How Cloud Computing Helps Small Businesses Level the Playing Field

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It has been said that the digital age has reduced the gap that used to exist between big companies and their smaller counterparts, if only because it’s easier for small businesses to reach out directly to customers. That might be true, but any small business owner can tell you that the bigger names still enjoy a number of important advantages – namely that they have larger budgets to work with, and can take advantage of economies of scale. When it comes to IT and business technology, those advantages can be a very big deal. Bigger spending leads to bigger performance and relatively lower expenses. In other words, it means that large organizations can afford to take advantage of things that small companies can’t…

Or at least that they used to be able to outspend smaller companies.

Cloud computing and colocation are changing all of that. By altering the way technology is used and budgeted, these two services are making it possible for small businesses to afford the high-powered tools and systems that their bigger competitors have access to.

Why Cloud Computing and Colocation Make IT a Fair Fight

When smaller businesses switch to cloud computing and colocation with a Canadian data centre, the size of the company, or its budget, doesn’t matter nearly as much. Here are a few of the most important reasons why:

Smaller businesses get access to better software through cloud computing. In the past, small businesses may have passed on investing in software applications that could help them grow their business because the costs were too prohibitive, or at least held off on making version upgrades. With cloud computing, though – and monthly subscriptions instead of big upfront investments – those barriers to critical software are removed.

Cloud computing and colocation mean lower, fixed IT expenses. Obviously, every small business owner or manager likes saving money. But, as an underrated side effect, these two types of IT leasing also allow for a fixed monthly expenses, meaning that it’s easier to plan for future cash flow. Why not give your company more money to spend elsewhere in the budget?

Cloud computing and colocation are both scalable. Over the past decade, lots of businesses have come to regret making huge investments in technology, watching it depreciate (or need to be replaced) even as business conditions remained unstable. By taking advantage of cloud computing and colocation, you can increase or decrease your level of service without making a big commitment now, or being tied to a huge monthly invoice later.

Small businesses enjoy better data security. One thing more and more companies are discovering is that keeping things like hardware and critical data in their offices is a bad idea. Break-ins, fires, and equipment failure all have to be considered and planned for. But, with leased IT in a remote location, encrypted file transfers, and continuous automated backup systems working for you, colocation and cloud computing can take away those worries.

With cloud computing and colocation, you don’t need a big IT team. In fact, when you make the move to these kinds of remote technology systems, you might be able to remove your IT team altogether. That can be a great way to lower your overall expenses while enjoying the same level of service and benefits that you and your employees have become accustomed to.

The best way to discover whether cloud computing or colocation in a Canadian data centre are a good fit for your small business – or find out exactly how much you could save on a monthly and yearly basis – is to call a provider and learn what solutions they have available. In almost every case, new clients find that it takes a lot less than they had imagined to enjoy the kind of IT care that big businesses take for granted.

Your Fridge May Be Sending Out Spam – And Not the Canned Meat Kind

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At the 2014 Consumer Electronics show, the Internet of Things and smart devices stole the spotlight. Tech heavyweights Samsung and LG unveiled their “Smart Home” devices, which consisted of household appliances that were able to communicate with the homeowner and each other. These M2M devices (machine to machine) are each assigned an IP address, allowing them to connect to the Internet and transfer data (or, in other words, talk to each other) over a network without the need for human interaction.

This technology provides businesses and consumers with an array of benefits, without a doubt. Consumers are able to save on time and money – now that they can switch their appliances to an energy saving mode remotely or text their fridge to find out if they need to buy milk at the store before arriving home. Businesses are able to collect endless amounts of information from their customers and their devices – such as maintenance requirements or customer food preferences. However, with both parties looking to utilize IoT as soon as possible, security measures have been overlooked.

Between December 23 and January 6th, several Internet-connected “smart” devices – including refrigerators – sent upwards of 750,000 malicious emails. This is believed to be the first cyber attack involving IoT, and likely won’t be the last. Many IoT devices are poorly protected and consumers aren’t able to detect or fix security breaches when they do occur. As more of these smart appliances “come online”, attackers are finding ways to exploit them for their own needs.

Additionally, following an M2M conference in Toronto, ON, the Director of Policy for Ontario’s privacy commissioner pointed out that these devices also hold a lot of data that will be personally identifiable. Organizations are being urged to think about the privacy of customer data before employing M2M and IoT devices. Recently, customer data was leaked by LG’s smart TV as it was collecting and transmitting personal information to the manufacturer because there was no encryption. In an even more bizarre circumstance, the signal transmitted from a wireless camera used to monitor the interior of a Canadian methadone clinic was being picked up by a back-up camera inside of a vehicle outside of the building.

It’s imperative for organizations and consumers to comprehend the security and privacy risks associated with M2M and IoT enabled devices. Consumers will need to ensure that they keep their software up-to-date, change all default passwords to something more secure, and place their IoT device behind a router. Meanwhile, organizations who manufacture these devices must incorporate any available security measures available to ensure their customer’s information and network stayed protected. The benefits of IoT devices far outweighs the concerns, but those concerns still need to be addressed before IoT can really take off.

To learn more about the Internet of Things, check out our previous blog post by clicking here.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

 

Data Loss and Business Downtime

Over the past year, computer users worldwide created 1.8 billion gigabytes of data. Much of that data was pertinent for business dealings and operations. Unfortunately, some of that data was also lost, causing expensive downtime for businesses – many of which will never recover from the loss.

There are several factors that commonly contribute to the loss of data. However, the two top causes of data loss are the failure of an uninterrupted power supply and human error. Some of the other top causes include exceeding UPS capacity, cyber-attacks, equipment failure, water incursion, weather-related issues and circuit breaker failure. There are several business continuity tactics and procedures that companies can put in place to prevent or diminish the impact. However, businesses need to implement a disaster recovery plan as well in case their prevention methods were not enough.

Of companies that lose a data center for 10 days, 93 percent file for bankruptcy within a year. Additionally, 43 percent of companies that experience such disasters never reopen. Only six percent of companies without a recovery plan will survive long term. Companies that design and implement a disaster recovery plan have a better chance of surviving catastrophic data loss.

First, businesses need to perform an impact analysis, which involves organizing the data by order of recovery importance. It is important to identify your company’s most valuable assets and critical business functions. These are the tools that must be preserved in an emergency in order to keep your business operational.

Next, companies should perform risk assessment in which they identify potential points of system failure and then take action to eliminate as many as possible. By proactively testing your operational functions for a weak spot, you may be able to prevent a larger problem from occurring. Finally, each company needs to manage their risks by instituting solutions that address points of vulnerability.

This infographic was supplied to us by SingleHop. SingleHop is dedicated to bringing cloud hosting solutions to businesses. They build and maintain hosted infrastructures for companies worldwide.

Technology Trends Expected to Change the Game

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Ramya Raju, a freelance writer from India. With over 8 years of writing experience, Raju discusses a variety of topics, such as data centre technologies, SEO, web design, and mobile. You can learn more about him by visiting his website. 

Whirlwind changes are happening in the world of business and organizations, and that has had an impact on IT as well. The IT sector will have to go through a major transformation in 2014 and that can be seen in cloud, mobile and social technologies. There is an increasing amount of focus and demand on access to information, and these technologies are quickly “coming of age” in order to keep up. As a result, it’s now necessary for companies, especially their IT, to reinvent themselves. And there are some major trends that will make their presence felt in 2014.

The Internet of Things will make things more interesting and challenging for IT

There are a large number of Smartphones and devices that are out there today. Bring your own device (BYOD) culture is also gaining ground to a large extent and that in itself can be a tricky proposition for IT. But things won’t stop at that because Internet Of Things will pose further challengers to IT masters. It involves different types of constituents including wearable personal technology and smart consumer and medical devices. There are sensors in different parts of the world and connected machines to deal with as well, and that doesn’t make the task of IT any easier.

IPv6 has been lapped up in all kinds of places and the addresses it comes with are endless. Thus there is going to be an explosion of data that will have to be handled very carefully. Thus there will be a growing emphasis on scalability and complexity. IT will have a task on its hands when it comes to these factors.

Analytics gains prominence

The industry has often focussed on connection and data movement. Immediate application functionality was another aspect that was given a lot of importance. But now Analytics will takes its place of pride. It will definitely move from being an add-on that often seemed like an afterthought for people till date.  There are several factors that have contributed to this sea change in approach. The major onslaught of large amounts of data is one factor and the impact of Internet Of Things is another. The importance of data is also observed and acknowledged a lot more today, which has made it necessary for people to incorporate analytics right from the beginning. Context sensitive and location aware abilities for IT will also become common place.

More attention on apps

People are paying a lot of attention to the performance and functionality of major projects, especially in the healthcare sector. But expectations from application delivery will be a lot higher in 2014 and things like model drives, user based development will be stressed upon. Thus IT has its task cut out as far as apps are concerned.

It means that the new age, fast development tools will be in the spotlight. People will also have to think about processes that will lead to speedy delivery, which will remain important. Other crucial aspects to think about will be predictability and reliability. To make things more challenging, people will have to think hard about meeting service level requirements and keeping the costs under control as well.

PaaS will be widely accepted

Platform-as-a-Service will get its due and wide recognition in 2014 and it will be one of the important trends of the year. This is a cloud layer that certainly has its advantages and they will be noticed by people, who are only going to lap it up. Some of its benefits include agility, analytics and faster development. Moreover it is more suited for scalability, which is something people will want. And of course, it has the cost benefits of cloud, which will be a huge bonus.

There are few other reasons why people will take to PaaS in 2014. It is known to offer structure and control for strategic needs of organizations. And that’s an appealing proposition for companies irrespective of their size. Once these advantages are noticed, the industry will be forced through a major change. It will lead to business specialists being in charge of data integration tools. Overall data integration will become omnipresent.

Budget Shift in IT

Now that cloud is becoming widely accepted and democratized, development trends seem to be the norm, individual lines of business will start getting more power. They will be in a position to start funding their own projects and wrest the initiative from IT.

As a result, companies and CIOs will have to come up with strategies to ensure that they cope with the evolving climate without losing information. They will also have to ensure that there are no security risks involved and they don’t get into technically dead-end situations. Things will change rapidly and they will have to learn to adapt quickly.

In 2014, one size fits all philosophy will become more redundant than ever before. It could mean different things and strategies for different people based on their requirements but they will certainly have to be worked on. In short, it’s all about making it possible to access information anywhere, anytime and wherever it’s needed.

TeraGo Networks Attends TechBrew in Vancouver

On January 29th, TeraGo Networks joined more than 170 tech professionals at TechBrew, one of BCTIA’s most popular events, to check out new technologies and discuss 2014 trends. BCTIA (BC Technology Industry Association) is a not-for-profit organization that supports the development, growth, and advancement of technology companies located in British Columbia. Gathered in the Stanley Park Pavilion, TechBrew attendees interacted with the coolest new technologies and conversed with cutting-edge innovators and influential decision-makers.

Photo credit: Kim Stallknecht Photography and BCTIA

Photo credit: Kim Stallknecht Photography and BCTIA

We had the honor of presenting during the event, which gave our representatives the opportunity to provide attendees with information on the technologies we employ and the types of services we offer. Networking with tech professionals, colleagues, and customers allows for us to provide support to the industry where we can, offer connections to our services, and recognize industry trends.

After speaking with several attendees, it became clear that data centres – and the availability of data centre facilities – was the hot topic of the night. The increased use of data centres and colocation facilities across the globe has not gone unnoticed by IT professionals and businesses in BC. With cloud computing at an estimated worth of $200 billion globally by 2016, companies are eager to secure the space they need to utilize the cloud.

Additionally, many companies are specifically looking for data centres in the lower mainland of BC. In a recent article, IBM stated that they believe Kelowna is the best place to build a data centre in North America because it’s far from earthquake and flood zones and close to cheap power sources. The city is also just a short distance from Vancouver and the US border, bringing any US based companies that are looking to avoid the National Security Administration (NSA) up to Canada. The recent practices of the NSA has cast doubt on the security of data centres located in the United States, compelling businesses to look elsewhere for data centre and colocation facilities.

Discussing this growing data centre trend  with TechBrew attendees gave us some great insights on the resources needed for businesses to effectively utilize the technology. Not only do companies need to find space within a data centre or colocation facility, but they need to acquire a secure, symmetrical connection in order truly benefit. Without a reliable and safe connection, companies will not be able to protect the data they send to and from the data centre. And if the connection isn’t symmetrical, companies will not be able to upload as fast as they download, which results in lower productivity levels. To learn more about data centre services, click here.

We look forward to attending many more BCTIA events!

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

CES 2014: The Technology Trend that will Impact your Business

There was a lot of buzz surrounding the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year, and we’re not just talking about Michael Bay’s big blunder and subsequent walk-off during the Samsung presentation. It’s important for any business to monitor technology trends – whether it’s for consumers or businesses – because it will likely have an impact on their company, directly or indirectly.

The most noteworthy trend is the number of machine-to-machine (M2M) enabled devices unveiled at the show by top tech companies. Many innovators have brought the concept of connected devices to CES in previous years – but they have never been as practical as they are today. For example, tech titans LG and Samsung unveiled smart household appliance systems that let consumers communicate with them.

Samsung introduced a service for managing its smart TVs, home appliances and smartphones called Smart Home. In fact, this Smart Home system is due to roll out in the first half of 2014. The system will allow for consumers to get real-time views streamed from appliances equipped with built-in cameras. And Samsung isn’t stopping there – they have plans to expand by including more and more smart devices and appliances.

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LG has devised a way to communicate with household appliances through text messages called HomeChat. Users are able to text in natural language and receive a response from their appliances that are slightly playful in nature. However, the more practical feature is the ability for your fridge to tell you what’s in it, suggest recipes, and tell you oven what temperature to preheat to. This will require some manual efforts from the user – since keeping track of food requires entering data into the refrigerator each time items are added or removed – but the beneficial results are worth it.

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Just think, you could be informed when an item in your fridge is close to spoiling, or set your appliances to an energy saving mode remotely, or even have your oven text you when your roast is almost done. This technology would allow for consumers to save on time and money, while the company who created the device is easily able to collect information on their customers and products. LG’s National Product Trainer expects that it will only take a few years until a universal standard for communicating with devices is established.

None of this would be possible without the proliferation of IPv6 – which provides a seemingly infinite number of IP addresses. Now companies are able to assign an IP address to almost anything, allowing for that item to communicate with other things, people, or animals. The ability for all “things” to communicate with each other is more commonly known as the Internet of Things (IoT). Simply defined, the IoT is a system in which unique identifiers (or IP addresses) are assigned to objects, people, or animals – allowing them to transfer data about their assigned “thing” over a network without the need for human interaction.

The companies that utilize this type of technology will have an edge over the competition, with endless amounts of consumer and product data. In the near future, the Internet will develop into an online experience that has been customized to each individual user – your personalized Internet, with your data. Businesses will be able to deliver exactly what each individual customer wants, when they want it – that is, as long as they start incorporating this type of technology sooner than later.

To learn more about IoT, and how to get started on implementing it, click here.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

Top IT Predictions for 2014

It’s that time of year again – businesses around the globe are busy preparing for 2014. After reviewing multiple research documents released by industry leading companies, such as Gartner, IDC, CA Technologies, and CompTIA, we’ve compiled a list of the top I.T. predictions for 2014.

  1. Security: In a survey conducted by CompTIA, it was revealed that businesses are funnelling resources into better security, and that 56% of CIOs have indicated that IT security is their top priority. As the number of devices used by employees increases (driven by BYOD – bring your own device) it is getting increasingly difficult to protect company data. Factor in the technical advances made by cyber criminals, who are finding more and more ways to get around security barriers, and you’ve got a real problem on your hands. There is a delicate balance between enabling and protecting the business, and IT members will need to find the happy medium.
  2. Outsourcing IT: Several companies are either planning or rolling out programs and technology trends such as cloud computing, mobility, and big data. This combination of multiple technology trends, in addition to the increased adoption rate of these technologies by enterprises, will contribute to a IT skills shortage. For many companies, change is occurring fast, and they don’t have the in-house resources or expertise needed to implement their plans. In order for businesses to obtain the full benefits of these technologies, they will need to employ outsourced resources.
  3. Data Centre Utilization: Businesses of all sizes are quickly filling up data centres across the country. Best advice – get in while you can. Data centres are comparable to a finite resource – once they’re full, that’s it. And as the demand for data centre services increases, so can the price. Several smaller businesses perceive data centres an inaccessible – believing that the costs will be too high – but that’s not the case. There is a variety of data centres across the country, ranging in price, size, and security level. Still don’t think your company needs data centre services? Check out our post on the Top 5 Benefits of Using a Data Centre for Business.
  4. The Internet of Things: We’re on the brink of the Internet of Things (IoT). Currently, many companies are aware of IoT, but haven’t yet explored the possibilities of an expanded Internet. As a result, several businesses are not operationally or organizationally ready to employ IoT. However, Gartner predicts that companies will be using 2014 to prepare for IoT by utilizing data centre resources, adopting a variety of data management software, and ensuring the right employee resources are in place. IoT is not restricted to any particular industry, and with the advent of massively connected devices, businesses now have access to more information than they actually act on. Gartner’s prediction focuses on the “opportunity to build applications and services that can use that information to create new engagement models for customers, employees and partners”. This means that IoT is set to become more user friendly and accessible – so you had better start preparing for it.
  5. Software Defined Anything: Gartner predicts that software spending will increase by 25% in 2014. Software-defined anything (SDx) is a collective term used to define the growing market momentum for software systems that are controlling different types of hardware. More specifically, it’s making software more “in command” of multi-piece hardware systems and allowing for software control of a greater range of devices.

Reviewing the five top IT predictions listed above, there appears to be three things in common; businesses will need to manage a vast amount of data, businesses will need a reliable Internet connection, and businesses will need to act fast. So if you haven’t solidified your 2014 IT plans, or if you have – and it doesn’t include at least one of the items listed above, then it’s time to hustle.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

In-Car Internet: 25% of Cars Online by 2015

Guest Author: This week’s blog post was provided to us by Bradley Taylor, an independent writer. Taylor writes across a variety of subjects, but specialises in automotive and technology pieces. You can learn more about him on Google+ and follow his updates on Twitter.

All new cars could be connected to the Internet by 2015, as billions of dollars are being invested in the cars of the future. These futuristic cars will allow you to use the Internet via voice commands by using a technology similar to smart phones. Experts predict that Internet screens could even eventually be shown on dashboards; but wouldn’t that be a little distracting? Industry members say no; and it’s even been foretold that the online car will have a vast array of benefits that the driver will love. Picture this; finding free parking spaces with ease, having access to nearby restaurant reviews, and even get a countdown that let’s you know when the traffic lights will change without having to pick up your mobile device. Through the use of voice command – drivers can keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.

Image Credit: Flickr

Image Credit: Flickr

The app culture found that smartphones and tablets could soon become a big part of driving, which would totally change the way we use our cars. Major automotive brands are already spending around a third of their budget on in-car entertainment and Internet technology. Audi even recently announced that its self-driving technology would be just about everywhere within the decade. It’s thought that this technology will help to improve safety while driving. After all, it would be much safer to update your Facebook status via voice command rather than trying to do it illegally on your smartphone.

Understandably, many are concerned about encouraging the distraction of drivers, but these safety concerns are being addressed by automotive developers through the use a different technology – sensors. You may have even seen examples of these safety measures in place today, such as the vehicles that are able to administer the breaks automatically if your car gets too close to another object or vehicle.

Additionally, even though it’s illegal in most countries for drivers to use handheld devices while operating a vehicle, that hasn’t deterred drivers from using them. Integrating a voice operated Internet system into the vehicle would help eliminate the need, or want, for drivers to pick up their smartphones while driving.

This all sounds amazing, but the one other thing that’s concerning people is hackers being able to access the car. If there’s a data system in there, this means there’s the possibility of somebody hacking into it. Although this was demonstrated by security consultants who managed to break into the car without touching it, the risk is said to be very small due to the amount of time and effort put into security by the major companies. Ford even claims that their system is impossible to hack into, as the apps will be separated from the vehicle’s essential devices.

Although it might take a while before we’re travelling back in time in Deloreans, it won’t be long before we’re all enjoying an online, in-car experience!

To learn more about in-car Internet, click here. 

Holes in the Internet of Things

In previous blogs, we discussed the benefits of embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) for business. In fact, many companies are already using IoT technologies to save on resources, optimize operations, and cut costs. Some examples include the use of real-time data collection and alerts to let municipal workers know that a garbage bin is full, or running real-world A/B tests by using networked cameras and sensors to detect how customers are engaging with specific products. But how does one manage the abundance of data coming in from each “thing”?

Sure, from a business perspective, the answer is an easy: hire more employees and store any data collected in a data centre. But what about the consumers? Take a moment to count the number of emails, alerts, messages, and updates you receive on just one of your devices – your cell phone, for example. Now add in all the data that you could receive, like an alert from your smart home informing you that the furnace filter needs to be cleaned, or an email from your car to let you know that the oil needs to be changed, or even a reminder from your plants to water the garden.

Multiple Devices

The vast amount of incoming information can overwhelm consumers, and it’s likely that buyers will hit a ceiling of what they’re willing to babysit. Once the “cool factor” of a new IoT device subsides, the chore of responding to all the incoming messages can set in, leaving users frustrated and exhausted. In addition to responding to all the incoming information, users will then need to decide how they will manage and store the data. Typically, homes don’t come equipped with a built-in data centre. Therefor, consumers will need some type of system in place to help them respond, manage, and store the information provided by their IoT devices.

This is where we find the hole. There doesn’t seem to be a holistic solution in the market today that can help users efficiently manage their data and devices. Sure, there are companies soliciting the cloud for consumers, but they tend to be targeted to each specific operating system. For example, Apple has a cloud that connects all their devices – but you can’t sync your BlackBerry device to the Apple cloud – and vice versa. Consumers need help from businesses to manage their devices and all the data they’ll soon be getting.

Businesses that are looking to capitalize on the wave of IoT devices need to take this into consideration. Usability is essential in creating a successful product or service, because consumers won’t be willing to waste their valuable time on managing data. Since businesses looking to utilize IoT technology will need a place to store their data anyway, why not provide space to your customers as well? If your company hasn’t started exploring data centre options, and you’re looking to capitalize on IoT, you can begin exploring your colocation options by clicking here.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

Yet Another Security Breach – When Will Businesses Learn?

Another week, another data breach. More and more businesses seem to be falling victim to cyber crime, and the rate of attacks doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. This week alone, I’ve read about companies like Microsoft, SAP, and Adobe experiencing issues with with preventing attacks or securing their data. However, it would be very naive  to think that only big name companies are being targeted by cyber criminals.

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Every business, big or small, must increase their security measures in order to alleviate any outside threats. Just like locking your doors when you leave your home — it doesn’t matter that your house is smaller or larger than your neighbour’s, the threat of someone breaking in still exists. Many small business owners carry the mentality that “it won’t happen to me” – but that’s a very ignorant way of approaching the issue. Not every attack is as sophisticated as some may imagine.

With continuous network and technology upgrades happening almost daily, ensuring that your security system is also up to date can be time consuming. In many cases, IT resources are stretch so thin that they just don’t have the time to go through every single item to ensure the company data is protected. Increasing network security must be a company-wide exercise, it can’t rest solely on the shoulders of IT. That being said, can IT rely on company employees to reinforce network security?

As discussed in our previous blog, which detailed a number of security breaches experienced by the Federal Government, human error is one of the primary contributing factors to a loss in data. This includes the theft of company devices, such as laptops, USBs, or cell phones, as well as the use of weak passwords, downloading corrupted content, or general negligence. However, by making employees responsible for protecting their own devices, IT members can focus on protecting the company network as a whole instead of working to secure every single device.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – companies of any size must do everything in their power to protect their data. In our increasingly virtual world, data can be easily compared to currency. Having thousands of customer records stolen is just as bad as having thousands of dollars stolen. Companies that lose control of their data also lost the trust of any existing or potential customers. Rebuilding your business after a data breach can be a very difficult exercise, resulting in the permanent closure of some companies who aren’t able to recoup their losses.

Read our blog “Small and Medium Businesses are being Targeted by Hackers” to learn some tips for securing your company’s network.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

 

 

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