Emerge Blog

Emerge has been serving the Midwest region since 2004, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

There’s Nothing “Smashing” About the Nigelthorn Malware

There’s Nothing “Smashing” About the Nigelthorn Malware

Once again, there is an example of why all users need to be careful about what they install. This time, however, users of the Google Chrome browser are the ones being specifically targeted by a particularly nasty attack known as “Nigelthorn.”

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Considering the Future of Wireless Charging

Considering the Future of Wireless Charging

There is a lot of demand for perfected wireless charging. If this could happen, it’s possible to think about a world where no devices ever ran out of juice. Though there is a major push to make this happen, it’s clear that there are some people out there who don’t think that wireless charging will have as drastic an effect as it would seem.

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Tip of the Week: Removing the Temptation of Distracting Websites

Tip of the Week: Removing the Temptation of Distracting Websites

The Internet might be an incredible tool to get lots of work done, but it can also be a major detriment in the form of workplace distractions. It’s true that your employees might feel tempted to visit these websites when left be, but what if you were to remove these websites as possibilities entirely? This week’s tip is about blocking certain websites that can be problematic for productivity.

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Budgeting Opex Costs as you Upgrade Technology


Budgeting time is upon us and that means it’s time to look ahead to the next year and beyond. Choices you make now can affect your bottom line for a long time to come. Perhaps you are considering an upgrade to some portion of your office information technology.


As with any major purchase, you want to spend wisely. You will need to decide what is critical to have, how upfront costs will offset ongoing costs, and how to make the case to decision makers that your recommendation is a worthy investment.


What’s Critical Now and Down the Road?

Look for technology that satisfies your critical needs while also giving you the option of scaling up and adding on in the future. Cloud-based software can save you money compared with an on-premise application. Learn the security and data accessibility implications of both options. [link to relevant information on Emerge IT site]


What’s a Reasonable Cost Range?

Talk with other businesses, trade associations, your advisory board and professionals you work with, such as your accountant, to determine cost. Your cost will be based largely on your industry and the number of employees in your company. Work with a provider who will set you up with only what you need… but with the possibility of expansion later.


What Should the Budget Include?

Here is where you might consider what portions of your technology falls under OpEx and what falls under CapEx. As more software moves to the cloud, some companies wrestle with how to classify these expenses. If you need to purchase a new server or a scanner, for example, you might consider these capital expenses. Items like these tend to depreciate in value.


That leaves you with what to include under operating expenses. Although some software may be purchased at an upfront cost, you typically pay for SaaS as you go. Consider, too, all the costs of implementation and maintenance, updates and unexpected problems. Which line item you place these under may affect the levels of approval you need to complete you budget.


Allow time to configure your new system and train employees. You may need to budget for a temporary period of lower productivity as everyone gets up to speed. And once a new software system is up and running, annual costs for maintenance, support and updates are typically around 20% of the original price. It’s a good idea include a buffer of 5 to 10% of your total budget for unforeseen expenses.


Making Your Case for the Cost

More and more, IT departments have to internally justify their budgets and plans to expand into new technology. Finance managers and CEOs may be unwilling to approve expenses for which they don’t see the value.


Make the case for how the proposed expense will impact the bottom line. Consider, for example, making an argument for a hosted VoIP solution. You finance person may not understand the differences between a hosted VoIP solution and regular telephone service. Perhaps you’re trying to make it easier for customers and prospects to connect with busy salespeople and workers who are often on the road. The ability to forward office lines to your team’s mobile devices will significantly improve the customer experience and deal closure. An effective budget request for this service would focus on three things:


  1. Quantifying the problem that you’re trying to solve
  2. Exploring the technology as both tech and a solution
  3. Focusing on the numbers


When you show how VoIP can correct an inefficiency that is costing the company business, the finance team is apt to be receptive. Lay out the costs--both up front and ongoing--and how the tech service or equipment is going to directly and indirectly impact the bottom line.


Planning Ahead

One last consideration is timing. Don’t wait until the last minute to update your software. If you switch to a completely new platform, you may need to build in transition time while you’re paying for both the old and the new. Also, remember that your competition may have already adopted the latest software and could impinge on your clientele.


Carefully considering what you need and when you need it, developing a realistic budget for total costs, and building a clear business case for your purchases can take much of the urgency and stress out of keeping your technology up-to-date. Follow these guidelines to make upgrade purchases a low-drama part of IT.

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How to Inform Your Staff of a Data Breach

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If there's one thing worse than system crashes and the loss of info, it's data breaches. The threat to privacy and confidential or sensitive documents impacts the internal dynamics and public trust in your company. Your staff is on the front lines. Their own personal information could be affected, plus they could find themselves getting questions from customers. Think ahead about how to inform your staff of a data breach, should one occur. Consider how to handle the ensuing internal and public fall-out and how to prevent future occurrences.


Notify Staff As Soon as Possible

The first thing to do the moment you discover a data breach is to notify the authorities. Then let them know that you are notifying the staff, so that they're aware of what everyone may or may not know.  


The second thing to do is to notify your staff. You want them to hear it from you first. Choose the most efficient communication channel not affected by the breach. The might mean gathering everyone to tell them in person. However you tell them, keep in mind any staff members who may be out in the field, travelling, or home sick. Make sure you find ways to reach everyone.


Tell them as much as you know--no more, no less. Let them know about any immediate steps they can take to minimize damage. Employees also need to recall what personal information of they stored on devices or within documents, so that they can take steps to protect it.


Moving forward, inform employees each time you learn something new. Update them frequently. Also, clearly let them know what information has been made public. Tell them when you plan to contact customers and the media to ensure that employees don’t say anything too soon.

If Employee Data Was Affected by the Breach

Your company holds a wealth of personal information about its employees. Your staff will be rightfully concerned about their own data. Again, tell them exactly what you know and update them as you learn more. Reassure them that you will take necessary steps to protect their privacy and identities, just as you would with customers. Remember, your team members are valuable company assets. Treat their concerns with respect.


If an Employee is Behind the Breach

The Society for Human Resource Management shares a sobering fact. “Most of those breaches won't be committed by nefarious, unknown forces. The damage will instead come from employees.”

They go on to say, however, that most employees compromise information inadvertently. So you can choose to give someone the benefit of the doubt--a challenge during a crisis situation. Do not make any accusations, internally or publicly, without confirmation and the backing of your legal department.


Familiarize Your Staff with Security Breach Notification Laws for Customers

As difficult and uncomfortable as it is, it's necessary to be open and honest. Customers need to know what to do, and what you are doing in the moment and for the future.


Prepare your staff for this situation before it happens. Have your public relations and/or your legal team spend some time with outward facing staff. Include customer service reps, salespeople, administrative personnel, and anyone else who interacts directly with customers. Remember, every member of your staff represents your company to the public--but focus on these key roles first.


Most states have security breach notification laws, as described here by the National Conference of State Legislatures. These dictate the proper protocols for notifying customers that their information may have been compromised. If your company handles personal health records, review their compliance guidelines for notifying patients under the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule or the Health Breach Notification Rule.


Appoint someone to address all questions from the media, and prepare those statements as soon as possible. Should your typical spokesperson, say your VP of Public Relations, be travelling or unavailable, know who is next in succession. Advise employees to direct any questions they cannot or should not answer to your public relations department.


Develop and publicize a FAQ that lists all contact information for credit agencies, and resources for customers worried about identity theft. Don't sugarcoat what happened. On your website, prominently display notice of the breach, and reiterate it through emails and physical letters to customers. Also emphasize how they can get in touch with your company, as well as who will respond, how, and when.

Train staff on a data breach response policy, and periodically host practice sessions to confirm that everyone knows the protocols. Ideally, you will never have to deal with zero-day threats, or other serious leaks and infringements. It's better though, to know how to inform your staff of a data breach, and how to proceed throughout, in case the unthinkable happens.


IMAGE: Pixabay

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