November 24, 2020

Is Your Password Policy Strong Enough to Outsmart Cybercriminals?

Implementing a password policy in your company is an easy first step in protecting against costly cyberattacks. Modern hackers are using advanced password software that can use a variety of methods to gain your login information. To combat these hackers and protect your data, strong password guidelines is key.  Below are password policy best practices you can easily implement across your organization to act as the first line of defense against a data breach.

Password Policy Best Practices

Having strict password standards in your company lowers the chances that hackers will be able to get access to your network. Implementing a strong password policy and revisiting it regularly will make sure you are staying on top of the latest hacking strategies. An effective password policy will include guidelines around:

Password Lockout

Lockout rules will cause an account to be inaccessible due to too many failed login attempts, usually after a period before the account will self-reenable. Setting the password lockout to three or four attempts will slow the process of a password being guessed and potentially flag an account as being under attack.

Password Age

Creating guidelines around password age will require a periodic password change for all users. We recommend changing passwords every 60 days. Keeping a password for a long period of time allows a hacker to have a prolonged amount of time for identifying a password. Additionally, there is a higher probability that the password will be reused or identified on the dark web.

Restrictions of Reusing Passwords

Reusing the same account password that was used previously on an organizational account is an extension of the password age parameter above, the longer a password is in use, the more time a hacker has to crack the password.  We recommend your system remembering the last 24 passwords so an account is not able to reuse.

Password Complexity Requirements

Password complexity slows the process of a password being identified. Complexity requirements should include using uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols for every password created.

Password Length Requirements

Password length also slows the process and lessens the odds that a password would be guessed. We recommend using passwords of 14 characters or more.

Many of these policies are all within the same place on your network server. If your environment is large enough that it has centralized management, such as a domain controller, you can enforce the settings among your group all at once. If a domain controller is not present, applicable settings will have to be applied individually.

Anders Technology can help you develop a strong password policy and implement cybersecurity best practices to protect you and your organization. Contact an Anders advisor to see how we can help you mitigate security risk and defend against a costly cyberattack.

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November 19, 2020

RECORDED WEBINAR – The PPP Loan Forgiveness Gates Have Opened: Are You Equipped to Apply?

Download our recorded webinar to hear from the Anders CARES Act Research and Response Team on new details of PPP loan forgiveness you need to know before applying.

The recorded webinar covers the recent Small Business Administration (SBA) guidance on PPP loan forgiveness and insights on:

  • How to work with your bank now that the application portals are open
  • SBA Necessity Questionnaires Forms 3509 and 3510 
  • Strategies for achieving maximum loan forgiveness

Download the webinar below.

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November 17, 2020

Helped Local Private High School Obtain Forgiveness for $1.5 Million PPP Loan

A St. Louis private high school was looking for help navigating the changing regulations of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan they had received to retain over 100 employees. By partnering with Anders, the organization received guidance and assistance from their advisor and our COVID-19 Resource Center that helped them navigate the nuances and requirements. Anders worked with them to track expenses and submit their $1.5 million PPP loan for full forgiveness.

Learn more about Anders COVID-19 Business Recovery services.

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November 17, 2020

Making Your Business Valuable During COVID-19: Pivoting a Service to a Product

Service companies are disproportionately impacted by the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While consumers are cutting back on services to save on costs and avoid human contact, they are still buying products that solve problems and meet their needs. Businesses are purchasing products like Microsoft Teams for teleconferencing and internal communications. Individuals are purchasing home gym equipment instead of a service like a personal trainer. This has caused many service-based businesses to throw away the usual playbook and are pivot to provide a product to their customers.

Pivoting in Action

Rather than having customers visit their restaurant, we have seen restaurants have neighborhood deals to deliver to the consumers. By turning a “Taco Tuesday” into an “emergency burrito with a margarita kit”, customers can have the safety of their own home, but still have a product they desired. After spending all day in the home with their new co-workers (aka children), the taco and a margarita is answer to their unique need.

Making this pivot from a service to a product can help make your business more valuable and should be done strategically. Finding your product’s niche, identifying what problems it will solve and stating expectations to customers are important first steps.

Find Your Niche

One of the first steps is to determine your companies’ niche. This can be counterintuitive because your instinct in a down economy is to need more customers, not less, but it is a critical move in creating a product. Picking your niche helps you focus on a single type of customer and design a product to efficiently reach the target audience. Services are adapted and customized for a variety of customers while a product typically fits one type of buyer.  

Identify the Problem You’re Solving

Rank your services and focus on which can solve a problem. Be clear about what problem your product solves for your niche then brand it. With a service, you are hiring the right person for the job. With a product, you are selling a “thing”, so having a solid brand with a clear purpose is essential for turning your service into the product.

Clearly State Expectations

In order to turn your service into an everyday product, it must have the feel of other products. When you run a service you typically price everything out by the hour. A product has the price tag on it upfront. When you pick up any tangible product at the grocery store, there is a list of their ingredients. Show an itemized list of what your customers get when they buy from you.

Service providers have been hammered by the global pandemic. If you can pivot your service to look and feel more like a product, you can move your company into more stability in these uncertain times. Anders can help your business add value to build a more durable business coming out of the pandemic and help transition the business when you’re ready. Learn more about our Business Transition Planning or COVID-19 Business Recovery services or contact an Anders advisor below.

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November 10, 2020

PPP with Paul and Dan Video Series

With new updates and legislation evolving quickly around the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), our CARES Act Research and Response Team has been focused on relaying information you need to know. Two of the team members, Paul C. Rhea and Daniel K. Schindler, are sharing the latest changes around PPP loans and the forgiveness process in their video series: PPP with Paul and Dan.

View each segment of the series below. Check out more CARES Act content in our COVID-19 Resource Center, or learn how we can help your business recover from COVID-19.

November 10, 2020

October 13, 2020

October 7, 2020

September 18, 2020

September 4, 2020

August 28, 2020

August 21, 2020

August 13, 2020

July 24, 2020

July 16, 2020

June 25, 2020
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November 10, 2020

Flexible, Secure and Cost-Effective Strategies to Build into Your 2021 IT Budget

Year-end budgeting is going to look a lot different this year in the midst of a global pandemic. Business objectives have undoubtedly changed over the past year and innovation is more important than ever to address these changes and recover from the effects of COVID-19. Making the case for flexible, secure and cost-effective technology platforms will be vital going into 2021.

Flexibility

Remote work was forced upon many companies this year, and if virtual work options were not already part of the company’s technology strategy, it caused a lot of time, money and frustration to implement quickly. Being flexible became the name of the game, and the need to be agile is here to stay. In the coming year, businesses will want to build their technology strategy with a focus on flexibility, so as business goals or environmental factors evolve, they can easily adjust using technology. Going into 2021, three flexible strategies to consider are:

Along with having a flexible IT strategy, keeping it secure should also be top-of-mind.

Security

Continuing to maintain and build a robust cybersecurity strategy is another vital focus going into 2021. Cybercriminals are getting more and more sophisticated, and breaches are getting larger and more costly. Now is the time to review your cybersecurity architecture and develop a road map going into the new year that includes:

  • Governance, Risk and Compliance Measures
  • Vulnerability Management
  • Information Protection and Privacy
  • Cybersecurity Training and Testing

Even with the best cybersecurity safeguards in place including backups, firewalls and software patches, it takes one click by an unknowing employee to cost your business a lot of time, money and important data. Employee cybersecurity training can equip everyone in the company with the tools and knowledge needed to do their part in avoiding a data breach.

Flexibility and security are important pieces of every technology strategy for 2021 but coming out of a pandemic, companies also need to be mindful of budgets.

Cost-Effectiveness

With cost-cutting being a reality amidst a global pandemic, business owners and CIOs need to decide which parts of their IT strategy need to be done in-house, and where they can find cost efficiencies by outsourcing.

Anders Technology specializes in bridging the gap in technology needs, from co-managing alongside internal IT staff to supplement expertise, to being the entire IT team, we can step in as much or as little as needed. Below is an example of ways we partner with our clients.

Bridging the Gap in Your Technology Needs | Anders Technology

Anders Technology can help be flexible by taking on more when needed and pivoting the strategy with supplemental resources. With a team of advisors with in-depth knowledge in several areas, we can help you develop a technology strategy that helps you meet business goals while staying secure and cost-conscious. Learn more about Anders Technology or contact an Anders advisor below to get started.

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November 5, 2020

Secured $150,000 in Missouri Small Business Grants for St. Louis Restaurants

With local pandemic restrictions taking a toll on St. Louis restaurants, our CARES Act team helped restaurant clients evaluate and secure much-needed funding. Missouri Small Business Grants were one of the funding options available for eligible food service businesses. Our CARES Act team helped three local restaurants apply and obtain $50,000 each in Missouri Small Business Grants that helped keep their staff employed and doors open.

Learn more about Anders COVID-19 Business Recovery services.

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October 27, 2020

Do Your Employees Actually Need Cybersecurity Training?

We can all agree that protecting your business and employees from data breaches is important. But is company-wide cybersecurity training necessary? Some businesses have periodic training courses along with phishing tests. Others send out a friendly reminder to employees to “be careful not to open suspicious emails”. What is enough?

The Importance of Identifying a Scammer

The probability of an employee opening a malicious email may be directly related to the amount of training they received. Let’s say your company has the friendly reminder approach with employees. Here is what happens when an employee clicks on a ransomware link:

  • Hopefully, your anti-virus and firewall has up-to-date patching to HELP prevent an attack
  • However, just clicking the link is enough to activate the sequence for the attack and many times a firewall and anti-virus cannot help you after that action
  • After that, the characteristics of the specific malware will start to deploy in your system – however, you may not notice, and the virus does not always execute immediately
  • You may feel forced to pay a ransom. The government may punish organizations who pay the ransom after a ransomware attack

Beyond ransomware, scammers are using other tactics to gain valuable information through phishing and spear-phishing attempts. By posing as a colleague, manager or other credible source, employees could be conned into:

  • Wiring an ACH payment
  • Using a personal or company card to buy a gift card or other unsuspecting errand
  • Providing their password  

Invest in the training of your human firewall. A traditional firewall cannot do it alone. Even with the best laid cybersecurity safeguards in place including backups, firewalls and software patches, it takes one click by an unknowing employee to cost your business a lot of time, money and important data.

How to Train Employees on Cybersecurity Best Practices

Now that we know the importance of cybersecurity training for employees, how can you get started? Anders Technology has cybersecurity advisors that can implement a training program for staff based on their skill level. Maybe they can already identify a suspicious link but could still be fooled by a credible-looking domain. We use a personalized approach to ensure each employee is equipped with the tools to keep themselves and the company safe from scammers.

Anders Technology can help you implement the best cybersecurity practices to protect you and your organization. Contact an Anders advisor to see how we can help you mitigate security risk and defend against a costly cyberattack.

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October 9, 2020

New Streamlined Forgiveness Application for Smaller PPP Loans

Businesses with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans of $50,000 or less can now utilize a simpler forgiveness application. The new application, released by the SBA and U.S. Treasury, is meant to streamline the PPP loan forgiveness process for borrowers and lenders.

Details of the New Application

The new application comes out of a new interim final rule (IFR) providing guidance on forgiveness and loan review processes for PPP loans of $50,000 or less. Borrowers with affiliates that received loans totaling $2 million or more are not eligible to use the new application. Under the IFR, eligible loan borrowers are exempted from any reductions in forgiveness based on:

  • Reductions in full-time equivalent (FTE) employees
  • Reductions in employee salary or wages, and

According to the IFR, of the 5.2 million PPP loans approved by the SBA, about 3.57 million, or $62 billion of the $525 billion, were for $50,000 or less.

Good News for Businesses with Smaller PPP Loans

For borrowers with PPP loans less than $50,000, this is good news as they are not required to perform complicated FTE or salary reduction calculations. Borrowers of $50,000 or less still will have to make some certifications and provide documentation to the lender for payroll and nonpayroll costs.

Before deciding to move forward with the new application, make sure to check with your bank on if and when they are starting to accept applications. View the instructions for completing Form 3508S or the Form 3508S application.

Legislation is continuing to evolve and it’s important to keep up with the latest rules and regulations to make sure you’re making decisions based on accurate data. Our advisors are closely following COVID-19 relief efforts and will continue to publish insights to keep you informed about potential impacts and benefits. Visit our COVID-19 Resource Center for more resources. To discuss your situation and recovery options, contact an Anders advisor below.

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October 9, 2020

Microsoft Ignite 2020: New Features Coming for Businesses

Every fall, thousands of IT professionals and Microsoft experts from around the world gather for the annual Microsoft Ignite conference. Ignite provides an opportunity for Microsoft to showcase products and services and announce upcoming changes and improvements. This year’s feature enhancements align seamlessly with Anders Technology’s approach to flexible, secure and cost-effective technology.

The major themes of Ignite 2020 were agility and resilience. Modern organizations need the ability to swiftly pivot and respond to new business opportunities, while maintaining business operations in the face of challenges that we could not have imagined a year ago. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Anders had several of our engineers attend the all-virtual Ignite 2020 conference to better understand Microsoft’s roadmap and help our clients navigate the complex Microsoft environment. Below we dive into Microsoft’s upcoming changes and improvements to look forward to.

Enhancements to Microsoft Teams

With the increased reliance on remote work, businesses now rely on Teams and Teams Calling more than ever. Big changes are coming to Teams that will enable better collaboration and flexibility.

Together Mode

The biggest announcement in the Teams space is called Together Mode.  Together Mode places all video meeting participants together in a virtual onscreen space, like a conference room or a coffee shop, so that everyone in the meeting looks like they’re in the same room together. This new format has a profound impact on group cohesion during a video conference. Together Mode makes it easier for participants to process and understand nonverbal cues like gestures and eye contact while videoconferencing.

Teams Recaps

Microsoft also announced Teams Recaps.  After a meeting, participants can now access meeting recordings, transcripts, chat and shared files directly from their Outlook calendar. If you miss a meeting, forget what was said, or just want to refer back, the entire meeting can be available from your Outlook calendar.

Presenter Mode and Live Reactions

Microsoft is adding Presenter Mode and Live Reactions to meetings. Presenter Mode allows a Teams meeting presenter to superimpose him or herself over a slide deck so that participants can see both the presenter and the slides. Live Reactions already exists in Microsoft Live Events, but previously had not been available in Teams meetings. This functionality allows participants to nonverbally react to a meeting event with an emoji, allowing presenters and participants to maintain a sense of the room.

Breakout Rooms

Another major Teams feature announcement is Breakout Rooms, coming in early Q4 2020.  Meeting hosts will be able to create breakout rooms that participants can use for smaller group discussion, enabling meeting participants to organize and formalize side activities in a more productive format. Once the breakout activity is complete, hosts can then call the participants back to the larger group. Microsoft has placed Breakout Rooms on their roadmap for October 2020 for the standard and web Teams clients, and December 2020 for the Android client.

PowerBI Integration

Microsoft has announced enhancements to the PowerBI Teams app that will integrate almost all of the PowerBI feature set into Teams. Further, they announced a new PowerBI Professional Per-User licensing scheme. Previously, premium PowerBI features were only available at the organizational level, with entry level pricing at several thousand dollars per month. Going forward, organizations will be able to license PowerBI Premium features at the user level, allowing for much smaller engagements at a much lower cost.

Security Announcements

Windows Defender is part of a comprehensive cloud-based security suite called Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP). At Ignite 2019, Microsoft announced better medium-sized business licensing schemes for Defender ATP. At Ignite 2020, Microsoft announced that starting in Q4 2020, new Defender Antivirus (AV) capabilities will be added to the Microsoft 365 Business Premium licensing. This means that if your organization is already paying for Business Premium, you will be able to get advanced, automated, cloud-based antivirus for little or no extra licensing cost.

Microsoft HealthCare Cloud

Microsoft’s HealthCare Cloud is its first cloud offering built from the ground up for a specific industry. HealthCare Cloud is designed to integrate Azure, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics 365 for fully native compliance with all healthcare rules and regulations. 

In Private Preview, the Teams Electronic Health Record (EHR) connector allows clinicians to meet with patients and providers in Teams directly from the patient’s EHR. Currently, Microsoft is focusing on Epic EHR support, but other systems will be supported soon.

Azure Enhancements

Azure Communication Services bring communications APIs from the Teams stack into your Azure apps. This allows your organization to utilize Teams voice, video, and telephone features from within your own homegrown applications. 

The significant depth and breadth of new features and services announced at Ignite 2020 are sure to keep IT professionals busy until Ignite 2021. Anders Technology advisors strive to always stay ahead of what’s new in the technology industry so that we can be your trusted advisor, whether your organization wants tried-and-true or cutting-edge solutions. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we have the skills and the knowledge to meet your organization’s unique needs. Contact an Anders advisor below to discuss your situation.

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