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For many managers and business owners, avoiding downtime caused by technology issues is of critical importance. Downtime may result in inventory sitting on trucks, invoices not going out or emails that go unanswered, any of which can be disastrous to your reputation or your bottom line. When you consider the potential loss of employee productivity, loss of revenue and loss of good will with your clients, the impact of downtime can be immense.

Most of our clients tell us that for them, downtime is simply not an option.

Over the years we have seen that while downtime can be caused by factors such as hardware failure or outages due to natural disasters, the most common and easily preventable sources of productivity-killing downtime are viruses and malware.

With that in mind, here are our top 5 tips to help reduce the likelihood that your organization will experience major downtime as a result of an infection.

1. Install an Antivirus Program and Use it Consistently. Yes, we know that you know that this is key, but does everyone you work with know this too? We have seen some companies where several machines were using a different antivirus product and others were not protected at all. An updated copy of the same antivirus program is crucial for every device that accesses your network at work. Set your antivirus to update automatically so that you can stay ahead of new viruses that are constantly being developed.

2. Keep your Security Updates Current. For Windows users, Microsoft frequently releases security updates that will help protect your machine. Ensure that these updates are set up to be applied automatically. Find out how to turn automatic updates on or off.

3. Use a Firewall. Firewalls alert you to suspicious activity if a virus tries to enter your system and they also help to block outsiders from downloading programs onto your computer. Routers may perform some of these same functions, but not all, so businesses are better served by using a firewall.

4. Adjust Privacy Settings on your Browser. There are many settings that you can adjust to reduce how much information about you is made available to the websites that you visit, and they are different for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari. For instance, you can block pop-up windows that show up when you are browsing. These are usually created by advertisers, but they can also contain malicious code, so turning on your pop-up blocker will prevent these from running.

5. Manage your Portable Storage Devices. The widespread use of portable storage devices to transfer files represents a weak point in the security parameter for many businesses. Some estimate that approximately 25 percent of malware today is spread through these devices which plug into the USB port of your PC. They may contain malware that is capable of launching automatically by the autorun feature on your computer.
Some best practices that will decrease your risk include: ensuring that your antivirus will scan any device that connects to your PC, disabling autorun features for all removable devices, and never connecting any device to your computer if you don’t know where it’s from or what is on it. It is also a good idea to keep USB drives that are used at home separate from those you use at the office.

The tips listed above are really only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to avoiding productivity-killing downtime due to viruses. Security is not a ‘set it and forget it’ kind of scenario. You’ll want whoever is handling your network to continuously keep up to date on the latest developments. Proactively managing your security to reduce the risk of downtime will save your business money, and may even save your business.