5 Ways to Improve the Wholesale Customer Experience

READ TIME: 4 MIN

5 Ways to Improve the Wholesale Customer Experience

Providing an excellent customer experience strengthens the loyalty of 64% of customers, according to a Salesforce survey. In today’s world of instant gratification, customers expect on-demand engagement and satisfaction of their needs. Industry 4.0 is revolutionizing every market, including wholesale distribution, and it is the key to enhancing the customer experience, and ultimately, leading to the industry’s success.

Here are five ways to improve the customer experience through the digital transformation of your wholesale distribution business.

Technology

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is automating manufacturing and improving efficiencies through smart technology such as sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. These advanced technologies collect real-time data and analytics to improve productivity and enhance the customer experience. Such data can be crucial to catering towards customers, 45% of whom, Salesforce noted, say they will switch brands if a company does not actively anticipate their needs. Wholesale distributors must stay abreast of this rapidly evolving transformation and invest in smart technology to outpace the competition because it will only continue to progress. In fact, the total number of IoT connections will reach 83 billion by 2024, according to Juniper Research, and sensors will reach $27 billion by 2022, reports Zion Market Research. To support such advanced technologies and securely store and process big data, wholesalers will need to proactively monitor and maintain their IT infrastructures.

Omnichannel Environment

Rather than a multi-channel approach, where a customer can access your business from multiple touchpoints, from mobile to desktop, an omnichannel approach creates a uniform customer experience that picks up where they left off across all touchpoints. According to Salesforce, connected processes are very important to winning the business of 70% of customers. To ensure retailers receive their goods and services as quickly, accurately, and cost-effectively as possible in this omnichannel environment, wholesalers must utilize fully integrated Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) solutions to streamline business processes, from inventory management to scheduling shipments. Not only will this improve real-time demand fulfillment of customer expectations, but also increase customer security and improve compliance with vendors. Healthy IT is critical for an omnichannel environment and a seamless customer experience.

Anywhere Operations

Anywhere operations is an IT model that supports customers, enables remote employees, and delivers product deployment from anywhere, no matter the location of the assets or people. Gallup identified anywhere operations as a top strategic technology trend, and estimated that by the end of 2023, 40% of organizations will have implemented anywhere operations. Fully integrated EDI solutions will help implement anywhere operations, drawing together various business operations as well as improving real-time decision-making. The ability to remotely access real-time information, data, and analytics from anywhere at any time allows on-the-road salespeople to provide updated pricing, check inventory, and review customer profiles for a more tailored customer experience. Wholesale distributors need to maintain a health IT infrastructure to sustain anywhere operations and must manage asset tracking, software licensing, and hardware warranties and provide 24/7/365 help desk support to ensure their mobile workforces never miss a sale due to IT headaches.

Uptime

According to Salesforce, 66% of customers want instant, on-demand engagement. A slow website or shipping mistake can cost brand reputation and loyalty. It is critical that wholesale distributors ensure their products and services are always available to the customer or risk losing their business for good. A Vanson Bourne survey found that 82% of companies had experienced unplanned downtime in the past three years for an average time of 4 hours and costing an average $2 million. As a result, 46% of companies could not deliver services to customers and 37% lost production time on a critical asset. From supply chain management to a reliable online presence, wholesalers and distributors must maintain a smooth integration between the back end and front end of their business, and that means dedicating resources towards decreasing downtime. Increasing system uptime reduces errors, improves productivity, and enhances the customer experience.

Security

It is also important to maintain a healthy IT infrastructure for security. System glitches cause 27% of data breaches in the consumer industry, according to Ponemon Institute; and the average cost? $2.59 million. Whether it’s from the non-compliance fines, cost of lost productivity, or various charges to get your systems back online in a timely manner, the cost of unsecure systems is high. Maintaining the security of your systems and customer data is not only important for compliance, but also for customer loyalty. 59% of customers believe their personal information is vulnerable to a security breach, reports Salesforce, and 54% agree a commitment to safeguarding their data strengthens their loyalty. Wholesalers must support the front end of their business with seamless, healthy IT on the backend, because without security, there is no customer experience to be had.

A good customer experience is built on good technology, whether that means IoT devices with real-time data, seamless omnichannel environments, anywhere operations and support, system uptime, or information security. If your IT department is small, overwhelmed, or even nonexistent, a managed service provider has the expertise and bandwidth to ensure optimal technology performance at your wholesale distribution business. An award-winning MSP, NexusTek offers multiple managed IT plans with various levels of support so that you can find the plan that best fits your company needs and goals. Our 24/7/365 proactive system monitoring, alerting, and maintenance keeps your IT infrastructure running smoothly to increase uptime, decrease glitches and breaches, support advanced technologies and applications, and enhance customer loyalty. Improve the customer experience with managed IT from NexusTek.

3 Ways to Prep Your Business IT for the Holiday Shopping Season

READ TIME: 3 MIN

3 Ways to Prep Your Business IT for the Holiday Shopping Season

The holiday shopping season is coming.

Last year, U.S. online purchases during this time totaled $188.2 billion—32% more than in 2019, according to Adobe Analytics. However, serious sales, enormous crowds, and frenzied purchases can both promote and disrupt business. Massive, simultaneous traffic can lead to website crashes, shipping errors, and security breaches that impact the business and its customers. Companies must shore up their mission critical infrastructure to properly prepare for the onslaught of holiday activity.

Here are three ways to prep your IT for the upcoming holiday shopping season.

Systems Upkeep

Ensure your business has a healthy network infrastructure to handle massive traffic and support smooth integration between the back end and front end of the business, eliminate unplanned downtime, and enhance the customer experience.

A downed website is a direct hit to a business’ bottom line. In 2019, J. Crew lost 323,000 shoppers who were on track to spend $775,000 in five hours; Walmart may have lost as much as $9 million in half that time; and Costco, down for 16 hours, missed out on $11 million. That’s rough. But it’s not all about the money; it’s also about the people. PwC reported that 1 in 3 customers would leave a brand—they love, by the way—after just one bad experience. Would you say missing out on 50% off the latest big screen television because of website malfunctions counts as a “bad” enough experience? Probably. In today’s world of instant gratification, 66% of consumers want—and expect—on demand engagement, according to Salesforce. For those consumers who would give their favorite brands another chance, PwC found that 92% would still completely abandon a company after two or three bad experiences. With a poor IT infrastructure, a business could easily lose more customer loyalty in one season than in the entire year.

Security

Safeguard your business data and customers’ personal information through a multilayered cybersecurity plan that protects your systems, detects cyber threats, defends against attacks, and eliminates breaches through incident response.

The end of the year is prime hunting season for cybercriminals on the prowl for overwhelmed businesses and unsuspecting holiday shoppers. Kaspersky found that cyberattacks on holiday shoppers were up 15% in 2019, and last year, the most DDoS attacks in Q4 were on December 31 with 1,349 attacks recorded across the globe. Consequently, 59% of customers believe their personal information is vulnerable to a security breach, according to Salesforce, and 54% say that a company’s commitment to safeguarding their data strengthens their loyalty. Unfortunately, the consumer industry lacks security automation with only 41% partially deployed and 42% not deployed, according to IBM; as a result, malicious attacks comprise 45% of data breach causes in the consumer industry, with system glitches accounting for 27% and human error for 28%. The cost of weak cybersecurity practices and a lack of security awareness training can lead to lost data, customer loyalty, and overall brand reputation.

Backup and Recover

Maintain frequent data backups and proactively outline business continuity and disaster recovery plans so, in the event of disaster, whether virtual or physical, your business can minimize damage, restore data and systems, and recover business operations quickly. Data backup and restore can be a lifesaver if a website goes down or a ransomware attack strikes in the frenzy of Cyber Monday. According to FEMA, 40-60% of small businesses will never reopen after a data loss; in fact, 90% of companies that are unable to recover business operations within five days of a disaster fail within a year. Mercer reported that more than half of companies do not have a business continuity plan. Ponemon Institute found that companies that implemented business continuity management policies nearly halved the mean time to recover and improved cost savings by 50%. A robust BC/DR plan promotes a swift rebound, which can make all the difference to your bottom line and customer loyalty this holiday shopping season.

Ensure the optimal customer experience for this year’s massive waves of website traffic with a healthy IT infrastructure to increase uptime, a strong cybersecurity approach to protect data, and tough cyber resilience to quickly recover business operations in the event of disaster. If your IT department needs extra help this holiday season, NexusTek’s certified engineers are available 24/7/365 to offer proactive system monitoring and maintenance, managed cybersecurity and incident response and remediation, and data backup and recovery services so your business never misses a sale. Maximize this holiday shopping season with optimized IT support from NexusTek.

Cybersecurity as a Matter of National Security

READ TIME: 4 MIN

Cybersecurity as a Matter of National Security

Business security, energy security, food security…national security. All one in the same.

While Iowa grain co-op, New Cooperative, may seem far removed from the capital of the U.S. government, a ransomware attack threatened food security of people in the Midwest. The event is not just a concern for local residents; the cyberattack, and its implications, are a concern for everyone across the nation.

A few months before the $5.9 million attack on New Cooperative, the world’s largest meatpacker based in Brazil, JBS, experienced a ransomware attack that disrupted meat production in North America and Australia during the height of grilling season. Prices of U.S. beef shipped to wholesale buyers increased more than 1%, according to USDA.

And it’s not just the agricultural sector that cybercriminals can target to cripple U.S. national security. In May, another ransomware attack hobbled Colonial Pipeline, interrupting fuel service for six days to large sections of the east coast. The oil pipeline finally paid $4.4 million for the decryption key.

Furthermore, certain industries are more heavily targeted for their widespread effects on broader swaths of the U.S. population. Markets with essential services face more threats and harbor greater responsibility in shoring up vulnerabilities.

Here are the top 10 most targeted industries and their most common form of cyberattack in 2020, according to 2021 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index.

Top 10 Industries Targeted in 2020*
Most Common Attack Per Industry in 2020*
1. Finance
Server access attacks
2. Manufacturing
Business Email Compromise
3. Energy
Data theft and leaks
4. Retail
Credential theft
5. Professional Services
Ransomware
6. Government
Ransomware
7. Healthcare
Ransomware
8. Media
Malicious domain name system (DNS) squatting
9. Transportation
Malicious insider or misconfiguration
10. Education
Spam or adware
*According to findings in 2021 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index
The ever-increasing onslaught and sophistication of cyberattacks is not just a concern for businesses. They pose an imminent threat to the security of the U.S. and the privacy, health, and financial well-being of its residents. The significance of cybercrime cannot be ignored and is on the minds of the nation’s top government officials. Earlier this year, President Biden released Executive Order 14208, addressing the modernization of the nation’s cybersecurity. Here are a few takeaways from Biden’s “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity”:
  • IT service providers must inform the government of cybersecurity breaches that could impact U.S. networks.
  • A standardized playbook outlines a predetermined set of federal responses to cyber incidents.
  • The Federal Government must modernize its cybersecurity infrastructure through cloud services and zero-trust architecture, mandated multifactor authentication and encryption, robust endpoint detection and response, and consistent event logging practices.
  • Software developers must share certain security data publicly and must meet baseline security standards before the software can be sold to the government.
  • A Cybersecurity Safety Review Board, comprising government and private sector officials, may convene after a cyberattack to analyze the event, its causes, and impacts, and make recommendations to further improve the nation’s cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity is so important that the President of the United States is making sweeping Executive Orders to improve it.

If the United States has a multilayered approach to protecting the nation’s cybersecurity and cyber resilience, shouldn’t your business have a plan?

Here’s a list of effective tactics to build your business’ multilayered cybersecurity:

  • Endpoint Detection and Response
  • Windows Patching and Third-Party patching
  • Cloud Email Security per User
  • Cybersecurity Health Check and Review
  • Security Awareness Training
  • DNS Security
  • Incident Response and Remediation
  • Vulnerability Scans of Network Edge
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
  • Event Log Correlation and Aggregation
  • 24/7/365 Monitoring
If your company only has some or even none of the abovementioned cybersecurity measures in your IT repertoire, NexusTek has developed three customizable, managed cybersecurity plans—Essential, Standard, and Advanced—comprising user-focused strategies and carefully selected solutions to protect, detect, and respond to cyber risks and threats that target your business. As an SSAE-18 SOC II certified company and award-winning managed service provider, NexusTek has the expertise to build and improve your cybersecurity. We protect your company and customers so you can help protect your country.

4 Ways To Future-Proof Your AEC Business

READ TIME: 4 MIN

4 Ways To Future-Proof Your AEC Business

Industry 4.0 is revolutionizing every market. According to Statista, global spending on digital transformation technologies and services increased 10.4% in 2020 to $1.3 trillion. A 2021 Board of Directors survey revealed that 86% agree rapid digital transformation is a key priority, and 69% accelerated digital business initiatives in response to COVID-19.

The Architecture, Engineering & Construction industry is no exception: 98% of AEC businesses agree that digital solutions are critical to the future viability of their companies. Small- and medium-sized businesses comprise 90% of the construction market, and without the deep pockets of an enterprise-sized organization, the construction industry is one of the least digitized industries. The lack of digitization has contributed to the AEC sector’s decreasing productivity, costing the industry an annual estimate of $1.6 trillion.

To move forward into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, architects, engineering firms, and construction companies must embrace digital business operations. Here’s four ways AEC businesses can jumpstart their digital transformation journeys.

Technology

The Internet of Things (IoT), Digital Twins, and Building Information Modeling (BIM) are a few of the advanced technologies revolutionizing the AEC industry, improving timelines, collaboration, and productivity. The total number of IoT connections will reach 83 billion by 2024, and sensors will reach $27 billion by 2022. Utilizing data from IoT devices, digital twins can improve productivity 50-60%. Additionally, 49% of builders use BIM, and 82% of users report positive ROI. The other 51% of builders will likely invest in BIM soon as the market is projected to reach $13.2 billion by the end of 2024. Working to keep up with such advanced technologies, networks are more vulnerable to crashes, resulting in data loss and delayed project timelines. In fact, system downtime costs $5,600 per minute on average, reports Gartner, and an hour can amount to $140,000 to $540,000 depending on the organization. The high-performance computational power of the CPUs, GPUs, and SSD drives demands a healthy IT network. An AEC business needs a strong IT infrastructure with frequent monitoring and proactive maintenance to support such (necessary) advanced technologies, secure their connectivity, and excel against competitors.

Remote Workforce

In 2020, approximately 75% of civil and commercial contractors restructured work procedures to accommodate social distancing, and in effect, accelerated digital transformation. Anywhere operations not only are the standard expectations of present-day job seekers, but also the keys to increasing project speed and reducing costs. Now architects, engineers, and construction contractors can work on projects in different time zones, collecting information from the field and making decisions in real time while saving the time and cost of travel. One Texas concrete company implemented a real-time digital time tracking solution with GPS and face recognition and ultimately saved $72,900 in the first 12 months. In the next three years, the AEC industry should expect to see 33% of contractors using wearable technology, increasing communication and streamlining operations.

Remote workforces are the way of the future. AEC businesses must stay on top of asset tracking, software licensing, and hardware warranties to ensure their mobile workforces never miss a beat. And a 24/7 IT help desk wouldn’t hurt either.

Data

Construction data is quite possibly the most valuable asset for an architecture business, engineering firm, or construction company. Since 52% of all rework is caused by poor data and miscommunication, 71% of owners believe capturing more data during design and construction will reduce lifecycle operations costs. IoT, augmented reality, and BIM technologies generate big data that is essential to improving production and decreasing costs. With 70% of manufacturers also transmitting personal information to and from these connected devices, this data is also sensitive to both the business and its clients, and therefore, must be protected. Unfortunately, 23% of data breaches in the industrial sector are caused by system glitches, resulting in data loss, exposure of personal information, and non-compliance fines.

A healthy IT infrastructure supports workstations, runs sophisticated CAD/CAM software tools, and prevents data loss from system failures. Network infrastructure must be proactively monitored and maintained, decreasing the loss of valuable, sensitive information and increasing business continuity and brand reputation.

Production

The benefits of advanced technology, a mobile workforce, and big data culminate into the most valuable advantage of all: increased and improved overall production. IoT in the construction market is expected to grow at a rate of CAGR of 14% until 2027, totaling $19 billion and increasing efficiency all the while. Online collaboration tools and digital workspaces that bring together remote partners strengthen workplace productivity 20-30%, and connected teams experience a 21% increase in profitability. Big data increases the likelihood of a business making better strategic decisions by 69%; and companies that use big data analytics report an 8% increase in revenue. To capitalize on the benefits of digital transformation, AEC businesses need sturdy IT environments that do not falter under high computational power or vast amounts of data, as well as a 24/7 help desk that supports their remote workforces wherever they may be. That’s where a managed service provider like NexusTek comes in.

As an award-winning managed service provider for architects, engineering firms, and construction companies across the country, NexusTek offers multiple managed IT plans with various options of support and guidance so that you can find the plan that best fits your AEC business needs and goals. Our 24/7/365 proactive system monitoring, alerting, and maintenance keeps your IT infrastructure running smoothly to increase uptime and maintain project timelines. Our unlimited help desk supports your remote employees in case of IT challenges, and our inventory and configuration management ensures your assets, hardware, and software remain online and optimized. Proceed confidently on your digital transformation journey with managed IT from NexusTek.

Videotelephony: The Future of Remote Meetings

READ TIME: 4 MIN

Videotelephony: The Future of Remote Meetings

Video conferencing experienced a 535% increase in daily traffic in 2020. 76% of remote employees utilize video to overcome the isolation of social distancing. In fact, 87% feel more connected to each other when using video. The higher morale and effectiveness of video conferencing improves productivity by 50% and enriches communication, with 90% finding it easier to get their ideas across while using video. With the shift towards hybrid work schedules or permanent work from home situations, videotelephony, or the exchange of audiovisual communication between users in real-time, will own a lasting space in professional (and personal) settings. The question is not “When will the need for videotelephony cease?” but rather “How will it evolve?” Thus far in 2021 alone, three major players have launched three major videotelephony developments, ranging the gamut from virtual reality to holograms to augmented and mixed reality. Let’s explore these new realities.

Microsoft Mesh

Tech Type:
  • Mixed Reality (Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, & Holograms)
Equipment Needed:
  • A fully immersive head-mounted display (HMDs) like Microsoft HoloLens, HP Reverb G2, or Oculus Quest 2 for a 3D experience
  • A PC, Mac, or an Android or Apple smartphone for a 2D experience
Availability:

“Feel presence” is one of the main promises Microsoft makes in its mixed reality platform, Mesh, introduced this past March. As a cross platform SDK built on Microsoft’s cloud computing platform Azure, Mesh can be optimized for whatever technologies users enable to connect, whether those are AR, VR, PC, Mac, or a smartphone that is using any Mesh-enabled app. Depth and dimension bring remote users into the same space where they can use AI-powered tools to manipulate spatial maps, designs, and 2D and 3D content in realtime. Users can choose to appear as either a 3D avatar or enable the photorealistic holoportation, both of which multiuser sync keeps updated within 100 milliseconds of latency. Are you ready to connect from anywhere with Mesh?

Google - Project Starline

Tech Type:
  • Mixed Reality (Virtual and Augmented Reality)
Equipment Needed:
  • Mix of cameras, depth sensors, and specialized hardware and software
Availability:

Google’s hyper-realistic 3D video chat booth, Project Starline, creates the sensation that you’re sitting across from whoever you’re conferencing, whether they’re a few cities away or a few countries away. Computer vision, machine learning, spatial audio, and realtime compression play major roles in Starline. Using specialized cameras and depth sensors, Starline captures a person’s likeness from multiple perspectives to show their photorealistic, three-dimensional image on a 65” custom-developed light field display, or a “magic pane of glass,” as Steve Seitz, Director Engineering, Google, describes. To send such big data over existing networks, Google also developed compression and streaming algorithms to reduce the size of the data. The video booth is currently only available in select Google offices, so freshen up that resume if you want to experience Project Starline sooner rather than later.

Facebook – Horizon Workrooms

Tech Type:

  • Virtual Reality

Equipment Needed:

  • Oculus Quest 2 VR headset

Availability:

Horizon Workrooms is Facebook’s first step into CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s intended “metaverse,” or a place where the physical and digital realms collide in collaboration and communication. Using Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets, sixteen people can appear in full VR in a Workroom at the same time, and an additional 34 users can call in without headsets for a more traditional video conference. Horizon Workrooms creates a 3D virtual office environment with highly detailed avatars that execute lifelike movements courtesy of some nifty hand-tracking software from the Oculus headset. Hand-tracking also proves useful for writing on the virtual whiteboard or note-taking on your keyboard, which can be brought into the VR space where it is animated with 1:1 positional tracking for speed and accuracy. If Horizon Workrooms is just the beginning of the Facebook metaverse, what’s next?

Three new technologies, three new, mind-blowing ways of connecting on a truer, more natural level with colleagues miles away. As exciting as these developments are, they won’t be standard business tools for a few more years. In the meantime, businesses of all sizes must ensure that their remote and hybrid workforces have the proper tools and applications to improve communication and increase productivity.

Microsoft has the videotelephony and IT solutions to support and propel your remote workforce, from the video conferencing capabilities of Teams to remote collaboration tools like SharePoint and OneDrive. As a Microsoft Gold Partner ranking in the top 1% of all Microsoft partners nationally, NexusTek offers expert implementation of Microsoft Business Products to help businesses leverage the best resources in the market.

Connect your workforce. Connect with NexusTek.

4 Reasons Why Agriculture Businesses Need Managed IT

4 Reasons Why Agriculture Businesses Need Managed IT

READ TIME: 4 MIN

4 Reasons Why Agriculture Businesses Need Managed IT

4 Reasons Why Agriculture Businesses Need Managed IT

Farming is no longer the cultivation of crops with simple tools: It is the adaptation and progression of plant and animal life via advanced technology. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, is sweeping through the world of agriculture and produce, boosting efficiency, production, and quality through the Internet of Things (IoT). In fact, the total number of IoT connections will reach 83 billion by 2024, reports Juniper Research, and the industrial sector, which includes agriculture, will account for more than 70% of its 130% growth. Here are four reasons why agribusinesses need managed IT to handle this digital transformation.

Technology

Advanced connectivity infrastructure is expected to cover 80% of the world’s rural areas by 2030, according to McKinsey & Company. Precision farming, smart farming, and digital farming all demand a solid internal infrastructure. IoT devices, including smart sensors, robotics and drones, positioning and location tracking, cloud computing, AI analytics, and cellular communication systems, generate big data, which can overwhelm aging IT systems. Consequently, agribusinesses need to routinely assess their IT infrastructures to ensure they are optimized for the advanced technologies of precision agriculture.

Production

With industry-wide connectivity from IoT devices, the agri-food sector could increase $500 billion in additional value by 2030, according to McKinsey & Company. However, the increased production and quality of agricultural goods can be devastated by a downed server or expired software license. Downtime costs $5,600 per minute on average, reports Gartner, and an hour can amount to $140,000 to $540,000 depending on the organization. Save time and money through regular, proactive systems monitoring to maintain the health of your business’ IT infrastructure and guarantee system uptime and business continuity.

Workforce

Dispersed across acres of fields, checking different crops and monitoring different IoT devices, agricultural employees cannot walk across the office and knock on the door of the IT department. Often widespread and remote, these workers need immediate access to big data and sensitive information in order to manage produce, which is directly impacted by weather and natural elements that wait for no human or lagging network connections. Agricultural employees require around-the-clock help desk and IT support so they can get the job done no matter the hour, no matter the IT request.

Customer Experience

All three of the prior reasons—technology, production, and workforce—impact the health and food security of people across the world. Their efficiency, output, and success—or lack thereof—trickle down into overall customer success. The world’s population is set to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, and thus, global agricultural production needs to rise 69% between 2010 and 2050, according to the United Nations. The boost in production from Industry 4.0 is the key to this goal. Precision agriculture can reduce operations costs by 15% and increase crop yield by 13%, according to the American Farm Bureau. Agribusinesses should invest in managed IT services from a qualified managed service provider to ensure optimal network performance and a healthy IT infrastructure that supports the advanced technologies necessary to boosting production and putting more food on more tables.

What NexusTek Can Do For Your Agribusiness

As an award-winning managed service provider, NexusTek delivers experienced IT consulting and IT services for agribusinesses across the U.S. We offer multiple fixed-fee Managed IT plans so that you can select the service that best meets the needs of your business. Here are the ways in which our dedicated IT supports your business:

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the way we produce food.
Change with it, with NexusTek’s managed IT services.

Ransomware + Cryptocurrency = Costly for Your Business

Ransomware + Cryptocurrency = Costly for Your Business

READ TIME: 5 MIN

Ransomware + Cryptocurrency = Costly for Your Business

Ransomware + Cryptocurrency = Costly for Your Business

Bitcoin. Ethereum. Dogecoin. You’ve probably heard of at least one of these cryptocurrencies that are now all the rage.

The cryptocurrency craze has grown in the past few years, with prices jumping in 2017 and simply skyrocketing in 2020. Simultaneously, ransomware attacks increased: The number of cases reported to the FBI increased 66% last year.

These are not unrelated trends.

The Connection Between Cryptocurrency and Ransomware

Cryptocurrency has enabled cybercriminals to anonymously extort businesses through ransomware. In fact, Bitcoin represents 98% of ransomware payments.

Here’s why.

Criminals need not worry about transporting large amounts of stolen money or converting the cash into more easily transferable goods when cryptocurrency is to be had. Now, they can hack a company’s IT system (usually by tricking an unaware and unassuming employee), encrypt the data, and demand huge sums of “virtual” money in exchange for access to their stolen data.

Disguised with a random account number, the cybercriminals remain anonymous during the transaction, and then move it from one anonymous account to another so it is impossible to trace—at least until recently. After the DarkSide’s ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline in the U.S., the FBI traced its way through account after account, eventually recovering more than half of the $4.4 million paid ransom.

While this recovery is hopeful, companies must not rely on the expectation their ransom will be returned: The Colonial Pipeline attack was a high-profile event, which demanded extensive resources to recover only part of the ransom; this treatment may not be provided for every business. Besides, the identification and prosecution of cybercriminals is another thing entirely.

Cryptocurrency and ransomware attacks have been steadily rising in recent years, but with more users online more often on more devices due to remote work and education in 2020, the two flourished and the effects were devastating.

The Impacts of a Ransomware Attack

The average ransomware payment increased by 60% in the first half of 2020. In less than two years, the average ransomware payment went from $12,000 in Q4 2019 to $54,000 in Q1 2021. Before 2020, there was no ransom above $6 million, but every quarter since Q1 2020 has had at least one. In 2019, a total of $92 million in cryptocurrency was sent to ransomware attackers; in 2020, that total rose to $406 million.

It is not just financial damages that your business could face because of a ransomware attack.

A study showed that 65% of those hit with a ransomware attack suffered revenue loss, and 26% closed their businesses for a period of time. 53% had their brand and reputation damaged. 32% lost C-level executives, and 29% laid off employees.

And of course, the loss of or delayed access to critical data is costly, but is it worth paying the ransom?

To Pay or Not To Pay

As of October 2020, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it is now illegal to pay ransoms to cybercriminals, and yet, some entities still pay. 15% of ransomware payments (equating to about $50 million in cryptocurrency) were subject to sanctions liability.

A 2020 survey reported that 68% of U.S. companies had paid the ransom demanded in their ransomware attack, and 10% did not pay. 22% were not infected.

Top reason for not paying the ransom? 42% said paying does not necessarily guarantee a decryption key. In fact, another study showed that only 8% got all their data back and 29% got no more than half their data.

Meanwhile, those that did pay the ransom seemingly marked themselves as pliable victims. 80% of businesses that paid were hit with a second ransomware attack; 46% believed it came from the same cybercriminals responsible for the first attack.

Whether a company decides to pay or not to pay the ransom, their most important decision will be how they prepare for and prevent ransomware attacks.

Ways to Protect Your Business from a Ransomware Attack

In one survey, businesses listed cybersecurity defenses and disaster recovery solutions that are critical against ransomware attacks: 24% said data backup, 18% advised employee security awareness training, and 15% recommended endpoint security for devices.

Here are a few ways to protect your business against ransomware threat actors:

  1. Enable a multilayered cybersecurity plan.
    Be sure to include managed email security, DNS security, patching, and endpoint security in your strategy. Monitor your IT systems 24/7 and detect threats with Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) and log monitoring. Don’t forget the employee security awareness training!
  2. Establish a business continuity plan.
    Safeguard your company in the event of a crisis with a set of policies, procedures, and automated processes to guarantee business operations will continue without downtime.
  3. Backup data and develop a disaster recovery plan.
    Preserve your data with consistent backups and a disaster recovery service to quickly restore data in the event it is lost or encrypted so no cybercriminal can hold it ransom against your business.
  4. Create and test an incident response plan.
    Develop procedures for the possible occurrence of all cyberattacks, including ransomware. The response and remediation processes should be specially written for how to isolate the threat, contain the damage, and eradicate the breach.

Ransomware preparedness is complex, and 54% of businesses state that cyberattacks are too advanced for their IT team to handle without external assistance.

Jumpstart Your Cybersecurity and Cyber Resiliency

Take your cybersecurity and cyber resiliency seriously with NexusTek. As an SSAE 18 SOC II certified company, NexusTek protects, detects, and responds to cyber threats. NexusTek’s managed cybersecurity plans—Essential, Standard, and Advanced—safeguard your business’ highest risk asset: your employees and their data. Plans are customizable based on need and existing IT environment. Our disaster recovery services ensure your business is not beholden to ransomware attackers, and our business continuity planning guarantees your company never misses a beat.

Take your security seriously with NexusTek.

The Cloud: You’re Using It Wrong

The Cloud: You’re Using It Wrong

READ TIME: 4 MIN

The Cloud: You’re Using It Wrong

The Cloud: You’re Using It Wrong

“The Cloud” has been all the rage since former Google CEO Eric Schmidt discussed the concept at an industry conference in 2006. Cloud computing helps individuals, companies, and government services safely store the ever-increasing amounts of data that are output every second. As a result, the Cloud is everywhere, and the cloud computing market will reach $287.03 billion by 2025.

If your business recently migrated to a public, private, or multi-cloud environment (or even a few years ago), are you sure you’re making the most of its many benefits?

We’ve highlighted just a few of the everyday uses and critical advantages of cloud computing. If you’re not already utilizing them, then you’re using the Cloud wrong.

Telecommunications

Telecommunications

You may not realize it, but the Cloud plays a major role in your daily communications. Emails, messaging applications, and video conference calls utilize cloud computing. The data from these services are stored on your cloud environment, rather than your device, freeing space on your device and eliminating risks if the device is lost or stolen. Additionally, telecommunications can improve productivity and employee morale. Nearly 9 in 10 employees say video conferencing reduces the time it takes to complete tasks or projects; makes it easier to get their point across; and helps them feel more connected. Since video conferencing performs 30% better than audio-only setups, we recommend always taking advantage of that face-to-face telecommunication. And for the cherry on top, cloud-based unified communications can save up to $400 an hour in IT costs!

File Hosting Services

File Hosting Services

One of the beautiful benefits of the Cloud is the security and shareability of its file hosting services. Documents update in real-time so that all invited members can view changes immediately, increasing communication and productivity. By 2025, there will be an estimated 200 zettabytes of global data—half of which will be stored in the Cloud. However, not everyone is onboard with file sharing, and subsequently, there are consequences. 92% of collaborating professionals risk losing files from the use of email. The productivity losses of such an occurrence are three-fold: the person who prepared the document loses 50% of their time; 83% of employees have recreated documents that were missing from the company network; and overall staff productivity loss due to document issues culminates at 21%. So, if you have not adopted this life hack yet, please start now: Stop attaching documents to emails, upload to the Cloud, and save us all some much-needed extra time.

Software-as-a-Service

Software-as-a-Service

Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, allows users to access cloud-based data and software from any device with an internet connection. That’s right…from anywhere on any device. Enabled by SaaS, remote work allows employees to save time and money by working from home or even satisfying their wanderlust in Italy while working via the worldwide web. However, fewer than 6% of Americans worked remotely in 2019. The pandemic changed that. Remote work peaked in April 2020 when 70% of workers were off-site either fully or part-time. Even as social distancing lessens and offices reopen, over 50% of employees still work remotely. Some people do not want to pre-COVID-19 working conditions. 34% of employees prefer working in the cloud and will look for a new job if required to return to the office. If your business has not yet invested in SaaS, it would offer your employees a boost of flexibility and morale.

Chatbots

Chatbots

Chatbots utilize the computing capabilities of the Cloud to create conversational customer experience via audio or text through digital platforms. In fact, IBM reports that chatbots can answer 80% of standard questions. Adding a chatbot to your customer service phone line or your website can provide 24-hour availability and support, improving customer satisfaction and increasing sales. On average, chatbots increase sales 67%, claim business leaders, and 57% say chatbots deliver a large return on investment. Businesses that utilize chatbots provide 64% of their agents more time to solve more complex problems. Plus, chatbots can cut operational costs by 30%! Get the bot. You won’t regret it.

Backup

Backup

Instead of repetitive, manual backup processes, cloud backup automatically copies and stores data regularly and securely. Backup to the Cloud is a safer, more reliable method that saves time and increases productivity. Only 41% of professionals back up their data on a daily basis. Accidental deletion, hardware or software failure, or an out-of-date backup cause data loss for 68% of professionals. Additionally, businesses that utilize cloud experience a 15% faster time to market. Instead of setting calendar reminders to manually backup your data, allow the automatic cloud backups to save you precious time.

Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service

Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service
Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service, or DRaaS, utilizes cloud computing to backup and restore data and IT infrastructure in a timely manner after a disaster to maintain business continuity. Disasters can be natural, such as a flood or hurricane, or technical, such as a power outage or cyberattack. A day or two of system downtime may not seem like much out of the 261 working days a year. However, 40% of small businesses never reopen after a disaster, and of the ones that do reopen, 25% fail within a year. Downtime is not an “if” but “when.” 42% of organizations experienced data loss resulting in downtime this year, and 41% lost productivity or money due to data inaccessibility. The impacts of no disaster recovery plan are, simply, catastrophic. Be sure to be part of the 16.7% growth rate of the DRaaS market forecast through 2024.

The Cloud, as mysterious as its name may sound, offers some straightforward features that positively impact daily productivity, business security, and employee motivation. Cloud-based messaging, file hosting and sharing, SaaS, chatbots, backup, and DRaaS are simple but effective ways to improve the health and longevity of your business operations and employee morale. We highly recommend your company makes use of all six of these benefits within your cloud environment. If your organization has not yet hopped aboard the Cloud, NexusTek’s cloud engineer experts would be happy to discuss public, private, or multi-cloud environments that best enable and enhance your business.

7 Reasons Why Cybersecurity Fails

READ TIME: 5 MIN

7 Reasons Why Cybersecurity Fails

Too often cybersecurity is viewed as an IT cost rather than a business requirement. But the problem with that is: Cybersecurity, and the impacts of a lackluster implementation, is everyone’s problem.   The consequences of a successful cyberattack can include: 
  • An expensive data breach 
  • Exposure of employee and customer information 
  • Hijacking of important business data 
  • Halting of daily operations for days on end 
Like we said, cybersecurity is everyone’s problem, and yet, it still fails. Data breaches happen, ransoms are demanded, and systems corrupted. Here are seven reasons why your business’ cybersecurity is not up to snuff.  

1. You assume your business is too small to be a target.

54% of small businesses believe they’re too small for a cyberattack, and subsequentlydon’t have a plan in place for reacting to cyber threats. Only 22% of small businesses encrypt their databases, and less than 15rate their ability to mitigate cyber risks and threats as highly effective. This lack ofor even nonexistence ofcybersecurity could be fatal for a business. 43% of cyberattacks explicitly target small businesses, and 60% of them go out of business within six months of a successful security breach. 47% of small businesses do not know how to protect their organization from cyberattacks, and 75% do not have IT security personnel to handle cybersecurity measures and procedures.  

2. You have an incomplete inventory of assets and endpoints.

67% of IT professionals believe the use of bring-your-own devices during the remote work of the pandemic has decreased their organization’s security health; a claim which a Ponemon Institute survey supports68% of businesses experienced one or more successful endpoint attacks in the past 12 months. 61% of remote employees used personal devices as their primary method to access company networksWithout an accurate inventory of assets, patches and updates go unmonitored, increasing the vulnerabilities of such endpoints. Over the past year, the cost of an endpoint attack has risen from $7.1 million to $8.94 million 

3. You set it, and then you forget it.

Firewalls, antivirus software, email security solutions, and endpoint security solutions are essential, but they’re not enough. Businesses must fortify themselves via a multi-layered approach, and yet, 52% of enterprises are not practicing mature cybersecurityInstead of just installing software and calling it a day, companies must conduct proactive preventative measures, including frequent infrastructure penetration tests and vulnerability scans. In one survey, one in five businesses reported no security testing within the past six months, and 20% only conduct a security review when they feel the need. Additionally, only 5% of companies perform frequent vulnerability assessmentsPerhaps that’s why 66% of small businesses are extremely concerned about cybersecurity risks. 

4. You neglect completing patches and upgrades in a timely manner.

When a company discovers a security flaw, it develops a patch, which the end user must install. However, it averages 97 days to apply, test, and deploy a patch, creating months of vulnerability. That’s why it is so critical that businesses and end users install the upgrade as soon as it is released, but that’s not the case. 40% of businesses wait to test and roll out patches in order to avoid bugs. Additionally, the challenges of updating systems from remote locations mean updates go unmanaged for 48.5% of managed enterprise Android devices. Consequently, 40% of Android devices utilize an OS version older than v9. 

5. You’re not actively monitoring your IT infrastructure for threats.

Incentivized and well-funded, cybercriminals utilize rapidly changing, sophisticated tactics to dismantle security systems. A layer of protection from software and spam filters is no longer enough. A strong cybersecurity practice includes proactive monitoring, preferably with 24/7 log management for threat detection. Last year, the average time to identify a breach was 207 days, according to IBM, and the average lifecycle from identification to containment was 280 days. Companies can lose $5.8 million a year from failures in log management, and another $1.6 million each for failing to detect abnormal login behavior and failing to deploy the log analytic tool.  

6. You don’t realize your greatest liability is your own employees.

In Verizon Business 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, 85% of breaches involved a human element, and 80% were discovered by external parties. Fallible creatures, humans are susceptible to social engineering attacks that manipulate people into revealing sensitive information. In 2020, phishing attacks rose 11%. The cost of a social engineering attack averages $130,000 in stolen money or lost data. The Aberdeen Group found that security awareness training can reduce the risk of social engineering threats by 70%. However, only 3 in 10 employees on average receive cybersecurity training. 

7. You don’t have an incident response plan.

Incident response preparedness can save up to $2 million on data breaches, according to IBM, and yet 39% of small and medium-sized businesses do not have an incident response plan. An incident response plan comprises procedures to verify a breach, alert business leaders and customers, and isolate and eliminate the threat. On average, incident response testing can save over $295,000 on the cost of a breach, while business continuity can reduce the cost by $278,000. Simply forming a qualified incident response team has cost savings upwards of $272,000! 

Preventing Cybersecurity Failure

There you have it: seven reasons why your cybersecurity may fail with the next ransomware attack. A mature cybersecurity practice demands protection, detection, and responsiveness.   If you’re one of the 52% of enterprises not practicing mature cybersecurity, we recommend immediate resolution with one of NexusTek’s Cybersecurity Solutions packages. Our three plans of various levels of security fit any business’ needs, and each plan has the option to add further features for an even more diligent, multi-layered cybersecurity plan. 

Essential Plan:

This managed protection plan offers 24/7/365 monitoring and alerts with managed cybersecurity and an annual security health review for a crucial foundation of defense. 

Standard Plan:

Building on the protective base of Essential Solutions, this managed protection and response plan adds proactive steps to fortify your business, including security awareness training, managed DNS security, vulnerability scanning, and incident response. 

Advanced Plan:

For robust cybersecurity, this managed detection and response plan enhances a business’ security effectiveness with managed SIEM to detect malware, log correlation and aggregation to analyze malicious logins, and incident response to eliminate threats. A security health review is conducted each quarter to stay on top of vulnerabilities and their solutions. 

Whatever your business security needs, NexusTek has the expertise to bring your cybersecurity up to snuff. 

Cyber Security: 8 Steps to Cyber Resilience

READ TIME: 4 MIN

Cyber Security: 8 Steps to Cyber Resilience

You’ve heard of cyber security, but have you heard of cyber resiliency? Let’s start with definitions:

Cybersecurity includes the technologies and measures utilized to thwart cyber threats.

Cyber resilience is the ability to maintain business operations despite a cyber attack or breach.

No cybersecurity solution is infallible. Cyber resilience involves the understanding that a security threat will eventually penetrate network systems and a robust business will have proactively prepared processes and methods to minimize damage and ensure business continuity. Both cyber security and cyber resilience are essential to protecting the bottom line, productivity, and brand reputation of a business. With a 69% increase in internet crime in 2020 and a 40-60% chance that a small business will never reopen after data loss, both cyber security and cyber resilience are critical to a company’s endgame. Let’s breakdown 8 steps businesses must take to optimize cyber security and cyber resilience strategies.

Cybersecurity

Vulnerability Assessment
Perform a comprehensive analysis of business assets to identify gaps or weaknesses that cyber criminals can exploit. Use tools and techniques, including infrastructure penetration testing, to scan for vulnerabilities and assess their potential impact. The findings and their necessary mitigations will guide the rest of your security and resiliency journey.

Defensive Barriers
Shore up weaknesses with the first line of defense, including antivirus protection and firewalls; remember to keep software updated and deploy regular patches. Spam filters decrease the social engineering attacks upon fallible employees. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of identification to stop cyber threats from slipping through unsecured devices.

Security Awareness Training
Despite cyber defenses, phishing attempts will still slide into inboxes. In a 2020 survey, 89% of Americans thought they were good at cybersecurity but only 10% received an ‘A’ grade. With 23% of data breaches caused by human error, companies must invest in training to help employees identify common social engineering tactics and how to report them.

Proactive monitoring
Cybersecurity demands vigilance. A business must continuously maintain infrastructure and eliminate vulnerabilities with frequent updates. IT teams must proactively monitor network systems and alerts for potential cyber threats. If a security threat breaches the cybersecurity defenses, then hopefully the business has prepared adequate cyber resilience.