Category Archives: News

The Internet of Things (IoT) You Should Care About

Internet of ThingsThe Internet of Things (IoT) is a term that describes everyday objects that have network connectivity, allowing them to send, receive and act on data. One day, everything that can be connected will be connected. According to the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) the number of “things” connected to the Internet will reach 50.1 billion by 2020. As the Internet of Things makes its way into our lives, what do you need to know to take full advantage?

Internet of Things (IoT) in the Workplace

Devices connecting to the Internet can provide a number of benefits and savings to business.  Smart controllers can regulate heating, cooling, lighting and more. This technology may cut energy costs and save you money. Hospitals can keep better track of pharmaceuticals, avoiding shortages while minimizing inventory. The Internet of Things can even collect data from mobile devices to see if online shoppers make it into your store to check prices or buy. With all of this data being collected and acted upon, it raises a number of issues around security, privacy and connectivity.

Internet of Things is Built on the Cloud

Windows powered desktops and laptops, while Android and IOS powered tablets and smartphones. It is expected that the Internet of Things will run on the Cloud. Cloud Services will deliver functionality, collect data, and eventually connect machines to other machines to analyze and take action on data collected by Internet of Things. Your business will need robust connectivity and a secure network to take full advantage of the Internet of Things.

Securing Internet of Things

Articles have already emerged about zombie refrigerators attacking and hacking a network. With so many devices connected, security issues are expected to follow. As is the case with mobile management, a range of services will help protect your network. If you plan on deploying a Smart Workplace based on Internet of Things, network security will be a top priority.

The Internet of Things will provide businesses many advantages in the form of efficiency, cost savings and insights never before imagined. Implemented on secure networking, with reliable Cloud infrastructure, your business will be ready to take advantage of the Internet of Things.

Does Your Business Have a Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan?

Backup and Disaster RecoveryMost businesses need a Backup and Disaster Recovery plan.  Disasters like fire, flood, earthquake, and more can bring your systems to a halt. Systems including order processing, invoicing, emails, call center, and business phone are critical for daily operations. Without a Backup and Disaster Recovery plan, organizations that encounter a disaster run the risk of going out of business. Here are some tips for getting your Backup and Disaster Recovery plan in place.

Consider Risk of Downtime

Understanding your business risk in the event of a disaster–and related downtime, data loss and other factors–is a good place to start. Factor in loss of productivity from your employees. This can be quantified by calculating employee salaries, wages and overhead for every hour of downtime. You can also calculate loss of revenue if you are unable to process orders, have to disrupt manufacturing, or lose the ability to fulfill customer demand. Also, add in any long-term damage from loss of reputation if you were to suffer a long-term outage. These costs easily add up to impact your company’s bottom line in the case of a disaster recovery scenario.

Build  Your Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan

Not all data is mission critical. Some systems may be more critical than others to get your company back operationally. Determine which systems are most important to your daily operations. Decide how much risk you are willing to take in terms of hours, days or weeks of downtime. Systems that keep your employees productive and revenue flowing in your business may need to take priority. You may need redundant failover for phones, email and order processing to ensure maximum employee productivity and minimum loss of revenue. Other data, including shared files, may not be as critical and could be restored from an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly backup with minimal disruption to productivity and little economic loss.  Review and document your decisions to guide your planning. Also factor in the human element to train your employees what to do in a disaster.

Implement, Test and Monitor Your Backup

Once you understand your risks and have a documented plan, you can align your goals with a backup and disaster recovery solution. You can now begin to implement real-time redundancy for Cloud Backup for mission-critical systems. Where possible, consider having alternate sources of backup in case one system fails. Depending on the disaster recovery scenario, this could be worth the investment. Test your backup before you go live, and be sure to test the restoration and recovery processes as well. You should also monitor your backups regularly to identify and remedy failures as they occur.

Being prepared with a solid plan for backup and disaster recovery ensures employee productivity and safety. It can also make the difference between business recovery and business failure. Contact your trusted advisor to discuss your needs for backup and disaster recovery.

Tackling Cloud Security

Tackling Cloud SecuritySecurity is always top of mind with businesses migrating to the Cloud. Cloud Services are rapidly being adopted by most businesses today. According to IDC, the worldwide public cloud services market reached $45.7 billion in 2013 and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23% through 2018. Cloud Security is an important consideration for businesses migrating to the Cloud. So, what are the top security concerns businesses face?

Top Cloud Security Concerns

CompTIA’s Ninth Annual Information Security Trends study identified system downtime/business interruptions, exposure or loss of data during file transfers to the cloud, and concerns over encryption of data (either transactional or at rest) as the top three issues identified by business owners and IT Professionals. In addition, respondents raised concern over complying with legal/regulatory requirements. What can a business owner do to migrate securely to the Cloud?

Cloud Security and Compliance

Most experts agree, start by understanding your Cloud Security requirements. If you have regulatory requirements, a Private Cloud solution may make it easier to comply with standards including HIPAA and PCI. However, this doesn’t mean you are more secure. Beyond encryption, having a solid strategy for using the technology in your organization is a key factor in Cloud Security.

Employees: Key to Tackling Cloud Security

Your employees may be your biggest threat to Cloud Security. Without the proper training, your employees may access your company’s Cloud Services from unsecure devices. This could cause security breaches and data leaks of privacy information. What’s more, it is important to control the adoption of Cloud Services within your business to help mitigate Cloud Security risks. Proper policy, training, and guidelines create awareness and educate your employees about Cloud Security Risks.

Other Cloud Security Factors

IoT (Internet of Things) presents a new risk to Cloud Security. Smart devices including TVs, appliances, office equipment, and other devices that collect and transmit data across the Internet, can cause exposure to your overall security. Research firm Gartner predicts that the IoT market will grow to 26 billion units installed by 2020. Proper network security and encryption is a first step in reducing this emerging security risk.

Migrating to Cloud Services provides many benefits to business of all sizes. Making the leap to Cloud Computing can be done securely with the proper planning & guidance. Reach out to your technology solution advisor to get help tackling Cloud Security.

The Benefits of Fixed-Price IT Managed Services

shutterstock_163229387More and more, we hear of security breaches that are derailing business’s activities, whether such problems are malicious software (“malware”) designed to grab privacy information from an employee, a computer crash or even a natural disaster such as an earthquake. A data breach can put customers’ personal information in peril, thereby causing embarrassment and even costing steep fines. This is why it is important to hire a reputable IT managed service provider before you need one. Businesses rely on their IT systems to do day-to-day business, and most of the time, things go as they should. But what about when they don’t?

Proactive IT Support is Worry Free

Taking a proactive approach to IT assistance is key. Before you need one, find a reputable IT provider. With your IT provider, draw up a managed service agreement/service level agreement so you know what services they will take care of – remote and local backup, recovering lost and corrupted files, network security updates and even unforeseen computer repairs. Keeping systems up to date will help prevent downtime. Proactive IT support converts the unexpected costs of reactive problem-solving into the more stable, budget-friendly cost of preventive maintenance and support. With fixed-price IT support, there are no surprises that can play havoc with the company’s budget and productivity.

Aligning Your IT Service Delivery Costs With Business Value

By fixing IT Service costs with an IT Managed Service agreement,  your service provider has incentive to proactively ensure everything is working smoothly. Instead of billing by the hour related to problems, a fixed-priced arrangement covers most incidents. It is in the best interest of your IT Managed Service Provider to help you proactively prevent IT problems—it keeps their costs (and stress level) down so they can serve you over the long haul.

Remote Support Saves Time and Money

Many problems can be detected and resolved remotely. In addition, services including malware and antivirus protection, O/S patching and other routine services can occur outside of normal business hours to minimize disruption of your employees. This adds up to fewer problems and more productivity for your business.

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Finding a reputable IT managed service provider and drawing up a service-level agreement, along with a proactive approach, can help prevent potentially costly problems before they start.

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining: Business Benefits of Cloud Computing

shutterstock_128119889Moving to the Cloud is a strategic, business-driven decision. Cloud Computing can offer a range of solutions to help drive business performance. Many businesses are migrating to Cloud Computing already. To ensure you get the most from your investment, you need to be able to determine how cloud solutions can help your business grow revenue, scale, accommodate teleworkers, let you move faster than your competition, and help you make your technology infrastructure costs more predictable.  Read on to gain an understanding of the many business benefits of Cloud Computing.

Cloud Computing Saves on Upfront Costs

Many popular Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions are available on a subscription basis.  You won’t be paying for hardware, systems software, database or other upfront costs.  In most cases these recurring subscription fees move your capital expense to an operating expense.  However, you will need to plan for customization, migration and integration services to make Cloud Services that are robust and dynamic. Cloud Computing Provides a Faster Time to Market

You won’t be waiting on hardware to deliver for your new Cloud Service.  In many cases you can deploy new Cloud Services on demand.  Additionally, your Cloud Service Provider (CSP) is responsible for keeping the systems up to date with the latest updates and upgrades.  SaaS providers can upgrade features and functionality during regularly planned maintenance windows. This keeps your systems up to date with the latest functionality and capability.

The Predictable Cost of Cloud Computing

Monthly subscription services provide business owners a predictable IT expense.  License policies based on number of users, usage and other predictable factors make it easy to plan and budget your Cloud Computing expense.  Because your systems are maintained by a Cloud Service Provider, you won’t need to worry about surprises like systems’ end-of-life scenarios that could add costly hardware, operating system and software upgrade expense.

Cloud Computing offers your company many business benefits, including greater business value and the ability to leverage Cloud Services for business growth and innovation. Contact your Cloud Services Reseller to find out more about the silver lining Cloud Computing has to offer.

Is Your Network Ready for the Cloud?

shutterstock_151484726__smallMoving to the Cloud requires a fast, reliable network to ensure high availability to Cloud applications and their data. Critical systems including Cloud backup, SaaS, VDI, VoIP and other critical systems need consistent broadband access to ensure employee productivity, compliance and keep customer service levels high. This begs the question, is your network ready for the Cloud?

Network Assessment for Cloud Readiness

When moving to the Cloud it is important to understand where you may have points of failure on your network before they happen.  Consider starting with a Network Assessment. By simulating peak loads for voice and data on your network, you can identify weaknesses in a controlled environment. By proactively monitoring your network, you can ping to measure packet loss, latency and uptime; also, you can identify bottlenecks for failure, allowing you to fix problems before they happen. Avoiding unnecessary downtime and/or data loss improves employee productivity and helps ensure compliance.

Maintain Network Security and Compliance for Consistent Computing Access

Malicious attacks, including cyber threats and unauthorized access to your network, will not only expose you to loss of critical data.  They may also degrade your network performance. Unauthorized network use by employees may also consume bandwidth that slows down your network. Unauthorized video streaming and access to unauthorized websites contribute to a slow network.

Upgrade or Improve Network Performance

There are many options to create an affordable wide area network. Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) is an emerging option to create secure, reliable access to your Public or Private Cloud Services. This new technology, which provides centralized management and policy-based enforcement, makes it faster to deploy and easier to manage multiple remote sites.

Depending on your requirements, you may be able to use inexpensive broadband that performs like secure and high-bandwidth Enterprise-grade Wide Area Networking. To find out how, contact your Network Specialist today and ask for a network assessment.

Five Tips on Password Protection

data breach securityShould you care about how your employees protect their personal passwords?  Depending on your password protection policy in the workplace, your employees may create passwords based on familiar passwords they use for personal use.  Cybercriminals often hack personal websites for privacy information, including username and passwords, so they can gain access to internal systems.  Offering tips to your employees on creating strong passwords may help you protect your valuable corporate data.

Passwords are essential for keeping information safe. Since they are a fact of life, we need to know how to keep our systems secure. This takes individual and corporate responsibility.

First, individual responsibility. What best practices can individuals establish to keep login credentials safe?

Start with a Strong Password

Create a strong password, instead of using easy guesses: Though they may be hard to remember, they are also hard for someone else to guess—and hack. Use combinations of capital and lower-case letters; if possible, include numbers and other special characters if your system allows. Numbers can replace letters (3 for “e”, @ for “a”, etc.). Avoid passwords using names of family members, pets, employers or favorite bands. Completely avoid default passwords like “password” or “admin.”

Change Your Passwords Frequently

Just like you change your smoke alarm batteries, you should change passwords even more frequently. According to a 2014 CompTIA Network+ training blog, change passwords every 30, 60 to 90 days or so. Even if a hacker or malicious site (“malware”) gets the old password, that password cannot be used.  Tagging a number to a previous password or using a similar password isn’t safe enough; the new password needs to be substantially different.

Don’t Recycle Passwords

It may seem like a shortcut to have the same password for multiple sites (so you don’t have to remember so many credentials). But if a hacker gets access to the password for one account, they can access multiple accounts.

Don’t Share Your Password

This may seem obvious, but don’t share your password even with people you trust.  When you share a password, you lose control over what happens with the password, yet you are also responsible for the consequences of misuse.

Keep Business and Personal Account Logins Separate

That is, don’t use the same password for online shopping or social media accounts as for a system login at work. Data breaches occur, and if a password for a personal account is the same as for a professional account, a hacker can access confidential information easily and cause damage to more than just one account.

While individuals may know all these guidelines, employers can and should have systems and practices in place to help individuals keep confidential information secure. Here are some ways employers can do this:

Relieve the burden of remembering multiple passwords. At the very least, instruct your workers to store their passwords in an encrypted document that only they can access. Better yet, invest in a password management system that automates strong password generation and update requirements, and manages user permissions. Passwords are stored in secure vaults that are also easily accessible.

Add a step, by using multi-factor authorization. Complex passwords are a good start, but remembering one – let alone many—is challenging. Multi-factor authorization provides a one-time password or PIN through a smartphone, token or fob. Use hand in hand with SSO (single sign-on) to boost productivity and make security even stronger. Workers will spend more time getting work done, and less time trying to remember passwords.

All of these precautions—both individual and corporate—are needed to keep confidential information safe. Individuals can develop strong passwords, and corporate IT departments can implement tools and systems to help them.

Contact your network consultant and IT Security specialist for more information on how you can implement controls to ensure your company passwords are protected.

Is Your Network the Weakest Link for Data Protection?

Data ProtectionData protection isn’t just about reliably backing up your application data and files. It is also important to be able to rapidly restore data in the event of data loss. In addition to natural disasters, cyberthreat and human error drive the need for a solid data protection plan and reliable network performance. There are many aspects to keeping your data protected and your Network in compliance. Here is a short list of considerations:

Networking and Broadband Connectivity

Having a fast, reliable network and broadband connectivity helps you gain access to your online backups for rapid recovery of your application data and files in the event of a data loss. Without a reliable network, your time to recover may go from hours to days. There are many affordable ways to avoid unnecessary downtime, including Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Software Defined Networks (SDN) options for Wide Area Networking (WAN) and connecting to the Cloud. Without reliability your network may be the weakest link in your data protection plan.

Network Security and Compliance

Keeping your network security up to date is a critical component of your data protection plan.  Making sure all endpoints and servers are protected with Antivirus and Anti Malware threat detection with up-to-date threat definitions will help avoid loss of data due to cyberthreat.  Consider routine monitoring of your network to ensure your network is secure. Not only will this help prevent and detect any security breaches, monitoring your network will keep you in compliance with industry regulations including the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a standard for credit card processing.

Employee Awareness of Cyberthreat

According to a 2015 research report, “Trends in IT Security” by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA),  companies see many sources of human error contributing to security threats resulting in loss of data. End-user failure to follow policies and procedures, general carelessness, and failure to get up to speed on new threats, top the list of specific actions that cause problems. Periodic training of your employees will close these knowledge gaps around technology and strengthen your data protection plan.

Network performance is a key element to avoid any unnecessary downtime due to data loss. Having a data protection plan that keeps your network secure and your employees aware of cyberthreat, helps avoid unplanned business interruption due to data loss and data leaks.  If you have concerns about your network and data protection plan, contact your network specialist today.

Migrating to the Cloud – How to Avoid Turbulence

shutterstock_151484726__smallMigrating to the Cloud can be bumpy if you are not prepared. Chances are you have already started migrating to the Cloud. Without realizing it, you may be accessing the Cloud by using mobile and web based applications and services that store and share your data from the Cloud. According to International Data Corporation, (IDC) public IT Cloud services (SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS) spending will reach $127 billion in 2018. The Cloud will outpace the total IT market at a rate of more than five times. With this shift, companies are migrating to the Cloud at a rapid pace, so it is important to plan your Cloud migration to avoid any unnecessary turbulence.

Low Hanging Fruit for Cloud Migration

Many applications lend themselves to Cloud migration. Communications and collaboration applications including Email, Voice and Web conferencing are great places to start your Cloud Migration. The Cloud can offer a secure, reliable and affordable alternative to maintaining these systems on premise. Along with providing additional capability, such as, File Sync and Sharing, previously unavailable from premise based solutions. Many companies have started their Cloud migrations with these subscription services to gain quick benefits from Cloud Computing.

Planning Your Cloud Migration

Moving your applications and their data to the Cloud, along with reliable data protection and online backup, should be carefully planned. First, determine which applications are candidates for Cloud Computing. When moving files, applications and back ups for data protection to the Cloud, consider your data volumes and network bandwidth. When this business infrastructure is in the Cloud you will need reliable connectivity to access critical information.

Maintaining Security in the Cloud

One of the many benefits of Cloud Computing is cross platform access to your applications via mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. If not carefully planned, deployment of these Cloud Solutions may add additional strain on your wireless network. You may also increase your security risks, as mobile devices are susceptible to loss. Ensure you have a security policy for company owned and individually owned devices that access your company network, to mitigate risks of Cloud Migration.

Cloud Computing will provide your company with many benefits including better collaboration and shifting your capital expense to operating expense. Consult your Cloud Services expert to plan your migration and avoid any turbulence along the way.

New Year’s Resolutions for Your IT Systems

shutterstock_326576246Are your IT Systems on the naughty or nice list? Do you proactively monitor your networks for compliance, cyberthreat and performance? Are your data back ups up to date? Have you begun your migration to the Cloud? Are you getting the most from your broadband network? Have you trained your employees on the risks of cybersecurity attacks and do they change their passwords regularly? Here is a list of things to add to your list of New Year’s resolutions for 2016.

Proactive Network Monitoring

Your networks should be periodically monitored to ensure application and operating system (O/S) patches are up to date. In addition, you should maintain your anit-virus definitions and keep your malware threat detection up to date. By doing so, you could prevent an unwanted cybersecurity breach and data loss. Worse, loss of reputation resulting from data leaks or loss.

Beyond Backup

There are a variety of remote back up and data protection solutions to ensure you can recover your systems to keep your business running. It is a good idea to test those backups periodically to ensure you can restore your data quickly. Many older tape backup solutions can be slow and unreliable. What’s more, there are many new file sync and sharing solutions allowing your employees to securely access information anywhere. We put more and more reliance on our applications to run our daily operations, so make sure your data is protected in 2016.

Lift Your Business to the Cloud

Cloud Solutions offer many advantages over premise based systems. Using subscription based services help ensure you are always on the latest version. What’s more, you can shift some of your IT costs from a capital expense (Capex)  to an operating expense (Opex). Starting with migrating email, which is an easy first step, to clean up inboxes, secure and encrypt your communications and take many hassles out of IT. Considering following on with files, applications, single sign on and other IT infrastructure to gain the full benefit of Cloud Computing.

Broadband Network Review

Business class Internet services are as affordable as they have ever been. Consider a telecom expense audit to see if you are getting the most bandwidth for the buck. You may not only save money, you may increase your bandwidth and network performance. With mobile computing, cloud computing and eCommerce on the rise, it is important to get the most from your Broadband network.

Cyber Security Training for Employees

Ensure your employees can identify malware threats, man in the middle attacks, phishing schemes and other Cyber Security hacks. Your employees should have a good understanding of what to do in the event of a data loss (for example lost mobile device) and change their passwords periodically. Your employees are your first line of defense against Cyber Attack, so take the time to remind them of their role in protecting your IT Systems.

This is the time of year to spend with family and friends and reflect on the past, while looking forward to the future. Resolve to be the best you can be in 2016 and ensure your IT Systems are ready for prosperity in the new year.