Custom Technology Solutions, Inc

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Custom Technology Solutions, Inc - Corporate Blog

Networking with partners is the smart way to broaden our appeal

This year we are participating in more networking engagements and leveraging more partner relationships than ever as we seek to broaden the appeal of our simplified, centralized cloud services to a wider range of IT providers and the small business community at large. In this respect last week’s short visit to meet with the London media – where partner relationships provided a central focus – was a great example.   I had the opportunity to talk to the Channel press about our new partner enablement program as well as work alongside our partner organizations BusinessZone.co.uk and Enterprise Nation to provide small business owners with useful facts and advice about easy ways to keep their data safe. Recently we introduced a new partner enablement program to support sales of the AVG Managed Workplace RMM platform.  In the UK this has meant creating a couple of new roles and realigning the work of existing team members at the UK head office in Lincoln.  As part of this the sales team there has been joined by new faces from some of the industry’s biggest names. We therefore spent some time bringing CRN and Channel Pro up to speed with the program. Support for our business-as-usual activity is this year also focused around partnerships – with groups that play a key role influencing small businesses to be precise. One of these is Enterprise Nation , an organization that has around 70,000 small business members across the UK.  Enterprise Nation had invited me to join them as a guest panelist on a web chat talking to business owners about keeping on top of IT and Internet security. Among the top things people wanted to know were: what are the biggest IT and Internet security risks facing small businesses today (for me the answer is mobility); whether businesses that rely on mobile are particularly at risk (yes, because their ability to sync with network files goes right to the heart of your company data); and are free Wi-Fi hotspots safe places to work (if there’s any doubt about authenticity then best to avoid). As mentioned another of our business-as-usual partnerships is BusinessZone, a leading UK small business publication.  Every year BusinessZone organizes The Pitch – a competition to find the nation’s top entrepreneurs. At the heart of the competition is a desire to provide help and support to small businesses. This closely matches our own belief that businesses should have access to the expert services and professional mentoring they need to help them grow and prosper and that is one of the reasons AVG has agreed to be lead sponsor of the contest in 2014. We wanted to promote the top findings from our recent online backup research with a series of interviews on the radio. The aim was to highlight some of the key lessons in the research and invite listeners to visit our new free Keeping Your Data Safe eBook for more facts and advice. Dan Martin, editor of BusinessZone and founder of The Pitch, joined us to lend us his support as a small business expert and, of course, to give his competition a plug. Let me conclude with some key points of interest. According to the eBook, 76% of network intrusions exploit weak or stolen credentials. And it seems there is an increasing chance that such intrusions might be as a result of attacks on mobile devices which are the focus of 71% of attacks. In the research as many as 1-in-3 businesses believe more than half their mobile data is business sensitive. And around half of respondents admitted to having lost mobile data. What all this proves beyond doubt is that the smart small business should seriously consider partnering with a cloud storage provider right away because ultimately it is a far more secure way to keep your data safe than tidying your desk. You can listen to a short clip from one of the interviews here .

UK Budget: some encouraging news for small business but the job is far from done

Following on from this week’s Budget here’s my response. While there was some encouraging news for small businesses, just like the Chancellor’s summary of progress on the economy, the job as far as today’s mobile micro-business is concerned is far from done. Among the package of help for businesses unveiled were : Backing for businesses who invest and export – doubling the amount of lending available to exporters to £3bn £7bn package to cut energy bills for manufacturers Introduction of an Annual Investment Allowance for companies up to £500,000 An extension of the grant for small businesses to support 100,000 more apprenticeships Business rates discounts and enhanced capital allowances in enterprise zones are extended for another 3 years Of these five measures the first three seem to have been made with medium sized and large businesses in mind with the last two only a cursory nod to start-ups and micro-businesses despite clear evidence that they account for far and away the majority of businesses in the UK today. In 2010, at the start of the present government, the number of people working in one- or two-man companies was recorded by Experian at almost 400,000 – itself a sharp rise from the 2005 figure of 140,000.   Today the number of micro businesses (defined as 0-9 employees) has sky-rocketed to 4.7 million or 95% of the total 4.9 million businesses in the UK . One of the key ingredients behind the growth in this kind of small businesses has arguably been recent advances in technology – especially cloud services and affordable mobile devices – that have allowed start-ups to level the playing field against larger competitors by saving them on infrastructure costs and allowing them flexibility to carry on working from anywhere at any time.  Central to this is access to high speed broadband and the universal availability of 4G wireless so that businesses can easily send and share large files or video with clients and partners. Earlier in the year the government acknowledged the need for it to do more to bring better connectivity to rural areas by setting aside £250m to improve broadband services in remote areas . While this is a long-overdue start there’s a lot more I would like to see the Government doing. For example, in my opinion they should expand the number of Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) joint projects involving regional broadband suppliers and local business groups.  Moreover, local IT professionals should be invited to act as advisors on such projects rather than leaving it to non-technical council officials as is often the case. As a supplement to my ideas we thought it would be interesting to assess the views of one or two industry commentators on their reactions to the budget.   Dan Martin, editor of BusinessZone.co.uk and founder of The Pitch for which AVG is this year’s headline sponsor has said, “The Budget speech included some welcome initiatives for small businesses. “Making the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme permanent is a very positive move. It is one of the most generous tax relief initiatives for investors in small firms ever launched and the announcement will lead to more innovative companies getting the funding they need. “I also applaud the consultation into making it mandatory for banks to refer small business owners they reject for loans to alternative finance providers. I hope that the consultation leads to the action becoming law. If it does, banks must ensure they properly refer rather than just give a list of providers. Many entrepreneurs struggle to access finance and peer-to-peer and crowdfunding solutions could be the answer. “What the Chancellor did fail to tackle though was the red tape that places a heavy burden on the UK’s smallest companies. Doing that would have made the 2014 Budget one of the most beneficial for small companies in recent years.” We also asked one or two of our Channel partners to comment – many of whom are small businesses themselves.  Lee Chappell , Director at Total Computers & Accessories said he was hoping for, “some help with the cost of training staff, either via some form of loan or reduction in National Insurance for that member of staff.” Other measures that I think would have made this Budget even better for the mobile small business include: Introducing tax incentives for investors in businesses started by school/college leavers or graduates Tackling the issue of late payment to smaller businesses Simplifying the unnecessary complex tax system by turning five current taxes – business income tax, Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance, Corporation Tax and VAT -  into a single universal tax By implementing all these steps the Government could have further strengthened its claim to be the champion of small business , following up the good work of the beginning of the year with the launch of the Business Bank and the Growth Vouchers scheme.   Even so the support is welcome, and combined with technology advances in terms of cloud services and mobile connectivity, it’s really starting to look as if there’s seldom been a better time to start a business. Cover image courtesy of HuffingtonPost.

Concerned about mobile hacking? Keep calm and keep it simple

Following on from our participation at Mobile World Congress a couple of weeks ago it seems the news headlines have been buzzing with the subject of mobile hacking.  Our very own Gary Kovacs has been in Fortune and elsewhere saying we’ve probably all been hacked at one time or another.   Even Apple has not been immune to revelations about security flaws in its operating systems.  Some handset manufacturers including Boeing and Blackphone have even responded with new, expensive handsets that are being heavily marketed for their built-in security features. Personally, I cannot see new handsets like these taking off in business circles.  Firstly, they are far more expensive than standard handsets. For SMBs the value is not in the phone it’s in the data and as we have seen the most common response to the hacking issue among businesses is to ignore it. Secondly, as Gary says in the Fortune article, what people care most about is that the use of their existing devices is secure. Software like our own PrivacyFix™ or Managed Workplace® can enhance the privacy settings and general security of standard devices.  Such applications give existing devices a degree of intelligence that allows users to easily optimize their privacy settings or to remotely lock or wipe data if they are broken or lost. So what are the biggest mobile threats to businesses at the moment? Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) – a term that describes what happens when your network or mobile has been hacked and remains undetected over a long period.  APTs in themselves are nothing new.  But if a business owner allows technology trends such as BYOD and cloud computing to complicate their IT these threats will have more chance than ever of remaining undetected. You don’t know who’s looking at your data – last year’s PRISM scandal showed everyone how, with the right tools, unauthorized parties can scan your data if they choose to.  It means you cannot guarantee the confidentiality of your data nor can you be sure that client data has not been compromised in some way.  Helping even the smallest customer to maintain their data integrity is a really valuable service. Ransomware – last year saw a spate of r ansomware attacks on businesses.  Resellers can help customers adopt relatively simple measures such as backing up regularly to a cloud-based master drive where all important documents must be saved could help protect people from falling victim to any new variants of this kind of malware. Expect spear phishing attacks to be increasingly accurate – following attacks like those on companies like Target and Staysure earlier this year the personal credit card information of millions of people are potentially in the hands of hackers.  This increases the chances of hackers creating a spear phishing email that is much more convincing. Evolution of open source-based malware families – so profitable is the potential for successful malware that cybercriminals are sharing code on a grand scale to create malware families that are similar in approach yet have subtle differences to make them harder to detect.   The more ways available to be connected, the more devices we use, the more we become a target for hackers .   Fortunately there is no need to panic.  The majority of threats can be significantly reduced with the help of a little common sense and some simple protective measures.  Our message is that the well-connected business need not fear the hacker. To find out more about how to prevent and resolve mobile hacking and other common threats you can read or download our free Hackers and Hacking eBook here . Packed with facts and advice, it discusses who hackers are, how easy hacking is, different hacking methods and the risk. It also offers tips for protection and advice on what to do if it ever happens to your business.