference.
Offices can be very distracting environments. Away from office banter and side-conversations in the break-room, employees are more focused on the tasks at hand. They also take shorter breaks and work to the end of the day.

Increase Productivity With The Cloud

Remote work opens up new opportunities for employees and business owners alike. There are Gallup polls showing a 37 percent increase in productivity when moving to a remote environment.
The only thing is, you have to make sure you have the right technology in place to succeed. Ensuring you have the data and cyber protections in order to keep your business information safe. Migrating to the cloud and adopting remote work methods is useless if it makes your business more vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Remote Work Is Green Work

As we alluded to, employees and employers work longer partly because they don’t have a long commute. But if you think about it, that also means no commute at all. Remote work decreasesw traffic congestion, greenhouse gasses and air pollution by working from home.

In fact, remote workers take 600,000 cars off the road each year. On a cloud-based platform, greenhouse emissions will plummet to an all time low. That doesn’t mean people won’t go out to their favorite restaurant or shopping center. It simply means vehicles will be used more sparingly.

Not to mention the added bonus in savings on gas and repairs from the natural wear-and-tare that comes with car use.

Do Your Research

Look for a Managed IT services partner that fits your specific business goals. Nerds Support, for example, focuses on financial services and logistics firms. Therefore, we focus on compliance, auditing processes and cyber security for financial firms.

Other cloud providers are made for marketing and creative projects. There are plenty of Managed IT services providers that offer IT consulting for hospitals or local businesses. Here are 10 examples of cloud computing if you want to learn more.

Cloud Flexibility Allows you To Adapt And Overcome

When companies are faced with any disaster or problem they have to rise to the occasion and pivot their business to adjust. Spotify, the massive music streaming service, is a good example. When the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 came, advertisers had to make budget cuts.

Knowing this would threaten Spotify’s business model, they chose to focus more on streaming podcasts rather than just music. Spotify recognized a massive uptick in the number of individuals streaming podcasts and decided to adapt by capitalizing on the unique opportunity.

In much the same way, companies must embrace remote work or be replaced by those willing to make the change.

 

Financial advisor working remotely from home on his computer.

4 Things Financial Firms can do to Succeed Remotely

Financial firms are in the best position to succeed in a remote environment. Engaging with clients is easier than meeting in person and much of the work can be done regardless of location.

Americans are slowly adjusting to working from home. As states begin to ease the quarantine restrictions some companies are declaring permanent remote work environments. Companies like Facebook and Twitter are offering their employees the opportunity to work from home indefinitely.

Many firms have already moved to a fully remote operation and many more will do so in the future. However, moving to remote work can be difficult if handled incorrectly. Creating a successful remote operation is a new challenge CPA’s and financial firms will have to overcome.

When the lock-down started business owners looked to getting operations up as quickly as possible. Those who hadn’t migrated to a cloud based system did so. Others only migrated partly. While others still, struggled to adapt to a fully remote workplace. Video conferencing tools like Zoom and Microsoft teams grew in use and popularity.

Daily downloads of the videoconferencing app Zoom increased by 300 million participants since March. Businesses and employees spent time researching the different videoconferencing application and IT services companies that best fit their standards. But that’s only the beginning.

If you as a financial firm want to succeed in a remote environment you have to navigate cooperation, time management, data security and keeping your business functioning even while everyone may be so distant.

Here are a few ways to achieve success for your firm while working apart.

1) Take Advantage of Your Remote Environment

Maybe you’ve already noticed, but it’s difficult to distract each other with office gossip when there isn’t an office to gossip about. 85 percent of employees are either not engaged or disengaged at work. As a result, there is a 7 trillion dollar loss in productivity. Many offices have an open office layout which create a 32 percent drop in productivity.

However, this is harder to replicate when you’re forced to work remotely. Instead, the productive thing to do is to set virtual office hours or schedule meetings for a specific hour the day. Employees and staff can reserve a meeting however you choose. This might appear obvious to some but even in a remote environment it’s easy to get side tracked. You get one call from one colleague and then anther call 20 minutes later from an employee.  By the time you finish, you might not remember what you were doing in the first place.

Designate a period of time in your weekly and daily schedule for all meetings. The routine will also keep you focused and organized. Keeping a routine can lead to positive mental health. A routine can help manage stress levels and less overall anxiety, according to one study by Northwestern Medicine. College professors and councilors are very familiar with this system. It would be like having virtual office hours where team members can choose a slot and book a meeting.

2) Adapt to Technology

If you stop and think, if something like the Lockdown of 2020 had happened ten years earlier, remote work would not be possible. The emergence of cloud technology and communication apps like Microsoft Teams, Skype, Facetime, and Zoom together is what allows for a successful remote work environment.

Moving forward, many experts expect these changes to persist, bringing in a new era of remote activity. For financial firms, advising, asset valuation, and consulting will be done remotely. Firms should be looking to build on this change and integrate a remote reality to their existing operation.

What can your firm do to remain competitive, updated, and secure. Invest in a cloud service provider. IT services are going to be pivotal in the coming decades. Managed service providers will be in a position to make or break your firm. Look up the different cloud models and their features. Are they FINRA or SOX compliant? Where are their servers located? Are they stored somewhere outside the U.S.?

Nerds Support specializes in working with financial firms. However, there are many options available when hiring a managed IT service provider. Some are better than others, depending on the industry. You have to factor in security, location, knowledge of your industry, and even availability.

The Workplace platform provides a comprehensive solution that combines cyber security, compliance, & remote work needs.

The Workplace platform provides a comprehensive solution that combines cyber security, compliance, & remote work needs.

Is there someone you can talk to when something goes wrong? Do you have a point of contact? Sometimes a support team consists of strangers and other times it’s the CEO.

4) Build a Better Team Remotely

Human beings are social animals.  Although remote work is beneficial to productivity, it might be harmful to be socially isolated from your team. But there is a solution.

Team building is an important tool for social bonding and improving motivation. Setting aside an hour at the end of the week to celebrate that week’s accomplishments is a good example of team-building. There are a ton of other games and exercises you can try over video chat. Many have done virtual hangouts. Virtual happy hours are also popular. Even virtual competitions with certain free online games have brought offices together.   

5) Make Sure to Reconnect with Reality

The biggest issue in a remote work environment is that everything does seem to blend together. When you can’t distinguish your bedroom from your workplace it’s easy to get lost in a work-all-the-time mentality. Having an office has the psychological benefit of creating a barrier between your personal and work life.

A Stanford study showed that after 50 hours a week productivity sharply drops. Even worse, after 55 hours productivity gets so low that working becomes counterproductive.

I bring up the Stanford study because the comforts of working from home can often trick you into working more. Working an extra hour won’t kill you but the added stress of feeling like you’re at work at all hours is a serious problem. Establish clear boundaries for yourself and your team. When it’s time to log off, you log off. Communicate with your team your unavailability after a set time. Go for a walk, listen to music, but most importantly stay away from your computer.

 

How Accounting CPA's will continue post the pandemic

Accounting in a Post Pandemic Era

Last year’s pandemic has impacted nearly every business in the country. Now, accountants might find themselves wondering how to create a secure work environment for themselves and their clients.

The needs of your clients are changing and so is the industry. Furthermore, new regulations created as a consequence of COVID-19 are affecting business practices.

With that in mind, here are a few changes that CPA’s will experience in the coming years.

Employees

All businesses including CPA firms are looking to get employees back to work.  These are some guidelines that might help your firm organize itself as the country begins to open up again.

  1.  EEOC sub regulatory guidance is a mouthful, but it is also important when considering how to navigate your firm’s re-opening process. According to EEOC guidance, employers are permitted to test for the presence of the COVID-19 virus before allowing employees to enter the place of work.
  2.  Employers must ensure the right infection controls regarding testing and be cautious of false positives and false negatives. Keep in mind that even the most accurate test only detects the virus if it’s currently present in the body. It does not guarantee the employee will not get the virus later.
  3.  Temperature checks are permissible under EEOC guidelines. However, who should administer the checks and how to administer them are not clear.
  4.  Employees testing positive for COVID-19 should be isolated from others and the workplace. Employers are encouraged to follow CDC and OSHA guidelines, which include closing off areas used by the sick employee, cleaning and disinfecting the environment, and informing other employees of any possible exposure to the virus in the office.
  5. Results from a COVID-19 test or temperature check fall under ADA confidentiality provisions. These tests are considered confidential information that should be kept in a secure location away from other employee information.

Industry

We covered employees, but what about changes in the industry itself? The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated certain trends and shifted others. Let’s review what some of those are.

A Shift in Duties For CPA’s

Small-business clients need help accessing relief programs in the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program specifically. This means firms need to quickly transition from consulting to advisors as they help businesses get through the lockdown.  Financing reviews, a lot of cash flow forecasting and evaluating relief packages will be more important through tax season and the next few months.

Working Remotely

Experts agree that remote work for CPA’s is going to become the new normal. With companies like Twitter, Facebook and more making remote work permanent.

Although remote work was projected by  to increase gradually, the lockdown sped up the process. Firms were forced to quickly adopt remote enabling technologies like Video conferencing apps and the cloud.

Cloud Accounting

Speaking of the cloud, the move to remote operations has been difficult for firms who complain that apps like Zoom are not working well with their Citrix environment. That’s mainly because these firms have only partially moved over to the cloud.

Cloud accounting is an inevitability now that we know a pandemic can force us to work beyond the office at any moment.

A firm that was not prepared likely did not have the time to migrate to the cloud all of their applications and infrastructure over. So as things begin to pick up speed they’ll do so.

Moving to the cloud is not as easy as choosing to do so. There are steps to cloud migration. Moreover, the quality of the cloud service depends on the quality of the provider. Firms must familiarize themselves with the different types of cloud services: public, private and hybrid clouds.

By choosing a large public cloud like Amazon Web Services, you could be sacrificing personalized care. Choose a cloud that lacks the proper regulatory standards and it might hurt your firm more than it helps.

The chief concern for all CPA’s should be to assist clients, help save businesses and keep jobs.  CPA’s are the financial experts both individuals and main street businesses need right now. Having the right tools in place is going to be essential.

Accountants may have the technology to work remotely but not all of them have everything they require to work efficiently. Although being in the office doesn’t compare with being at home, adjusting is a matter of making the right choices.

Clients

Additionally, accountants can’t meet face-to-face with clients so they’ll resort to remote advising as a way to adjust. However, just like remote work, remote advising is going to outlast the lockdown it seems.

Accountants and clients will adjust to working from the comfort of their homes without having to bare long commutes or wait in an office.

Remote advising will redefine what it means to be an accountant like tax application services are doing now. Firms will realize that remote advising is not just a way of working through a pandemic but perhaps a more efficient way of doing business for both them and their clients.

Firms

Although the long-term consequences of the lockdown are still unknown, accountants need to see themselves as advisors businesses need to survive. Firms of all sizes are going to called on by their clients to help them though the economic downturns created by the lockdown.

CPA’s, unlike other professions, are facing an opportunity for growth. Accounting firms should position themselves as the first responders during a financial crisis. Employers, businesses and average citizens are looking for help. They want to apply for loan programs, government assistance, and financial relief programs. All of these examples require knowledgeable of tax, accounting and payroll.