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James Berger

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Best Practices for Building a High Availability Cloud Architecture

By | Cloud

The critical nature of today’s cloud workloads has made choosing the right cloud architecture more important than ever. To reduce the potential for system failures and hold downtime to a minimum, building your cloud environment on high availability architecture is a smart approach, particularly for critical business applications and workloads.

High availability is a design approach that configures modules, components, and services within a system in a way that helps ensure optimal reliability and performance, even under high workload demands. To ensure your design meets the requirements of a high availability system, its components and supporting infrastructure should be strategically designed and thoroughly tested.

While high availability can provide improved reliability it typically comes at a higher cost. Therefore, you must consider whether the increased resilience and improved reliability is worth the larger investment that goes along with it. Choosing the right design approach can be a tedious process and often involves tradeoffs and careful balancing of competing priorities to achieve the required performance.

Although there are no hard rules of implementing a high availability cloud architecture, there are several best practice measures that can help ensure you reap maximum return on your infrastructure investment.

 

Load balancing:

Modern cloud designs allow for the automated balancing of workloads across multiple servers, networks or clusters. More efficient workload distribution helps optimize resources and increases application availability. When instances of server failure are detected, workloads are automatically redistributed to servers or other resources that continue to operate. Load balancing not only helps improve availability, but it helps provide incremental scalability and supports increased levels of fault tolerance. With network load balancers installed in front of servers or applications, traffic or users will be routed to multiple servers, improving performance by splitting the workload across all available servers.  The load balancer will analyze certain parameters before distributing the load, checking the applications that need to be served, as well as the status of your corporate network. Some load balancers will also check the health of your servers, using specific algorithms to find the best server for a particular workload.

 

Clustering:

Should a system failure occur, clustering can provide instant failover capabilities by summoning resources from additional servers. If the primary server fails, a secondary server takes over. High availability clusters include several nodes that exchange data using shared memory grids. The upshot is that should any node be shut down or disconnected from the network, the remaining cluster will continue operation―as long as one node is fully functioning. Individual nodes can be upgraded as needed and reintegrated while the cluster continues to run. The additional cost of implementing extra hardware to build a cluster can be offset by creating a virtualized cluster that uses the available hardware resources. For best results, deploy clustered servers that both share storage and applications, and can take over for one another if one fails. These cluster servers are aware of each other’s status, often sending updates back and forth to ensure all systems and components are online.

 

Failover:

Failover is a method of operational backup where the functions of a component are assumed by a secondary system or component in the event of a failure or unexpected downtime. In the event of a business disruption, tasks are offloaded automatically to a standby system so the process remains seamless for end-users. Cloud-based environments offer highly reliable failback capabilities. Workload transfers and backup restoration is also faster than traditional disaster recovery methods. After problems at the initial site or primary server are solved, the application and workloads can be transferred back to the original location or primary system. Conventional recovery techniques typically take longer as the migration uses physical servers deployed in a separate location. Depending on the volume of data you are backing up, you might consider migrating your data in a phased approach. While backup and failover processes are often automated in cloud-based systems, you still want to regularly test the operation on specific network sites to ensure critical production data is not impacted or corrupted.

 

Redundancy:

Redundancy helps ensure you can recover critical information at any given time, regardless of the type of event or how the data was lost. Redundancy is achieved through a combination of hardware and/or software with the goal of ensuring continuous operation in the event of a failure or catastrophic event. Should a primary component fail for any reason, the secondary systems are already online and take over seamlessly. Examples of redundant components include multiple cooling or power modules within a server or a secondary network switch ready to take over if the primary switch falters. A cloud environment can provide a level of redundancy that would be cost-prohibitive to create with on-premises infrastructure. This redundancy is achieved through additional hardware and data center infrastructure equipped with multiple fail-safe measures. In the case of geographic redundancy, multiple servers are deployed at geographically distinct sites. By capitalizing on specialized services and economies of scale, cloud solutions can provide much simpler and cost-efficient backup capabilities than on-premises systems.

 

Backup and recovery:

Thanks to its virtualization capabilities, cloud computing takes a wholly different approach to disaster recovery. With infrastructure encapsulated into a single software or virtual server bundle, when a disaster occurs, the virtual server can be easily duplicated or backed up to a separate data center and quickly loaded onto a virtual host. This can substantially cut recovery time compared to traditional (physical hardware) methods where servers are loaded with the application software and operating system and updated to the last configuration before restoring the data. For many businesses, cloud-based disaster recovery offers the only viable solution for helping to ensure business continuity and long-term survival.

 

Business continuity:

Even with the best high availability practices and architecture in place, IT-related emergencies and system failures can strike at any moment. That’s why it’s vital to have a well-designed business continuity plan in place as part of your cloud strategy. Your business continuity and recovery plan should be well-documented and regularly tested regularly to help ensure its viability when confronting unplanned interruptions. In-house training on recovery practices will help improve internal technical skills in designing, deploying, and maintaining high availability architectures while well-defined security policies can help curb incidences of system outages due to security breaches. Additional practices involve defining the roles and responsibilities of support staff. If you must failover to a secondary data center, how will you effectively manage your cloud environment? Will your staff be able to work remotely if the primary office or data center location is compromised? In addition to the hardware and infrastructure, the fundamental business continuity logistics and procedures are an important part of your high availability cloud design.

 

 

Building a Solid Cloud Foundation

Cloud environments have helped make high availability and disaster recovery designs supremely efficient compared to traditional methods. Despite many highly publicized examples of security breaches and system failures, many organizations effectively run critical workloads in the cloud when they are built on the right architecture and employ the appropriate management tools.

While high availability techniques can help improve uptime and aid in recovery, it’s important to maintain and test your systems and processes on a regular basis. It’s better to uncover any issues early on rather than have them emerge during a crisis. Determine what needs to be corrected and continue to test the processes until they are perfected.

While putting together all the pieces in place to achieve a highly available cloud environment can be complex and time-consuming, the effort will pay dividends far beyond the initial investment.

 

 

 

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Gaining an Edge with Effective Virtualization Management  

By | Cloud, IT Support

Virtualization offers businesses a supremely agile infrastructure framework that allows services and applications to be deployed quickly and efficiently for greater competitive advantage. Not surprisingly, virtualization continues to grow in popularity due to its ease of scalability and its ability to reduce the need for dedicated infrastructure.

 

As businesses move toward more on-demand services, many are recognizing ―and capitalizing―on the benefits of virtualized infrastructure. Built-in abstraction capabilities inherent with virtualization allow you to manage servers, storage and other computing resources in pools no matter where they are physically located. The result: lower operating costs, increased application flexibility, and better resource optimization.

 

Although organizations can gain quick value by upgrading a single component or area of infrastructure, more substantial benefits can be gained by implementing a more comprehensive approach across an array of applications, devices and systems.  But like any technology deployment, the convenience enabled by virtualization doesn’t negate the need to effectively manage the underlying infrastructure.

 

While many businesses are leveraging the advantages of virtualization, some are not fully capitalizing on its potential. One challenge is the accelerated rate of technology advancements. An additional obstacle is a lack of planning and along with poor management practices.   

 

Businesses often launch virtualization projects in a disorganized, haphazard fashion. Over time, virtual servers begin to propagate throughout the infrastructure while IT struggles to manage two distinct environments―the virtual and the physical.  

 

Effective Planning

Every virtualization project has its own set of advantages and limitations. While resource optimization is important, transitioning to virtualized infrastructure is about choosing what is best for the enterprise―not entirely about reducing costs. Creating a purpose-focused strategy should be a chief priority. 

You can implement the optimum plan for your present needs, but your results will fall short of expectations if you don’t integrate flexibility and agility into your approach. Virtualized and cloud environments are evolving rapidly, therefore, it’s important to design and build virtual environments that can scale and adapt  to meet changing priorities and evolving business needs.   

 

At the core of an effective virtualization plan is gaining a clear understanding of the requirements and capabilities of your existing infrastructure. This requires evaluating your workloads and applications, where hardware and software components are installed, the amount of resources they require, and their role and function in supporting your business objectives. 

 

Inventory Tracking

Gaining clear insight into your current infrastructure and how it’s configured and used will provide a framework for determining the optimum approach forward. One you’ve transitioned to a virtual environment, you’ll also want to conduct a thorough inventory your virtual infrastructure, as well as a running inventory, which requires updating and recording changes in every instance. It’s difficult to effectively monitor performance and execute troubleshooting without a clear inventory of the infrastructure you currently have in place.  

 

Technology planning should take into account the present, along with the future, so it’s important to build hybrid scenarios into your virtualized deployments. Your virtualized infrastructure should be able to scale up and down as necessary, reduce administrative costs, and eliminate vendor lock-in.  

 

In planning your virtualized approach, it’s important to look beyond the potential cost savings and make decisions in the context of an actual business case. That means carefully considering your goals, computing needs, resources, and many other factors. It’s complicated, and often involves trade-offs with significant strategic impact.  

 

Management Tools

While virtualization can help boost business performance, navigating and implementing the right management approach isn’t always easy. Virtualization adds complexity at multiple points in your IT infrastructure, which can complicate troubleshooting compared to physical environments.

Consolidating resources and applications across a virtualized environment requires the migration and movement of workloads. This is where automated software tools can play a vital role, helping to balance capacity demands, avoid bottlenecks, and optimize performance.  In addition to easing the burden of your IT staff by eliminating a multitude of manual tasks, virtualization management software helps simplify a number of processes such as conducting inventory checks and analyzing virtual server correlations. 

 

Customizable, interactive dashboards display performance metric and reveal how virtual machines are mapped to their associated storage, host, and related components, which allows you to quickly identify and resolve any underlying cause of performance issues. You can also review and track storage performance, including parameters related to hardware condition, historical operating data, and configuration updates.

 

The right virtualization management tool can help simplify resource administration, enhance data analyses, and optimize capacity. Capacity planning entails looking at the baseline performance and needs of your system to determine where you might experience spikes in need, and where you might need more (or fewer) virtual servers or VMs. 

 

With effective capacity planning and testing, you can shore up your system against bottlenecks and other performance problems. When issues occur, you will be equipped to troubleshoot the problem and identify the root cause.  

 

Each management tool is different, but most will allow you to effectively monitor virtual infrastructure, compile reports, assign resources, and automatically enforce rules. Some systems are even compatible across different software and hardware brands—allowing you to select the management tool that is best suited for your environment.

 

Security safeguards

Data protection and security are chief considerations in virtualized deployments, particularly in regulated environments. Safeguarding systems and processes needs to be carefully balanced against long-term business goals and objectives.  

Leveraging virtualization’s full potential requires a careful, balanced approach, taking into consideration cost savings advantages, performance requirements, and potential risk factors. Although virtual machines can offer users a practical, more convenient experience, it’s critical to carefully control user access to applications and data. 

 

The more access points and connections there are to a single device, the greater the potential for data to be compromised, lost or stolen. The challenge is creating policies that provide an optimum balance between flexibility and security. Ultimately you want to provide users with a certain level of infrastructure control while making sure virtualized benefits do not compromise defined security controls.

Although virtualization can help improve and strengthen data protection efforts, an IT security disaster can hit at any time. That’s why it’s critical to have a disaster recovery plan in place to help make sure your business can continue to operate, meet compliance mandates, and minimize business disruption and downtime.  

One advantage of virtualization is its ability to help streamline data backup and recovery. For optimum results, consider working with an expert consultant who can help you develop a disaster recovery and business continuity strategy that protects assets and defends against ongoing threats. The consultant will assess your security needs and determine an optimum balance of storing your most sensitive data on more secure infrastructure, providing an extra layer of protection.

 

 

Building a Solid Virtualization Framework

Virtualization offers substantial business advantages. By abstracting and encapsulating applications from physical hardware, you create virtual machines that are simpler to manage, easier to move and scale, and can be quickly implemented on physical hardware. Nevertheless, with virtualized technology, you still have a new set of infrastructure management challenges, including hardware configuration and server proliferation.

 

Making the right decisions about how to best leverage virtualized infrastructure can be confusing. It often involves tradeoffs with significant strategic impact. Your best bet: Don’t go it alone. Work with an experienced virtualization expert whose core focus is on improving your technology and optimizing your return on investment. By outsourcing ongoing support tasks to a trusted partner, you can focus on more strategic activities with greater peace of mind knowing that your virtualized systems and processes are running smoothly and efficiently.

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Reaping the Benefits of Proactive Data Protection

By | Data Protection, IT Support, Security

The rapid proliferation of digital technologies offers businesses vast potential for expansion and innovation, but it also creates a host of new security risks. As the growth in the number of connected devices continues to accelerate, one major challenge is determining the optimum level of security for certain types of data. Some assets require minimal protection while others may need more robust security measures.

Data breaches represent the most immediate need for effective enterprise data protection. Better protection means better compliance and reduced monetary losses and less risk of reputational damage. Improved security processes are also critical for emerging business priorities, including digital transformation, regulatory compliance, and privacy and reporting requirements.

While building an effective data protection strategy can be challenging, the effort can deliver immense business value on multiple levels. A robust data protection and privacy plan can help build and maintain stronger customer relationships, enhance brand value, and reduce the potential for non-compliance and its associated penalties. Whether through a targeted attack or an internal security lapse, businesses are at risk for potentially crippling loss of revenue through a single data breach.

Building a strong security foundation requires advanced tools and technology and an organizational culture that not only protects data and minimizes risk, but helps improve business agility, responsiveness, and transparency. It starts with a detailed assessment of your IT infrastructure and overall security requirements.

 

  • Assessment: First, it’s essential that you build a solid understanding of your data, including how it is stored, how it is accessed, how critical it is to your business, and the potential risks if were lost or stolen. What types of data are most vital to your business? What is the level of confidentiality of the data you manage? What are your current methods of storage and will this change in the future? What are the protocols for data access? This insight will provide the framework for defining your security requirements and shaping a solution that strikes an optimum balance between data control, protection and access flexibility.
  • Controls: The next step is to implement higher-level controls. These are enterprise data protection and security tools that will help protect data when it’s being accessed or used. Strong access control and user authentication methods help ensure only approved users can obtain access to your networks and data. Encryption is also critical to safeguard data and provide additional reinforcement barriers to network-based attacks.
  • Monitoring: At the center of a proactive strategy is the ability to record events and execute actions based on those activities. This is where ongoing monitoring can help, providing important insights that can help safeguards against gaps in application and perimeter defenses by notifying you of issues before any serious damage occurs. Automated monitoring tools track data access and usage details and provide important insight into areas of risk and vulnerability, helping to improve the likelihood that a potential intrusion will be quickly identified.

 

Implementing the right technology is critical, but it’s not the whole solution. The users who interface with IT systems must also be educated and instructed in how to perform their tasks. And, the policies and procedures that define the actions must be properly designed and consistently enforced.

While there is no silver bullet to protect against all threats, new techniques and innovative approaches to blocking malware and securing endpoints can help safeguard your digital assets without hampering productivity or mobility.  Following some proven best practice measures can help protect against a barrage of new and emerging threats.

 

  • Strengthen access controls: Once an access point is compromised, attackers will often reuse the password to gain access to other systems. Authentication will help obstruct these attempts no matter how the hacker gains access to the password.
  • Utilize encryption: Encryption helps safeguards information in transit and on the endpoint devices, preventing attackers from copying or transferring that data. For even greater protection, consider full-disk encryption, which it encrypts the complete hard drive, safeguarding the data as well as the applications and operating system.
  • Tighten controls: Application controls can help prevent prohibited users from launching or downloading applications on endpoint devices. They also help shield the network from possible security threats with their ability to block departing employees from access to critical business systems and applications.
  • Use proactive scanning. Vulnerability scans provide reports on detected gaps in security and recommendations for security patches or vendor solutions. These reports describe the types of risks found and a potential cause for each area of vulnerability.
  • Ensure business continuity. In the event of a disaster or security breach, you need to be able to recover quickly. Work with a qualified security expert to assess your current environment and develop a disaster recovery plan that safeguards infrastructure and data and protects against ongoing threats
  • Monitor lifecycles. Network monitoring tools can help confirm the health of software and firmware throughout system startup, operation and during sensitive upgrade periods. Software updates and security patches should be delivered automatically by default.
  • Implement advanced threat detection. Advanced detection techniques, including machine learning and analytical tools, can help identify irregularities and weaknesses in ways that aren’t possible with traditional network security These tools analyze that data in real time to correlate events and spot individual anomalies or patterns of behavior that may indicate a security breach.
  • Define policies and procedures. Usage policies define what behaviors are and aren’t acceptable. Work with your internal team to define and implement policies and practices based on your usage preferences and requirements or mandates specific to your particular market.

As cybersecurity becomes more complex, many organizations lack the resources or knowledge they need to mount an effective defense. That’s where working with an experienced security expert can play a vital role, helping you define your business requirements, identify data priorities, and implement a security framework that aligns with your business goals.

The good news is that with the right mix of defensive measures, smart policies and sound technology planning, achieving a secure IT environment is possible. Establishing a secure and well-protected IT environment in today’s world requires a proactive approach—assessing vulnerabilities, updating technology and security defenses, and monitoring for vulnerabilities.

This is where additional proactive measures can prove critical, providing reinforcing layers of defense as part of a comprehensive security strategy.

 

  • Create a culture in which people talk about security, and make security a clear priority. Teach users about secure online practices such as how to recognize potential threats and phishing attempt. Check their security awareness with in-house hacking attempts and interactive security activities.
  • Simplify and streamline security with solutions that consolidate authentication, encryption and advanced threat protection into a single security suite. Compared with point tools, these integrated systems require a fraction of the IT resources required to maintain effective threat protection.
  • Deploy updated anti-malware to help prevent malicious software such as ransomware and viruses from sneaking into your network, and make sure your anti-malware software is consistently updated with the latest definitions.
  • Keeping patches current―make sure your practices include automated patching to help enforce policies and keep systems up to date and enforced with the latest software patching.

 

  • Make backups of all your data and software on a storage device that is not attached to your network or computer. Confirm that all your backups are operating properly and test them on a regular basis to make sure they will perform when you need them.

Cybercriminals are constantly looking for new ways to break through your defenses, which reinforces the need to create a strong culture of security knowledge, awareness and responsiveness.

Every IT environment is different, and hackers are constantly refining their techniques. Therefore, it’s imperative that you stay up to date on the latest techniques and remain diligent in your effort to shield your business and safeguard your infrastructure from today’s relentless barrage of cyberattacks.

A comprehensive data protection and regulatory compliance strategy is no longer a flexible option, but rather a must-have plan for businesses of all sizes. Although building an effective IT security framework is a long-term process, businesses cannot afford to wait. Plans are being developed today, and proactive organizations are already taking action now to help ensure their IT environment is ready to safely and securely support the rapid proliferation of connected infrastructure and devices.

Organization’s Cybersecurity Strategy.

Undeniable Proof That You Need to Improve Your Organization’s Cybersecurity Strategy

By | Security

Are you a new chief information security officer (CISO) or other senior cybersecurity officers in the process of evaluating your organization to determine if effective cybersecurity strategies exist? You undoubtedly are aware that a comprehensive cybersecurity plan will provide your organization with the best protection. However, the decision to improve cybersecurity measures requires resources that likely require the approval of the decisionmakers in the organization. While these individuals understand the importance of cybersecurity, they are careful about funding it without having sufficient proof.

The following are five security issues that can make your organization vulnerable to cybersecurity problems. These issues are considered serious and should make a good case for improving your organization’s cybersecurity situation.

  1. There are no threat detection or response systems in place.
  2. Employees use public networks to access company information.
  3. There is no data governance.
  4. High-priority assets aren’t protected.
  5. Employees aren’t provided security guidelines.

1. There are no threat detection or response systems in place.

The best cybersecurity defense for an organization is to see threats coming in and prevent them from unleashing a malicious attack. If your organization doesn’t have systems in place to monitor your network traffic for suspicious activity and react accordingly, you are in a vulnerable position. The really bad news about cyber threats is not that they can infiltrate your network, but that they can infiltrate your network and hang around to continuously wreak havoc on your network. This is important. Just one cyber attack can change a business forever. The good news is there are a variety of measures you can take to detect unauthorized intruders and deal with them appropriately.

There are several methods of detecting and preventing threats that range in cost and complexity. Organizations typically use a combination of the following:

  • Anti-virus/malware software – These basic solutions are easily deployed on all devices in an organization and can detect known viruses/malware. You can also specify settings for your needs. You usually have access to logs that you can use to investigate an issue further or determine if there is a developing trend.
  • Firewall – If employees in your organization connect to the Internet, a firewall is one of the best methods of protection. This system works like anti-virus/malware software but is specifically designed to monitor your network traffic and prevent suspicious and malicious activity. You should install a firewall on work devices that employees use to work remotely.
  • Intrusion detection system (IDS) – This system provides an advanced form of network monitoring. It is highly configurable to allow you to specify the level of monitoring, detection, and response your organization requires. This type of system usually offers a lot visibility into the activity on your network so that you can dynamically make changes, if necessary.
  • Endpoint detection and response (EDR) – This system works like an IDS, except it is designed for endpoints.

2. Employees use public networks to access company information.

Public Wi-Fi is a convenient tool when an employee must work outside your organization and the (hopefully) protected network. However, these public networks are often unsecure. While the manager of a public Wi-Fi can add security features, there is no guarantee. A case in point is the WeWork security breach. This breach involved the commercial real estate company’s Wi-Fi that was reported by a tech savvy customer in 2015 as being unsecure and exposing personal information, including financial documents from an insurance company, belonging to users. Four years after that initial report, it was determined that the Wi-Fi remained unchanged. Scans of the Wi-Fi traffic were analyzed, and it was determined that nearly 700 computer systems had accessed the public network and a large amount of data was exposed.

If employees in your organization must use a public network, share with them the following security tips from GlobalSign, a trusted identity and security solution provider:

  • Double check you’re accessing the correct network
  • Install antivirus software on your system
  • Enable firewall protection on your system
  • Disable file sharing on your system
  • Use a virtual private network (VPN) or limit your visits to websites that are encrypted (use HTTPS)

3. There is no data governance.

Wikipedia defines data governance as a “data management concept concerning the capability that enables an organization to ensure that high data quality exists throughout the complete lifecycle of the data, and data controls are implemented that support business objectives.” In terms of cybersecurity, this refers to performing an assessment of your organization’s data to obtain a thorough understanding of security risks to develop appropriate security solutions. Data governance is an important exercise for you because only when you have a thorough understanding of your data are you able to develop effective cybersecurity strategies.

An real-life example that shows the importance of data governance is the Equifax 2017 data breach, which is considered one of the worst data breaches of all time. This cyberattack involved a cybercriminal gaining access to Equifax servers and extracting the personal information for more than 145 million consumers. They were able to exploit a vulnerability that Equifax had overlooked, set up an encrypt channel, and run 9000 queries to obtain the personal information they desired.

Developing security policies can be an exhausting task, especially when you are starting from a weak cybersecurity position. The process consists of assessing your current situation and devising a security plan that covers all the assets in your organization. A popular model that organizations follow is referred to as CIA Triad. This model is based on three principles:

  • Confidentiality
  • Integrity
  • Availability

According to the CIA Triad, all data is susceptible to cyber threats based on or more of the above principles. When you evaluate your data assets using these three principles, you can better map out effective cybersecurity strategies.

4. High-priority assets aren’t protected.

A significant part of establishing data governance is prioritizing your organization’s assets. Although all the assets in your organization are important, some have greater value than others. All the assets in your organization should be assigned a priority. This includes software, hardware, and accounts. Understand that you’re not just creating a list. As mentioned in the discussion about data governance, you need to understand the risks that are associated with your critical data and determine the best strategy to mitigate those risks. Depending on the core industry in which your organization belongs, there may be compliance regulations that you must adhere to protect your critical assets, as well as employee and customer personal information.

In addition to limiting the users who have access, protecting your most critical assets should involve the following:

  • Implementing two-factor password authentication
  • Using complex, unique passwords and change them often
  • Using encryption to protect the data as it travels in and out of your network
  • Applying security patches immediately
  • Setting up automatic backups and save in a location that is separate from other assets
  • When not in use, storing critical hardware in a secure location
  • Installing monitoring, detection, and recovery software on the systems that access critical data

5. Employees aren’t provided security guidelines.

The prevalence of cyberattacks headlining news articles might lead you to think that the employees in your organization are knowledgeable about basic security measures they should employ when handling the organization’s data.  Symantec’s 2019 Internet Security Threat Report indicates this is unfortunately not the case. According to their report, spear-phishing emails (malicious emails that appear from trustworthy contacts) were the most common method of attack. Cybercriminals are likely targeting an area where they are most successful.

There are also numerous cyberattacks that demonstrate the importance of training employees about cybersecurity and the role they play to keep your organization’s critical data safe. An example is the 2018-2019 data breach of the bodybuilding.com website. The staff members of the online fitness shop received a phishing email, but it only took the action of one who clicked a link in the email to create an opening for a malicious attack that consisted of the cybercriminal accessing personal customer information. It reportedly took eight months for the company to learn about the attack.

Training programs are a great method for teaching employees the following security best practices:

  • Use strong passwords
  • Change passwords often
  • Avoid phishing and other scams
  • Never leave company assets unattended
  • Shun using public networks to access company data

Final Thoughts

If you’ve learned that one or more of the serious security problems listed above apply to your organization, your next step should be to share your findings with the decisionmakers in your organization and obtain their buy-in to implement policies to improve the security outlook of the organization. It’s a daunting task that you shouldn’t handle on your own. BACS is an IT company that specializes in developing effective cybersecurity solutions for companies of all sizes and across a wide variety of industries. Their expertise covers the spectrum of cybersecurity, which allows them to satisfy the specific needs of their clients.

Contact Us for a FREE Security Assessment

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Data Backup and Recovery: Reaping the Benefits of the Cloud

By | Business Continuity, Cloud, IT Support

While some data loss is inevitable, how you respond to a data breach or business disruption can have a significant impact on your bottom line, or even your survival. With security threats coming from all directions―from malicious code and hackers to natural disasters―data loss is not a matter of if, but when.

Although most companies and their IT departments are aware of the risks, few make an effort to implement disaster recovery until it’s too late. With cyberattacks and internal security failures becoming more commonplace, companies are increasingly turning to disaster recovery in the cloud.

Data protection and recovery capabilities weigh heavily in cloud planning decisions, particularly in regulated environments. While it’s important to safeguard systems and infrastructure against unauthorized access or malicious threats, at the same time, it’s essential to balance these risks with the unique goals and long term objectives of your business.

The fundamental goal of disaster recovery is to reduce the impact of data loss or security breach on business performance. Cloud-based disaster recovery offers an effective way to do just that. In case of a data breach or loss, vital workloads can be failed over to a recovery site to enable business operations to resume. As soon as data is restored, you can fall back from the cloud and re-establish your applications and infrastructure to their original condition ―reducing downtime and minimizing disruption.

Disaster recovery in the cloud offers a particularly attractive option for small and mid-sized businesses that often lack sufficient budget or resources to build and maintain their own disaster recovery site.

 

Gaining a performance advantage

Compared to traditional methods, cloud computing disaster recovery is relatively straightforward to configure and manage. It can eliminate many hours of time moving backup data from tape drives or on-premises servers to recover following a disaster. Automated cloud processes help ensure rapid and trouble-free data recovery.

With the right configuration and a reliable provider, cloud-based disaster recovery can deliver a number of important benefits:

• Fast recovery

Thanks to its virtualization capabilities, cloud computing takes a wholly different approach to disaster recovery. With infrastructure encapsulated into a single software or virtual server bundle, when a disaster occurs, the virtual server can be easily duplicated or backed up to a separate data center and quickly loaded onto a virtual host. This can substantially cut recovery time compared to traditional (physical hardware) methods where servers are loaded with the application software and operating system and updated to the last configuration before restoring the data. For many businesses, cloud-based disaster recovery offers the only viable solution for helping to ensure business continuity and long-term survival.

• Cost savings

One of the biggest advantages of cloud-based data recovery over standard techniques is its lower cost. Traditional data backup requires deploying physical servers at a separate location, which can be expensive. Cloud configurations, however, enable you to outsource the amount of hardware and software you need while paying only for the resources you use. Without capital costs to worry about, the “pay-as-you-need” model helps keep your total cost of ownership low. You can also eliminate the need to store volumes of backup tapes that could be cumbersome and time consuming to access during an emergency. Smaller business can select a service plan that suits their budget. Managing the data doesn’t require hiring extra IT staff. Your service provider manages the technical details and tasks, allowing your team to focus on other priorities.

 

• Scalability

Relying on the cloud for your disaster recovery provides substantial operational flexibility advantages, allowing you to easily scale your capacity as workloads shift and business needs change. Instead of locking yourself into a certain amount of storage for a specific timeframe and stressing about whether you are exceeding those limits, you can scale your capacity as needed, with assurance that your recovery processes will meet your requirements. Cloud backup provides a high level of scalability, with the ability to easily add whatever capacity you need. As your business grows, your backup systems can scale along with them. You simply adjust your service plan from your provider and request additional resources as your needs shift.

 

• Security.

Despite the security concerns of cloud infrastructure, implementing a cloud-based disaster recovery plan is quite safe and reliable with the right service provider. Most providers offer comparable, if not better security protection than many on-premises environments. Still, in the area of disaster recovery and business continuity, there is little room for error. Be sure to perform your due diligence and ask the difficult questions when evaluating the provider who will be backing up your critical business data.

 

• Redundant capabilities.

A cloud environment can provide a level of redundancy that would be cost prohibitive to create with on-premises infrastructure. This redundancy is achieved through additional hardware and data center infrastructure equipped with multiple fail-safe measures. By capitalizing on specialized services and economies of scale, cloud solutions can provide much simpler and cost efficient backup capabilities than on-premises systems. Redundancy helps ensure you can recover critical information at any given time, regardless of type of event or how the data was lost. This redundancy extends to other cloud components from power to connectivity to hosts and storage.

• Reliability.

In terms of vital business data, cloud-based data recovery offers a highly reliable failback and business continuity solution. In the event of a business disruption, workloads are shifted automatically to a separate location and resumed from there. The failover process helps ensure maximum data availability. After the problems at the initial site are solved, the applications and workloads can be transferred back to original location. It also enables faster backup restoration than traditional disaster recovery methods. Workload transfer and failover require only a few minutes. Conventional recovery techniques typically take longer as the migration uses physical servers deployed in a separate location. You might also decide to migrate your data in a phase approach, depending on the volume of data you are backing. While backup and failover processes are often automated in cloud-based systems, you still want to regularly test the operation on specific network sites to ensure critical production data is not impacted or corrupted in any way.

 

Building an effective backup and recovery strategy

Most businesses today are benefitting from the inherent efficiency advantages of cloud infrastructure of and its ability to help scale resources, and optimize assets and improve backup and recovery performance. As market demands fluctuate and businesses seek greater agility, cloud-based recovery is expected to continue to expand across industry sectors.

While there is no magic blueprint for the perfect back up and recovery configuration, a good first step is making sure you have implemented failover measures for all your connected devices. A common point of entry of many attacks is through outdated firmware on connected devices. Therefore, you’ll want to make you’re your devices and networks are hardened effectively equipped to protect against cyberattacks.

At the heart of any good disaster recovery plan is a guiding document that defines specific procedures and processes to be carried out in event of a disaster. This detailed action plan factors in multiple scenarios with defined steps to mitigate the impact of an event and enables critical business systems and processes to be recovered and restored quickly and efficiently.

After identifying and prioritizing the data and applications and you’ve defined your recovery time objectives, your business can establish a solid foundation for a cloud-based disaster recovery solution.

Depending on the extent of your need and availability of resources, closing the gaps between business needs and disaster recovery capabilities can be an extended, protracted process. No matter how long it takes, the effort to create a solid, well-crafted plan will pay dividends far beyond the initial investment.

Managed IT services - IT security services

Managed Security Service Providers – Choosing The Right IT Security Vendor

By | IT Support, Security

As more and more employees are working from home in today’s environment, creating a secure network for a multitude of vulnerable devices is more vital than ever. Many businesses are turning to managed security service providers in order to handle all of their cybersecurity operations. There are thousands of managed security service providers on the market who promise the world. 

 

How can you know who is for real and who is fake?

Business owners may believe that every managed security provider more or less provides the same service. That statement could not be further from the truth. IT security vendors offer different packages, products, and services. Those without a background in IT will have difficulty discerning one managed security provider from another. They will not be able to properly vet their offerings and may end up choosing a vendor who is not the right fit. 

Thankfully, we are here to show you exactly what you should be looking for when choosing the right IT security vendor. These are some of the most basic criteria and questions to ask when reaching out to managed service security providers. 

 

Experience in Your Industry

There are vastly different cybersecurity regulations and considerations depending on the industry. For example, the healthcare industry has to deal with complex HIPPA laws. Your company does not want an MSSP that specializes in the banking industry if you have to deal with confidential patient information. Finding an MSSP with vast experience in your industry will give you confidence that they can meet your needs. But, some IT security vendors may be tempted to lie about their experience to get your business. 

 

Get references from other companies in your industry.

The vendor that you should be considering should be able to provide plenty of references to other companies that they have worked with. Testimonials are great, but speaking directly to another company will give you peace of mind. If they are doing a great job with another company in your industry, you will have the confidence to choose them as your MSSP. 

Additionally, your company needs a managed security provider that will be able to cater to your individual needs. 

 

A Customized Solution for Your Needs

A one-size-fits-all solution is not going to cut it in today’s world. Hackers are becoming more sophisticated by the day and are working to break down today’s cybersecurity solutions. Your security needs are different from nearly every other company’s. A big red flag would be a pitch about a generic solution. Their team likely does not understand your needs and are attempting to put a bandaid on a bullet wound. 

 

What are they going to do for your company? 

Good, honest communication will go a long way in creating a relationship that works for both you and your vendor. The right IT security vendor will be honest with you and your company. They should be able to showcase how they are going to add value to your company and outline the steps they are going to take. This will be a customized solution that will cater to your specific needs. 

What is their Plan When Something Goes Wrong?

We all want to believe that a managed security service provider will be able to defend against 100% of all cybersecurity attacks. But in reality, there will likely be a time when your company has been compromised by hackers. When that happens, your managed security service provider should have a customized plan of attack for your company. 

Here are a few questions you should ask when reaching out to potential vendors:

  • What is their plan and how detailed is it?
  • Are they transparent? 
  • Do they have a team dedicated to dealing with breaches? 
  • How do we prevent the issue from happening again going forward?

Mistakes are bound to happen. Learning from them and taking actionable steps to prevent them from happening again separates good MSSPs from great MSSPs. 

 

A Long-Term Relationship

Your company needs a long-term relationship with a managed service security provider. The worst thing that could happen is you choose an IT security vendor and they end up going out of business within a few months. This would lead to a massive headache for your company. You will have to start the vendor vetting process all over again and it will make the transition to the next MSSP even more difficult. Do not be afraid to ask for assurances that your vendor will be around for years to come. 

 

This is a partnership

You are partnering with an IT security vendor, this is more than just purchasing a tool from a company. Your MSSP is responsible for protecting your data, network, customers, and your staff. This needs to be clear to all parties involved. You and your MSSP need to work together in order to achieve the goals of your business. Your MSSP will be right by your side as your business continues to grow and your needs change. 

 

BACS is the Right IT Security Vendor

We create a tailored solution for your organization that will meet all of your specific needs.  We will gladly provide references to our happy customers who we have worked with for years. Our team will handle any cybersecurity crisis in a timely manner, so you can get back to running your business. If we are not the best fit for your company, we will happily recommend another MSSP who will be able to better service your business. 

 

Reach out to BACS today to learn more about how we can keep you and your business safe. Our team is dedicated to adhering to the highest cybersecurity standards and providing your team with the tools to keep your data safe and secure. 

Contact Us for a FREE Security Assessment

Virtual-Network-for-Employees-to-Work-Remotely

Ten Critical Facts Business Owners Must Know When Installing a Virtual Network for Employees to Work Remotely

By | IT Support, Work Remotely

Since working from home and virtual workplaces is becoming increasingly common, employees are doing what needs to be done from pretty much every corner of the world. Virtualization permits organizations to simulate different conventional equipment bits, such as servers, storage gadgets, or networks.

Here are the crucial facts business owners should be aware of when looking for an IT consultant to set up a virtual network for workers to work remotely.

 

1. Find an expert with prior experience and excellent client references setting up remote access networks

The cost to solve problems made by beginners is a lot higher than the initial expense to get it right the first time with an expert. It’s almost always a better decision to pay some extra initial costs to take care of business the right way.

 

 

2. Ensure who you hire performs a thorough assessment in advance

If your advisor doesn’t demand an intensive assessment before giving you a proposal, do not recruit that vendor! If they don’t have a clear and thorough understanding of your needs and your current setup, they could sell you an inappropriate solution.

 

 

3. Make sure the work includes training for you and your employees

Numerous IT consultants are incredible at installing the technology yet miss the mark when training you and your employees on utilizing the technology you recently purchased.

The significance of training employees is essential. Training doesn’t only show that your organization needs everybody to be on the same wavelength; it also demonstrates your responsibility to help your employees succeed. Carrying out training the correct way can help you meet business objectives and enhance staff satisfaction while saving time and money.

 

 

 

4. Demand a guarantee of help desk support

Dealing with the growing technology demands of remote employees isn’t simple for any business, and it very well may be particularly challenging for small companies.

One of the main attractions of working off-site is the ability to work on weekends or for late hours. That reality implies you need somebody to be available to be on-call during those hours if your staff has technical issues signing in or getting into the system.

 

 

 

5. Ensure who you hire is responsible for maintaining the system

Virtual office systems need to be well taken care of to ensure they work appropriately and remain secure. It is crucial to hire someone ready to carry out routine checkups and updates of your system, typically under a maintenance service plan.

Consistent monitoring makes problems all the more effectively preventable, and the appropriate design of warnings can ensure that significant issues be distinguished and settled even before they intrude on daily business tasks.

 

 

6. Find a professional who can manage both the telephone and the virtual network system

If you need your telecommuting staff to have the option to make and get calls as if they are in the workplace to the caller, search for somebody who can configure your telephone framework to work with your remote worker’s home telephone or mobile phone.

 

 

 

7. Ensure your advisor is willing and ready to be a seller connection for your particular business applications or various exclusive applications

It’s stunning how many fundamental applications work fine inside the workplace setting, yet jam or shutdown when connected to a remote area. It’s imperative to guarantee your IT specialist to be capable and ready to confirm your applications will work proficiently remotely, implying they may need to call the help desk of at least one of your product vendors. A few consultants don’t provide this level of administration or charge additionally for it.

 

 

8. Find a consultant who can establish a worker monitoring and content filtering system

If your group is new to telecommuting, there’s probably going to be a transition period. When monitoring software is effective, it helps keep up productivity, maintains security, and is a useful instrument for telling supervisors which employees need additional help in acclimating to new work strategies.

Consider the size of your business when choosing a content filtering program. Have it be consistent and straightforward, and communicate its function and purpose to your staff.

 

 

9. Consider setting up a VPN connection

Some free, open Wi-Fi systems are not safe. That implies a hacker could, without much effort, intercept the data you send over an open network, together with your passwords and banking data. Using a VPN makes it possible to connect to the system safely whenever you are working remotely. A VPN and keeps your staff from open systems and diminishes the chances of hackers targeting your organization. Setting up a VPN for employees to use when working off-site can be a quick, simple, and successful security framework. Make sure you teach every employee how to use the VPN when connecting to the system.

 

 

10. Educate employees on the best security practices to avoid cyber-attacks.

Mistakes made by the end-user are regularly the greatest danger to the security of your system. Regardless of whether somebody installs a malware, unintentionally erases a key folder or document, visits obscure sites, or offers classified data, end-clients are ordinarily at the foundation of each PC issue.

Much of the time, these activities are not purposeful, yet the impact of viruses is the same regardless of whether the download was intentional or unintentional.

Spam is a peril every business faces. Despite killing office effectiveness and presenting viruses and Trojan attacks, spam can occupy enough capacity to crash your system. Luckily, a decent email filter might be all you need.

Regular training on appropriate email, device, and Internet usage, together with routine support and monitoring of your essential information and system, are the best way to prevent cyber-attacks.

 

Benefits-of-cloud-computing

Reaping the Benefits of Cloud Computing

By | Cloud

Businesses seeking greater operational flexibility are finding the cloud to be an increasingly attractive solution due to its flexible deployment options and its ability to help reduce the need for costly dedicated infrastructure. That is especially true for small and mid-size businesses, which often require reliable, high-performance computing infrastructure but are hampered by limited IT budgets that prohibit a large in-house data center.

Not surprisingly, cloud adoption is on the rise. According to Gartner, by 2021, over 75 percent of midsize and large organizations will have adopted a multi-cloud and/or hybrid IT strategy.

Like with any technology investment, there are certain risks that come along with the benefits of cloud computing. Mitigating those risks requires a careful, pragmatic approach, factoring in core business needs, risk elements, performance requirements, and budget constraints.

Essential to developing a smart cloud strategy is understanding the capabilities and requirements of your current IT environment. This means identifying the types of workloads your run and anticipated shifts in capacity demands and resources.

With diligent planning and the right approach, you can reap a number of performance and efficiency benefits from the cloud, including:

 

  • Cost efficiency. One attractive benefit of the cloud is its potential to reduce costs over the long term. By relying on cloud infrastructure, you reduce capital costs associated with purchasing hardware, equipment, and building space. You simply choose the amount of capacity you need and pay on a month-to-month basis. With responsibility for operating, maintaining, and updating the infrastructure delegated to an outside provider, overhead costs are kept to a minimum. Meanwhile, your business can preserve its in-house talent and resources for more strategic business priorities.
  • Rapid scalability. Changes in local IT networks and infrastructure can require substantial in-house development and testing, adding to your cost every time your needs change―even if it’s only temporary. With cloud-based solutions, your business can scale capacity up or down quickly to meet shifting demands. Flexible deployment models help accelerate time to market, providing greater workload elasticity to match available resources while minimizing cost. One appealing attribute of the cloud is its ease of scaling, allowing you to meet changing workload requirements and only paying for the capacity you use. Automated load balancing can help achieve scalability on-demand while workflow management tools can monitor application performance to help prevent disruptions that could impact users.

 

  • Disaster recovery. Cloud-based infrastructure is flexibly configured to enable rapid data recovery in the event of a natural disaster or malicious attack―from power outages to a security breach. To help ensure reliable data access and recovery, cloud providers frequently distribute their backups among multiple data center sites in different locations. This multi-site data redundancy allows cloud providers to deliver a highly reliable recovery solution. The ability to access your data and recover your operations quickly can minimize downtime and help ensure ongoing business continuity.

Cloud Services

  • Efficient collaboration. Cloud environments help support collaboration by allowing multiple teams in disparate locations to share files in real-time and work together more efficiently from anywhere in the world. You can give contractors, employees and third parties working on a project access to the same files while maintaining control over which documents can be edited, viewed and shared. With cloud’s flexible computing models you can easily share records with your accountants or other business advisers. More flexible collaboration and work practices also allow you to more easily transition your hiring to offer remote positions, helping to reduce office size and expand the reach of your potential applicant pool.

 

  • Reliable performance. While cloud infrastructure has a lot of moving parts to manage and maintain, it actually has a solid track record for reliable performance. Because their livelihood depends on providing reliable, trouble-free infrastructure, cloud providers are diligent in the effort to make their services efficient and bug-free. In many cases, their data centers are more reliable than your on-premises infrastructure. In fact, whenever an issue arises, your cloud provider is likely already working on a solution. If this were your on-premises equipment, you would have to alert your IT team and schedule a repair. Cloud infrastructure can also help with loss prevention. With your data stored in the cloud, that data remains accessible and available. Even if something happens to your end device, such as a lost or stolen notebook or PC, your data remains accessible from any computer with an internet connection.

 

  • Document control. Cloud provides superb visibility and control over your data. With document control capabilities, you can determine which users have access to your data and the level they are granted. You retain control but also are able to streamline work flow since team members can readily see what documents are authorized to them. Since one version of the document can be worked on by different people, and there’s no need to have copies of the same document in circulation. Cloud computing also allows you to easily pick out which documents can be edited, viewed and shared by which users.

 

  • Enhanced security. A data breach or ransomware attack can prove devastating to your company’s finances and reputation. Cloud offers a number of advanced security features that can help safeguard against data loss. Cloud providers implement a number of baseline protections such as authentication, access control, and encryption that help prevent attackers from gaining access to critical business applications and data. Cloud providers are also more diligent about conducting regular security audits than most on-premises infrastructure environments. Safeguarding systems and assets against rising threats is crucial, but levels of protection should be carefully balanced against your unique business objectives.

 

  • Improved productivity. One major advantage of cloud computing is the potential for improved productivity and efficiency. On-premises IT teams are often short-staffed and resource-limited, which can hamper their ability to respond to employee demands and IT issues in a timely manner. Cloud computing can give your employees immediate access to advanced tools and resources to perform their best work without the drag of outdated technology. Employees can quickly access the latest productivity tools like file sharing, instant messaging, web conferencing, and live streaming in the office or remotely, helping to accelerate performance on a more consistent basis. Cloud resources can be easily stored, accessed, and recovered with just a few clicks. In addition, all system updates and upgrades are performed automatically, off-site by the cloud provider, saving time and effort, and reducing the workload demand on your internal IT team.

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Gaining a performance advantage

Cloud strategies can vary greatly from one business to the next, depending on workload demands, security and compliance needs, and existing IT capabilities and resources. For optimum results, begin with the long-term vision. Consider the level of performance and functionality you need your cloud environment to have; your internal resources and budget constraints; and the existing infrastructure you have in place and how you plan to manage it.

As businesses move toward more on-demand resources, many are capitalizing on flexible cloud infrastructures that can adapt and scale to meet shifting market demands and fast-changing business needs. Whether you’re looking to make an initial move to the cloud or planning a major shift in strategy, the cloud provides a solid technology framework that enables you to launch applications quickly, efficiently, and securely.

A cloud environment provides computing resources where you need them with minimal business disruption―keeping your operation running around the clock. While designing and implementing an efficient, high-performance cloud environment can be time-intensive, when deployed correctly, the effort will pay dividends far beyond the initial investment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Premise vs Cloud

Choosing the Best IT Approach: On-Premises vs. Cloud

By | Cloud

As organizations upgrade and expand their IT infrastructure, one key decision they must make is whether to keep their data infrastructure on-premises or move it to the cloud. It’s a decision that can have lasting implications in their ongoing effort to balance operational flexibility and efficiency with the need for greater data control and security.

Determining the right IT approach can be confusing and often involves tradeoffs and balancing competing priorities to deliver the business impact you desire. Whether you choose to move your applications to a cloud environment or decide to keep them on-premises, data protection and security will always be a top priority.

Along with the security component, a number of other critical issues factor into the equation. Some advantages may outweigh the disadvantages. Some shortcomings may be too significant to ignore. The future-readiness of your business and making sure your decisions align with your core business goals are what matter most. With that in mind, here’s a review of some of the pros and cons of on-premises versus cloud solutions.

On-Premises―Key Advantages

• Tighter control. Keeping your servers, software and other dedicated equipment on-site gives you tighter control of your data and how it can be accessed. You also have more flexibility to upgrade or customize infrastructure and applications to meet shifting business needs―without relying on the responsiveness or competence of a third-party provider. With your servers and storage on-site, you know where your data is and can set your maintenance schedules according to workflow demands. With a deep knowledge of your IT environment, your internal team can work closely with users to deliver personalized support and are better equipped to identify and solve issues quickly and efficiently.

• Enhanced security. Unlike cloud storage, access to an on-premises system is restricted to authorized personnel. For businesses that operate in regulated industries, like financial services, it is vital that they stay compliant with regulatory mandates and know who has access to their data and where it is at any given time. Banks, government agencies and other private institutions whose primary concern is data security and consumer privacy often need the enhanced protection and control that an on-premises environment enables.

• Reliable access. One important upside of on-premises infrastructure is its use of an internal network that enables anytime access, which eliminates the need for users to have an internet connection to access data. Internet speed also becomes a non-issue since on-premises systems can operate without it. In a properly configured on-premises environment, access to applications and resources is quick and inherently reliable.

On-Premises―Key Disadvantages

• Cost. Installing on-premises infrastructure requires a substantial capital investment in storage, servers and other hardware to get the operation running. For businesses just starting out, this amount of capital expense can often be a deal-breaker. Along with the upfront costs, you’ll need to ensure the infrastructure is properly installed and maintained. Since you are relying on your internal resources to troubleshoot and solve problems, you may need a larger IT team. This would require hiring additional staff or reallocating existing IT resources to infrastructure maintenance and support. This extra support can increase your long-term costs and reduce overall IT efficiency.
• Potential for data loss. Having your data in one place is convenient, but if disaster strikes, you can lose it―which could be crippling to your business and its reputation. With on-premises infrastructure, a breach or compromise of your system through a malicious attack like ransomware could result in permanent data loss. While backup capabilities are common in cloud-based systems, on-premises environments typically rely on an on-site server to store all data, significantly elevating your level of risk. One way to mitigate this risk is to implement a backup service offsite that reproduces your data to different media or another site.

• Limited scalability. When purchasing storage and server infrastructure, you get exactly what you purchase. If you don’t use all of it, it’s a sunk cost. If your business experiences dramatic shifts in workload demands, it becomes more challenging to quickly scale on-premises infrastructure. Unlike cloud deployments where you can simply opt for a larger capacity plan, on-premises solutions require more hardware and more manpower to install and maintain the new infrastructure. Plus, on-site hardware and equipment consume physical space, so you’ll need to make sure you have sufficient real estate to grow and add more equipment if needed.

Cloud―Key Advantages

• Cost Efficiency. Without the need to purchase, install, and maintain equipment on-site, moving to the cloud can help eliminate capital expenses. This allows you to pay on an as-needed basis, typically on a monthly subscription. Since your cloud storage is hosted by an outside provider, your IT staff is relieved of the routine tasks of installing new software patches and other updates, freeing them to focus on more strategic priorities. The server and storage features can be adjusted to meet your budget demands. You only pay for the resources you use, without the maintenance and upkeep costs.

• Scalability. Cloud-based infrastructure is designed to scale, making it easy to add new server and storage capacity on-demand. Need more processing power or extra storage space? Simply update your plan with the capacity you need. Unlike on-site servers that require the installation of additional hardware, cloud-based servers allow you to scale up your computing power as needed without having to purchase more equipment. This puts you in a better position to accommodate temporary spikes in traffic or build-out capacity for permanent increases in workloads.

• Redundant capabilities. A cloud environment can provide a level of redundancy that would be cost-prohibitive to create with on-premises infrastructure. This redundancy is achieved through additional hardware and data center infrastructure equipped with multiple fail-safe measures. By capitalizing on specialized services and economies of scale, cloud solutions can provide much simpler and cost-efficient backup capabilities than on-premises systems. Redundancy helps ensure you can recover critical information at any given time, regardless of type of event or how the data was lost. This redundancy extends to other cloud components from power to connectivity to hosts and storage.

Cloud―Key Disadvantages

• Control. Cloud operation and management functions are mostly outside your control, which can be a positive if you lack the necessary in-house capabilities. But when issues arise, your only choice is to work with your cloud provider’s support team. In the event of a security breach, the onus is on the service provider to resolve the issue, but the potential impact and consequences rest with you. While you retain control over your applications, data and services, you don’t have the same level of control over the backend infrastructure. The scope of service and the degree of responsiveness you receive from your cloud provider depends on what you agreed to in your SLA. Therefore, make sure you understand the details of your service agreement; particularly concerning the infrastructure and services you’re going to use and how that will impact your business reliability and performance.

• Security. Storing critical business data and files with an external provider always presents certain risks. While cloud providers are expected to implement the best security standards and comply with industry certifications, it’s your responsibility to carefully weigh all the risk scenarios. You’ll want to inquire about security procedures and data encryption practices. While your cloud provider may take extra precautions, you many need additional security measures such as firewalls and access controls, to further protect your data.

• Access. Potential downtime and unreliable access to your data is a major concern when considering a move to the cloud. Since cloud systems are internet-based, a reliable, high-speed internet connection is crucial. If your connection is slow or unreliable, accessing or downloading files can be a frustrating experience. Though internet reliability has improved in recent years, you’ll want to ensure you have complete confidence in your connection before moving files to the cloud. For critical workloads, you might want to consider implementing a redundant internet. Service outages are always a possibility and can occur at any time. If your organization has a low tolerance for downtime, you may want to consider multi-availability zones with your infrastructure, or even multi-region deployments with automated failover to help ensure optimum business continuity.

Align Your Strategy with Your Business Goals

Every cloud deployment has its own unique capabilities and limitations. Although agility and cost savings are vital, moving to the cloud is more about deciding what is best for the organization―not exclusively about reducing costs. Creating a purposed-focused, business-aligned cloud approach should be your top priority.

While the cloud offers a multitude of potential advantages, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea to move all your workloads completely to a cloud environment. In fact, one of cloud’s most appealing attributes is that it doesn’t require a complete all-or-nothing decision.

Cloud strategies continue to evolve, and many cloud deployments are already shifting to a hybrid approach. As that proportion continues to shift, organizations must design and build infrastructures that can easily scale and adapt to shifting business needs and application demands.

signs your computer may have malware or a virus

Surefire Signs You’re Infected With Spyware, Malware, and Viruses

By | Business Continuity, IT Support, Security, Technology

On average, there is a hacker attack every 39 seconds. Unfortunately, hackers hide malicious programs, and there are no visible signs that your device is infected. Once your device is compromised, you need to take action right away to prevent additional harm.

Signs Your Computer Is Infected

Does it seem like your computer has slowed down? Does it crash frequently? If your computer has been acting differently, there may be a reason why. After malware infects a device, you may notice pop-up ads or speed issues.

The most common signs of infection are:

  • You get pop-up ads all of the time for no apparent reason.
  • Your home page has switched on its own, and you are unable to change its settings.
  • You may also have new toolbars that you never created.
  • Unexplained files appeared on your computer.
  • You noticed that your email account sent emails, but you did not send them.
  • Your desktop files have been deleted or moved.
  • The icons on your toolbars or desktop have disappeared.
  • A second or third browser opened up behind your primary browser window, but you did not open them.
  • You get runtime errors when you use Outlook Express or MS Outlook.
  • Your computer crashes frequently or is unstable. It may be sluggish if it is infected.

The previous signs are indications that there is a problem with your computer. You will need a professional technician to help you remove it and to be aware of the common misconceptions about hackers and malicious programs.

The Four Most Common Misconceptions

1. You Can Easily Remove Malicious Programs

Unfortunately, spyware and viruses can be difficult to remove. On very few occasions, you might be able to remove malicious programs using a free download. Still, in many cases, malicious programs cannot be detected or eliminated using these software programs since hackers embed them deeply in the operating system. When this happens, you need the help of an experienced professional to detect and remove the program.

In extreme instances, the only solution is to wipe the hard disk completely. To do this, the technician must delete every file before installing the operating system all over again. Eliminating all of your data is never the first option, but it may be your only choice. Some malicious programs are so crafty and complex that the only way to get rid of them is by deleting everything.

2. My Computer Is the Problem

When someone suffers from viruses, they often blame their computer. They think that the computer would not have a problem if it were more expensive or better made. In reality, most malicious programs happen because of human error, getting onto a device because of the user.

You or one of your employees could have unknowingly clicked on the wrong link or downloaded a malicious file. Do not blame yourself too much, though. Cybercriminals are talented at making malicious programs look like innocent files. They make their malicious programs seem like ordinary activities you do all the time, which is why you feel comfortable clicking on them.

Some downloads may look innocent, but they could have spyware. For instance, your employee may download a software program that ages their pictures or gives them new emoticons. While these programs seem innocent, they could include malicious code. As soon as your employee downloads one of these programs, the malicious program can infect your entire network.

Avoid downloading any free program you find online. Avoid screen savers and enhanced browsers, and carefully read through the terms and conditions before you download an application. Often, the terms and conditions will specifically include clauses that allow the software vendor to install malicious programs on your device. It would help if you also stop your employees from downloading any online applications.

Unfortunately, your computer can be infected through other techniques as well. For example, you should regularly update your current programs. Each program has security patches that prevent hackers from accessing your computer. If you do not get these patches, then hackers may be able to access your device when you accidentally click on a banner ad or email attachment.

Security patches are incredibly important because hackers are always creating new ways to access devices. For example, some hackers discovered how to install malicious programs using Internet Explorer without requiring any clicks or downloads. The malicious program would install on your computer, even if you didn’t click on anything. Making sure your computer has all of Microsoft’s latest updates and patches to prevent this kind of attack.

If you want to protect your personal information and device, you should avoid peer-to-peer file sharing. Hackers and cybercriminals love these sites, so they are full of malicious programs. In many cases, the source of a company’s malicious attack is a peer-to-peer site.

3. Maintenance Is Unnecessary—My Computer Works Fine.

Even if your computer seems to be working fine right now, it still needs to be appropriately maintained. Think of a computer like a car. You have to change the oil and replace the brakes regularly if you want to avoid spending more money and time on repair costs later.

With a computer, there are maintenance checks you need to do daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly. For example, spam filtering and virus updates should occur daily. A spyware sweep and system backups should take place every week. Meanwhile, defragmenting your disk and updating your security patches should be done every month or quarter.

A good technician will tell you about the regular maintenance you need to do to your computer. Your technician should offer to do things like configuring automatic system backups, spam filtering, and virus definition updates. To be protected, these system backups must be stored away from your company so that your backups are safe from natural disasters.

If the technician you’re working with does not offer to do regular maintenance, find someone else. Routine maintenance prevents significant repair costs later on, and the lack of it is one of the top reasons why people have high repair bills and lose important files.

There are only two reasons why a technician will not perform routine maintenance. In some cases, the technician is inexperienced and does not know what they are doing. Some technicians do not want to do maintenance work because they know that they will make more money from repairing problems. Both of these reasons are signs that you should find a different vendor.

4. Microsoft’s Operating System Offers All of the Protection I Need

It seems intuitive that a computer would sell with everything you need to use it. Sadly, this is not the case. Microsoft does not equip its devices with all of the security features they need. If you do not protect your computer, you will be vulnerable to viruses, data loss, and cybercriminals.

Protecting your device requires a multi-faceted approach. No one vendor is capable of providing every single security feature you need. It is crucial to find an experienced technician you trust to get the protection you need.