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The Hidden (and Devastating) Costs Of Being Hacked

Most business owners worry at least occasionally about being the victims of a hacker. However, many don’t take even the most basic steps to protect themselves against cyber criminals.

In our experience, this disparity between their anxiety and the amount of effort they put into protecting themselves from the unknown has a couple of causes. The first is that a lot of business people simply don’t know what it takes to keep their data protected. They aren’t even sure where to start. And secondly, they tend to heavily underestimate the costs of being hacked.

The average business owner understands that there are going to be expenses associated with being hacked. Namely, they expect to pay for repairs to computers and websites. Those charges can be quite extensive, but they actually represent the easiest and cheapest part of the problem.

If your small business is successfully targeted by hackers, you also have to look out for a pair of hidden (and often devastating) costs you might not expect. Let’s take a quick look at each one…


The Loss of Productivity for You and Your Team

Once a hacker gets into your computers or website, your business will essentially grind to a halt. You may not be able to sell products, accept payments, or even contact customers or vendors through email.

At the same time, employees will probably be sitting around waiting for an IT team to come and make needed repairs or replacements. They’ll be on the clock and getting paid, but not generating any new revenue. Meanwhile, your customers may seek out alternative products or services from your competitors when you aren’t able to give them what they need.

This loss of productivity and revenue is likely to amount to a lot more than what you’ll pay a technology team to sort out the problem. And yet, it’s still not likely to add up to the other significant costs you will have to bear.


The Damage Done to Your Credibility and Reputation

Once your business has been hacked, you could have a hard time winning back the trust of your customers. If your website and communications have been down they’ll think of you as unreliable. If they received phony messages from your company, or if hackers gained access to information like passwords and financial details then buyers might not ever forgive you.

Having your reputation diminished in this way, and losing the trust of your most important customers, can represent a permanent shift your company. In many cases, it can actually put a small firm out of business altogether.


Protecting Your Business is Easier and Less Expensive Than You Think

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to protect your small business from hackers and online thieves. Working with a good IT partner, you can take advantage of stronger passwords, security software, firewalls, and automatic data backups to prevent criminals from breaking into your company… and to mitigate the damage if they do happen to get access to your files.

Instead of worrying about the future, why not contact the Kinetik IT team today so we can get to work safeguarding your devices and important data? It only takes a moment to schedule an initial consultation and you could be amazed at what it will do for your peace of mind.

Immediate Steps To Take In The Event Of A Ransomware Attack

Over the last few years we have seen a number of high-profile ransomware attacks that have affected small businesses, large corporations, and even institutions like hospitals and universities. With each successful infection, hackers have gotten bolder and business owners have found more reason to worry.

In recent posts we have outlined steps you can take to prevent yourself from being an easy target for online criminals. But, what happens if your worst fears come to life and you are affected by ransomware? Today, we want to lay out a few simple steps you should follow if you ever find yourself in that unfortunate situation…


Disconnect the Affected Machine from Your Network

The first thing you should do, if you see a ransomware message on your computer, is to disconnect the affected machine from your network. Physically unplug it if needed. Many forms of ransomware can spread across intranets and wireless networks, and the last thing you need is for the malware to get copied onto new devices.

If it isn’t possible to disconnect the device, or if you are already seeing signs that it has spread, turn off your router or server altogether.


Cover Up Any Webcams or Microphones

Some ransomware infections will copy files from the host computer and send them back to hackers. In other cases, criminals may listen in through webcams or microphones on infected computers. These types of attacks are rare, but they aren’t unheard of.

You don’t want them to be able to view or hear you, or to get more sensitive information from your company. So, disconnecting or covering things like webcams is a good idea.


Ignore Any Ransom Demands

Hackers want you to think that the easiest way to deal with a ransomware attack is to simply pay a fee and have access to your files restored. However, that’s not usually a good idea. For one thing, you don’t have any assurances you’ll get full access to your computers back. And for another, it only encourages hackers to develop more ransomware and target you again in the future.

Tempting as it might be to look for a quick fix, don’t make the mistake of giving in to ransomware demands.


Call Your Small Business IT Vendor Immediately

In many cases a good IT provider can remove malware from a computer quickly. They can also help protect you against further attacks by installing the right software and offering training to your team. If removal isn’t a possibility, they may be able to restore affected devices or workstations using existing backups, but that’s only an option if you had ongoing support in place to begin with.

No matter how you look at it, the best way to deal with a ransomware attack after it’s happened is to call an IT team you can trust and let them get to work.


The Best Cure for Ransomware is Better Protection

It goes without saying that the best way to deal with ransomware – along with other forms of hacking and cyber crime – is to not be a victim in the first place. If you feel like your networks, email, and data aren’t as safe as they could be, this is the perfect opportunity to get the help you need.

Contact the technical experts at Kinetik IT in Phoenix today to see how easy it is to get the protection and tech support your business needs!

How to Keep Hackers Away: A Step-by-Step Guide

In recent years, many of our clients have become more concerned about hackers and cyber crimes. They aren’t alone. Surveys show that U.S. companies lose billions to digital crime every year, and the number of companies affected – including Fortune 500 corporations, small businesses, and even government agencies – grows by the month.

However, that doesn’t mean you are powerless to prevent criminals from breaking into your website, servers, or computer files. In fact, there are a number of concrete steps you can take starting today to keep hackers away from your business. Let’s take a look at a handful of simple but effective protective measures you can put into place…


Invest in Staff Training

The weakest link in your cyber security plan probably isn’t a specific piece of hardware or software; it’s the bad habits you and your team might have. Firms like ours offer ongoing tech security training that teaches simple best practices you can use to close the door on hackers and make it harder for them to break it.


Take Password Policies Seriously

As we have written the past, strong passwords that are regularly changed can be a very effective first line of defense against computer criminals. It’s easy to rely on simple passwords, or use the same ones again and again, but this is an area where a little bit of planning and precaution can go a long way.


Put Firewalls and Security Software in Place

These are the digital equivalent of having strong locks and windows on your office. They might not prevent every hack, break in, or malware attempt, but you are far less likely to be targeted if you have basic security measures then you would be without them.


Avoid Suspicious Emails and Websites

When you or your employees visit untrustworthy websites, or open attachments from emails you don’t recognize, hackers are practically being invited into your business. This is a boring piece of advice but one that still holds up: don’t visit suspicious websites on work computers, and scrutinize every flash drive, file, or email attachment that comes your way.


Control Access to Your Office and Technology

Hackers don’t always get into your company through digital means. Sometimes they make their way into your office posing as service workers, job applicants, or even interns. Pay attention to the faces you see coming in and out of your company, and make sure that not just anyone (even your employees) can get access to important passwords or software applications.


Run Regular Updates and Backups

Hackers often look for businesses that are running outdated versions of existing software because they will have known security issues. That’s why you should always be updating your applications so you have the latest and strongest protections. Additionally, by running regular backups you can keep extra sets of your files that will be helpful in the event your company is hacked.


Keep an Eye on Your Accounts and Analytics

It’s bad enough to be hacked; it’s even worse if the online break-in goes undetected for days or weeks at a time. By regularly scanning your accounts and computer analytics you can be on the lookout for a regular activity that could be the first sign of a crime.


Rely on Your 24/7 Helpdesk

If all of this seems like a lot of work, remember that a good managed services vendor will set up these protections – and many more – on your behalf. Additionally, they’ll configure and monitor a 24/7 helpdesk and oversight system so you can be sure someone will always be looking out for your data security.


Is it Time for a Smarter IT Strategy?

Whether you’re looking to protect sensitive data, reduce technology expenditures, or just do away with nagging problems that slow your team’s productivity Kinetik IT can help. Our firm is one of the most trusted in Phoenix and beyond because we put our clients first. Contact us today to see how we can help your business develop a smarter tech strategy.

How Managed IT Can Transform Your Company Almost Overnight

For business owners who haven’t yet made the switch, the move from traditional IT to a managed services agreement can seem like little more than a billing change. When you get the right package from the right company, though, it’s nothing less than a way to transform your entire company.

To understand why, the first thing you need is a grasp on what managed IT actually looks like. It’s a system in which you pay for monthly technology care rather than getting an invoice every time you need a service call. That’s not just a difference of rates, it’s an entirely separate philosophy. With managed IT care you're no longer on your own – you have a team of professionals working proactively to ensure you don’t have any tech problems. That’s a lot better than simply calling an outside company to come and repair issues as needed.

Let’s look at a few of the ways managed IT can transform your business almost overnight…


You No Longer Suffer from Nagging IT Problems

One big problem with traditional IT is that every technology problem leads to a question: is this important enough to call a technician for help?

That’s not the way a business owner should be thinking about their hardware and software. They should be demanding that everything works well and isn’t causing delays or interruptions. With a managed IT agreement in place, you have someone working proactively to resolve nagging issues so they don’t slow your business down.


You Have 24/7 Monitoring and Support

If you don’t have continuous IT coverage then it’s essentially up to you to detect any technology problems you might be dealing with, even if they revolve around things you might not completely understand like hardware installation or cyber security.

Contrast that with the care you get from a good managed services agreement. Under that kind of system you have the security of round-the-clock remote systems monitoring and access to a 24/7 helpdesk so you can always get the answers and support you need.


You Can Make Better Technology Plans and IT Budgeting Forecasts

An underappreciated aspect of managed IT is that you get regular consulting sessions where tech experts can help you to understand how you can use technology like new apps and mobile devices to reach your business goals. Additionally, you’ll get personalized advice on investments and tech budgeting.

If you've ever had the feeling that you don’t know whether you're spending enough on IT or using the right devices and software, this is something you’ll definitely appreciate.


Technology Becomes a Competitive Strength

Far too many business owners think of tech as something they have to have but don’t really understand and wish they didn’t have to pay for. With a managed IT plan in place, you can use hardware and software more efficiently than your competitors, turning it into a point of strength for your small business.

Entrepreneurs need every edge they can get, particularly in the digital age. Why not give yourself a head start over your colleagues?


Want to Know More about Managed IT Care?

At Kinetik IT in Phoenix we work hard to help our clients succeed. So, if you want a tech strategy that focuses on your bottom line rather than the latest gadgets or buzzwords, contact us today to set up a meeting and see what we can do for you and your team.

4 Immediate Steps To Take If Your Computer Crashes

Few things are as aggravating to a business owner as seeing a computer crash in the middle of a busy workday. It’s the office equivalent of being stranded by the side of the road in your car. You might not know what the problem is, much less what you should do or who you should call.

As trusted experts in the field of business technology, we help our clients to deal with these kinds of situations every week. Today, we want to pass on four good pieces of advice you can use if your laptop, desktop, or workstation suddenly stops working the way it is supposed to…


#1 Don’t Panic or Do Anything Drastic

It’s natural to be filled with a sense of dread when your computer locks up. That’s especially true if you are in the middle of working on something important, irreplaceable, or time-sensitive.

Still, the most important thing is to stay calm. Chances are, your IT partner can get your computer working again, or at the very least retrieve your data. However, by taking drastic steps – like restarting your computer several times or opening up the case – you run the risk of causing permanent damage and making things worse.


#2 Make a Few Notes About the Situation

In most cases, a crashing computer will offer clues about why it isn’t working the way it’s supposed to. By making note of these you can expedite the process of getting back to work later.

Pay attention to any error messages you see. Note which pieces of software were running when the computer crashed, how long the device had been on, and even whether there were other events (like a power surge, for example) that occurred just before the crash. These can help you diagnose the problem and get things working again more quickly.


#3 Avoid Looking for Quick Solutions

Sometimes, business owners will do everything they can to avoid calling an IT vendor to deal with a computer crash. So, they’ll download diagnostic software, install new parts, or take other quick-fix steps to solve the issue alone.

These solutions might pay off once in a while, but it’s more likely that they’ll exasperate the problem while leading to wasted time and money. Your computers are important business assets filled with valuable (and potentially sensitive) data. It’s not worth it to mess with solutions that won’t give you any real help.


#4 Call the Small Business IT Experts

Given how easy it can be to destroy valuable pieces of business equipment, the best thing you can do for a crashing computer is call someone who has the right training and experience to fix it. They can help you get online faster and won't invalidate your warrantees by looking for solutions that are fast but unproven.

Even better, the right IT partner can help you prevent future crashes and freezes by permanently solving the problem and troubleshooting for other issues. Then, you won’t have to worry about dealing with these kinds of situations again in the future.


Want Better Care for Your Business Technology?

At Kinetik IT, we have spent more than a decade building a reputation as Arizona’s most trusted small business technology support team. If you want a group of committed professionals who are known for fast service and straightforward answers on your side, contact us today so we can schedule a free consultation and review your IT needs.

4 Simple Rules for Safeguarding Your Passwords

Passwords are your first and simplest line of defense against criminals who want to use technology to steal from you and your business. With a good password strategy in place, you have the equivalent of an office building with bolted doors and locked windows. Without the right password policies, virtually anyone can stroll in and have a look around.

To help ensure you're following the best practices for passwords on your business and personal devices, here are five simple rules you should follow…


#1 Choose Complex and Passwords

Most hackers aren’t computer geniuses. Instead, they are using simple pieces of software that either look for known software exploits or try to “guess” passwords by attempting thousands of combinations per second.

These applications can figure out a simple password in a matter of moments. However, a tougher password containing 10 or more characters, capital letters, numbers, and special symbols could keep the software busy for months or more. That’s enough time to detect the attack, and far too long for a hacker to spend on your website.


#2 Create Unique Passwords for Each Website, Account, or Application

Generating passwords that are long and complex is perhaps the most important step you can take, but even a strong password shouldn’t be shared between accounts. In other words, you should have one password for your bank, another for your hosting company, a separate one for each email you maintain, and so on.

By keeping different passwords you eliminate the possibility that someone will crack or otherwise obtain one of your login credentials and use it elsewhere.


#3 Don’t Keep Your Passwords in a Place Where They’ll be Seen

Having strong and unique passwords won’t do you much good if someone can simply walk into your office and see them on a printed sheet that's hung on the wall. Likewise, they can’t offer you much in the way of protection if you give them out to anyone who asks for them.

Keep your passwords stored in a secure place, like a safe or encrypted file. And, never share them – even with employees or vendors – unless you are convinced it’s safe to do so. When in doubt, ask an extra question, or check someone’s credentials, just so you can be sure.


#4 Change Your Passwords Regularly

It would be nice if you only had to worry about keeping passwords safe on your end, but it’s a sad fact that your vendors and partners (even Fortune 500 firms) can be hacked. As a result, your password might be compromised even if you aren’t aware of it.

The best way to deal with that threat is to change your passwords at regular intervals even if you don’t think it’s necessary. For instance, you might spend a few minutes on a Saturday morning every three months generating new ones and saving them to your accounts.


Looking for More Common Sense Tech Advice?

Kinetik IT has become a trusted resource for business owners throughout Arizona because we look for simple, workable, and cost-effective solutions for our clients. If you want better data security, 24/7 helpdesk support, and a smarter approach to tech spending and deployment, contact us today to learn more!

How To Find A Mind-Blowing Software Developer

If you’re going to pay for custom software development, it only makes sense that you’ll want to hire the best programmer around. That way, you won’t just get a tool that helps you manage important business tasks, but also a platform that’s stable and easy to use.

Because most business owners and executives don’t understand a lot about the art and craft of programming new apps, they fall for marketing hype and half-truths – or worse, simply hire the lowest-cost software developer they can find. Then, when they are underwhelmed by the results they are forced to abandon the project, live with something that isn’t quite what they wanted, or start their search over again from scratch.

We don’t want you to have to do any of those things. So today, we are going to give you some top tips you can use to find a mind-blowing software developer for your project. Here are some things you’ll want to do as you meet with different candidates…


Pay Attention to the Questions They Ask

A great software developer knows that the client is the centerpiece of any project. They will ask a lot of open-ended questions because they will want to understand the challenges you’re facing and the outcomes you want to achieve. They will know from experience that almost anything can be created with the right understanding, but that a project is only successful when you receive the perfect solution.


Look for Passion

While it isn’t something that business people necessarily understand or expect, programming software is as much a creative art as it is a science. It’s something akin to writing a play where all the pieces and parts need to mesh together. That’s why the very best in our field are passionate about finding simple, creative, and elegant coding solutions wherever possible.


Try Some of Their Work

You wouldn’t hire a caterer without trying their food, would you? Apply the same kind of thinking to custom software development. If you need a person or team to create an application for you, test drive their work by using another app they have already created. Does it seem fast, easy to use, and full of features? If so, that’s a good sign they’ll deliver something you’re going to like as well.


Talk to Former Clients

It’s unfortunate, but some software developers are perfectly happy to tell you one thing and then do another. That’s why you should always speak to former clients to see what their impressions were like. They can tell you not only about the quality of the software that was delivered, but also whether the vendor was clear with their pricing and able to hit important deadlines.


Get It All in Writing

A reliable software developer is going to be happy to put their promises and assurances in writing because they don’t have anything to hide. So, look over the proposals received very carefully. If what you see is clear and straightforward than you’re probably working with a reputable company.


Need New Software for Your Business?

If you need a custom application or plug-in to make your business run more smoothly, now is the perfect time to talk to the software development experts at Kinetik IT in Phoenix. Let us show you how we can put our skills and experience to work for you!

Can a Great Programming Team Fix Bad Code?

Developing custom software can be a peculiar business. That’s because most of our clients know what they want, but don’t have the technical skills needed to evaluate the process that will create it. As a result, they can sometimes find themselves taken in by firms that don’t do quality work. The result is an application that doesn’t function the way it’s supposed to.

The signs of poorly written and design software can show up immediately or after a period of use. There might be crashes, error screens, slowed system performance, or even corrupted data. Once these symptoms appear, a business owner or executive can find themselves scrambling around looking for someone who can repair the problem. That often leads them to ask: can a great programming team fix bad code?

The short answer is “yes,” but there are a few things you should keep in mind…


Fixing Bad Code is a Tedious (but Necessary) Process

Repairing broken pieces of software isn’t always easy. More often than not we have to use specialized software (and good old-fashioned eyeball tests) to dig through millions of lines of coding to get to the heart of the issue. In some cases, it might not be that one section is “wrong,” but that there are inconsistencies, small mistakes, or functions that have been copied from one file or application to another.

Regardless of what some vendors might tell you, this isn’t work that can be finished overnight or completely automated. However, it’s a necessary process to go through if you’re going to end up with a piece of software that works exactly as advertised.


It’s Well Worth the Effort

Because of the time and effort involved, we understand that some business owners or executives would rather forgo this process altogether. They may be tempted to just live with the bad coding they have. However, getting a team of experts to repair software and apps that aren’t working is a good decision and the right investment to make.

When your software isn’t functioning properly it affects productivity throughout your business. It might also impact your ability to effectively measure things like revenue and inventory. Worst of all, an issue with one piece of software could spread to other applications or devices. So, don’t put off the programming work needed to fix the problem any longer than you have to.


It’s Better to Start with Quality Work

It goes without saying that it’s much better to hire a reputable development team from the start than it is to have them audit, analyze, and then repair broken coding. Not only will you save time and money, but clean code is much easier to expand and update than messy pieces of software programming.

It’s always better to be healthy than it is to know a good surgeon, and the same kind of analogy applies to the software you need to run your business. When in doubt, spend a little extra time and money finding a developer you can trust, so you won’t have to deal with bad code later.


Looking for a Software Development Partner You Can Trust?

Whether you need custom software written for your company, unique programming of a website, or just a new mobile app for your customers or employees, the Kinetik IT team in Phoenix can help. Contact us today so we can get started on your development project!

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your QA Testing

Quality assurance testing (or QA for short) is a crucial part of the process when developing a website, app, or custom piece of software. Unfortunately, this is also a step many clients don’t particularly understand or appreciate. Many are so eager to see their new project put to work that they want to rush through this step.

If anything, we have learned over the years that creative teams and their clients could use more QA, not less. So today we want to give you five easy ways you can take to help your vendor deliver error-free programming that works exactly the way you expect it to.


#1 Leave Plenty of Time for QA Reviews

The most important thing you can do, as a business owner or executive, is to stress the importance of QA testing to your development team and leave them enough time to do their work. In other words, make sure you don’t hire a vendor who would agree to rush the process even if you wanted them to, and then be patient as they perform detailed checks and stress tests.


#2 Expand Your QA Testing Team

Often, a programming team will do their first round of QA testing in-house in a controlled environment. However, it’s never a bad idea to get some of the people who will actually be using the resulting app or website in on the act. Let them test it just as they would in a real-world setting and you might find needs or repairs that weren’t immediately apparent.


#3 Log Every Error or Instance

Whether it’s during the testing phase or in a real-world application, you should document any errors you come across when using your new piece of programming. Pay attention to what occurs, when the problem creeps up, any error message that's displayed, and any other details that you can recall. The more information your programming team has to work with, the easier will be for them to find the problematic bits of code that need to be removed or rewritten.


#4 Double Check on Different Devices

One challenge for programmers is that a given app can work perfectly in one environment – say a certain device or browser – but not function on another. The best way to discover issues of compatibility is to simply try your software out within a number of different platforms. The more narrow your QA testing profile, the greater your odds of coming across hidden issues later.


#5 Revisit QA After Changes or Updates

Naturally, the most comprehensive QA testing is going to be undertaken prior to launching your application or website. However, that doesn’t mean you should forget about it after you go live. It’s a good idea to continue QA testing at regular intervals, and particularly after major changes, upgrades, or updates to your custom programming project.


Thinking About Web Programming or Software Development?

It’s entirely possible that the tool you need to take your business to the next level would be easy and inexpensive to create. But, you’ll never find out if you aren’t willing to meet with an expert programming team. Why not contact Kinetik IT in Phoenix today to learn a little bit more about the ways we can help save your company time and money with custom development?

A Simple Guide to Beautiful Web Design

Every business owner wants to have a website that’s a beautiful and effective marketing tool. So, why is it that so many companies have put up layouts that look plain, or just plain bad?

In some cases, they are probably following poor advice from creative teams who are rushing through the web design process. In other situations, they may be giving in to instincts that are counterproductive. We don’t want you to make either of those mistakes. That’s why we want to give you a simple, usable guide you can follow to ensure you get a great web design.

Let’s start with a straightforward step a lot of business owners and web designers overlook…


Pick an Aesthetic Theme

If you’ve ever searched for a new home, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that realtors talk about different properties in terms of distinct styles. They might show you something that’s Ranch, Victorian, or even Tudor. These terms serve as shorthand for a particular architectural philosophy. You should begin your business website with the same type of concept. Decide what kind of look you’re going for and then let that guide subsequent inspirations.


Choose a Clean and Engaging Layout

Even when a website is built from scratch there are going to be mockup designs to choose from. As a business owner, one of your most important roles in the web design process is to make the final decision on the overall look and layout. Don’t fall for the trap of choosing something that’s too cluttered and confusing just because you want to put more apps and content on every page.


Keep Colors and Fonts Simple

Go to a museum and you’ll see many different styles of art, ranging from the strikingly simple to more complex mixtures of colors, shapes, and textures. On the web, though, your visual medium is more limited – people can only see what you put in front of them on a flat screen. Knowing that, you should stick to simple color and font schemes that work well together. It’s usually better to be a bit understated online than it is to go over the top and annoy website visitors.


Only Use High-Quality Images

No matter how strong your website layout and visual plan is, your pages aren’t going to look their best if you have low-quality images. Ideally, you would fill your website with lots of custom photos that had been shot by a professional photographer. If you don’t have those, however, consider using stock photos (where appropriate) rather than trying to convey your credibility with grainy or outdated images.


Keep One Eye on Utility

The look of your website is important, but it isn’t the only thing that matters. That’s important to remember when considering things like layouts and color choices. You only have a few seconds to impress a first-time visitor who is arriving on your site for the first time. Make sure they can understand what you do instantly, and can find the information or resources that will lead them to give your business a try.


Looking for Web Design That Goes Above and Beyond?

At Kinetik IT in Arizona we think a business website should impress customers, support your marketing goals, and have a positive impact on your bottom line. If you’re looking to build a web presence that helps your company grow and compete in the digital age, contact us today so we can set up a free consultation.