It’s that time of year when students head back to school! While most preparation and promotions will be targeted to student supplies, dorm decor, and textbooks, it’s a good reminder for businesses and nonprofits to take stock of what they need to be successful in the upcoming year and ensure their IT plans and budget support those objectives. Read our top planning tips below.

1. Prepare for End of Life Support Deadlines

Students prepare all year to meet testing goals and pass graduation requirements. Businesses also need to look ahead at key dates and start preparing now. It takes time to budget for, finance, and refresh aging business computers and servers. When Microsoft ends support for specific versions of its Windows operating system, businesses need to assess whether they have operating systems that need to be replaced and whether their current hardware will support the newer versions..

Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 will both reach the end of their support in January 2020. At that time, Microsoft will stop supporting these operating systems, which means no security updates or hotfixes and increased security risks for any of your applications and data running on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008. That is a little over a year away, so start planning now to audit employee computers, on-premise servers and data center servers to determine how many systems will require upgrades.

2. Employee Awareness Training

In the first week of school, students learn the rules and expectations for their new classes, their new teachers, and their new schools. Now is the perfect time to offer your employees a refresher course on their responsibilities to keep your business data, applications and computer systems secure.

Cyber-security training and testing is an ongoing process rather than a once and done activity. Using a variety of methods to test and train your employees will significantly reduce the risk that your organization will be impacted by a serious threat or breach.

3. Protect Your Website

Along with school supplies, local stores have already started stocking Halloween and holiday items. Holidays often bring additional traffic and demands on your business’s website so start testing your website security and robustness now to avoid rushing in a couple of months.

Businesses using WordPress-based websites should take a close look at WP Engine for hosting. Their platform focuses on providing enterprise-grade security to ensure your website is fully secured. And, if it is somehow hacked, they will probably know before you do and will fix it for free.

4. Security Assessment and Plan

Students go back to school to learn new skills, and hackers never stop studying vulnerabilities and learning new techniques to breach IT security. The best defense is a good security assessment and implementation of these measures:

  • Quality Antivirus. Install and maintain business-grade antivirus protection on all of your computers. This protects your business and data at each computer by detecting, quarantining and deleting malware your employees may accidentally install from websites or receive through email.
  • Next-Generation Firewalls. Protect your network’s perimeter with next-generation firewalls. These detect threats and malicious attacks before they get inside your computer network, reducing the opportunities for attacks to spread from one infected system to another.
  • SIEM Monitoring Tools. Security Information and Event Management (SEIM) sounds very technical, but it is the practice of monitoring real-time events, detecting correlated events, and log file analysis from network and security devices to evaluate vulnerability risks and external threats. There is a considerable amount of data generated by your computer systems and network devices, so there are monitoring tools to present dashboards and data which can be used to make security decisions and update policies.
  • Computer Maintenance. Keeping computers up-to-date on security patches, antivirus updates, and in good working order is a year-round activity. Partnering with a managed service provider who can manage this for you will reduce headaches and allow you to focus on core business values.

A New Start

Students know that every first day of school brings a new opportunity to redefine themselves, to refocus on their objectives to be successful for the year. Businesses should also use this time to refocus, plan for new requirements and protect themselves against disruptions caused by security breaches and maintenance windows. Find out how arielMIS can help your business accomplish more this year.

arielMIS is a Managed Service Provider (MSP) providing businessCARE™ IT services designed to keep you and your employees productive and safe. Contact Us if you're interested in learning more about our services.