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8 Signs Your IT Managed Service Provider Is GDPR Compliant

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Before hiring an IT managed service provider you need to make sure they are GPDR compliant, and capable of making sure your business technology is compliant too. You can’t afford not to.

With the recent GDPR regulations that came into effect in May, no matter how big or small your business is, you still need to comply.

But, that’s not all. 

Under the GDPR, any 3rd parties that handle sensitive information on your behalf are processors, and your duty is to make sure they know their responsibilities too. Your service provider falls into that category. Here are 10 signs that indicate they have taken the appropriate measures to be GDPR complaint as well.

1. They can answer your questions on GDPR and how it relates to technology. 

Your GDPR compliant IT managed service provider (MSP) should be able to provide clear answers to any inquiries related to the GDPR. They should have details on the type of data they manage and how it’s being stored, processed, and protected.

They should be able to explain what steps they are taking to ensure that data is safe, and they will be able to provide you with proof of how they are doing that.

Then, they should be able to explain how they can help your specific business do the same. 

2. Their GDPR compliance is reflected in their contracts 

To ensure that they are compliant, your managed service provider should have included GDPR principles into their contracts. Since they are exchanging data with you, the contract should reflect the GDPR regulations. If you have an ongoing contract with your MSP and it wasn’t updated yet, contact them ASAP and demand the update.

They should also have an up-to-date and compliant privacy policy. 

3. They are ICO registered 

Most MSPs will need to register with the ICO, some will need to pay a fee while others won’t. Only data controllers have to pay the fee, and if that applies to them you should be able to find them on the ICO public register

Note: It’s highly likely they will need to be registered with the ICO. However, this is not always the case with every business. If they aren’t registered they should be able to demonstrate why they are exempt. 

4. They honor new personal data rights

GDPR clearly states that individuals are the owners of their data and have specific rights pertaining to their data:

  • They have the “right to be forgotten” and can request that all their data be erased. When such a request is received, it should be solved within a month.
  • They should be informed about any usage of their data.
  • They have the right to request copies of their data.
  • They also have the right to correct any data collected on them.

MSPs should have policies in place that honor every single one of these rights. Although this places an extra burden on how they are handling data, not adhering to it can jeopardise them and the data they are processing.

5. They understand GDPR compliant tools

Since your MSP regularly exchanges data with you and others, they should ensure that data can never be accessed by an unauthorised party. This can be done through encryption and other security policies that keep data safe wherever it is.

Now imagine your MSP is storing data outside of the EU their data centres are located in the US. Because they are still handling data from EU citizens, it still falls under the GDPR jurisdiction and should be treated as such. This means that no matter the location, that data should be protected in a compliant way.

7. They have updated their own practices

It’s easy to say you’re compliant but often companies will still be using their original bad practices. For example, automatic opt-ins, ignoring erasure requests, or using old lists without the proper consent. 

8. Understand their own processes that collect and store data

Your MSP should be able to tell you which stages of their process they collect data, how it’s stored and in what way it is used. That should be part of their road to compliance. If they can’t they may not have been as thorough as they first appear. 

Signs Your IT Managed Service Provider is NOT GDPR Compliant

1. They say “GDPR doesn’t apply” 

This can be a major red flag. Because in most circumstances it will apply to some degree or another. Those who aren’t compliant often use this as an excuse but ignorance won’t stop their fines (or yours) if you work with them. 

2. They aren’t willing to sign data processing agreements

A data processing agreement is needed for data controllers to use a data processor under Article 28. If this applies and your MSP is unwilling to sign, AVOID! 

3. They have a ‘GDPR certification’ 

At present (Dec, 2018) there is no form of official GDPR certification/qualification or body of official training that gives this any weight. Of course, there are many training programs which can be helpful in providing education, but you cannot be ‘GDPR certified’ or ‘GDPR qualified’ as a company (yet.) This ‘qualification’ or training does not equal compliance. 

Hopefully this has made it easier for you to determine the fact from the fiction when it comes to finding a GDPR compliant IT managed service provider! 

If you wish to make sure your data is safe and compliant, we can help. Contact us today and let us help you set up the highest security standards for all your data requirements.

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2019 Hospitality Tech Trends We’re Excited to See

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The omnipresence of technology is bringing some exciting new hospitality tech trends that we can’t wait to see put into action in 2019. As one of the least innovative industries and yet highly customer-facing, the hospitality industry is slowly seeing the need (and customer want) for increasing technology.

In addition to improving customer experience, new technological solutions also contribute to the improvement of inner operations and management. From staff having their very own digital assistants to offering personalized hotel rooms, here are some of the coolest trends that await us in 2019.

1. Digital Assistants in a Business Use Capacity

Although voice processing and speech recognition became available in the 1990s, it still couldn’t process or deliver natural speech patterns which made usage difficult and affected user experience.

Since then, we’ve now got Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Samsung’s Bixby and Microsoft’s Cortana as the main digital assistant contenders.

You can give out commands to schedule meetings, book travels, voice queries all the while preserving your natural speech pattern.

The hospitality industry has caught on to the rising trend of voice recognition technology and is incorporating them into their offering in three ways:

  1. Booking & Ordering – On websites or booking pages, there’s no need for longer drop-down boxes or code, instead, users should soon be able to speak their needs and this be picked up by the location from their end. It saves time, energy and is much more user-friendly.
  2. Customer Services – Digital assistants may become part of hotels the same way they do in our homes. They can integrate seamlessly in a hotel to offer guests a new innovative level of service. Controlling room temperature or light settings with their voice as well as order room service or choose from a list of additional purchases, all without having to call or click a button.
  3. Daily Management – Digital assistants aren’t just to benefit customers, but staff too. Daily tasks, like taking food orders, scheduling room cleaning, staff rota organisations, or internal memos could be handled by digital assistants. This will leave the staff with much more time for relevant guest interactions and ensuring everything is up to highest standards.

2. Personalised Hotel Rooms

A personal touch is the most important one in the hospitality industry, and it’s good to see hospitality tech trends focused on it. Many resorts and hotels are incorporating high-tech solutions that enable guests a fully personalised experience during their stay, with the ultimate aim being that the room feels like home as soon as guests connect their devices. This means that guests will have access to their documents, music, and streaming services, and they will be able to control environmental settings such as room temperature or lights.

The Hilton hotel chain is at the forefront of integrating personalisation options with their Connected Room experience, which enables various room controls through their mobile Hilton Honors app. The guests will have the options to set their preferences even before they arrive at the hotel, so the room will be fully tuned to them once they enter.

3. Robotic Cleaners

Automation has taken the world by storm, and it’s currently sweeping (pun intended) through hospitality too.

It has even reached the kitchens, with automated orders being just the start, and the latest development being robotic cooks doing the brunt of the work. However, over 50% of consumers are not fond of this trend and would rather not be served by a robot. There is no replacing the human element when it comes to cuisine. On the other hand, more than 80% of them are sure that robots will be cleaning restaurants soon.

This trend is already present in hotels, who are seeing a surge in robotic help with cleaning operations. While many consumers already have a Roomba in their homes, the robots helping in hotels are a bit more advanced. Maidbot as an example – named “Rosie,” has LIDAR detection to efficiently avoid obstacles and is fully autonomous in operation.  

The Radisson Blu Hotel in Delhi employs a fully automated pool cleaning robot that not only does its job exceptionally well, but also uses fewer chemicals. While it can do most work on its own, if there’s a spot that requires extra attention, it can be controlled remotely too.

4. Biometric Data Analysis to Suggest Travel Destinations

Biometric data has become a standard in many areas today, with many mobile phones and notebooks having face-recognition software and fingerprint scanners. Hotels have also embraced this technology to personalise experiences for their guests.

When a guest is recognised as soon as they enter the hotel or restaurant, their overall experience is improved, which will make them more likely to return. Oracle has conducted an extensive research on customer preferences toward new technology in hotels and restaurants and found out that:

“31% of restaurant guests and 41% of hotel guests will be more likely to visit an establishment with greater frequency if they are recognised by an employee without having to give their name or show a loyalty card.”

The truly revolutionary way to use biometrics in the hospitality industry goes toward knowing what the guests would enjoy most even before they are aware of it. Accor Hotels has introduced Seeker, an installation that suggests travel destination based on behavioural analysis. Seeker records and analyses heart rate, skin responses, brain waves, and behaviour to stimuli presented through its LED panels, waterfall, pillars, and a video board. The installation then suggests perfect destinations based on those responses.

5. Efficiency Wearables

According to Oracle’s research on hospitality tech trends “Hotel 2025,” smartwatches and fitness trackers have become as prevalent as mobile phones. While currently wearables are used to describe smartwatches and bands only, the term actually encompasses any type of accessories that can be fitted with computational capabilities.

One prediction states that wearable tech will be a disruptive change in hotel management. Staff schedules and training would be done through wearable tech, with other predicted uses being guest access to hotels, guest orders, payments, and staff access to workstations.

Some hotels are already implementing wearables, where guests can opt for a wearable device instead of a key card and access the hotel and their room with a simple wave of their wrist. Some hotels, like Westin, even offer sleep monitoring wristbands to ensure their guests get good sleep.

Hotel Alessandra in Houston, Texas, has adopted wearables for staff management and improved their hotel operations efficiency. Staff can be notified about tasks that need to be done much quicker, improving their response times.

It’s amazing to see the extent of technology’s effect on the hospitality industry and we can’t wait to see more innovation developed for the industry in the future.

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Technical GDPR Staff Training Essentials

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One of the challenges of implementing GDPR for businesses is the technical GDPR staff training.

But, you need to be prepared.

Your organisation’s compliance depends on having informed and well-trained staff, and the larger your business, the more difficult and vital this becomes.

We’ve dealt with many GDPR staff training sessions approaching from the technical standpoint and often consult with organisations to ensure they are passing on their knowledge correctly.

As such, we’ve decided to put together this brief list of essentials for a technical GDPR staff training session to get you started.

Before Your GDPR Staff Training

Data protection should already be part of the company culture meaning that your staff aligns with a privacy-first approach.

In practice: Incorporating privacy and data protection to your core values ensures you adhere to the GDPR “data protection by design and default” guideline – this means that your default settings should be privacy friendly, and all processes and operations, from sending GDPR Compliant emails to app development, include data protection measures at their core.

What To Include in GDPR Training Sessions

A well-rounded GDPR training should start with the basics and work towards the technical aspects of GDPR compliance like new policies and frameworks that you’ve adopted as an organisation. Key points to include are:

1. Consent

GDPR is all about consent, and ‘legitimate interest’ cases when contacting others and this needs to be thoroughly understood and explained.

If not, any one of your employees could contact someone without permission and it could lead to a complaint to the ICO and fines. This is one of the most misunderstood points of GDPR currently, particularly for marketers and businesses that thrive from reaching out to potential customers. You and your staff need to understand where the line is, and how not to cross it. 

2. The Risk of Non-Compliance

Your staff should learn about all the principles of data protection and be aware of the financial risk of not being compliant, how it hurts reputation, and what disciplinary measures the business (and they) can face. When they can connect the risks and arguments on why GDPR is necessary, they will understand just how important it is.

3. Understanding Your Business’ Role

Ensure your employees understand where your business stands. Participants should learn the difference between data processors and collectors, which category the business falls into, and the category of any other third party they conduct data-related business with.

4. Knowing Regulations & Regulatory Bodies

For example, your staff should know the role of the ICO and relevancy of the Data Protection Act 2018 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

5. Being Specific To Your Business

There’s no point in explaining the rationale behind GDPR and the fines without some context. Your employees need specific guidelines about data-related operations and processes they do daily.

For example, your GDPR email training might be highly technical, so make sure that everyone understands how new regulations affect their daily email communication and work in general, with a focus on how it makes it better.

6. New Company Policies

Your business’ policies should be at the core of the staff training. Ultimately, you’re the ones to police your own staff and if it is enforced companywide, it’s more likely to be adopted (and stuck to.)

Every department should be aware of new company policies that ensure GDPR compliance and how they affect them – from developers working on a new app to the sales team dealing with customer data, to marketing staff sending out emails.

7. How To Spot Data Breaches

The staff should also learn how to recognise red flags – because a data breach has to be reported to ICO within 72 hours, knowing to spot one is crucial. They should also learn the correct procedure in case of a data breach, such as who to report it to in the company and whether additional measures are needed.

8. SAR Requests

Under GDPR, a company has to respect a subject access request – request for data. SAR requests need to be handled within 24 hours of being received, so having a policy in place and making sure your staff knows the correct way to respond to it is key, because the public and customers don’t always send requests to the right location straight away. 

The Technical Side of GDPR Staff Training

Implementation of new technologies and software solutions that ensure data safety is the next logical step for GDPR compliance. But this can be difficult to implement itself. 

This means that you and your staff will have to learn about new encryption technologies and software you decide to integrate into your business operations.

Article 32 of GDPR states that this can be achieved through:

  • Pseudonymisation and encryption of personal data
  • Ensuring your processing systems and services are confidential and resilient
  • Being able to restore access to personal data quickly if there was a physical or technical issue that prevented access
  • Regular testing and evaluation of technical and organisational measures that were implemented to ensure data security

For example, your email communications should be secured through solutions like Azure Information Protection – which provides email and file encryption that protects data in such a way that it’s secure no matter where it goes. Deploying systems like Azure Information Protection across your organisation can be tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing, but training your staff to use AIP should be easy – from GDPR email training to sharing documents securely – to ensure the highest security and your ‘best effort’ towards GDPR.

Continuous GDPR Training Ensures Compliance

The last point to note is that reminders and refreshers are the way to really reiterate the importance of GDPR to your business, to staff. 

Hold refresher sessions after the initial GDPR staff training on a regular basis. Data protection should be ingrained into every single business process. Make sure new members understand this too – make GDPR training an integral part of the onboarding process and make sure it becomes part of your company culture.   

If you need help with implementing Azures Information Protection in your small business, check out our fully comprehensive and supported course here:

https://towerwatchacademy.thinkific.com/courses/get-file-and-email-encryption-for-small-businesses-microsoft-aip-course
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What Do The Different Levels of IT Support Mean?

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Everyone talks a lot about different levels of IT support, but what do they actually mean?

Why Do You Have Different Levels of IT Support?

Contrary to popular belief, IT can be a wide-ranging subject, from cyber security all the way to hardware, depending on your industry. This means people have different specialties, but in a corporate capacity, the different levels of IT support basically relate to how difficult something is.

In most cases, each line shows a level of escalation and this helps make sure that surface level tasks are dealt with quickly and in-depth tasks are dealt with by specialists who know what they’re doing.

That way everything runs efficiently.

So, let’s look further at the different levels of IT support and some additional roles you may be considering.

Different IT Support Roles

 1st Line: First Contact

First line support consists of generalists that have a broad understanding of products and services and deal with the most common and simple issues. Usually available around the clock, they deal with problems like lost passwords or assist with software setup. They have a lot of interaction with customers, as they are the first line of contact with them.

They refer to a knowledge base when identifying and resolving customer issues and go through possible solutions. If there is an issue they can’t solve, they send it to the 2nd line. Before doing so, their task is to gather as much information as possible and provide a detailed problem description or open a support ticket.

2nd Line: Escalation Point

The 2nd line are technical specialists who have a more in-depth understanding of the issue. Usually, each member specialises in a different area.  They investigate issues escalated by 1st line and try to resolve them in a determined time frame. This line also proactively monitors systems and performs regular health checks. Sometimes, they will also handle preparations for system and software upgrades and keep an eye on industry shifts.

3rd Line: Complex Technical Issues

This is the highest level of support that solves the most complex issues. This line is often staffed by personnel that was directly involved in the development, of the solutions so they know the ins and outs of how it works in your organisation specifically. They tend to have the best technical resources and often work hand in hand with third parties to get things fixed if the issue relates to an external matter.

Often for smaller businesses, the 3rd line support and IT manager role can merge with many proactive managers taking on the harder support tasks and fixes.

IT Manager

Involved in the decision making and interdepartmental support, IT managers bring the support team together. They oversee the implementation and maintenance of your IT solutions, as well as all matters that relate to IT operations and resources. They manage other IT specialists, optimise resources and staffing, and enforce best practices across the board. 

*They also help with support roles as and when needed

Other IT Support Roles

System Admin

Also known as a SysAdmin, is in the same realm as a 3rd line support so they have extensive knowledge, but it’s normally specialised. They will often oversee areas like data centres, network operations, backups or web technology. Their aim is to ensure the support systems perform optimally and oversee their area.

Think of them like working in the background to keep things running smoothly.

4th Line: Outsourced Services

Although not commonly used, you may hear the term 4th line support. This relates to external parties for example printer manufacturers or vendor software that help resolve issues from their end. For example, if there is a bug that needs patching, they’ll fix it and roll out an update.

How to Decide Which Level of Support You Need

No two businesses are alike, so their IT support requirements will be vastly different, even within the same industry. While some businesses deal mainly with 1st line issues for simple software, others may need on-site specialists or programmers on call who know the intricacies of the products and software being used.

If you are having a hard time deciding on the level of IT support your business needs, answering the following three questions may help you come to a decision easier:

1. What does your business do?

The level of IT support is different depending on your industry, company size, and your plans for the future. If you are a start-up, you will probably not be able to finance three lines of tech support jobs immediately, but you might find the right combination of lines through managed IT services.

If you already own an established business, you might have in-house IT staff already. You can complement them with outsourced or managed services that will take care of complex issues and help you by proactively monitoring your systems and aligning your IT tech with your long-term goals. Having access to 2nd and 3rd line will help you immensely when choosing and integrating new tech solutions or moving to a new platform.

2. How many resources do you have?

The number of resources to allocate to your IT support also impacts this choice heavily. The prevailing trend is to automate simple issues so that resources can be funnelled toward higher-tiered support. For example, you can have the 1st line automated through AI or chatbots, with 1st line agents responding only when AI/chatbots can’t resolve the issue. The savings from adopting such solutions can then be used to integrate 2nd and 3rd line support services.

3. Do you need reactive, proactive, or strategic support?

This is a tricky one and directly related to your future plans, as well as how you operate. If you need reactive support for lots of small but common issues, 1st line is for you. It’s also common for those that have to provide support to customers as well. 

If you need active monitoring or proactive support, 2nd line is for you. For example, in the hospitality industry ensuring your equipment and software is maintained to avoid downtime during peak periods which can affect overall sales.

If you’re looking at growth and expansion or to save money overall, 3rd line support or an IT manager can help streamline and standardise your tech. In addition to proactive support and ensuring your systems are performing optimally, they also work hard on ensuring you reach your business goals. Third line support will choose new technological solutions based on how quickly they can aid you in achieving your goals.

If you want a flexible level of IT support, consider hiring an IT managed service provider like us, give us a call for a free consultation.

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15 Tasks IT Managed Service Providers in Hospitality Can Do

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The hospitality industry is starting to embrace digital solutions, with hotels being in the forefront of the industry. Still, many hospitality businesses downplay their IT requirements. For instance, they are still reluctant to open their doors for IT managed service providers in hospitality.

Hotels, hostels, resorts, bars, and restaurants assume they will see no benefit from investing into IT. Their main argument being that they don’t have the time or money to hire and keep IT staff. This is where an IT managed service provider (MSP) can help.

So, here are some of the things, we deal with and take off the plate of our hospitality-based clients.

1. Be Your IT Supplier Liaison

Whether it’s an equipment failure that needs repairing or replacing, software and domain licenses that need renewing or simply negotiating the best deal for tech rentals (think printers etc.) we can help.

As a managed service provider, we act as the middleman when it comes to dealing with suppliers and 3rd parties to talk their lingo and get things sorted as quick as possible. It’s a time saver, and chances are we can save you money long-term with supplier agreements.

2. Provide 1st – 3rd Line Support

Many MSPs provide various stages of support, from 1st-3rd line. Whether you need on-site assistance or a dedicated number to call, your MSP should have it covered.

Unsure of the type of support you need?

  • In the case of minor IT issues, you can access 1st line support and talk to general help desk operators that will guide you through the troubleshooting process. Common 1st line issues are related to email passwords and account access. 
  • For more complicated IT issues, 2nd line support takes over, for example, a non-critical issue with your equipment or tills. 
  • 3rd line is your specialists who are trained in your specific systems. They are often the most qualified and certified and deal with complex or emergency issues. For example, your POS system going offline during service.

3. IT Management

If you already have an IT team but are struggling to tie it together in your operations and strategy, an MSP can help here too. A hospitality IT managed service provider can deal with your entire IT infrastructure, or just part of it depending on what you need.

They will proactively monitor your IT operations, assess the current efficiency, and suggest improvements and integration options to ensure the highest uptime and optimal data flow between systems. So that you’re making the most sales and providing the best customer experience possible. 

4. Backup Solutions

The hospitality sector handles vast amounts of data, and with the introduction of digitalisation and the internet of things (IoT), the amount of data will steadily increase. It includes everything from sensitive data and credit card information to info gathered from your guests and customers that helps you segment them. This allows you to follow the latest trends, and offer personalised experiences, all the way to complex automation operations.

IT managed service providers in hospitality will take proactive steps to ensure all your data is safe in case of system failure, power outage, or natural disaster by using a cloud-based backup and disaster recovery system. This system ensures you have access to your data at any time, no matter what circumstances. It’s a reliable solution that offers better safety and protection than you could set up in-house. Check with your MSP to see which backup vendors they partner with, for us, it’s Microsoft Azure

5. Handle Wi-Fi Security

It is very common to find unsecured or badly secured networks in the hospitality sector. Many restaurants and bars have unsecured Wi-Fi or use the same Wi-Fi that they offer to their guests, which leaves them vulnerable to security threats, most notably hacking and data breaches. To ensure the highest security, your MSP will establish a secure Wi-Fi network throughout your entire establishment or chain that only your staff will have access to, with a fully separate POS network solution.

They can also ensure the protection of your customer data and improved experience by setting effective customer Wi-Fi.

6. Ensure Compliance

While compliance in hospitality is traditionally tied to things like food safety, IT systems bring about their own set of compliance regulations to be followed. Your MSP will ensure that your technology and software solutions are compliant with government regulations (like GDPR) by utilising secure systems like Microsoft’s Azure Information Protection. They can also help with PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliance for your POS systems. 

7. Standardise Equipment

A very common practice for medium to large enterprises is to standardise equipment to reduce costs and make maintenance and upkeep easier. But, for smaller businesses, this isn’t often attempted, because people don’t know how.

Your IT managed service provider can standardise current systems as well as oversee purchases to make sure they really are necessary and compatible with your current systems. Having this in place will allow for better monitoring, applying updates and reducing response times.

8. Offer Cost-Effective Solutions For Better Customer Service

Your MSP is more than just IT support. They are IT professionals with specific knowledge of your industry that follow the latest trends. Their goal is to align with your goals and help you offer an amazing service to your customers. In hospitality specifically, your IT managed service provider can advise on ways to improve customer experience through technology, whether that’s free Wi-Fi or even marketing beacons.

9. Facilitate Expansions

When opening a new venue or location, your MSP can help fit in the IT seamlessly with your design plans so you can future proof your venue. From simple tasks like outlets and power supplies to the larger, more intricate technological planning, expanding to meet the same IT standards you have currently has never been easier. For example, we liaise with contractors and project managers during construction to make sure IT specifications and planned equipment are tailored to.

10. On-Site Upgrades

Whether your equipment is due an overhaul or you’re in need of repairs, your IT managed service provider can implement them on-site with minimal effect to your customers. Often they can work out of hours to deal with upgrades at less busy times, but if not, they understand how best to proceed with the least impact. Luckily, when you hire an MSP they normally have notifications and analytics to check to deal with these upgrades ahead of time before anything goes wrong. But, even if issues occur, they are dealt with easily and swiftly.  

11. IT Budget Management

All businesses out there have a limited budget, and it can be hard to determine just how big the IT budget of a business in the hospitality sector should be. The industry average suggests around 2.5% of your turnover should be spent on technology, but this will vary depending on the type of business you have.

IT managed service providers in hospitality will assess your current situation and offer a detailed overview of where you can save money and how. This will most commonly include software and hardware standardisation across all your devices and establishments. Additionally, hiring an MSP for your IT requirements means that you will pay them a fixed monthly fee, which is considerably lower than paying for specific IT services when something breaks down, when you need a major overhaul of all systems or emergency fees when you need something done quickly (that could have been prevented.)

12. Meeting and Function Room Setup

Do you make income from function or meeting room rentals? Improve your technological capabilities, become an innovative location for events and not only provide a better experience, but charge more!

Your MSP will inspect your meeting and function rooms in detail and suggest the needed technology and software to implement so they are fully equipped for social gatherings, ceremonies, or conferences. They will also offer their services to the party that booked your meeting/function rooms and help with the setup.

13. On-Site Repair and Maintenance

While traditional IT services offer maintenance and repairs only when you request it, managed service providers conduct proactive monitoring. This helps them spot an issue early on before it becomes a much bigger problem. They will repair and maintain equipment on-site as soon as they detect issues to give faster turnarounds before it breaks completely. 

This also means you don’t have to sit on hold to a helpdesk who try to explain how to do the fixes yourself! It just gets done!

14. New Software & Hardware Audits

An MSP will continuously research new software and hardware options to see if they are viable and relevant to your business. An MSP has the required industry and IT knowledge to assess new software and hardware and determine whether they would benefit you. Often times, restaurants and other key players from the hospitality industry opt for solutions that might be a good fit for their needs but are not compatible with their current systems. An MSP will ensure that the tech solution you choose is compatible and won’t cause major disruptions during or after implementation.

15. IT Consultancy

Some IT managed service providers in hospitality won’t include consultancy, but we do. From consulting on IT equipment and device policies, to making innovative improvements to your security or processes that ultimately help you make money!  

All of these tasks aim to improve your customer service and ability to sell to customers or maintain that relationship. Technology is overlooked in the IT indsutry, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

If you want a ‘one-stop-shop’ and unique MSP that deals with everything tech related for your hospitality business. No fuss, just seamless expert solutions, contact us HERE today.

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20 Computer Malware Signs Causing You a Potential Data Breach

With our increasing reliance on our phones, computers, and other internet-connected technology and accessories, security is more important than ever. To be able to recognise when our tech might be compromised can save you from potential catastrophic losses. It’s therefore important to be on the lookout for computer malware signs. 

How often do you pay for something using your credit card or online wallet? How many passwords do you have saved or “remembered” so you can quickly log in? Hackers can gain access to your devices in numerous ways, but in many instances, it’s not immediately apparent.

The Current State of Internet Security

According to the Symantec 2017 Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR), 1 in every 131 emails you receive is infected with malware. Opening such an email infects your computer and gives attackers access to your personal and business data.

In a business environment on a company network, this can give hackers access to the same shared systems and folders that your computer has access to, leading to a data breach with far-reaching consequences. All it takes is for a high-level executive, member of the C-suite, or HR personnel with access to sensitive records to click that infected email and it’s game over for some businesses. 

Being aware of the dangers and spotting the computer malware signs is, therefore, more important than ever to prevent the disastrous effects of a successful cyberattack. These are the warning signs of a possible data breach and that your system has been infected. 

20 Computer Malware Signs To Be Aware Of

1. Pop-Ups

Very often, malware and viruses will be disguised as regular notifications. Your computer will display the notification, often saying that your PC is infected and offering help to remove the threats. If you accept “help,” you will be prompted to visit a website and leave your credit card information to pay for the service of removing the threat. Even though such an attack pattern is not new and has been present for a while, people still fall for it very often. This is the most common of all computer malware signs.

2. Sudden Sluggish Performance

If you notice that your computer is slower than usual, the first thing to do is check the Task Manager. You can access it by simply writing “Task Manager” after hitting the Windows key on your keyboard.

Once there, check the Performance tab to see whether any of your hardware is being used too much: the CPU, memory, disks, or GPU. Chances are, your memory might be compromised by malware.

If you’re not infected and your computer is still slow, check out our course here to improve computer performance.

3. Has a Mind of Its Own

Some glitches in your system might appear like your computer has a mind of its own – usually a brief glimpse of a registry change or your mouse moving by itself. In most cases, these are just little glitches – a speck of dust on the mousepad, for instance. But this could also be one of the computer malware signs. If mouse movements are deliberate and make sense, like the mouse moves and opens or closes applications, then you are definitely dealing with a far more serious threat than a dusty mouse pad.

To disable this kind of remote access, the first thing you should do is disconnect your PC from the internet, disable network drivers so it can’t connect again, and make sure any connectivity options are disabled, e.g. Bluetooth. Then, you can start dealing with removing the issue.

4. Crashing

Your computer might crash for no apparent reason. Often, software and hardware incompatibility are to blame, but if this is excluded, computer malware infection is a real possibility. To see what the crash was caused by, go to Event Viewer by hitting the Windows button on your keyboard and writing “Event” – it should be suggested as the first option. Once opened, go to Windows Logs and go through those that are marked as an error. This will give you more insight into what caused the crash and help you or your IT team find a solution fast.

5. Low storage

If your computer is suddenly running low on storage, it might be that you have not been paying attention to how much you have left. Some malware and viruses, however, are programmed in such a way that they replicate endlessly until they use up all the storage space you have.

Always ensure you know how much space you have left. If you know for sure that your hard drive partitions had more than enough, suspicious activity is to be expected.

6. You Don’t Appear to Have Security Measures Working, e.g. No Antivirus etc.

Your computer might notify you that your security isn’t working – that your antivirus has been disabled. If this is the case, check the status of your antivirus immediately. While this can be a system glitch while your antivirus is updating, it is often a sign that you were infected.

If you can’t get your antivirus software up and running, you will have to either install a new antivirus and antimalware software or, if you’re using a paid version, contact your antivirus manufacturer’s support and let them lead you through the recovery process.

7. Ads

Malware software can also cause pop-up ads, new tabs in browsers, or change homepages, and search engines, without the user’s consent. To get rid of these annoying pop-ups and ads, you will have to find the infected software and remove it from your device.

8. New Icons on Your desktop

If you notice a new icon on your desktop that you don’t know the origin of, suspect foul play right away as new icons are computer malware signs. Malicious software might be installed on your device, threatening to steal your credentials, cause havoc, or even lock you out. If this is your work computer, contact your IT department right away as it could have been installed on the network, not just your own device.  

9. Corrupted folders or Missing folders

If you get a prompt your file is corrupt or you realise some folders are missing from where they are supposed to be, it could be an infection. Some malicious software will not be after your credit card data – the intent can simply be to erase all your data from your drives. While this is less of a threat today than it was before thanks to various online storage solutions, not all your data is stored online. If you have lost files, a system restore might be a way of getting them back.

10. Ransoms

Some malware acts as a simplified version of ransomware by locking you out of your computer until you pay. But, unlike hardcore ransomware, there are some things you can usually do to unlock it.

Using Windows safe mode might do the trick. Once you have booted Windows that way, you can run a virus scan and remove the ransomware. There are also dedicated ransomware removal tools from established antivirus brands, and even Microsoft itself has tools available. Another option is to use System Restore to restore your computer to a version that wasn’t infected yet.

11. Errant Messages

Your system might notify you that an application requires permission to do something, for example an application trying to change something on your computer or connect to the network. This usually happens when you start up, update or install a new application. However, if none of these have happened recently and you’re still getting the messages, your PC might be infected.

12. Redirecting Web Browsers

If you notice that your browser started redirecting you to random sites, you might be dealing with a browser redirect malware, whose aim is to use these redirects to artificially boost traffic to such sites, gather search data, or to try to scam users and steal their personal data. Search for suspicious programs on your device if you suspect this to be the case.

13. New Home Pages

If you open your web browser and your homepage is changed, you need to check which program might have caused this. Usually today, a lot of software will come with additional taskbars or options to change your homepage while you install them. You can opt out of it easily during installation, but many people oversee this. While such changes and additions might not be viruses themselves, they often lack proper security and can easily be used as a point of entry.

14. You’re (Not) Reaching Out

You might find that new conversations are popping up in your email inbox or social media that were started by ‘you’, but you can’t recall starting them.

These spam messages encourage your contacts to click on links that will then infect them. A popular scam is the malware will send an SOS email or message saying you’re stranded and need cab money or a train ticket. It might not seem like a lot but if every one of your friends and every one of their friends become infected, it’s a lot of potential.

15. BSOD – Blue Screen, Will Not Boot

If your computer suddenly becomes unresponsive and you see the dreaded blue screen of death (BSOD), it could be malware.

However, BSOD often happens after you install new software or hardware. Check whether you have the latest drivers installed for all your components and search for possible incompatibility between programs and hardware you are using.

If this is not the case, you will have to consult the Event Viewer again to see what exactly caused the BSOD.

16. Credit or Bank Purchases

If you get notified that there were purchases made with your credit card, or money was taken from your bank account but you didn’t do it, ask your bank to verify how payment was made. If it was done using your card (not in person) it means it was an online transaction. This can mean your device is compromised and they’ve taken the details, particularly if you have them saved e.g. Google online. 

Cancel your cards, disconnect from the internet and do a thorough sweep of your devices to make sure that the breach didn’t come from them.

17. You can’t login to your accounts

If you can’t get access to your account because your password suddenly isn’t working, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a case of account theft. This is already one of the serious computer malware signs. Always have a fallback option for such cases – a way to reset your password via your phone number, for instance. To minimise such a risk, have two-factor authentication that will request a code sent to your phone or a generated code from an app installed on your phone.

If you get a notification from your authenticator, for example, a code on your phone but you’re not trying to log in, check your system for malware and change your passwords immediately. It could be someone with a keystroke logger.

18. Your Hard Drive Appears to Be Constantly Working Even When Doing Nothing

Erratic and sluggish operations can be caused by a lot of software and hardware issues. To see what is happening, you will have to open your Task Manager by hitting your Windows key button and typing “task manager” for it to appear on the list.

Once opened, look at the performance of your hardware. If you see that your disk is on ‘100%’ most of the time, you will have to check which processes are running and might have caused this. Note that certain Windows processes might cause this from time to time – recently microsoft.photos.exe, a legit Microsoft application, was causing this issue for some users.

If you find any other applications that are unfamiliar to you and are using your disk fully, terminate the process by right-clicking on it and selecting the “End Task” option. Find which program the task belongs to in order to see whether it’s a real malware or virus issue or just an incompatible program.

19. File Names Change or Are Missing

Any changes to files – either the names or the location of the files – should immediately be attributed to malicious software activity. A deep scan with a dedicated software will be needed to find the infection. Any files that were affected – renamed, deleted, or removed – might be beyond saving, so always make sure you have your data securely backed up online.

20. Unusual login pages

Any changes to login pages you often use – either for work or personal – should be deemed suspicious. Usually, changes like this are announced in advance, so check for news about the changes before you log in. Any pages that require your work, Google, or social media account credentials (both username and password) for login should also be avoided as these might be phishing sites that are trying to steal your credentials.

If you’ve navigated to the page through an email, close the tab and go to the company you’re trying to login to directly. If you don’t recognise the site, NEVER give your credentials away!

It’s important that if you feel there is something wrong with your computer, particularly if you are on a company device or part of a shared network that you report it! Small and subtle changes can lead to big data breaches and catching malware early is key.

You Might Also Be Interested In: 

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How to Install Microsoft’s Azure Information Protection for Small Businesses

Until now, Microsoft’s Azure Information Protection (AIP) has been an enterprise level IT solution for the big brands and businesses. So, you may not have even heard of it! But, its tools are perfect for small businesses and allows you to get AUTOMATIC file and email encryption that is easy to use, and affordable.

Let’s look at why you should be looking at this solution for your small business, how you can use it and what it can do for you:

Why do I Need File Protection?

We could advocate for file protection but it’s easier just to show you, here’s how easy it is to gain access to your sensitive data if you don’t have file protection:

The solution to this? We recommend, Microsoft’s Azure Information Protection (AIP)

Update: 23/09/20 – Microsoft’s AIP has actually been upgraded to MIP, with a few extra features. This article is still relevant and if you scroll to the bottom you can see a demo of a recent project we just completed on how it looks in action.

What is Microsoft’s Azure Information Protection?

It’s an excellent cloud-based file and email encryption solution that allows you to create certain ‘rules’ to protect your files and emails automatically.

What Does This Entail?

Although it’s also an excellent option for smaller businesses because it offers unique cyber security features which make GDPR compliance easy and seamless, you can’t really “figure it out” as you go.

It’s not as simple as downloading a piece of software. There’s a little more to it than that. But, once you know how, it’s our recommendation for keeping your company, files and emails protected. The installation looks a little like this:

Different Stages of AIP Implementation

Once you’ve set up your active directory and assigned your licenses, there are 3 steps to implementing Microsoft’s Azure Information Protection:

Assessing Your Data

Although only roughly 5% of your data is sensitive, you still need to protect it and in order to do so, you need to understand what it is, where it is and how you handle it.

Installation

This is the easy part (if you know what you’re doing) and is a simple installation of the AIP client onto all of the machines/servers that you want to have automatic encryption capabilities.

Monitoring/Testing

This is all about tweaking your settings to match your usage based on what you’re using your protection for in your business.

So, How Can I Do It Myself?

We originally created an AIP course (you can still take the legacy course HERE.) However since the update to MIP (Microsoft Information Protection) there’s a lot more backend setup, licensing crossovers, and implementation that just make this a project that is really tricky.

If you get it wrong you can accidentally encrypt and lock yourself out of all of your data, and to be honest, we don’t recommend doing this.

We still want to make MIP accessible for SMEs so we offer a half hour consulting option to give you the best tailored advice on what forms of protection are best for you, and then we can help you set up MIP if it’s suitable.

Book in for your consultation CLICK HERE.

Check out the MIP Demo below to see it in action:

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GDPR Email Terminology You Need to Know!

When it comes to GDPR and emails things can get confusing! You need to make sure you completely understand the GDPR email terminology potential users/customers/businesses could be using so you can action accordingly.

Although not an exhaustive list, here are some of the terms that will be most useful to understand. We’ve taken this list from our Free GDPR Email Protection Course you can find here.

Consent – This means permission! GDPR’s aim is to allow users more control over their data and is big on consent which means if you don’t have it, you can’t use it. Now there are some situations where direct consent isn’t needed, for example if someone makes a purchase from you, you’re allowed to send them a relevant email about their order without their consent as it’s a necessary byproduct of the purchase. Another example is when a company or business has a business specific email address on their “Contact Us” page. This is considered consent as long as the email is a business and not personal address e.g. [email protected] NOT [email protected]. One thing to note here is you still can’t add them to a mailing list but you can contact them with something of genuine interest.

Data Breach – This is where information has been accessed by unauthorised third parties due to a security issue. This usually refers to confidential or sensitive information.

Data Controller – The ICO define a data controller as:

“A person who (either alone or jointly or in common with other persons) determines the
purposes for which and the manner in which any personal data are, or are to be processed”

Data Portability – This is the right of the user to move personal data to competitors and businesses have to comply. It must be readable and universally accepted by the other party and once moved, the original business may not store it (unless for legal/tax purposes.)

Data Processor – The ICO define a data processor as:

“In relation to personal data, means any person (other than an employee of the data controller) who processes the data on behalf of the data controller.”

Data Processing – When information is handled, physically or digitally for any action. For example, collecting it, uploading it into an automatic algorithm, using it to segment etc.

Data Protection Authorities (DPA) – These will be appointed in individual EU-based countries to enforce and support the new data protection laws.

Data Protection Officer (DPO) – Data controllers will appoint an employee (or sometimes hire externally) a DPO whose responsibility is to make sure data protection and processing is met and understood throughout the organisation.

Data Subject – This is any person that the personal data is about.

Erasure – When an individual makes an erasure request, this means to have all of their personal data removed from your organisation (and third party organisations you use to manage this personal data) Not complying with this can leave you open to fines.

Encryption – A way of making information protected to prevent unauthorised entities or people being able to access, read or extract the data.

Pseudonymisation – A way to make personal data less identifiable to an outside party by using pseudonyms and preset identifiers in place of the data itself.

Recipient – The receiver of your email

Subject Access Request (SAR) – Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t actually new. A SAR request is something a user can do via email which entitles them to ask what information is stored about them. You may find the “Subject Access Code of Practice” by the ICO useful. Also known as a “Right to Access Request”

For more information on email protection in the age of GDPR, check out our FREE COURSE HERE to guide you through it!

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How to Send Encrypted Emails Without Installing Anything

If you want to protect the personal data that you send and reduce the risk of a breach, you’ll want to encrypt your emails or use an email encryption service! Did you know that you can send encrypted emails without installing anything?

Why would you want to send encrypted emails? 

You may think that encrypted emails don’t apply to you or they are a bit too “techy” to use. But, we’re making it simpler because hackers don’t care whether you’re techy or not. There are some other instances where you might want to send encrypted emails (for industries prone to email breaches check out our other article here.)

  1. If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur communicating about employee/subcontractor personal data, sharing sensitive information or ideas and secrets you want to protect.
  2. You’re sending attachments that contain personal information, e.g. recruiters sending CVs, accountants handling account data, members of the public sending copies of ID or official documents.
  3. Lawyers sending case-specific information
  4. Developers trying to create encrypted messages from their web portal

But, there are a few issues with the solutions that are out there at the moment: 

  • They require you to use a different email client entirely (and sometimes they aren’t user-friendly for beginners)
  • The other person (recipient) can’t read the encrypted email if they aren’t on the same service
  • You need to install an extension, app or program onto your computer (which many businesses won’t allow as it is directly on the network) in order to use them at all

How do you send encrypted emails without installing anything?

This is something we’ve developed. Encrypted emails as a service and it’s really simple. Anyone can use it (whether you’re techy or not). Simply:

  1. Write your email as normal
  2. Put “[email protected]” in the “To” field
  3. Add your recipient in the “subject” field
  4. Hit send

Test it right now: 

  1. Write your email as normal
  2. Put “[email protected]” in the “To” field
  3. Add your recipient in the “subject” field
  4. Click Send

It works on mobile, MAC or PC as well as any existing platform you’re on. Here’s what the process looks like from a MAC:

What the receiver will see (and do) to read the encrypted email:

In Gmail

In Outlook

If you want to protect your emails and your data for free, check out My Protected Mail for more!

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Industries Prone to Email GDPR Breaches

Although emails are not specifically referenced within the clauses of the GDPR, the legislation does cover all data contained within emails and attachments. Anyone handling personal information related to citizens of the EU is bound by GDPR, and must make preparations to ensure that they are compliant from the date of adoption, if not sooner.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the industries that tend to be prone to data breaches involving emails, the reasons why, and strategies to avoid information becoming compromised.

Why Are Some Industries More Prone Than Others?

Theoretically, all industries have the potential to experience GDPR breaches. However, these are made more likely when organisations manage a disproportionately large amount of personally identifiable information, or PII. This is data that can be used on its own, or in combination with other known variables, to determine an individual’s identity.

Some examples of PII may include a full name (particularly if it is uncommon), date of birth, home address, telephone number, email address, passport, driving license, national insurance or social security number, credit card details, or vehicle registration. The more variables that are known, the easier it is to build an image of someone’s identity.

This kind of data is attractive to those who wish to exploit it, which can make some organisations vulnerable to hacking or phishing attacks. Human error can also cause data breaches; although this may be innocuous, the potential damage is just as severe.

It’s important, therefore, for these industries to take additional precautions in the gathering, storage, and processing of sensitive information.

Industries at Risk

Due to the nature of the data they hold the:

  • Financial
  • Legal
  • HR
  • Medical sectors

have a high risk of experiencing GDPR breaches.

The recruitment industry is also very susceptible, as organisations within it hold substantial amounts of personal information, which is passed frequently between internal and external recipients!

Small businesses, entrepreneurs, and virtual assistants can carry an elevated risk of experiencing GDPR breaches, particularly if they are starting out or otherwise unaware of correct data management procedures. 

Emails regarding invoices, bank details, and login information can be especially problematic. Training helps to mitigate this risk, prevent records being compromised, and protect the reputation of data custodians.

What Can Be Done to Minimise Risk?

Take a ‘prevention is better than cure’ approach. In the first instance, use anonymised data as far as possible because, if data is compromised, this makes it far more challenging for unauthorised parties to connect the dots and endanger the security of afflicted individuals.

When communicating via email, take extra precaution and encrypt your emails and attachments at the file level rather than on your computer because it’s much harder to crack and is very GDPR compliant. You can do this by installing software in your business which does this automatically, but if you don’t have the budget for a large-scale solution, you can try something like My Protected Mail which doesn’t involve installing anything and is quick and easy to deal with.

Although we have cited industries prone to email GDPR breaches, it’s best to be responsible no matter your industry. All custodians of sensitive data are responsible for its protection. If you are working within an industry with an elevated risk of email GDPR breaches. Be sure you are prepared! Check out My Protected Mail here for more info and sign up for free to get the extra protection your sensitive emails or attachments need.