Tag Archives: Managed Services

The Importance of Maintaining Network Compliance

Network SecurityLast month’s blog provided information about ways to “Avoid Being Held Hostage by Ransomware.” Eight days later, on May 12, 2017, there was a global outbreak of the Wanna Cry Virus. With Cyber Threats on the rise, the importance of maintaining network compliance is top of mind with business owners and IT professionals alike. Industry compliance regulations, including PCI, HIPAA, and SOX, drive best practices in Network Compliance. However, most businesses today rely heavily on their systems to access Cloud Services, Voice, and Data Networks for mission-critical applications that run their business. What can you do to maintain network compliance?

Automate Your Network Administration

Keeping operating systems and network configurations up to date is a top priority for network compliance. Each device that connects to your network needs to have up-to-date operating system security patches, anti-virus definitions, and malware threat prevention in order avoid un- intended intrusion of your network. There are abundant tools and managed services to help your business stay up to date without adding to your internal labor cost.

Proactively Monitor Your Network

Monitor your network to identify any systems that are out of compliance. Proactive monitoring can also identify unauthorized devices connected to your network. You can monitor your network traffic to identify unusual use of network bandwidth. Aside from slowing down your systems, excessive bandwidth may be the result of a malware-infected device that is exploiting your network.

Documenting Your Network Security Controls

Achieving compliance with documented security procedures including password policy, systems maintenance, backup procedures, and compliance measures, is critical to following most industry compliance regulations. It is a  best practice to update these procedures annually. Reviewing your Network Compliance policies gives your business an opportunity to stay up to date and serves as a reminder of the importance of maintaining network compliance.

Contact your Technology Advisor if you have questions about maintaining network compliance or other concerns regarding ransomware and other related Cyber Threats.

What are Managed Services and Why Should I Care?

A managed services provider (MSP) takes on the responsibility for a company’s technology and infrastructure by proactively providing a defined set of IT services for a fixed monthly fee. This approach is preferred by businesses over the traditional Break/Fix services delivered on an hourly rate when needed. By emphasizing high availability and reliability, Managed Services align the MSP’s business model with a company’s business objectives. In contrast, the break/fix model addresses problems when they occur. According to research firm MarketsandMarkets, the global managed‐services market will grow to $193B by 2019, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 12.5%.

Information Technology as a Service

According to the fifth annual Trends in Managed Service published by CompTIA, “The central tenet to the MSP model is a provider-customer relationship based on a contract backed by a service level agreement.” This approach provides IT services similar to other utility models.  Many Managed Service Providers (MSPs) rely on remote monitoring and management technologies to deliver a range of core IT services in a scalable and proactive manner. This approach streamlines the process for proactively identifying and resolving issues with IT infrastructure.  

What to Expect from an MSP

CompTIA research indicates it is common for a managed service provider to include desktop and network management, applications management, and remote help desk in their service level agreements (SLA). Security (including firewall management), server management, storage, network monitoring, Business Continuity/DR, Backup as a service (Cloud Backup), Email, and Virtual desktop are often available as managed services.

Benefits of Managed Services

The managed service approach is favored by business for a variety of reasons. Managed services are typically priced at a fixed cost to the business. This predictability in IT service, versus unexpected costs related to break/fix, give business owners more control of the cost of operations. In many cases, MSPs are able to use remote monitoring and remediation to identify and resolve problems before they impact the business. Many problems can be solved without an onsite visit, dramatically reducing the resolution time. This combination of benefits provides business owners peace of mind.

Today’s businesses rely heavily on their IT infrastructure for communications, collaboration, access to critical applications, and data on premise and in the Cloud. Companies with compliance requirements have greater needs to secure their information with reliable IT infrastructure. Managed Services is a way to increase the availability and reliability of IT systems in a cost-effective manner. If you are considering Managed Services, contact your Technology advisor to see how you will benefit from proactive IT and Network Support.

Business Continuity Essentials

Business ContinuityBusiness owners know there are a number of threats to business continuity. Next to employees, your IT systems and their data may be your most valuable assets. Your business may fall prey to Cyber attack or Data breach. Other factors, including adverse weather, fire, or interruption to utility supply, may also cause business disruption. Can your company recover from a catastrophic data loss? Use this Business Continuity Essentials guide to reduce the risk of downtime:

Business Continuity: Understanding Cost of Downtime

How much data do you need to recover to bring your business back from a disaster? Not all data may be essential immediately. However, some systems–including email–support other mission-critical systems and processes within your company. It is also important to know how long it will take to recover your data. Factor in your employees’ wages, plus overhead and potential loss of revenue, to get a sense of the overall risk of not having a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plan.

Having a Business Continuity Plan May Avoid Violation of Industry Regulations

Depending on your industry, backup and disaster recovery might be the law. Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) makes business continuity and disaster recovery an imperative. Failure to comply could mean fines and even jail time. Other industries, including health services, must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which requires backing up data and making sure it is consistently available, even in a disaster. Understand regulatory requirements placed on your business, to avoid unnecessary consequences of a business interruption and data loss.

Data Protection with Belts and Suspenders

Relying on a local backup is not enough. The risk to your business resulting from a data loss is too high to rely on one backup method alone. Complement your local backup with Cloud Backup to ensure rapid recovery. Offsite archives of tape backups may not recover fast enough to avoid business interruption. It is also important to ensure your network supports a timely backup from a local source as well as from a Cloud backup and recovery system.

Test Your Backup to Ensure Rapid Recovery

Backup is all about recovery. Verifying your backup in a timely manner, and ensuring it actually works, is a critical step in your business continuity and disaster recovery plan. You should verify your backup periodically and check to make sure all data needed is included. By testing the recovery, you can identify any corrupted data along with network bottlenecks to restore your business to full operation.

If you have any questions about your business continuity and disaster recovery plan, contact your trusted technology advisor. If you are uncertain about your cost of downtime, compliance with industry regulations, or your company’s ability to recovery from a disaster, do not delay but seek guidance today.

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.

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.

Can You Survive a Network Security Attack

Businesses are under constant attack from a variety of network security threats.  Cybercriminals hack databases for passwords for unauthorized access to your network.  Undetected Malicious software (malware) can trap and forward passwords. Viruses can infect your hard drive and destroy application data and files without your knowledge. Businesses large and small face these network security threats on a daily basis; larger organizations, however, may have more resources to fight attacks.  Small businesses may be more vulnerable to downtime and loss of productivity because of thinner margins and resources. Here are a few steps you can take to survive a network security attack.

Prevent Network Security Attacks Before they Occur

Protect your network by making sure all devices are in compliance with the latest anti-virus and malware updates. Ensure your operating system (O/S) patches are up to date. Protect your network with strong passwords and require your employees to change them regularly.  Discourage writing passwords down, and make sure employees are aware of the risks of a network security attack.

Lock Down your Mobile Devices

Mobile devices including smartphones and tablets are particularly vulnerable to theft and loss. Passwords on these devices can be easily cracked leaving your applications and data vulnerable to unauthorized access. Train your employees to report theft or loss of mobile devices quickly, and make sure that all data on the device is encrypted.  Having the ability to track and wipe data from these devices is another option to ensure you can survive a network security threat.

Backup Your Data

Online Backup and Cloud Backup are affordable options to have quick access to applications and data if you lose data because of a network security threat.  Additional options include having a failover system to quickly restore your information and get your business back up and running should you have a systems failure.

Compromising your critical information from unauthorized access, virus infection, and loss can be devastating for any business.  It is likely that small businesses have higher exposure and will have greater difficulty recovering from a network security threat. Contact your network security expert to find out your best options to avoid the consequences of a network security threat.

Target Privacy Data Breach: Part 2

Target Retailers were just involved in the second largest credit card data breach in United States history. Today Target announced the data breach that occurred over Thanksgiving weekend now exposes upwards of 70 million credit and debit cards. Target also disclosed the privacy data breach compromised names, addresses, phone numbers or email addresses, in addition to credit card information.  When businesses are victims of a security breach, loss of revenue is often highlighted in the news. What the media often overlooks is the internal costs of remediation, exposure to privacy breach laws and loss of reputation with their customers.

Any Business can be the Target of a Privacy Data Breach

While large companies make the news, many small business owners believe their company is too small to be targeted by cyber criminals resulting in privacy data breach.  According to Verizon Wireless’s 2012 Data Breach Investigation Study, 71% of data breaches occur in companies with fewer than 100 employees.  A privacy data breach can be devastating to a small business. Malware or software used to interrupt a computer’s processing, is a common way of perpetrating these attacks.  Small businesses are often unprepared when it comes to these attacks.

What a Business Owner do to Avoid a Privacy Breach

Action can be taken to protect your small business and your customer’s sensitive information.  First, audit your network regularly. Periodically scan your network for unauthorized computers and devices connected to your network directly or via Wi-Fi.  Also, update any antivirus or malware software regularly. Check your firewall and security settings.  Make sure all your defense mechanisms are up to date and working properly.

It is important to keep a secure network to ensure your customers trust.  By keeping all software up to date and checking systems regularly, you can take steps to protect your privacy data from breach.  Avoid loss of revenue, internal costs of remediation and a tarnished reputation by taking precautions to protect your customers’ privacy data.


Cyber Attack Target

Target Retailers were just involved in the second largest credit card breach in United States history. A cyber security attack occurred over Thanksgiving weekend, which exposed upwards of 40 million credit and debit cards users. Compromised information included credit and debit card information, as well as customer names. When large businesses are victims of a security breach, it often is highlighted in the news. What the media fails to recognize, is the susceptibility of small businesses to cyber attacks.

Small Business are Susceptible to Cyber Attacks

Many small business owners believe their company is too small to be targeted by cyber crime. According to Verizon Wireless’s 2012 Data Breach Investigation Study, 71% of data breaches occur in companies with fewer than 100 employees. An information breach can be devastating to a small business. Malware, or software used to interrupt a computer’s processing, is the most common way of perpetrating these attacks. Small businesses are often unprepared when it comes to these sorts of attacks.

Protecting Data from Cyber Attacks

Action should be taken to protect your small business and your customer’s sensitive information. First, audit your network regularly. Periodically scan your network for unauthorized computers and devices connected to your network directly or via Wi-Fi. Also, update any antivirus or malware software regularly. Also check your firewall and security settings. Make sure all your defense mechanisms are up to date and working properly.  It is also important that all employee are trained on your policies and procedures for avoiding malware and identifying phishing schemes.

It is important to keep a secure network to ensure your customers trust. By keeping all software up to date and checking systems regularly, you can minimize the risk of cyber attack and help protect your sensitive information.

Why Small Businesses Need Technology

Technology has become an integral part of most small businesses.  Email has replaced the fax machine.  An onslaught of mobile devices have replaced cash registers, binders and note pads.  Pencil and paper no longer keep up with the velocity of business today.  In order to attract new customers and deliver products and services at competitive prices, small business technology is the cornerstone to automation and profitability.

Cloud computing, mobility and consumerization of IT make it affordable for small businesses to deploy systems that were once reserved for large scale enterprise.  With ready access to small businesses technology, there is also more reliance on these core systems.  Small businesses are also targets of cyber attack because they may be perceived as more vulnerable and less vigilant.  Also, small businesses may be less resilient to business disruption related to systems failure.  Accordingly, Small Businesses should take every precaution to protect applications and their data.  They should also properly assess their risks and exposure to ensure they get the most from their small business IT Budgets.

What can small businesses do to make sure these systems support the ongoing operations with minimal interruption?

Small Business Technology Inventory

A good place to start is to take inventory of your systems and data.  It is good policy to document all of your IT assets including hardware, networking devices, application software and data so you can have a complete view of your IT Systems.  Make sure you include mobile devices, cloud computing or software as a service (SaaS) systems, as well as, custom applications and legacy systems.

Small Business Technology Risk Assessment

Once you have your IT Asset inventory, rank the importance of each of these critical systems.  Ask yourself: how long can your email be down, what about your account or order processing system, where do you keep your customer data and other information that is critical to your business?

Now that you know where your critical IT assets are, focus on where your risk and exposure may be.  You can ask what data may be vulnerable to cyber attack, is my network secure, are my critical systems running on obsolete hardware, which systems may be vulnerable to failure.  If possible, try and quantify the costs of any of these outages in terms of loss of revenue, cost of remediation, loss of employee productivity, loss of company reputation, legal fees and other costs.

By focusing your attention to the areas of greatest exposure, you can get a sense where you need to allocate your IT spending.  As many small business owners are planning out budgets for next year, now is a good time to perform an IT Risk Assessment.  If you need help with assessing where your small business technology exposure may be, contact your IT service and support professional.


Getting More From Your IT in 2013

Getting More From Your IT in 2013

There are plenty of ways to get more from your IT budget in 2013. Mobility, remote support and cloud backup are a few technologies that will make your budget go farther. Let’s explore a few ways you can leverage these emerging trends to get more from your IT infrastructure.


Mobility is a rapidly growing trend. Most analysts agree there will be as many shipments for mobile devices (e.g. smart phones and tablets) as there are for PC desktops, laptops and servers shipped in 2013. With more emphasis on mobility, companies need to address the security issues around lost or stolen devices.

Mobile devices may have access to critical business applications or have corporate data resided on the smartphone or tablet. Companies may be subject to data leaks if these mobile assets are lost or stolen. If you have unintended disclosure of privacy information related to employees, customers or suppliers, you may be subject to fines due to breach of industry (e.g. PCI Compliance) or regulatory requirements (e.g. HIPAA). You may also lose goodwill with customers if you suffer a data loss. A data loss could also impact sales. By protecting these mobile devices with a proper mobility strategy, you can avoid the costs associated with a data leak. As they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

Remote Support

Many companies have turned to remote support models to monitor and manage their network environment. By remotely monitoring and managing your network and related IT assets, your IT Service Provider may be able to fix your IT costs by providing comprehensive IT support and IT services delivered remotely.

Secure remote support is an important element for delivering an IT Managed Service. In addition to remote support, many IT Service Providers offer remote network monitoring, managed backup and managed security in their IT Managed Service offerings. By adopting the Managed Service Model your IT Service Provider can proactively manage all of your IT needs.

Because services are delivered proactively, as compared to when things are broken or need to be fixed, you can move from a time-and-materials model to a fixed-cost model. This means lower downtime, higher availability and predictable IT costs for your business.

Cloud Backup

Many companies have already turned to the cloud to access enterprise class infrastructure that they may have been beyond their reach in the past. Cloud backup may provide your company with a cost effective and secure way for you to backup your critical application data and other files you need to protect in the event of a disaster recovery scenario. By leveraging secure cloud backup, your data will be available when you need it, to bring your business back online.

Some Cloud backup solutions also offer cloud sharing. This means you can have access to your cloud storage from multiple devices across the internet. By using Cloud backup technologies for cloud sharing you can access files and data from a PC, laptop, smartphone or tablet via the cloud. You can boost your employee productivity by accessing your data when you need it from where you need it.

All of these technologies have the ability to save you time and allow you to get more for your money. However, they all need proper planning to ensure your implementation of these technologies is secure and reliable. Reach out to your IT Service Provider for assistance, as appropriate ,to ensure you get the most from your IT budget in 2013.