Creating a Business Continuity Plan For Your Small Business

Issue #17 | December 2023

Is your business prepared for any type of disaster? Even though small businesses may not have as many employees or as much equipment, they are still as vulnerable to disaster as a large corporation. If your business office were to be destroyed by a tornado, you could lose valuable business if you don’t plan ahead. Many businesses don’t want to take the time and the expense to prepare a business continuity plan, but can you really afford not to make one?

Make a List of All Possible Disasters

The best place to start is to list different types of disasters and try to determine what could be lost in each case, and what you can do to prevent that loss. A flood will require different strategies from a power outage or a fire. Next, try to estimate how long it would take, and how much it would cost, for you to get your business up and running again.


The middle of a crisis is not the time to frantically search for phone numbers. Even small businesses need emergency contact numbers. Have all emergency contact numbers posted or programmed into every phone. Do you have an alternate mode of communication should your main phone lines shut down? Could your clients seamlessly contact you without ever knowing that your office was in the middle of disaster recovery? The same principal applies to email and fax. Making arrangements regarding communication are critical to keeping your business running smoothly. Communicating with staff and clients can mean the difference between complete shutdown, or minimal a business interruption.

Preserving Your Data

In the event of a disaster, it is important to know that everything you need to function as a business is available. Identify all vital systems, documents, and data. While it is important for every business to backup their data on a regular basis, what if a fire destroyed your office? For this reason, offsite storage is critical to preserving your business’ valuable information. Offsite data storage allows to access to all of your stored data from any computer and from anywhere in the world.

A Temporary Worksite

It is also important to plan for a temporary worksite. Depending on the goods or services your business offers, can you continue smooth operation if your office is shut down? Storing products in a second location can allow you to maintain your regular business schedule.

Test Your Plan

One of the keys to successful disaster recovery is testing your business continuity plan on a regular basis. It is important that you and your staff know exactly what to do, where to go, and how to access the necessary items you need to keep your business running smoothly to the outside world, even if you are standing in the middle of a disaster. Schedule regular plan tests to ensure that everyone in your office is on the same page and ready should disaster strike. Hopefully, you will never have to use your business continuity plan, but it is smart business to be prepared for any emergency should one arise.

Best regards,

Rachid Elaafer

Professor/Guest Speaker/Columnist/CIO

[email protected]

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Important Updates on HIPAA Compliance: Know Your Responsibilities

Important Updates on HIPAA Compliance: Know Your Responsibilities

Issue #16 | December 2023

As part of our ongoing commitment to keeping you informed about crucial developments in the healthcare industry, we would like to draw your attention to the importance of compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Rules.

Understanding the Stakes: Civil and Criminal Penalties for Non-Compliance

HIPAA serves as a critical framework to safeguard the privacy and security of protected health information (PHI). Covered Entities (CEs) and their Business Associates (BAs) play pivotal roles in maintaining the integrity of this framework. Failure to comply with HIPAA regulations can lead to severe consequences in the form of civil and criminal penalties.

Civil Penalties: Fines That Matter

Covered Entities and Business Associates that neglect their responsibilities under HIPAA may face significant civil penalties. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the entity responsible for enforcing HIPAA, has the authority to impose fines based on the severity of the violation.

Penalties can range from thousands to millions of dollars, depending on factors such as the nature of the violation, the duration of non-compliance, and the extent of harm caused. Organizations must prioritize HIPAA compliance not only to avoid financial repercussions but also to uphold the trust of patients and clients.

Criminal Penalties: Legal Consequences

In addition to civil penalties, non-compliance with HIPAA can lead to criminal charges. Criminal penalties are typically reserved for cases involving willful neglect or intentional misuse of PHI. Individuals found guilty of criminal HIPAA violations may face fines and imprisonment.

It is essential for all members of our organization to be well-informed about their role in maintaining HIPAA compliance. Ignorance is not a valid defense, and every team member, from executives to frontline staff, should be aware of their responsibilities under HIPAA regulations.

Best Practices for Maintaining HIPAA Compliance

  1. Education and Training: Regularly educate and train staff members on HIPAA regulations, emphasizing the importance of protecting PHI.
  2. Risk Assessments: Conduct regular risk assessments to identify and address potential vulnerabilities in your organization’s data security practices.
  3. Policies and Procedures: Establish and enforce robust policies and procedures to govern the handling of PHI, ensuring that all team members are aware of and adhere to them.
  4. Business Associate Agreements: Maintain updated Business Associate Agreements with all relevant partners, clearly outlining their responsibilities in safeguarding PHI.
  5. Incident Response Plan: Develop and regularly update an incident response plan to effectively address and mitigate the impact of any security breaches.

By prioritizing these best practices, we can collectively ensure that our organization remains compliant with HIPAA regulations, safeguarding both the privacy of our patients and the reputation of our institution.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding HIPAA compliance, please do not hesitate to reach out to our compliance officer or the dedicated team responsible for ensuring the security of our PHI.

Best regards,

Rachid Elaafer

Professor/Guest Speaker/Columnist/CIO

[email protected]

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The High Cost of Recovery from a Security Breach!

Issue #14 | November 2023

Small to medium-sized businesses are what keep this country moving. Unfortunately, for many of these business owners, budgetary needs force them to make cuts that the mammoth corporations do not have to consider. These budget cuts can often result in reduced security and subpar IT services that in the long run can end up costing the company even more money. Reacting to; and the recovery from, a security breach or attack always costs more after it has happened than what it would have cost to prevent it.

This fact has been supported by recent surveys and may come as a surprise to many small and mid-size companies who are under the false impression that hackers and other security threats target larger corporations. It has been discovered that companies that have less than 500 employees are actually more likely to be at risk of an attack or security breach than a larger corporation. Of course, this becomes a problem when the larger corporation has the resources to maintain higher levels of security at a time when smaller companies are dealing with restricted or; in some cases, frozen IT budgets.

The benefits of hiring a Managed IT Services Provider in preventing attacks and security breaches

With a security breach a real concern for small business owners, many are making the decision to bring on outside providers to address their IT needs. Managed services providers can offer an affordable solution to small business owners who are struggling to manage an internal IT staff. In some cases, there isn’t even an IT person on staff, which can be just as costly for the small business when they have to bring in a professional on an as-needed basis. Considering the money and time spent recovering from a security attack or breach, more business owners are realizing the cost of not having this level of protection is too high to pay. Here we look at how managed services providers can help business owners level the playing field against those who would infiltrate their security systems.

  • Increased knowledge- Managed service providers are in the business of technology. They have trained staff who are able to prevent security breaches and spot any activity that could be perceived as a threat. Moreover, they have the expertise to stop threats and prevent the loss of sensitive and private information that can lead to costly recovery measures.
  • Less expensive than in-house IT- Other IT professionals can provide the same security but it will cost much more to the business owner. What many owners are realizing is paying a flat monthly fee for security and other services provided by MSPs is actually much more cost effective than paying an internal IT staff or outsourcing based on the incident.
  • Proactive is better than reactive- The biggest benefit of having a quality managed services provider in your corner is the fact that you are acting in a proactive manner to ensure all of your systems are managed properly. This is less expensive and less time-consuming than waiting for something bad to happen and then reacting.

Any small business can benefit from the security provided by a Managed IT Services provider. They can do so at a fraction of the cost, therefore eliminating the fear and unnecessary cost of trying to recover from a breach in security or attack.


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15 Best Practices Against Cyber Attacks!

15 Best Practices Against Cyber Attacks! 

Issue #13 | November 2023

Securing your systems against hackers requires a comprehensive and multi-layered approach. Here are some best practices for cybersecurity to help protect against various types of threats:

  1. Keep Software Updated:

Regularly update operating systems, software, and applications to patch vulnerabilities.

Enable automatic updates whenever possible.

  1. Use Strong, Unique Passwords:

Use complex passwords that include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.

Avoid using easily guessable information such as birthdays or common words.

Consider using a passphrase for added security.

  1. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA):

Enable MFA for all possible accounts and systems. MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide additional authentication factors beyond just a password.

  1. Firewalls and Intrusion Detection/Prevention Systems:

Utilize firewalls to monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic.

Implement intrusion detection and prevention systems to identify and respond to potential threats.

  1. Regularly Backup Data:

Perform regular backups of critical data and ensure that the backup process is functioning correctly. Store backups in a secure location and test the restoration process periodically.

  1. Employee Training and Awareness:

Educate employees about cybersecurity best practices and the importance of being vigilant.

Conduct regular training sessions to keep staff informed about the latest threats and attack techniques.

  1. Limit User Privileges:

Assign the minimum level of access and permissions necessary for employees to perform their jobs. Regularly review and update user privileges to ensure they are still appropriate.

  1. Monitor Network Activity:

Implement network monitoring tools to detect unusual or suspicious activities. Regularly review logs and investigate any anomalies.

  1. Encrypt Sensitive Data:

Use encryption for sensitive data both in transit and at rest. Ensure that communication channels, especially when accessing sensitive information, use secure protocols (e.g., HTTPS).

  1. Incident Response Plan:

Develop and regularly test an incident response plan to ensure a swift and effective response to security incidents. Clearly define roles and responsibilities within the incident response team.

  1. Regular Security Audits and Assessments:

Conduct regular security audits and vulnerability assessments to identify and address potential weaknesses. Hire third-party professionals for penetration testing to simulate real-world attacks.

  1. Physical Security Measures:

Secure physical access to servers, network equipment, and other critical infrastructure.

Implement access controls and surveillance systems where applicable.

  1. Stay Informed about Emerging Threats:

Stay updated on the latest cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities. Subscribe to security mailing lists and follow reputable sources for security news.

  1. Secure Third-Party Services:

If using third-party services or vendors, ensure they adhere to strong security practices.

Regularly review and update access credentials and permissions for third-party services.

  1. Implement a Security Policy:

Develop and enforce a comprehensive security policy that outlines acceptable use, password policies, and other security-related guidelines.

Remember, cybersecurity is an ongoing process, and it requires continuous monitoring, adaptation, and improvement. Regularly reassess your security measures in light of evolving threats and technological advancements.

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Safeguarding against Shopping Seasons!

Safeguarding against Shopping Seasons! 

Issue #12 | November 2023

Cyber Protection Tips

As the holidays approach, and we get ready to relax with family and friends, it is important to keep our cyber-guards up!

As the digital age continues to redefine our lives, the way we shop has undergone a profound transformation. Gone are the days of waiting in long lines at brick-and-mortar stores; now, we can purchase anything we desire with just a few clicks. The convenience and accessibility of online shopping have made it a go-to choice for many consumers, especially during shopping seasons like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday season. However, this convenience comes with a caveat: the risk of cyber threats. To ensure a safe and secure shopping experience during these shopping seasons, it’s essential to understand and implement effective cyber protection strategies.

Understanding Cyber Threats

Cyber threats come in various forms, and understanding them is the first step in protecting yourself during the shopping season. Here are some common threats to be aware of:

Phishing Attacks: Cybercriminals often use deceptive emails or websites to trick you into revealing personal information, such as credit card details and login credentials.

Malware: Malicious software, such as viruses and spyware, can infect your device, steal your data, or monitor your online activities.

Identity Theft: Cybercriminals can steal your personal information and use it for fraudulent activities, including making unauthorized purchases in your name.

Data Breaches: Retailers and online platforms may experience data breaches, leading to the exposure of customer data, including credit card information.

Online Scams: During shopping seasons, scams like fake discounts, counterfeit products, and fraudulent sellers become more prevalent.

Protecting Yourself During Shopping Seasons

Now that you’re aware of the potential threats, let’s explore some essential cyber protection tips to keep you safe while shopping during peak seasons:

Use Strong, Unique Passwords: Create strong, unique passwords for your online shopping accounts, and consider using a password manager to keep track of them. Avoid using easily guessable passwords, like “123456” or “password.”

Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Whenever possible, enable MFA for your online accounts. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring you to provide a second form of verification, such as a code sent to your mobile device.

Keep Software Up-to-Date: Regularly update your operating system, web browser, and antivirus software to protect against known vulnerabilities.

Shop from Trusted Websites: Stick to well-known, reputable online retailers and marketplaces. Avoid shopping on unfamiliar websites, especially if the prices seem too good to be true.

Be Cautious of Emails and Links: Don’t click on suspicious links or download attachments from unknown sources. Verify the legitimacy of emails, especially those requesting sensitive information or financial transactions.

Secure Your Wi-Fi Network: Use a strong and unique password for your home Wi-Fi network, and consider encrypting it with WPA3 for added security. Avoid public Wi-Fi networks for online shopping, as they are often less secure.

Monitor Your Financial Statements: Regularly review your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized or suspicious transactions. Report any discrepancies immediately.

Check Website Security: Before making a purchase, ensure the website is secure by looking for “https://” in the URL and a padlock icon in the address bar. This indicates a secure, encrypted connection.

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN): A VPN can help protect your online activities by encrypting your internet connection, making it more difficult for cybercriminals to intercept your data.

Keep your Cyber Guards-Up!

Stay informed about the latest cyber threats and scams. Awareness is one of the best defenses against cyberattacks.

Please feel free to reach out with any feedback or suggestions for future topics. Until next month, stay cyber-secure!


Best regards,

Rachid Elaafer

Professor/Guest Speaker/Columnist/CIO

[email protected]



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Cybersecurity Newsletter
#cybercrime #cyberattacks #smallbusiness #bostontech #bostonma

Issue #11 | November 2023

Welcome to the November edition of Cybersecurity TechTalkSMB, your trusted source for the latest updates on cybersecurity threats, trends, and best practices. In this issue, we’ll cover recent cyberattacks, emerging threats, and offer insights into protecting your business.

In This Issue

Featured Cyberattack: Ransomware Hits Bank of Canton, Clorox: Cleaning Products, and Las Vegas MGM Resorts and Hotels Sector

Security Best Practices: Securing Remote Work Environments

Expert’s Corner: Live discussion on Cyberattacks 6pm Tuesday the 7th

TechTalkSMB: Weekly News and Tips


  1. Featured Cyberattack: Ransomware Strikes Financial Institute, Retail, and Hotels Sector

This sector has recently been a prime target for cybercriminals. Multiple incidents have involved infiltration attacks on banks, cleaning products, and hotels, jeopardizing customer data, critical systems, and operations. These attacks highlight the need for robust security measures, timely backups, and user training to prevent and respond to ransomware threats.


  1. Security Best Practices: Securing Remote Work Environments

As remote work becomes essential in many organizations, ensuring the security of remote work environments is vital. Implementing robust VPNs, multifactor authentication, and secure collaboration tools is essential to protect data and network integrity. Regular security training and awareness programs are also vital to educate remote workers about the latest threats and best practices.


  1. Expert’s Corner: Go Live @TechTalkSMB Instagram 11/7/2023

We will be live on Tuesday, to discuss and answers from Small Business owners and managers about the evolving threat landscape and the importance of proactive threat intelligence. Mr. Rachid Elaafer valuable insights into threat detection, risk assessment, and the significance of keeping cybersecurity strategies up to date.


  1. TechTalkSMB: Weekly News and Tips

Learn about ever-changing threat landscape is critical for effective cybersecurity, can help organizations Protect, collect, analyze, and disseminate threat data. In this edition, @TechTalkSMB we highlight top TIPs and their key features to aid small businesses to stay ahead of cyber threats.


Stay Safe in the Digital Realm!


This month’s Cybersecurity @TechTalkSMB. As cyber threat continues to evolve, stay informed and vigilant. Implement the best security practices, keep your systems up to date, and invest in the right tools with the right Managed IT Service Providers, to protect your business.


Please feel free to reach out with any feedback or suggestions for future topics. Until next month, stay cyber-secure!


Best regards,


Rachid Elaafer

Professor/Guest Speaker/Columnist/CIO

[email protected]



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Healthcare HIPAA and PHI

Healthcare organizations that are “Covered Entities” under HIPAA are expected to secure protected health information (PHI) sent by email using reasonable and appropriate encryption technology. And in the event that PHI is lost or stolen, encrypted data is exempted from fines and consumer and agency notification by most regulations.

We have the expertise and resources to help you comply, and our service will automatically encrypt messages and attachments that contain PHI. This is done automatically, which is important, because most breaches of PHI are accidental.

With our expert services, you can be compliant very quickly.

To learn more, please contact us at:

To register for our presentation “Email Encryption for Healthcare Providers”, please contact us using from above:

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Is the iPad Useful as a Mobile Computing Device for Businesses?

Some businesses have jumped on the iPad wagon and are finding creative ways to use the iPad as a mobile computing device. For example, the Global Mundo Tapas restaurant in Sydney, Australia uses the iPad as an interactive menu. There’s a budget airline, Jetstar Airways, using the iPad for in-flight entertainment, rented for $10 a flight. A luxury sedan by Hyundai comes with an iPad instead of a user manual. Other than these extreme cases, how can an iPad be used to increase productivity or convenience by the average business owner?

Conventions and Workshops

Do you travel to conventions and workshops for your business? Many people bring their laptop to these events. While laptops are of course very convenient compared to a desktop pc for traveling, the iPad weighs less and could be even more convenient if you’re traveling from room to room at a convention or workshop. These events are also often designed for networking – so you’re not just sitting at the table all day, glued to your laptop. The smaller, 2 pound iPad could be slipped into your purse or a small bag while you walk around the room, or even carried in your hand for easy access as needed, but without being cumbersome.

Flights and Traveling

It’s true a laptop can go on a flight with you, but even the smaller netbooks and laptops add to the weight of your carry on bags and can be frustrating when in the small seats of the plane. If you’re sitting in coach, you know every time the person next to you has to get up to use the bathroom you’re trying to balance the laptop and whatever else you happened to have out in your hands with turbulence knocking you around the aisle. The iPad could be slid into the pocket of the seat in front of you if you have to get out of the way for the passenger next to you – it’s about the size of a magazine.

The same holds true on trains, in taxi cabs, or as a passenger in someone else’s car. Just don’t try to use your iPad while driving, yourself.

Presentations & Sales

Do you travel to client offices to give presentations? How sleek would it be to whip out your iPad and give a sales presentation or demonstration? Apple reports that iPads can connect to the majority of projectors, so you could even broadcast that presentation over a large screen for a larger audience if necessary.

Replace Your Briefcase

Sure, the iPad has a word processor and spreadsheet. Those are always useful for business people. It would be much more convenient to read and edit documents on an iPad over your iPhone while on the road.

But what about the stack of magazines and newspapers you lug around with you in your briefcase? You could have all of your reading materials ready for you on the iPad and skip the briefcase. Use it as an ebook reader, newspaper subscription, and file storage and you’ve literally got everything at your fingertips. With the use of third party Apps, there’s little you can’t do with the iPad for as a mobile computing device for your business.

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How to Create a Basic Businesses Disaster Recovery Plan in 4 Steps

Loss of data is a common problem for businesses. Fortunately, it’s a problem that can easily be avoided with the correct preparation. While devastating amounts of data can be lost during catastrophes like hurricanes, terrorist attacks, fires and floods – it doesn’t take such large events to cause a business to lose important data. It can be as simple as dropping a laptop to the floor, or a power surge that results in burning out a storage device. If you don’t have your crucial data backed up, even a small situation can turn into a disaster. That’s when having a business disaster recovery plan can help.

If you still think natural disasters are the leading causes of data loss – and that the chances of it happening to you are pretty slim, take a look at the results from a study by Strategic Research Corporation of the leading causes of business continuity and disaster recovery incidents:

  • Hardware Failures (servers, switches, disk drives, etc) – 44%.
  • Human Error (mistakes in configurations, wrong commands issued, etc) 32%
  • Software Errors (operating systems, driver incompatibility, etc)14%
  • Viruses and Security Breach (unprotected systems are always at risk) 7%
  • Natural Disasters 3%

Establishing a disaster recovery plan can be done in the following four steps:

1) Take a potential risk inventory. Make a list of every potential cause of data loss and the solutions to each. Your list should include losses that won’t affect the business very much, and those that would shut the business down temporarily or permanently. Information Technology experts can assist you with creating the potential risk inventory – as they will have the knowledge and experience to identify possibilities that you are not likely to think of but need to plan for all the same. These IT experts will also be able discuss preventative solutions to guard against each type of potential data loss.

2) Rate each of your potential data loss situations. How likely is it for each of the items on your risk inventory to occur? Rating them in order of importance and likeliness to occur will help you determine where to focus your disaster recovery plan efforts.

3) Develop your disaster recovery plan. Go through each of your potential risks and their solutions, and determine how long it would take you to recover from the loss of data for each risk. Could your business be offline for 24 hours? A week? Depending on the nature of your business, being offline for even just 24 hours could result in your losing customers to your competition. Look at ways to reduce the length of time it would take you to recover from each type of data loss risk.

4) Put your disaster recovery plan to the test. Once you’ve created your plan of action for recovering lost data, you should test your solutions. A disaster recovery plan is just a plan until it can be tested and proven.

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Should You Hire Or Outsource to an External IT Service Provider?

Most small business owners handle all aspects of their businesses, including acting as the Information Technology department. This will work for as long as you remain a small business without employees. When you grow and start hiring staff, will it make more sense to use your business-building time on handling IT issues or outsource to an external IT Service Provider?

Unless you are an Information Technology Service Provider yourself, chances are your time will be much better spent marketing your products and/or services, establishing relationships with your clients, providing exceptional customer service and just otherwise growing your business – so why not outsource to an external IT Service Provider?

How do you know when it’s time to get IT help? If the information technology demands are affecting your day and negatively impacting your actual business related activities – it’s definitely time to consider finding an IT resource. If you start adding new employees and computers, it’s probably a good time to look into adding IT help, as well.

Should You Hire Internal IT Staff or Outsource to an External IT Service Provider?

When you make the decision to find an IT resource, your first decision will be whether you need to hire one or more staff to fulfill the role, or if you’re going to outsource IT services. Having dedicated IT staff means they are 100% committed to your business. They’re not splitting their time among numerous clients the way a contracted company might. One of the benefits of having an IT department is that the staff develops a strong understanding of your unique business needs and should be in a good position to manage your short and long term IT requirements. With your own IT staff on payroll, you know you’ve always got someone available (unless they’re out sick or on vacation!) should an emergency or urgent situation present itself.

The primary disadvantage of hiring IT staff is that you’ll be paying for their benefits, their training, and a variety of other costs associated with hiring a new employee. Not to mention, you have to pay them the agreed upon salary regardless of how much IT work you end up having, which means you may be overpaying based on workload!

There are a variety of advantages of outsourcing to an external IT service provider over hiring staff. You can choose to outsource your information technology needs to a flat rate IT service provider and reduce your monthly and overall costs. Having a virtual IT department lets you focus more on running your business rather than the technology that supports it. You aren’t stuck paying employee benefits or other employee costs, and you aren’t responsible for making sure the IT team remains up to date with their training and knowledge.

The Bottom Line

Finding the right information technology help for a growing business needs is challenging. When you think strategically about your business’ unique IT requirements, you can make sound decisions that further promote its growth and profitability.

Learn how IT Solutions Provider, LLC can help you with your IT outsourcing needs. The first step is to schedule a meeting to go over our Technology Consulting Services for your business.

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