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Natural Disasters and Data Recovery Plans

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We don’t want to think about possible negative situations when it comes to our lives or our businesses. Planning for disasters means that we’re able to quickly recover from their consequences. In our previous blogs on data disaster recovery, we’ve covered how to plan for disasters and what types of disasters to consider when writing a data recovery plan. In this blog, we’ll take a look at the main points as a refresher.

The key elements of data recovery plans

A good disaster recovery plan will have assigned roles and responsibilities to different team members in advance. Planning ahead should ensure there is no time wasted when a disaster occurs. Having clearly defined roles means that team members can get on with their tasks quickly to mitigate the effects of a disaster.

Another important point is the identification of which assets are critical to operating the business. In a disaster, you need to know which things to protect and sort out first to enable business operations to continue. If someone spends too much time dealing with a puddle on the floor instead of dealing with customer calls, for example, your business could be in turmoil.

Backing up data is a must for every business. You’re on a dangerous path if you don’t have a plan in place for regular data backups. After all, you can’t recover your data after a disaster if you haven’t backed it up. Businesses must also consider whether they need to back up their IT infrastructure using a ‘cold site’ (a basic version of their infrastructure off-premises) or a ‘hot site’ (up-to-date data backups). As you can guess, the more data you back up, the better off you’ll be.

Types of disasters to plan for

It’s difficult to plan for any eventuality; however, there are certain things that all businesses should consider.

Disasters can include technological disasters like:

Data breaches

Hacking

Ransomware

Or natural disasters like:

Earthquakes

Tsunamis

Volcanoes

Flooding

Tornados

Pandemics

The impacts of any of these disasters are huge. Essentially, they can result in a business completely folding. Depending on the type of disaster, there could be all sorts of consequences. For example, the loss of supply chains, loss of assets and buildings, loss of life or personnel, and the loss of data. Since these consequences can be disastrous, it’s important for all businesses, regardless of size, to have contingency plans for disasters.

Planning for disasters

Businesses need to have contingency plans for dealing with disasters of every possible type. Different companies will, of course, have different needs.  However, some things are necessary for all businesses to include in their data recovery strategy plan. These include data, insurance, finances, resources, personnel, technology, compliance requirements, and the supply chain.

Types of disaster data recovery

There are a variety of options when it comes to data recovery. Perhaps the simplest method is backup. Your data is stored on or off-premises, or both for extra safety. However, relying solely on data backup gives minimal protection for businesses. If there is no backup of the IT infrastructure as well, there could be even bigger issues.

An effective data recovery plan needs strategies and procedures for backups. You should know who will perform the backups and how often they will be done. Those responsible for data backups must also work out the business’s recovery time. Calculate the amount of time the organization can be ‘down’ after a disaster and work from there.

The data recovery strategy should be tested and updated continually to protect the business from new threats. In this way, the business will be able to navigate challenges successfully. Planning a response to a cyberattack ahead of time will make sure your team will know what to do.

Final thoughts

Whatever your business and size, the ultimate aim is to ensure you’re well protected and have plans in place for any type of disaster. If you’re struggling to finalize your plans or even start writing one, get in touch with us for a free consultation.

Do You Have A Data Recovery Plan?

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You might be aware that disasters of varying types can have devastating consequences on businesses. The key to mitigating such occurrences is to have a data recovery strategy plan in place. This means that you have a structured and documented approach detailing how your organization can resume work quickly after an unforeseen disaster. This is an essential tool for your company’s continuity plan and applies to all parts of the organization that is dependent on your IT infrastructure. This data recovery plan will help you resolve any data loss and will allow the recovery of your system’s functionality. This means that you can continue operating your business with minimal disruption.

Types of Disasters to consider

Potential disasters are plentiful. We’re not just talking about hacking and data breaches, but natural disasters too. Being able to handle disasters efficiently means there will be minimal impact financially. Having a data recovery strategy plan will allow you to ensure that all requirements for compliance are met. The plan will also provide a clear recovery roadmap. Here are some of the potential disasters that might affect your businesses:

Building disaster (Fire, power outage, etc.)

Communication failure (Due to data breach, hacking or natural disaster)

Application failure (Outdated hardware, viruses, etc.)

Datacenter disaster (Hacking, data breach, natural disaster)

City disaster (Earthquake, tornado, flood, etc.)

Regional disaster (Power grid outage, wildfires, etc.)

National disaster (Epidemic)

Multinational disaster (Pandemic, computer viruses, ransomware)

You can see that this list covers lots of different types of disasters. It’s worth noting, however, that it’s not exhaustive. When making data recovery strategy plans, businesses need to consider their potential individual circumstances. If you’re based in the Midwest, for example, it’s very unlikely that your business will be affected by a volcanic eruption. But there are other natural disasters like floods or tornados that are more likely to happen. With that said, the 2010 Iceland volcanic eruption had repercussions worldwide, so you never know!

Considerations for your Data Recovery Plan

A data recovery strategy plan should begin at the business level. You need to determine what infrastructure is most important to your organization. The plan should implement an RTO (a recovery time objective), which describes how much time each application could be down for as a target.

A data recovery strategy defines your business’s plan for incident response. To determine your optimal data recovery strategy, you must consider the following issues:

Resources (both facilities and personnel)

Finances

Insurance

Data

Technology

Risks

Compliance requirements

The supply chain

How to write a Data Recovery Strategy Plan

A business can start its plan by prioritizing a list of contacts and vital software programs so that the most important information is easily and quickly accessible.

The data recovery plan should define each team member’s role and responsibilities in the recovery process. This is so there is no panic or time wasted should an unexpected disaster occur.

There are many important points to write into a data recovery plan. These include:

A policy statement or statement of intent.

Specific tasks assigned to staff.

Goals of the plan.

Passwords and other authentication tools essential to data recovery.

Geographical factors and risks appropriate to the local, regional or national area.

Advice on dealing with the media.

Legal and financial information with points of action.

A history of the plan – and any amendments that have been made to it.

As you can see, being prepared for these events is not difficult, but it will take some time. It is, however, very important that you take the time to complete it. You should also run through the plan in a mock rehearsal. That way you’ll find out if you’ve missed any steps or if there are gaps in your plan.

The bottom line is, you want to be as prepared as possible for any disaster that causes data loss. After all, keeping your doors open when other’s can’t sure makes you the popular choice over your competitors.

If you need advice or want help to build your data recovery strategy plan, don’t hesitate to contact us. You can book a consultation at any time.

How Natural Disasters, Breaches, and Hackers Affect Businesses Big and Small

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The success of a business is often attributed to the strong decisions of its management. Yet, that is not the entire story. Often, both failure and success can be determined by how a business deals with situations out of its control. A business may fail because it wasn’t prepared for an unexpected event. Conversely, another business might be able to survive a natural disaster simply because it had a plan in place for such an event.

All businesses, whether large or small, have lots of potential threats. If one of these threats happens, it can have devastating consequences. According to ZDNet, the top three threats to society include cyberattacks, natural disasters, and extreme weather. Interestingly, they put cyberattacks on the same level of devastation as extreme weather and natural disasters. It is unfortunately true. The consequences of natural disasters, breaches, and hackers lead to threats to businesses and data loss. Since many businesses rely on connected services and the internet, the damage from cyberattacks can be huge. It’s one of the biggest risks the world faces today.

Types of natural disasters

There are many types of natural disasters. All of them can affect businesses and data loss. Here are some examples of natural disasters:

• Earthquake

• Fire

• Tsunami

• Flooding or extreme precipitation

• Hurricane, tornado, cyclone

• Volcanoes

• Lightning

• Famine and drought

• Landslide

• Extreme temperature (heat or cold)

• And, as we’ve seen, pandemics

Impact of natural disasters

Before we delve into exploring businesses and data loss from natural disasters, we can’t ignore the devastating results of these natural phenomena outside in general. According to Our World in Data, there are around 60,000 deaths from natural disasters worldwide. The deadliest of natural disasters is usually an earthquake. Typically, natural disasters affect poorer populations more heavily. This is often due to a lack of protective dwelling construction or adequate response to the event.

How does disaster impact businesses? 

No one is ever 100% prepared for a disaster. Whether the disaster is an earthquake, tornado, or flood, an organization’s plans can be thrown into disarray. There might be a breakdown in supply chains. Maybe employees are unable to reach the premises. Or there may be damage to the facilities, equipment, or the power or internet may be down. In any disaster, including the technological kind, a business will need to find ways to deal with the situation at hand. This is why it is important for all businesses, regardless of size, to have contingency plans for disasters. It should be a priority.

How can businesses plan for natural disasters?

Businesses should ensure they look at their entire operation and consider how a natural disaster might disrupt every branch. It’s not just about planning emergency evacuation routes or having emergency supplies. Businesses also need to consider things like how to contact employees if connections are down.

Depending on the business type, an organization might also need to think about how to sort out their supply chain if they are unable to access the major transit routes due to natural disasters. Having an alternative plan if facilities can’t be used is a must for survival.

Natural disasters, data breaches, and hackers for businesses, and data loss

While we’re talking about disasters that affect businesses, we must also consider technological disasters like hackers and data breaches. These can have just as much of an impact on businesses and data loss. In some parts of the world, these events are more likely than a natural disaster. According to Forbes, hackers and cybercrime are more devastating to business operations than a Transit Strike, a Fire, and even Floods for small and medium-sized businesses.

Final thoughts

While we can’t prevent any of these disasters from causing problems for businesses and data loss, there are steps that we can take to reduce their impact. The main takeaway is to plan for all possible scenarios. For the impact of events to be reduced, there must be a detailed process in place.

One solution is an on-site BDR (Backup, Disaster, Recovery) unit. A BDR automatically backs up all your data every 15 minutes. It is connected to an auxiliary power unit so it can back up everything when the power goes out.

There are also Cloud solutions that backup your data safely, in multiple locations. This ensures that your data is always available, no matter what happens.

If you have any questions about Backup solutions or would like to change the ways you are currently saving your data, contact us any time. As your Managed Service Provider, the safety of your data is our concern too.

Why is Disaster Data Recovery important for Business?

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What does disaster data recovery mean? This term describes the method businesses use to regain access to stored information after a disruptive event. Any event, like a cyberattack, ransomware, a natural disaster, or even something new like the Covid-19 pandemic. When data is lost, businesses can employ a variety of methods for their disaster data recovery plan.

How does disaster data recovery work? 

Disaster data recovery relies on the data being replicated in an off-site location that has not been affected by the outage. When a server goes down due to a cyberattack, equipment failure, or a natural disaster, businesses can recover their lost data from a backup location. When the data is backed up on the Cloud, businesses can access their data remotely so they can continue to operate.

What are some key elements of effective disaster data recovery plans? 

We need a plan! A data recovery team will assign specialists to create, implement and manage the data recovery plan. Should a disaster occur, the data recovery team will facilitate communication with employees, customers, and vendors. Risk evaluations. An effective data recovery plan needs to assess all potential hazards. Depending on the type of disaster, the risk assessment will dictate what needs to happen for the business to resume operations. For example, if there were a cyberattack, what measures will the data recovery team use in response? A natural disaster will require a different response. Identification of critical assets. For a disaster data recovery plan to be effective, it needs to include a list of all assets. Vital resources, systems, and applications that are critical to the business are at the top of the list. Next, it’s important to have the steps that need to be implemented to recover the data. Backing up your data. An effective data recovery plan needs strategies and procedures for backups. You should know who will perform the backups and how often they will be done. Those responsible for data backups must also work out the business’s recovery time. Calculate the amount of time the organization can be ‘down’ after a disaster and work from there. Optimization and testing. The data recovery strategy should be tested and updated continually to protect the business from new threats. In this way, the business will be able to navigate challenges successfully. Planning a response to a cyberattack ahead of time will make sure your team will know what to do. Types of disaster data recovery  There are a variety of options when it comes to data recovery. Perhaps the simplest method is backup. Your data is stored on or off-premises, or both for extra safety. However, relying solely on data backup gives minimal protection for businesses. If there is no backup of the IT infrastructure as well, there could be even bigger issues. For example, are your critical programs backed up as well?

 Using DRaaS – Disaster Recovery as a Service

DRaaS is another way in which businesses can protect their data and infrastructure in the event of a disaster. Your business’s computer processing happens on the DRaaS cloud infrastructure. This means that the business can continue to operate seamlessly, even if its servers are down. A DRaaS plan can be either a pay-per-use or a subscription model. A similar solution is Back UP as a Service. But this only backs up data and not infrastructure.

Why is IT disaster recovery important? 

There exists no business that can ignore disaster data recovery. Having a plan in place for this means that businesses can protect themselves from closure. Most businesses can’t even afford to close for one extra day. With a strategy in place for disaster data recovery, businesses will be able to get back to normal operations much more quickly. They might even be able to continue operating as normal. Why would anyone risk their business without a Backup Disaster Recovery plan? As your Managed Service Provider, we can assist you with your Backup Disaster Recovery (BDR) plan. You know how valuable your data is. Don’t run the risk of losing it! Contact us today and we can go over our data recovery solutions.

Fixing Your Weakest Link: Your Employees

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We have some bad news for you. Currently, many businesses fail to realize that network security is more than just protecting the path to valuable data. Business owners don’t realize that an important factor in protecting their network resides with human involvement and how well they are trained. 

Two things aren’t going away in any business: employees and security threats. Make sure that you’ve taken care of everything you can to avoid falling victim to these attacks. 

You can have every piece of security hardware available: firewall, backup disaster recovery device, and even anti-virus. However, your employees will still be the biggest vulnerability in your organization when it comes to phishing attacks. Is it possible to mitigate this risk? 

Ask yourself these questions: Do your employees know how to protect your network and all the data within it? Can they spot a malicious email or link before clicking on it? Do your staff members know how to secure your digital information from social exploits by sophisticated hackers? Are you using an outdated operating system that is no longer supported? 

In this blog we’ll offer you some tips on password creation, training your employees, and how to spot a malicious email. These are key factors to the security of your database. One breach, one crack in your security and you may fall victim to stolen data, ransomware, and the possibility of closing your doors. 

Here is a list of some of the things you can do to protect yourself: 

Create and Strictly Enforce a Password Policy:  

Passwords should be complex, randomly generated, and replaced regularly. To test the strength of your password, go to howsecureismypassword.com. (This is a perfectly safe service provided by a password protection platform. The program tells you how long it would take a hacker to decode your password.) 

When creating your new password policy, bear in mind that the most prevalent attacks are “Dictionary Attacks.” In other words, this means most people use real words in their passwords. Hackers will typically try scanning common words before trying a brute force attack. Instead of using words, use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. 

The longer the password, the stronger it is.  

A password of 8 characters or more is a safe place to start. Also, while it’s difficult to remember passwords across different platforms, try not to repeat passwords. This will protect all other accounts in the event of a breach on one of your accounts. 

Train and Test Your Employees Regularly:  

Educate your employees on how they can spot a phishing attack. Then, utilize penetration testing (this is a safe phishing attack orchestrated by us to see how employees respond) and how well they do. If employees fall for phishing attempts then send them through training again. We recommend doing this every quarter to ensure that your employees stay on their toes. Also, always provide education on the latest wave of phishing attacks. 

Protect Mobile Phones:  

You can safeguard as much as humanly possible on your network, but your employees are all walking in with cell phones that connect to any available WIFI. Are they allowed to get work emails on their phones? What about gaining access to the network remotely? Cell phones create a hole in security without proper mobile device management and mobile security. 

Perform Software Updates Regularly:  

Make sure your software is up-to-date with all the latest security patches. Holding off on updates means you’re leaving yourself open to vulnerabilities that have been discovered and addressed. 

Invest in Security:  

Security is not something to avoid for cost savings. Home-based hardware is not sufficient either. At the very least you need a quality firewall and backup device. Invest in your employee’s training, ongoing security updates, and maintaining a full crisis/breach plan. And your team members should know how to recover data in the case of a breach or outage. 

 

Attackers often use phishing to attempt to steal login credentials or deliver ransomware. Phishing is a type of scam that involves targeting victims with legitimate-looking messages that contain malicious links or infected attachments. Since the recipients think the email comes from a trustworthy source, they’ll download or open the attachment which will then become a disaster for your company. 

Your network security should monitor the emails you receive, and flag you to not open attachments unless you’re absolutely certain of the source. In case there’s any doubt, always train your staff to verify the authenticity of the message with the sender. 

The bad news is that cybersecurity and ransomware attacks are on the rise. Hackers are getting bolder, attacking government agencies, large corporations, and even whole cities. Even college students are falling victim to these threats. Hackers will either take passwords and login info and sell it, or they’ll take personal data and threaten to reveal it. Embarrassing photos and videos can cause a lot of problems. 

The good news? With proactive monitoring from your cybersecurity, and by regularly training your staff, you can stay one step ahead of hackers and their phishing attempts. And with us just a phone call away, you can rest easy at night knowing you’ve got a team of professionals protecting your data. Contact us today!

 

How to Spot a Phishing Attack

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Would you know if you were the subject of a phishing attack? Many people claim that they’d be able to tell right away if they received an email from an illegitimate source. If that were the case, there wouldn’t be 1.5 million new phishing websites every month. A 65% increase in attacks in one year! Hackers would have moved on to the next idea for swindling people out of their identities and money.   

 

Unfortunately, hackers are using phishing attacks every day. Why? Because they work! Phishing emails take very little effort to create, and, if they get results, they can bring in a lot of money. 

 

So, how do you spot a phishing attack and avoid becoming a victim? Let’s go over some key elements of phishing attempts so you can be prepared before you become a victim.
 

Look for these red flags:
 

Sender Email Address: Always check to make sure that the email address is legitimate. Amateur hackers will send things from Gmail or Hotmail accounts and hope you don’t notice. More sophisticated hackers will closely mimic an actual email domain, like amazonprime.com rather than amazon.com. Double check the email address before responding, clicking, or opening, even if the from name appears correct. 

 

Discrepancies in Writing Format: If the attack is from overseas, you’re likely to notice some small issues in writing format, like writing a date as 4th April, 2021 rather than April 4, 2021. While this is subtle, it is a huge red flag. 

 

Grammar Issues: We all fall victim to the occasional typo, but if you receive an email riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes, consider the source. It’s likely from a hacker, especially if the email supposedly comes from a major organization. 

 

Sender Name: This one is also difficult to track, but phishing emails will typically close with a very generic name to avoid raising suspicion. You should recognize the people who send you emails. Or, at the very least, you should clearly understand their role in their organization. 

 

Link Destination: Before you click on any link in an email be sure to hover over it. The destination URL should pop up. Check out the domain name of this URL. Similar to the sender email address, make sure that this address is legitimate before clicking. 

 

Attachments: Is it realistic to expect an attachment from this sender? Rule of thumb, don’t open any attachment you don’t expect to receive, whether it’s a Zip file, PDF or otherwise. The payload for a ransomware attack often hides inside these phony surprises. 

Email Design: A kooky font like Comic Sans should immediately raise red flags. Especially if you don’t clearly recognize the sender. Also watch out for weird spacing, kooky graphics, and color fonts. 

 

Links to Verify Information: Never ever click on a link to verify information. Instead, if you think the information does need updating go directly to the website. Type in your email and password, and update your information from the Account tab. Always go directly to the source. 

 

Odd Logo Use: Hackers try their best to mimic a websites’ look and feel. Oftentimes, they get very close; but they won’t be perfect. If something feels off, it probably is. 

 

 

While there is no fool-proof method for avoiding falling victim to a phishing attack, knowing how to spot likely culprits is one step in the right direction. As you can gather from the above tips, if an email looks fishy, it probably is (phishy).  

 

Use these tips to double-check any email you might have doubts about. Be especially careful of links and attachments. Double-check the return address. If the questionable email looks like it’s from a large company, let’s use Amazon as an example, but the return address is something like Amazon-rebates@dupe87351.net, then it’s not from Amazon.  

 

As always, if you are unsure about the safety of an email, contact us right away. We are here to insure your safety. It’s our job to protect you from every type of cybersecurity attack, phishing scams includes. 

What is Phishing & How do Hackers use it?

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What exactly is Phishing? It’s one of the biggest threats from hackers, yet most people still aren’t sure how phishing works. Hackers mimic the emails, forms, and websites of legitimate companies to lure people into providing their private, personal, and business information. Credit card numbers, social security information, account logins, and personal identifiers are just some of the data hackers are looking for. Victims don’t realize they’ve been compromised until long after the event took place. And often only after their identity or finances are affected. 

In the past, an attack was carried out relatively quickly. As soon as the victim gave up their information, the hacker moved in and stole money from the compromised account. Today, it’s often more lucrative for hackers to sell that information on the Dark Web, resulting in longer-lasting and even more devastating attacks. 

3 Types of Phishing Attacks 

Spear Phishing 

Phishing attempts directed at specific individuals, or companies, are termed ‘spear phishing.’ These attacks gather personal information to increase the probability of success. This technique is by far the most successful on the Internet today, accounting for 91% of attacks. 

Personalized attacks work because the victim typically doesn’t identify the attack as a threat. The approach is usually an email that contains a bogus attachment. The email usually looks legitimate, as it includes the person’s name and position in the company. Once the attachment is clicked on, threats, including ransomware, are launched. 

 

Clone Phishing 

Clone phishing is an attack where a previously delivered email containing an attachment or link is used to create an almost identical email. The attachment is replaced with a malicious copy, then sent from an email address spoofed to appear that it came from the original sender. It may claim to be a resend of the original or an updated version. 

 

Clone Phishing attacks can look like an anti-virus update, a refund or credit offer, and even gift cards. Make sure you know where these emails came from before you click on any links. Better yet, don’t click on those links at all! 

 

Whaling 

The term ‘whaling’ is used because these attacks target the big fish of the company. These phishing attacks are directed specifically at senior executives and high-profile targets. Aimed at executives, the masquerading emails will take a more serious tone. The email is crafted to target the person’s role in the company. The content of a whaling attack email is written as a legal subpoena, customer complaint, or a payment request. 

 

Whaling emails masquerade as a critical business messages. They appear to be sent from a legitimate businesses. Whaling phishers have also forged official-looking FBI subpoena emails and claimed that the manager needs to click a link and install special software to view the subpoena. 

Some examples are, emails from a bank or medical office asking to update information online or confirm the username and password? It could be a suspicious email from your boss asking you to execute a wire transfer. If you see any of these you’re among the 76% of businesses that were victims of a phishing attack in the last year. 

 

Methods of Delivery 

Most phishing scams are received through emails. But now hackers are getting trickier with their methods of execution. Personal device and Phone attacks using SMS texting (smishing), Voice phishing (vishing) are very common. Social engineering, a method in which users can be encouraged to click on various kinds of unexpected content for a variety of technical and social reasons, is everywhere. 

 

 

Ransomware 

Phishing, the most widely used method for spreading ransomware, increases significantly every year. Anyone can become a victim of phishing, or in turn, ransomware attacks. However, hackers have begun targeting organizations that are more likely to pay the ransom. Small businesses, education, government, and healthcare often don’t have protected data backups. That means they are unable to re-install a pre-ransomed version of their data. Instead, they have to pay their way out or cease to exist. The cost of the ransom alone can be the end of many small businesses. Victims of phishing campaigns are often  branded as untrustworthy. This could mean that some customers turn to their competitors, resulting in even greater financial loss. 

 

Phishing campaigns are rampant 

There are nearly 5 million new phishing sites created every month, according to Webroot Threat Report. On the dark web, hackers can find Phishing as a Service, offering phishing attacks in exchange for payment. One Russian website, “Fake Game,” claims over 61,000 subscribers and 680,000 credentials stolen. 

The stats of these attacks are scary. Over 30% of phishing messages are carelessly opened. 12% of targets click on the attachments. In short, these hackers look legitimate. 

New phishing campaigns and sites can be built by sophisticated hackers in a matter of minutes. While we think there are far more legitimate ways to earn money, these individuals have made a living out of scamming the general public. 

 

Protect Yourself 

Since Emails are the most common delivery methods for Phishing attacks, it makes sense to train your employees how to spot these scams. It’s safe to assume that, if an email looks fishy, it probably is. Contact us if you have any questions or concerns. 

Develop your Vendor Relationships

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For SMBs that want to take their business to the next level, you need help from your vendor partners. Unless you have this help, your business might not reach its potential. We all know vendor partnerships are key to strategic growth and longevity. Therefore, we need to become actively involved in that partnership.

Why do we need strong vendor relationships?

Having a strong partnership with your vendor is vital to continued business growth. It will mean your clients receive better service and will provide PR opportunities that raise your business profile.

Without a strong relationship, your business can stall. It might lack the resources or momentum to get to the next level. Securing and continuing to build a great relationship is critical to growth. Vendor management is one of the most underappreciated, yet critical functions you are responsible for. Luckily, this is something that can be easily addressed. So, how do you get that secure relationship where you become the vendor’s favorite partner? Let’s find out!

Make the vendor the center of your growth strategy

If you give your vendor relationship the central place in your growth strategy, you’re headed in the right direction. To be successful and grow, you need your vendor to think of you as a partner and not just a customer. A key approach is building up the relationship you have with your vendor account manager. Needless to say, this a very important step, so don’t let the relationship dry up.

Oftentimes SMBs will avoid emails or telephone calls from accounts managers as they see them as irritating. They’re trying to avoid sales pitches trying to get more money. But, if you take the opposite line of attack, you might see things change in your favor. For example, don’t wait for a sales call from your vendor, call them yourself and ask how you can become their favorite partner. With this approach, you show the vendor that you’re willing to make this a two-way relationship that can help them as well as you.

Take a forward approach

Being forward in this way can be quite surprising for vendors. They mainly spend their time dealing with SMBs that ask for discounts or favors. What’s more, they don’t often have them asking to help them.

In this regard, it’s good to have a bit of inside knowledge of how vendor account managers are measured in terms of performance. It might come as a surprise to learn that it’s not only their sales volume that is considered. Additionally, vendor account managers are measured on the sales pipeline visibility and how many new SMB partnerships they get.

Furthermore, it’s a good idea to open up communications lines with vendor account managers so they see the sales opportunities that arise. This will also mean that the vendor account managers can report sales pipelines accurately to their management.

Making direct introductions

Remember we said this is a two-way relationship – help your vendors by making introductions directly. Talk to your peers about the work you do with your vendor partners. Tell them what you enjoy about working with the vendor and how your business has grown thanks to the good relationship.

These activities might seem unusual as recommendations usually go the other way. After all, not many are doing it, which is why you can become your vendor partner’s favorite client quickly.

Does this yield results?

With this sort of helpful attitude, you will notice your partnerships flourish. You build trust. This trust will result in quicker resolutions to technical and supply issues more quickly – a bonus for your clients.

There really isn’t a downside to building a strong relationship with your vendor. Correspondingly, your relationship will become a real partnership with mutual commitment leading to success for both.

Final thoughts

If you want to move your business to the next level, approaching your vendor relationship in a different way can help to achieve growth. Without such a relationship, your growth could hit a wall that you might struggle to get beyond. If you have questions or need help managing your vendors, please contact us to discuss how we can help in this area.

Are you getting nickel-and-dimed?

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Are you getting ‘nickel-and-dimed’ by your vendors? This is a great phrase that you’ll hear concerning charges for extra services within a larger service or purchase. According to Grammarist.com, the phrase ‘nickel-and-dimed’ has been around since the 19th century. Originally, it meant small amounts of money. It wasn’t until the 20th century that this phrase became a verb and an adjective for descriptive purposes. It’s a relevant phrase when it comes to the SMB-vendor relationship. Being ‘nickel-and-dimed’ means you’re spending more on extra services than you agreed to. The phrase makes you consider the impact unknown costs can have on a business and its profit margin. 

As a business owner, you need to decide what level of IT support is right for you. Small businesses frequently operate under the “break-fix” model. Break-fix is exactly what it sounds like: you run your business normally until something breaks, then you pay someone to fix it. Managed Service Providers, like us, offer a monthly service agreement to handle all of your IT support. But remember, not all managed services are created equally – don’t get nickelanddimed! 

Break-Fix Model 

While the break-fix model appears the simplest out of the gate, it ends up costing more than you think. The ‘breaks’ cost you more because you’re stuck with unexpected hardware and software costs, and the ‘fixes’ cost you a lot more due to downtime, outages, and lost potential revenue. At some point, you’ll get tired of your CFO running into your office with a stack of bills from all of last month’s fixes. 

 

Working with Vendors 

Finding a vendor that works well for your business is essential. SMBs often seek out vendors that offer full solutions. These deals are usually better for the client as well as their revenue and profitability. 

Choosing a vendor that offers a complete solution means you won’t get ‘nickel-and-dimed.’ When a vendor gives you the option to pick your solutions it often sounds too good to be true. However, this way often makes things more complicated for both you and your client. It also makes it hard to predict revenue and costs going forward. 

SMBs need efficiency 

Efficiency is paramount for SMBs and this translates to your customers too. When vendors offer features individually, the SMB purchases separate parts as individual products. With a turnkey solution, they have one single comprehensive package. Otherwise, you’re spending money on features that you thought were included. Unbundling your service might also mean ending up working with multiple vendors. What you need is a single vendor; a one-stop-shop for all of the features you need. Bear in mind that this vendor also needs to be able to adapt to you in the future too. 

What SMBs need their Vendors to know 

SMBs need a vendor that recognizes their role in supporting your business. We buy, employ and use their technology to run our businesses. SMBs should expect their vendors to listen to them and help them build their business. If you suspect you’re being nickel-and-dimed, then this isn’t a partnership worth pursuing. Don’t stick with it because it might seem like an easy option or because it’s hard to find a vendor that checks all of the boxes. You can maximize profitability and ROI with a vendor that works for you and works with you. 

Future-proofing 

When new features become available, they should not be a separate offer or a stand-alone service. SMBs need to ensure the vendor they work with can future-proof their plan to add any new features onto their existing offering. 

With a complete, fixed-price solution, vendors will earn your business each month and will then continue to improve their solutions without having to ask for extra money. A good vendor will focus on lowering the costs and not try to upsell new opportunities as they arise. 

Final thoughts – don’t be nickel-and-dimed 

You need a solution that will meet your needs straight out of the box. It should be a ready-to-go turnkey solution that will make you satisfied in the knowledge that you have all you need to be able to solve any business problem – all while paying a reasonable sum. You also need your vendor to incorporate new additions into your product as they arrive without it costing you more. It’s vital not to settle when you’re looking for a vendor. If the vendor doesn’t look out for your and your customers’ interests, can you call them a partner? 

If you are having issues with your vendors, please contact us at any time. We want to be sure you’re getting what you’re paying for. 

 

Your Vendors: How To Manage Them

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When a Business relationship with vendors is good, it can form a strong and strategic partnership that strengthens and develops your business.

Many businesses don’t have the capability or skills that are needed to build marketing and sales in their business plans. Vendors can support businesses in this area. Vendors have the resources to tap into their expertise and provide guidance on how your business can promote your services. A vendor can give advice on which marketing goals should be a priority.

Establishing solid relationships with your vendors is crucial to staying competitive. This is true in both customer service and business growth. Take care of them and they will take care of you.

Two-sided relationships 

The relationship isn’t a one-sided one. Both you and the Vendor need to engage with one another to establish in-depth growth and development plans. Hold one another accountable. Vendors can also help businesses execute strategic plans by providing services that may be out of reach. These could be marketing resources or technical recommendations. Vendor partnerships with strong foundations also lead to efficiency in operations. Having a good vendor allows you to reduce the number of resources required with simpler, automated processes. As you can tell, this is good for your bottom line.

A positive vendor lifts you up 

Vendors have lots of expertise and valuable advice to share with you. Whether they’re forthcoming or not depends on the relationship you have with them. Just like any working relationship, a relationship between a business and a vendor is not just transactional. The traditional format of the vendor-buyer relationship is no longer enough to stay competitive. You both need to go much deeper than that. To have a vendor that lifts you up requires you to establish a two-way relationship and dialogue. Strive to help each other.

Both parties have key responsibilities. Vendors should listen to their clients to discover what services, support, and products they truly want. You, on the other hand, should engage proactively with the Vendor to gain access to price promotions, bundles, and Marketing tools. This will help you provide better services to your clients and stand above your competition.

How can you get more out of your Vendor? 

Often, small businesses don’t have enough budget or time to plan and carry out marketing programs on a big scale. Vendors can plug this gap. You can ask vendors how they invest in making their client network a success. Another question to ask is, do they create activities for lead generation? To help support the vendors become actively involved in their promotions.

You need to work to make the most out of your vendor partnership. When dealing with a Vendor, articulate your needs clearly. In turn, your Vendor has to make it easy for you to have access to the materials and resources you need to sell your services. There is no place for being timid here. Ask the Vendor how they can help you and what the available support is. Examples of this might include payment plans with added flexibility or discounts to help with your cash flow.

Build your relationship 

Often, business owners are quick to criticize a vendor for not providing or offering the support that was expected. We must remember that this is a reciprocal partnership and a two-way street. The relationship needs to work for both parties. Sometimes, owners find that their Vendor isn’t creating the positive effect on their business that they would like. For this to happen, you must engage fully with the Vendor to set achievable, common goals. Spending time to establish the right partner is an investment SMBs often can’t afford to miss. Having a trusted partnership with a vendor impacts your company’s success.

Collaborate with technology 

Simply listing each other’s company on your website is not a collaboration. For the relationship to go deeper, it should involve the integration of technology. An intertwined technological relationship will open up ways to create more innovative services. Your vendors have a larger budget for research and development than you do. Being collaborative as a technology partner is an important consideration that many businesses can benefit from.

What if your Vendor is negative to your day-to-day operations? 

Strive to build and maintain good relationships with vendors. Remember, vendors also have to play a positive role in the relationship. Some vendors aren’t good for your business and it’s important to work with the ones that are. As MSPinsights.com describes, sometimes vendors alienate themselves by offering “channel” products that mean they have direct contact with your clients. You might even find vendors that offer competing products to the end clients or require them to sign contracts. This kind of ‘offer’ often suggests that these vendors are not interested in treating your business as a legitimate partner.

Final thoughts 

For best results, you need to become your Vendor’s favorite partner. Essentially, you’ve got to find someone who wants to build a partnership that works two ways. If you need a little help managing your vendors, remember that we can do that for you. Contact us and we’d be happy to get the ball rolling.