Top Ten Cybersecurity Tips

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Protecting your business information is now more important than ever. Here are ten important cybersecurity tips from the Small Business Administration.

1. Protect against viruses, spyware, and other malicious code.
Make sure each of your business’s computers are equipped with antivirus software and antispyware and update regularly. Such software is readily available online from a variety of vendors. All software vendors regularly provide patches and updates to their products to correct security problems and improve functionality. Configure all software to install updates automatically.

2. Secure your networks. Safeguard your Internet connection by using a firewall and encrypting information. If you have a Wi-Fi network, make sure it is secure and hidden. To hide your Wi-Fi network, set up your wireless access point or router so it does not broadcast the network name, known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Password protect access to the router.

3. Establish security practices and policies to protect sensitive information. Establish policies on how employees should handle and protect personally identifiable information and other sensitive data. Clearly outline the consequences of violating your business’s cybersecurity policies.

4. Educate employees about cyberthreats and hold them accountable. Educate your employees about online threats and how to protect your business’s data, including safe use of social networking sites. Depending on the nature of your business, employees might be introducing competitors to sensitive details about your firm’s internal business. Employees should be informed about how to post online in a way that does not reveal any trade secrets to the public or competing businesses. Hold employees accountable to the business’s Internet security policies and procedures.

5. Require employees to use strong passwords and to change them often. Consider implementing multifactor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gain entry. Check with your vendors that handle sensitive data, especially financial institutions, to see if they offer multifactor authentication for your account.

6. Employ best practices on payment cards. Work with your banks or card processors to ensure the most trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud services are being used. You may also have additional security obligations related to agreements with your bank or processor. Isolate payment systems from other, less secure programs and do not use the same computer to process payments and surf the Internet.

7. Make backup copies of important business data and information. Regularly backup the data on all computers. Critical data includes word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files. Backup data automatically if possible, or at least weekly, and store the copies either offsite or on the cloud.

8. Control physical access to computers and network components. Prevent access or use of business computers by unauthorized individuals. Laptops can be particularly easy targets for theft or can be lost, so lock them up when unattended. Make sure a separate user account is created for each employee and require strong passwords. Administrative privileges should only be given to trusted IT staff and key personnel.

9. Create a mobile device action plan. Mobile devices can create significant security and management challenges, especially if they hold confidential information or can access the corporate network.. Require users to password protect their devices, encrypt their data, and install security apps to prevent criminals from stealing information while the phone is on public networks. Be sure to set reporting procedures for lost or stolen equipment.

10. Protect all pages on your public-facing websites. Don’t just protect the checkout and sign-up pages.

If you have additional questions about protecting your data from cybersecurity attacks, please contact our office today.

Source: Small Business Administration. http://www.sba.gov

If you have questions about starting, growing, protecting, understanding business taxes, or selling your small business, please contact us. As a CPA, Certified Business Advisor, Small Business Consultant, Certified Business Profit Consultant, and Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, we specialize in working with small business owners and provide tax, accounting, financial analysis, business planning, and small business advisory services. For more information, call (727) 391-7373 or else visit us on the web at http://www.LindaStortzCPA.com.

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Year-End Tax Planning Tip: Purchase Assets In Your Business

If you expect a large net income from your business in 2016, then taking advantage of the IRS Section 179 expense deduction by purchasing assets before December 31 will help reduce the net income of the business for tax purposes. The Section 179 expense deduction allows a business to write off the cost the cost of up to $500,000 of eligible asset purchases in the year that the assets are placed in service. Assets qualifying for the Section 179 expense deduction include:

1. New and used computers, computer equipment, machinery, office equipment, office furniture, and vehicles.

2. Computer software purchased off the shelf.

3. Qualified restaurant equipment, retail improvements, and leasehold improvements.

For the year 2016, the $500,000 Section 179 expense deduction is reduced when qualifying asset purchases exceed a $2,010,000 investment ceiling. Also, this $500,000 amount is limited to the taxable income from your active trade or business. This means that if your business has a net loss in 2016, then the Section 179 election can’t be used and assets should be depreciated instead. Property lives for depreciating assets under MACRS include 5 years for vehicles, trucks, computers, and peripheral equipment and 7 years for office furniture, fixtures, and industrial equipment.

For more information about the Section 179 expense deduction, please contact us today.

If you have questions about starting, growing, or selling your small business, please contact us. As a CPA, Certified Business Advisor, Small Business Consultant, and Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, we specialize in working with small business owners just like you and provide tax, accounting, financial analysis, management, business planning, and small business advisory services. We can advise you on how to start, manage, grow, and terminate a small business. For more information, call (727) 391-7373 or else visit us on the web at http://www.LindaStortzCPA.com.

4 SIGNS THAT IT’S TIME FOR YOUR SMALL BUSINESS TO UPGRADE YOUR COMPUTERS

computerupgradeUsing outdated computer equipment can mean security risks and loss of business, not to mention a whole lot of frustration. Here are four signs that it’s time for your business to upgrade.

1. Your systems and software can’t work together.

Crystal Kendrick, president of The Voice of Your Customer, a Cincinnati-based marketing firm, spent thousands of dollars last year with an IT firm that worked for days trying to make her office and mobile systems sync. In the end, the firm had to give up, telling Kendrick her systems were too old and no longer supported by manufacturers. Now, when facing an IT issue, her first question is whether her systems are too outdated to coordinate with other software and whether replacement is the most efficient solution.

2. Your computer’s speed impedes productivity.

“The right computer is the one that gets the work done in the most efficient, stress-free way possible,” says Kevin Tumlinson, a Houston-based author and consultant with tech industry experience. “Authority businesses need to be able to pivot in an instant, so every second you waste waiting for Microsoft Word to open or trying to get onto a crucial website with an outdated browser can cost you an opportunity. It’s time to upgrade when the computer is a roadblock to doing the work.”

The problem many small business owners have is the perception that computers are solely equipment and should only be replaced when they stop working, says John Dini, an NFIB member and small business consultant in San Antonio. But computers are actually the principal source of productivity for most employees, so the cost/benefit analysis on replacement should focus on lost work time.

3. You’re more than two versions behind on software.

“The general rule of thumb is to stay within two versions of the latest release,” says Joe Rodichok, IT manager for eZanga.com, an online advertising firm. “For example, the current version of Windows is 8.1. If you’re using Windows Vista, your software is out-of-date. The reason it’s so important to stay up-to-date is because software stops being supported at a certain point. As exploits are found, there are no longer patches available, exposing you to a whole bunch of dangers.”

This is exactly what’s happened with Windows XP. In April 2014, Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP with security patches, and shortly after, hackers started to target the operating system, says Darren Boozer, CEO and president of NCC Data, an IT consulting company in Addison, Texas.

4. You’re losing your competitive edge.

“To stay ahead of the pack, even at your size, you must remain agile and different from the competition—and that means maintaining knowledge about the latest trends in consumer behavior for your industry,” says Cody McLain, founder of WireFuseMedia, a digital creative agency in Austin, Texas. “What do consumers want now, and are you able to offer it?”

Using old technology to try to create new things will mean hitting a brick wall in progress at some point, McLain says. It can also mean a loss in ability to relate to customers. For example, if you’re still using a cellphone from 2003 but have created a cutting-edge app for customers to download, you can’t use your own technology, let alone improve it.

If you have questions about upgrading your computers, please contact us today.

Source:
Truesdell, K. (2015). 4 Signs That It’s Time To Upgrade Your Computers. Retrieved from http://www.nfib.com/article/4-signs-its-time-to-upgrade-your-computers-bizhelp-69476/

As a CPA, Accredited Small Business Consultant, and Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, we mentor small business owners to empower them with the knowledge and skills to run a successful business. Allow us to evaluate your small business needs. Give us a call today at (727) 391-7373 or visit us at http://www.LStortzCPA.com and http://www.tampabayaccountingservices.com.