The year 2020 certainly tested the nerve of IT departments, with support for telecommuting growing rapidly and offices adapting their infrastructures to support social distancing and other CDC guidelines. So what will this mean for business networks, and how can you get your own network ready for 2021 and beyond?

Here are some of the IT areas businesses are expected to prioritize as they ready their networks for the coming year.

Cyber Security Awareness Training

Many businesses are shocked at just how vulnerable their workers are to phishing attacks. Whether at home or in the office, workers will continue to be the weak spots of cyber security, and that is why businesses will be prioritizing cyber security awareness training in 2021.

Cyber security awareness training is a great way to gauge worker knowledge of phishing attacks, ransomware demands and other threats to network security. By instituting this type of training in 2021, businesses can find their weak spots and address them before a devastating cyber-attack takes place.

The design of cyber security awareness training is important, both for business continuity and for effectiveness. Blind campaigns can be designed in a staggered manner, so each department is tested individually without alerting people. Those who fall for simulated phishing attempt receive a pop-up message saying “uh oh, you’ve fallen for this insecure email”, and as a result they are invited to complete further training.

In addition to this staggered approach, Ontech Systems also offers group staff training, with a web-based interface designed to enforce social distancing and other safety measures. But no matter how it is done, this hands-on training will continue to be a vital educational tool for businesses in 2021 and beyond.

Securing Passwords

Password security and the protection of logon credentials has never been more important. As workers were sent home in droves in 2020, phishing emails soon followed suit. These phishing attempts targeted the new army of at-home workers, creating headaches for IT departments and a boon for the bad guys.

As a result, password managers have risen in popularity, and they will continue to be used widely in 2021 and beyond. Password managers can be powerful tools for businesses and their cyber security, as they help prevent workers from using the same passwords over and over at multiple sites.

Evaluating IT Weaknesses

As your business moves forward into 2021, think about the lessons you learned from April to June of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic first spiked and workforces turned remote seemingly overnight.

  • What obstacles did you face?
  • What challenges did your business need to overcome?
  • Was the sudden shift to remote work a shock to your IT infrastructure, or was it a smooth transition?
  • Are you confident you are prepared for a similar shock in 2021 and beyond?

The answers to these questions can be very enlightening and in addition to a network security assessment, they will help you assess weaknesses in your current approach to IT management. The coming year offers a golden opportunity to assess and overcome those weak spots.

Adopting SharePoint

There is no doubt that online collaboration will continue to play a starring role in 2021. Working remotely means working together and online collaboration tools like SharePoint help bring it all together.

As the last 12 months fade into memory and the next 12 months come into view, more and more companies are looking for collaboration tools that will drive productivity, improve worker satisfaction and make back-end management tasks easier. SharePoint is one of the most powerful of these collaboration tools, with applications for online meetings, project management and more.

Companies will also be taking a look at Microsoft Teams, another great way to communicate effectively, both in person and across the internet. Whether your workforces are entirely remote, completely in person or a mix of both, Microsoft Teams will become an increasingly important part of the collaboration picture in 2021.

Utilizing Log Access in Microsoft

If the recent wave of cyber-attacks has taught us anything, it is that many threats, even serious ones, can go undetected for weeks or even months. The massive Solar Winds hack is just the latest example, but it should serve as a wake-up call to everyone in the business community.

As 2021 gets underway, rather than poring over logs, IT professionals are turning to AI-powered solutions like Ontech’s managed security services for intrusion alerts in an effort to fight back and protect themselves. By enabling Microsoft’s log access, businesses can also prevent bad actors in the company from accessing sensitive company data.

This powerful feature does not cost a thing, and setting it up is always a smart thing to do. If you need help enabling this feature or making sure it is already running, just give Ontech Systems a call. We can evaluate your network to ensure you are getting the highest possible level of protection in 2021 and beyond. Just give us a call at 262-522-8560 to discuss the opportunities and challenges the New Year has to offer.

Office 365 Risk Watch

Office 365 is a powerful tool for business productivity with many advanced features and benefits. But Microsoft Office 365 also includes an add-on service that actively authorizes all log-ins.

This Risk Watch feature can monitor the network for abnormal activity, like a user attempting access with leaked credentials, sign-on attempts from suspicious IP addresses and unfamiliar locations, sign-ons originating from anonymous IP addresses and malware-infected devices.

Once enabled, Risk Watch provides businesses with valuable activity reports, as well as resolution of unforeseen technical issues. If you need help securing and enabling this powerful add-on to Office 365, just give Ontech Systems a call.

There is reason to hope that 2021 will be a much better year than 2020 and as you prepare your business network for the New Year, you may want to keep these trends in mind. From greater awareness of cyber security and careful evaluation of existing weaknesses, to the enabling of powerful software add-ons, IT departments will have a lot to do in 2021. So take a minute to celebrate the end of 2020 and get ready for a bigger, brighter and more hopeful 2021.

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