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Creating a Secure Remote Workforce

By | Business Continuity, Data Protection, managed It services, Productivity, Security, Technology, Work Remotely

In a few brief years, organizations of all sizes have been driven to redeploy their workforce from office to home or some hybrid solution. To suggest this was a deliberate move from corporate leaders would be false. Instead, the harried move has been in response to an unexpected world pandemic.

No one is sure if the remote workforce may grow into a stable fixture, a shift back to the office, or a home/office combination. No matter the case, a solid security solution must invariably be maintained as a central priority. 

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Technologies Protecting the Home Worker

Even though the pandemic rages on, some corporations have signaled they may never go back to an in-office work atmosphere. A few companies are considering a hybrid solution, while others have called their employees back to the office permanently.

Current Technologies in Place, Protecting the Home Workforce:

  • Zero Trust has been a part of the networked system for some time. However, with recent developments, the zero-trust policy is being forced to take on a more substantial role. The Zero Trust model is a secure remote application based on a defined set of login rules for employees and devices to the network. Non-compliant devices are either quarantined or rejected out-right.
  • SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) is a method for wide-area networking and security. SASE is Cloud Service which bundles security, network, and policy functions, sending the information back to the source as a separate cloud service.
  • Identity Access Management is a broad framework of technologies and practices that ensures the right users access the appropriate resources.

Enterprise security foundations are being built on the three legacy technologies. However, more cyber-attacks are coming. Keeping home workers safe and company data secure means businesses must look at cyber-security issues from start to finish. One of the initial elements of a healthy plan is a Policy Statement.

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Policy

Taking employees out of their work situation and moving to an unstructured home/office environment is imposing for anyone. The first component a company must provide is a Cyber Work from Home Policy. The key to this document is setting the right expectations.

A work from home policy document must create an infrastructure to protect the worker from every intrusion.  The policy must seek to mitigate the dangers of such a radical move.  With the proper preparation, a policy can keep your team connected, safe, and rewarded.

A sound Policy Statement should empower your employees. Consider the following:

  • Trust: A Work from home worker must be fully invested in the company’s success. With the correct type of trust, an employee will go above and beyond what they are called on to accomplish. A company must establish a higher level of trust to cement the engagement bond.
  • More Time: The average American commute is 52 minutes a day. Policy statements need to point to this extra time and direct the employee to their families or themselves, rather than more work.
  • Focused Work: Office distractions are eliminated when working from home. Your team should be encouraged to schedule tasks that require an intense focus on certain days of the week.
  • Absenteeism and Lateness: Office norms are no longer an issue with a home/work environment. However, time is a premium, and home employees must be instructed to use that time productively.
  • WellRounded: Work from home employees must be encouraged to cultivate a complete family and life environment. Take time for passion projects and family hobbies. Well-rounded employees perform better at work.

It is essential to define the scope and purpose of the policy. Too short on procedure and employees may get stuck with making up their own rules. Too long, and no one will read or pay attention to the document.

Expectation is a vital part of a remote workforce. Employees must understand what is expected of them without being overly demanding. Responsibility plays a vital role.  Each person in the organization needs to understand security is a priority for everyone. If there is a problem, there should be procedures in place to fix the issues.  

 

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Authentication

Multi-factor authentication is must-have security feature for any business and specifically those with a burgeoning remote workforce.  Vulnerabilities are everywhere. Recently it was discovered hackers were rerouting  SMS messages from 2FA apps and diverting money directly from bank records.

The following five authenticator applications are for the distributed enterprise:

  • Duo Mobile is used for corporate networks and is a part of Cisco. Enterprise features such as multi-user deployment, provisioning, and one-tap authentication. Back-up is to Google Drive and iCloud.
  • Google Authenticator is a no-frills basic authenticator app. Google seems content for Users to employ Android as its two Factor Authentication. Potential users may wish to have additional apps to fall back on.  However, this is a great authenticator.
  •  Last Pass is a comprehensive authenticator with full integration with its password manager.  Installation is a breeze, and users can quickly authorize the app with the push of a button. The Last Pass Vault is extremely helpful when moving the account to a new phone. Seamless operation between mobile and the desktop.
  •  Microsoft Authenticator works with the entire Microsoft ecosystem. A complete set of authentication tools are available for desktop and mobile. Pin or biometric logins are available. Sync the system with your primary Microsoft account to use the full capabilities.
  • Twilio Authy offers several advanced two-factor authentication features. First and foremost, it is their encrypted backup to Google drive that makes the app unique. The app makes abundant use of encryption across its platform, with encrypted logins.

Advanced authenticator apps generate time-based codes that refresh every 30 seconds. Hackers may gain access but will not work after the time code expires. Each of the apps above is exceptional for a distributed enterprise.

Do you want cloud solutions, but you are not sure which ones will help your remote workforce best? Then download our guide that covers the questions you need to know before migrating to a cloud. If you have more questions after you read our download, then contact us!

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Remote Access Software

Remote Access Software is ideal for specialized functions within the remote workforce. Remote Access apps and Desktop software allow users to access a computer in a remote location anywhere in the world as if they were sitting at the screen.

Some Remote Access software is designed for personal use, while alternatives are strictly for the enterprise.  Smartphone apps can be designed to access desktop systems.

Software and Apps for the Remote Workforce

Nothing is as fundamental to the security of a remote workforce as the software and apps used for an efficient worker. Proper design and the unique demands of the remote worker are paramount in shaping the applications needed for the enterprise.

Password Managers

In a world of multiple access to various business and personal accounts, password managers rise to the top of a critical needs list. It is crucial to have an authority system everyone is comfortable handling. Do not force an operation on employees!

Here are five good managers:

  • Nord-Pass is an attractive application with outstanding encryption features. Support for seven browsers, chat, and a data breach scanner makes the Nord-Pass an interesting choice.
  • Enpass combines a minimalist look and maximum security. Cloud host and SQL cipher for added security.
  • ZOHO Vault is a well-known application with valuable elements for a distributed network. A built-in VPN and a deep web scanner are useful quality-added factors.
  • Passbolt is an open-source application developed for the enterprise. Plenty of transparency and customization options are available.
  • Keeper supports various devices and browsers and comes with 5G of storage—a feature-rich app with instant messaging.

Advanced Password Technologies

Automated password management is coming into its own. The widespread endorsement of artificial intelligence and, specifically, machine learning have fostered many unique facets of password technologies.

Automated password reset tools are enterprise applications needed to automatically reset a host of new account passwords without human intervention. Many small businesses are implementing these tools for security and convenience.

Password Vault Technology is an earlier approach that is experiencing new technologies. A password vault keeps an infinite number of passwords and account data in a secure digital location. A single master password is required to access the vault.  

Management tools for the enterprise use several security layers to ward off internal and external threats from stealing login credentials. Many of these centralized management strategies are now cloud-based and heavily encrypted for the ultimate remote security.

Password Vaulting is a coined phrase that takes highly sensitive executive accounts and passwords out of the control of company IT personnel. The vault is digitally secured in locations known exclusively to a few in the enterprise.

Risk, Threats, and Solutions for the Enterprise

Statistics that illustrate the breadth of cyber-attacks are overwhelming. In the first quarter of 2021, strikes against Fortinet’s SSL-VPN were up an astonishing 1.916%. Another popular VPN service, Pulse Connect Secure VPN, encountered a 1,527% hike in assaults.

VPNs are separate networks within a public network where users send and receive data as if their machines were directly connected. VPNs are now encrypting data as it leaves the device, and any IP address is suppressed. Remote servers secure network activity by storing data remotely.

Companies are using all the communication tools at their disposal to secure connections for their hybrid workers. The Remote Desktop Protocol is another mechanism that is experiencing rising attacks.  Developed by Microsoft,  the RDP establishes a graphical link to another computer. Attacks on RDPs are seeing the same proportion increase of intrusions.

Modern Solutions

Companies are progressing beyond the traditional VPN services to a more protected environment. A recent survey of global leaders found that 40% of all respondents are planning a move to the ZTNA/SDP protocol. In comparison, 38% expressed the need for a more robust multi-factor authentication model.

The ZTNA/SDP is a zero-trust architecture based on a defined credential networking framework. SDP adds a need-to-know design, and the default is, “deny services to all.”

Enterprise VPN Service

Cisco AnyConnect: Cisco is a world leader in device security. The largest companies on the planet rely on Cisco networking machines. AnyConnect offers a lower overall cost of ownership, continuous automation from endpoint to endpoint encrypted security.

AnyConnect works on hybrid, full remote, or any combination in between. Robust MFA protocols are employed, threats are eliminated at the access point, and world-class analytics. There is no better VPN service for the enterprise than Cisco’s AnyConnect.

Cisco offers several cutting-edge technologies no other company comes close to providing. Umbrella Roaming is a cloud-based security service that supports users even when they are away from the VPN.

Under Attack

The enterprise is undergoing unprecedented attacks from criminals thousands of miles away. High-profile attacks are making headlines every day.

What are the primary attack vectors?

  • Supply Chains are under siege. Weak third-party vendors are causing havoc for large corporate businesses. Cyber attackers look for the weakest link in the chain and attack. Two of the most significant breaches, LabCorp and Quest, the attack originated from their online payment system.
  • Unpatched and Obsolete systems. No other area of the network is as preventable as keeping systems updated with available patching. An Apache Struts Web Framework was unpatched and contributed to 145 million social security numbers being exposed.
  • Compromised credentials are an enormous headache for the enterprise. Billions of stolen credentials are accessible for the taking on the dark web. Cyber-criminals use this vector as an entrance point because of its simplicity of stealing login information.

What is the Best IT Security Solution?

Will the relentless tide of cyber-attacks ever end? In a word, No! As long as the rewards are substantial, cyber-criminals find no need to slow down their aggressions. The “it can never happen to me, syndrome” is prevalent in every industry. There will always be that one staff member that will click on the apparent malware or ransomware email.

The sharpest minds in corporate security have provided a number of great tools for the enterprise. Each new cyber-attack creates a flood of new attacks and modifications.  Cyber-attacks have risen to one of the top ten corporate concerns for the next decade.

The World Economic Forum has determined that the money to keep pace with cyber threats worldwide will cost the enterprise nearly $90 trillion. Those dollars are merely keeping pace, not beating the attacker.

In the digital age, cyber resilience will happen with effective leadership and the secure design of infrastructures. First and foremost, corporate leaders must understand the foundations of cyber-security, and position their teams as enablers rather than casualties.

We wrote a guide on safety when it comes to working from home. Take a moment and read some of the safety and security tips we put in this guide.

Download the Guide

BACS IT is Here to Help Keep Your Remote Workforce Secure

When you want to protect your remote workforce, turn to the experienced Bay Area IT Consultants here at BACS IT. We will discuss your specific needs and create a security plan that fits your business. We can even help with unique security needs, so contact us. 

 

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Financial Services Companies Face an Ever-Evolving Cyber Landscape

By | Data Protection, IT Support, managed It services, Security

After the initial fascination of the internet had run its course, financial developers turned their attention to laying the groundwork for banking services. In 1995, Wells Fargo became the first company to offer online banking. Since that time, the industry has seen a transformation unlike any other in history.

The cyber scene has evolved to include networks, devices, transit information, and services of every shape and size. Security quickly moved to the fore as the most influential aspect of our online world.

As devices and services explode on the cyber landscape, 96% of Americans state that more should be done to safeguard privacy. 65% of those surveyed are convinced personal data was not being protected. Along with an emerging threat of attack, the regulatory climate has been a distraction for most.

Governments worldwide are coming down hard on industries they feel are not doing enough in managing risk and personal data. As the world embraces digital, the cyber threat landscape has evolved into consumers aware of their lost privacy.  

The Financial Service Industry must do more to convince its clientele their data is secure.

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Cyber Security

Over the previous few decades, there has been an exponential rise in people accessing the internet with every device imaginable. The single biggest challenge for every organization is the threat of cyber-attack. Experts acknowledged that global companies could bear the brunt of a 5.2 trillion dollar loss to cyber-criminals over the next five years.

The concern by Americans and the World; personal data is not being cared for as it should. Financial services have made strides in securing personal information, but so much more can be done.

Infrastructure

Attacks on infrastructure networks are advancing rapidly. In 2020, attacks were up more than 150% from the previous year. According to NPR, the situation is acute; investigation has revealed over seven ransomware attacks occur per hour. These assaults have grown into a national emergency without fanfare.

US Banks are being hit hard by ransomware and other malicious code. July 2021, REvil, a devastating code, attacked a group of Ohio Banks and extorted nearly $70 million. Unless you were an Ohio resident, it is unlikely the story made was heard.  

These raids on our financial infrastructure are multiplying at unprecedented rates.

Industry experts admit Financial institutions must do better with their infrastructure to secure essential data. Preparation, good data backups, and constant vulnerability scanning are part of the prevailing landscape to keep digital assets intact.

Internet of Things

IoT has been recognized by many to be the next revolutionary landscape. As billions of more devices are linked to the internet, the risk is growing exponentially. New security challenges are being identified daily by financial institutions.

IoT devices were not built with security in mind, which leads to significant vulnerabilities throughout the system. A significant flaw for an IoT device, there is no way to install a security procedure, and in some cases, malware is on the device when it is shipped.

Protocols used by many of the devices are proprietary and create havoc with traditional networked systems. Users who do not keep the operating systems on each device continually patched and updated are a serious burden for the industry. 

IoT has given society unique and extraordinary ways to improve our lives. However, with over one million new devices shipped each day, safety considerations are growing.

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The Cloud

Every industry uses The Cloud and its diverse applications to promote its business.

Financial start-ups and seasoned services employ the Cloud to increase scale and lower costs. Data management has become more accurate and easier to manipulate. Borrowing decisions and related costs are now quicker, and decisions are better informed. Credit companies, automobile, and consumer finance businesses use the Cloud extensively, reporting a buyer’s credit worthiness are faster and a lot more accurate.

The Cloud has become a secure landscape for most businesses than their on-premise IT departments. Accessibility over data location is proving to be a vital aspect of a secure environment.  With the Cloud, cyber-attacks are mitigated when data is secure.

Attacks on the Cloud and its applications have surged. McAfee studied the third and fourth quarters of 2020 and found nearly 3.1 million attacks on user accounts. Widespread acceptance of remote working conditions has left the door wide-open for cyber-attack. Remote workers have limited knowledge of corporate platforms that control security and therefore have no fallback plan.

Companies must take stock of their infrastructure vulnerabilities before migration to a remote workforce. IBM reports, something as fundamental as misconfigured Cloud settings, had an average cost to business of roughly $4.41 million per incident.  

Laptops, mobile phones, and tablets are excellent devices for working at McDonald’s. However, without realizing the repercussions or, in some cases, lack of concern, users are clearing the way for cyber-attackers. The Cloud provides an abundance of benefits for companies in 2021 and beyond.  Each financial organization must generate its winning Cloud strategy to be successful in the modern era.

 

Network Security

No component in the financial space is more fundamental to the success of the financial industry than network security. As the internet has grown with millions of new networks from one website to another, attackers find intrusion into your bank account much easier. The sophistication of cookies has made casual surfers’ prey to financial extortion and exploitation.

Financial experts recommended machine learning techniques for the industry, notifying authorities of any unwarranted intrusion into the system. Emerging threats come from everywhere, attacking financial apps, software, websites. Users must seize the initiative to secure their data with two-factor authentication, antivirus programs, and encryption.

 

Cyber Landscape

Technology is continually evolving and growing into a unique phenomenon each day. No one could have foreseen the ravaging effects of a global pandemic and its effects on business and cyber security.

There are fundamental characteristics of a solid financial landscape. The first and possibly the most influential is user privacy in the financial space.  

Privacy

Each new financial application appearing on the iPhone or Android App Marketplaces wants some form of sign-on to access the next best financial application. Without realizing the consequences, users sign up and later wonder why their phone or tablet was hacked.

Each day there seems to be a new high-profile cyber-attack exposing millions of names, addresses, and regrettably, social security numbers.  Concerns from banking and financial experts have skyrocketed with the security of the cyber landscape rapidly turning into the dominant priority.

Regulatory compliance continues to be a significant topic of controversy among banking officials. Data privacy is no longer a single component within a much larger financial application. With increased regulation and millions of identities stolen every year, user privacy will develop into a proprietary platform accessible only to users.  

Data privacy impacts a considerable swath of companies in every industry around the world. Every aspect of a company’s operation is affected.  Strategies to stay in alignment with cyber security trends to HR resources are involved.

The Graham-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 was enacted to remove barriers between financial service firms. Other noteworthy facets of the Act:

  • Financial Privacy Rule-required financial businesses to provide consumers with a privacy notice and explain personal information collected.
  • Safeguard Rule-financial organizations must have a “written information security plan,” to protect client’s non-public information.
  • Pretexting Protection-Pretexting is known as social engineering.  Organizations are encouraged to safeguard against this activity.

Financial businesses must rethink their approach to personal and public privacy going forward or lose ground to changing organizations. Some of the concepts being considered:

  • Data encryption while in transit from bank to bank and consumer to the bank.
  • Network segmentation
  • Access control by role
  • Destruction and document retention

User data protection plays a significant factor in financial organizations. Businesses must develop a solid base and identify the deficiencies in their infrastructure.

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Securing the Future

Regaining customer trust is a major hurdle for the financial industry. Banking organizations must move beyond tradition and forge a new approach to doing business in the era of mobility.

Consumers are hungry for economic independence, and they see managing and investing their finances as a way to get there.  The cyber landscape is evolving quicker than any individual or business realizes.

Predicting the future is just as obscure now as it was a generation ago. However, there are three areas of technology that hold great promise for the future.

Artificial Intelligence

Financial organizations are utilizing artificial intelligence as a way to enhance the customer experience. Each organizational step in AI requires a vast amount of data to work correctly. Financial organizations have the data. It is only a matter of time before they can integrate adequate AI technologies into the mix.

Artificial intelligence in the financial industry is growing in sophistication. Industries are on the very tip of realizing the true potential of these technologies. Replacing human involvement is the objective of most AI-enabled security schemes.

Facial recognition and analyzing vast quantities of data to establish security risk faster makes financial institutions much safer. These capabilities will be beneficial to large corporations especially. Under-resourced, small, and mid-sized enterprises will see tremendous progress as well.

AI techniques present a quantum leap in threat detection for every enterprise. Unfortunately, cybercriminals have the same opportunity and are taking advantage to automate their networks.

According to Business Insider, by 2023, the potential savings for banks from AI-enabled applications will be a staggering $447 billion. 80% of banks worldwide are aware of the tremendous benefits AI will bring to the industry.

The financial industry will accelerate AI and machine learning technologies with increased user acceptance and shifting regulatory guidelines. Task automation, fraud detection, and advanced technologies are the main drivers of the future in banking.

Machine Learning

Each year the consequences of fraud on the financial services industry cost billions of dollars. Financial firms are keeping their data stored online, and this is another open door to cyber-attack. Machine learning is coming into focus as a significant way to combat fraud in the industry.

A set of rules defined fraud detection in the past, making it extremely easy to bypass these conditions. Machine learning scans millions of data points to find anomalies and unique activities in a user’s account.  The system then sends up a red flag for incidents that require further investigation. Machine learning techniques compare data points such as  IP address and location to compare if the transaction is in line with the account holder’s activity.

Machine learning algorithms analyze vast amounts of datasets to find correlations. Human efforts cannot find the subtle differences in the mounds of data that will lead to fraud detection. Full control machine learning systems will decline a purchase or deposit until there is human intervention.

Machine learning systems are much faster at analyzing the data with less manual work.  Some of the largest financial institutions rely heavily on ultra-modern machine learning techniques.

Mastercard uses several machine learning algorithms in its business to detect fraudulent transactions. With machine learning, the system analyzes the account behavior and the transaction to determine any fraud. It is estimated that merchants lose almost $118 billion a year on false transaction declines.

According to Javelin Strategy and Research, traditional brick and mortar financial institutions take nearly 40 days to detect fraud and react to the intrusion. It takes longer for an offline consumer to detect fraud activity, while cybercriminals are getting better at evading detection.

The significant challenges for the financial services industry are real-time fraud detections and assessment to improve accuracy.

Blockchain

No article on the future of financial services is complete without mentioning one of the newest technologies on the block. Experts fully agree Blockchain can revolutionize every area of the financial service industry.

A Blockchain transaction starts by recording a single step in the entire transaction; before moving on to the next step, an encrypted validation key is generated by the previous step. Any future steps in the process must have the validation key from the previous step to move on. For any Blockchain transaction to be valid, every step from the beginning of the process must be accounted for and validated. There is no way around the process.

Most people unfamiliar with Blockchain see the tech used only for bitcoin. Although cryptocurrencies make heavy use of the technology, Blockchain is so much more. The technology can be used for currency exchange, property, goods, or anything that requires an enforceable contract.

Blockchain records each transaction verifies the transaction as valid, secures the transaction with encryption, and enforces the terms. Every primary financial concern in the world is developing, actively using, or taking a hard look at the advantages of Blockchain.

Blockchain technology is entirely uncrackable and safe due to its encrypted validation key. The rush to use Blockchain by every financial institution on earth has just begun.

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Let BACS IT Help Keep Your Bay Area Financial Services Company Safe

Find out how the professional IT consultants here at BACS IT can help keep your financial services company safe. We understand the security steps you must take to maintain compliance, and we also know what IT services will work best for your industry. How we specialize it for your company is what we must discuss next. Call us today and let us figure out the best options to keep you, your employees, and your customers safe from scams, malware, and breaches. 

Solutions for a Remote Workforce to Keep Bay Area Businesses Safe

Solutions for a Remote Workforce to Keep Bay Area Businesses Safe

By | Data Protection, Security, Work Remotely

A few short years ago, having a remote workforce never crossed the mind of many employers. The pandemic created a new worker paradigm. To remain relevant, business owners must shift their focus to supporting their remote workers.

Is the future of business remote? If so, how do you keep the remote worker productive, motivated, and most importantly, safe? There is a constant stream of headlines telling the world of new threats against the enterprise and its employees.

The following post highlights issues at the heart of the problem, and Solutions Available for Business. The safety of its employees working at home should be one of the highest priorities for any organization, large or small.

The rampant growth of malicious malware, ransomware, and DDos attacks are a constant threat.  Over 560,000 instances of various types of malware are created and detected every day.

Malware Each Day BACS IT

Digital Transformation

Larger companies transition better to a remote work environment in most instances. In comparison, many smaller firms have found the move much more challenging. Cybercriminals take advantage of the rampant use of unprotected personal equipment in use by smaller companies.

Well-thought-out strategies keep your remote workforce safe. Your digital roadmap for a successful remote workforce requires a coordinated effort from every department.

A digital strategy should produce innovation and value for your customers:

Remote assets will fundamentally change how you operate. A plan of action is needed to strategically embrace a secure and mobile framework for remote employees. Get everyone on board with the transformation. Make sure the company’s goals are aligned with each employee, in-office and remote. Create and execute a roadmap for more remarkable growth.

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Trust No One

Transition your team to a Zero Trust Security Model. ZTNA technologies provide a secure remote access framework based on defined access control protocols. Zero Trust Architecture enables the enterprise to open its portfolio of applications and data to remote workers without friction.

Zero Trust can be in the cloud, local networks, or a combination of hybrid technologies. ZTNA is not restricted by location; a zero-trust network operates efficiently anywhere on the planet.

Remote networks should use a cloud-first framework. Guideline execution of the network needs a combination of technologies to keep the remote worker safe.

Zero Trust Security Design

The organization needs to have a Security Strategy for Operating Remotely. This policy must deal with present circumstances, users, and equipment, along with future rollouts. Over time, the strategy should grow and develop as new opportunities arise. Strategies should be rooted into every employee and vendor as part of the workplace routine.

  • Authentication requires each user or device to confirm its identity to the server when a login attempt occurs. Authentication merely identifies the user or device; it will not influence what files the user has access to. This is up to the admin to assign separately.
  • Make sure each device in the home office is scrutinized for cyber vulnerabilities. Unprotected routers, mobile phones, printers, or laptops are easy pickings for today’s hackers.
  • Administrators must thoroughly enforce BYOD/MDM policies identified in the Security Strategy.
  • Home office biometric security is another option. Facial Biometrics bind digital identities to a physical person. Using a standard laptop or over-the-counter cameras can be used for seamless recognition.
  • Password efficiency is a key to protected systems; a combination of upper case, lower case, various symbols, and numbers is ideal. It is a good idea to have different passcodes for sensitive files and folders. These passcodes should only be made available to company officials.

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Zero Trust has rapidly become the security model of choice for its work from home framework, requiring all users and devices to be authenticated. User/application authentication, device authentication, and Trust are critical components to the architecture.

The principles of Zero Trust are shaped by industry guidelines: Forrester eXtended, Gartner’s CARTA, and NIST 800-207. Zero Trust is defined as a way to conquer the challenges, such as those mentioned in “Work From Anywhere World.”

 

Endpoint Management

Endpoint Management supervises access rights of a device to a network. The tools are a management interface to simplify or automate the deployment of a network device. Endpoint configurations are finding broad resurgence because of their powerful treatment of selective access for users and their devices.

The surge of remote workforce teams has brought endpoint software tools to the forefront of network security. Endpoint management provides a means for full visibility into network data points and connections.

The goal of modern endpoint security systems is to analyze quickly, detect, and block attacks in progress.

 

The Cloud

Cloud computing has become the backbone of a remote workforce. Associated cloud technologies are expanding at a furious rate. Many companies have realized that remote employees can be just as productive at home as in the office. Cloud applications have allowed companies to expand their search for quality employees. Geographical locations are now a secondary consideration. Real-time communication platforms such as Slack are invaluable to the entire organization.

Executives are rethinking work strategies to save employees money and time. In the traditional office environment, some workers spend over 200 hours a year commuting to work. Some companies that have been disrupted by the pandemic have begun to get rid of their offices entirely.   A significant benefit of cloud computing is its seamless access to the information a remote worker needs whenever they need it. Well-designed Cloud applications allow remote employees to stay closer to the files needed to do their job.

Quality remote software can help your team perform at a higher level:

  • Hubstaff , a time tracking and proof of work application. The bundle includes payroll, time tracking, and project management.
  • Google Drive is one of the world’s most used and well-known storage programs. The application is a cloud-based storage solution that allows remote workers to track files and documents anywhere in the world.
  • OfficeVibe is a unique platform to engage remote employees and build trust to understand a team’s needs.

Related: Questions to Ask Before Migrating to a Cloud (with FREE Download!)

 

Legacy Systems and A Remote Work Force

Remote technologies in the modern enterprise have become decisive factors to improving the employee experience. Desktop-centric needs of the past do not uphold the diverse demands of a modern remote and mobile workforce. Nothing is more infuriating to a tech-savvy remote worker than poorly designed company apps and unresponsive websites. In 2019, NetMotion surveyed a pool of remote employees to identify common grievances. Here are some of the top remote working issues:

  • 23% stated, dealing with legacy systems is in their top five.
  • Number 10 on the list, “Difficulty accessing corporate systems”.
  • The number one issue for a remote workforce was connectivity.

If not appropriately adapted, Legacy systems can have a negative impact on productivity gains from the remote worker. Legacy architecture may still provide its intended function within the workplace. However, legacy configurations may not work with current chipsets, operating systems, and software.

Incompatibility with newer systems, outdated support protocols from the manufacturer, and security vulnerabilities make legacy architectures risky. Research by Reworked states, “almost half of the global organizations are being hindered in their digital transformation by legacy technologies. Nearly 44% of these global enterprises cite a lack of IT skills as a barrier to success. These challenges are being met with newer, more robust IT solutions.

Overcome the legacy challenges:

  • Shift legacy systems to a cloud architecture if the undertaking is not too labor or resource intensive.
  • Create APIs to mesh with newer systems or turn to third-party integration platforms.
  • Upgrade the legacy component with a newer solution.

Training

Empowering a remote workforce takes commitment from every corner of the enterprise. Business owners must use the tools available to ensure remote workers have the guidance required to do the job right.

  1. Working from home is not just about the job; it is kids, pets, husbands, wives, and 1000 other little details. Respect the life of your remote worker. Streamline what you want to say and how you say it. When the employee starts their remote work environment, be succinct in your message and communicate only what is essential.
  2. Leverage technology whenever and however possible. Employ the tools you have in place or applications that are readily available, such as Microsoft Teams.
  3. Make sure there are plenty of opportunities for everyone to see each other’s faces. Facetime makes people feel connected to training and each other.
  4. Create on-demand instruction. Management rarely knows when its remote workers will be on the job. On-demand training gives workers the option to access the material on their schedule.

Focus on Goals, Not Tasks

It is too easy and counterproductive to keep a worker in front of the computer screen. After a full day of work, kids or husbands and wives asking someone to stay on the screen will see only  modest results.

The rules of goal setting still hold true for the modern workforce, Use the  SMART approach.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

Training and goal setting a remote workforce will take innovation and a lot of clever or shrewd imagining. Focus on one goal at a time.

 

Culture of Trust

A business needs to establish a culture of Trust that permeates throughout the organization. Executives must know who they can depend on. Companies are at risk from various cyber vultures, and management must know how to mitigate constant threats.

Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

Trust is a critical element of good communication, teamwork, and a commitment to productivity. Leaders at all levels of your company must be honest and supportive of their remote employees. A consistent message of accountability for everyone is vital to a successful organization.

Paul Zak, Harvard Researcher, studied High Trust companies and discovered some amazing results.

  • High trust companies report 74% less stress
  • 106% more energy at work
  • 50% higher productivity
  • 13% fewer sick days
  • 76% more engagement
  • 29% more satisfaction with their lives

A remote workforce needs to be cognizant of their surroundings. The employee must be on the lookout for any questionable activity with their co-workers or vendors and should have no question where they report the activity.

Mitigate Potential Threats To Your Organization

 

Working In a Vacuum

Companies are rethinking their remote workforce strategies, declaring the situation may not be so great after all. Projects are taking longer, collaboration is more challenging, and training is a struggle. Behind the scenes, executives are claiming the work from home experiment is not a viable long-term solution.

Executives admit the move to remote work was not well-planned. CEOs believe productivity gains realized in the early part of the pandemic have peaked. Significant changes must be made if the experiment is to survive.

Fortunately, for a well-connected and trusted business, things are a bit different.

More employers are starting to embrace the work from home revolution. Innovation and technology have made the transformation, training, and work environments more attractive to potential employees everywhere.

Remote work is here to stay; however, there will always be those employees who want to be in the office. Industries such as construction, food, and retail need on-site employees.

New tools and strategies must be developed and embraced for the new work paradigm to be a success. Business owners must find the right balance between office and at-home work environments to make their business effective and productive.

Slack surveyed 9,000 employees in six different countries and found that 72% preferred a remote-office work scenario. Only 12% of that total wanted an exclusive work-from-home environment.

Businesses and their employees cannot work in a vacuum. Organizations must understand the opportunities to connect with one another increase the employee’s scale and capacity. When a remote or hybrid workforce is implemented correctly, employee productivity and job satisfaction are through the roof.

The successes of one elevates us all.

Connect with BACS, For Your Remote Workforce Requirements.

A Bay Area IT Solutions provider

 

Contact Us for a FREE IT Assessment

Data-Backup-and-Recovery-Reaping-the-Benefits-of-the-Cloud

Managed IT Services vs. Traditional IT Support: What’s The Difference?

By | IT Support, managed It services, Technology

Business technology has come far in just a few decades as many firms now enjoy operating in the cloud. While some companies still hold on to traditional tech support methods, modern enterprises are working closely with more modern Managed IT Services. Here’s a comparison of traditional and 21st century IT support.

 

 [Free  Resource Download]: 7 Tips  To  Create A Password  Policy  For  Your  Organization

 

Traditional Business Network Tech Support

Commercial organizations have embraced the internet as a backbone for connecting with other resources since the seventies. Retailers and suppliers were among the first commercial entities to connect online. Large firms typically hired their own in-house technology departments while small companies often turned to break-fix shops that often were fly-by-night operations seeking fast cash opportunities from widespread adoption of the computer revolution.

Another dimension of traditional tech support firms was the attempt to be all-things-tech without broad diverse knowledge of technology. Any type of computer or networking problem could potentially lead to massive amounts of downtime for hours or even days. Your business was at the mercy of technicians who might not have been familiar with your hardware or software, which took time to learn.

By the nineties it was very common for even small businesses to use computer networks. For maintenance they would often turn to help desks that weren’t interconnected with technicians in real-time like they are now. Consequently, response to technical issues was generally slow for coordination and troubleshooting. Then if the technicians made errors, it led to more costly downtime.

During the traditional IT era managers weren’t well informed about their business technology and simply trusted whatever tech support firm they found to fix bugs. Sometimes it led to long-term expensive contracts that contributed to a company’s financial collapse.

 

Related: The 10 Benefits of Managed IT Services for Businesses Like Yours

 

Today’s Managed IT Services

A Managed Service Provider (MSP), as defined by technology research giant Gartner, is a company that delivers various services and ongoing support to clients on their property, via the MSP’s data center or through a third part cloud provider. MSPs often pool their native services with outsourced resources to maximize serving client needs. High quality MSPs often offer the following IT services:

Cloud computing disrupted the traditional IT profession enormously. The rise of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) firms such as Salesforce scrambled the IT landscape into a brave new setting that empowered businesses of all sizes to streamline operations. In other words, migrating to the cloud (a private or public intranet) helped business cut all kinds of upfront technology costs.

The cloud allowed businesses to operate more efficiently and independently. MSPs began offering a wider menu of technology solutions that old fashioned break-fix firms simply couldn’t compete with. Traditional help support personnel typically weren’t encouraged by their bosses to keep learning new technology, whereas today’s MSPs need to be experts on cybersecurity and innovations that make businesses more efficient and scalable, such as automation, AI and smart devices.

On top of that, MSPs learned how to talk with business decision makers on a personalized level instead of using the old scheme of shutting down questions or blurring answers with complex and confusing jargon. The new attitude of MSPs is to learn each client’s needs and provide custom solutions.

BACS IT Difference for Businesses Like Yours

The one difference that BACS IT has over other MSPs is our customer service experience. While many traditional help desks have limited capabilities and can be considered less efficient, BACS IT, an experienced MSP, can elevate your business to a more competitive level, allowing you to be more productive and profitable. Schedule a call with us and learn how we can bring your business up to date with the newest advancements in IT. 

managed-it-services

10 Benefits of Managed IT Services for Your Business

By | IT Support, managed It services

Are you considering managed IT services for your business?

If yes, youre in a growing number of organizations. Managing technologies within an organization can be overwhelming to maintain. One approach to lessen the stress is to delegate all or a portion of these tasks to a third party outside the company that specializes in those tasks. An organization that provides IT services for other organizations is referred to as a managed service provider (MSP).

 

Related: MSP 101- What is a Managed Service Provider 

 

Businesses vary widely in their IT administration needs. For example, an organization may have a dedicated IT staff and only require assistance with routine tasks. Another organization may have a single individual that holds multiple jobs within the organization, one of those being responsible for IT tasks, and the organization wants to free up that individual to focus on other tasks. Firms that provide managed IT services offer a wide variety of services.

The following are just a few of the types of services that MSP firms offer:

If you are tasked with justifying the switch to managed services or want to learn more about the offerings, the following are 10 key benefits that should interest you:

1. Lower IT Costs

The services network firm Deloitte surveyed 40 of their clients, from all over the world who held various upper-level positions, and revealed in a report that cost was the primary objective for their outsourcing IT operations. This makes sense. Modifying any aspect of your business is going to require looking at the financial impact. The main costs associated with IT operations include equipment and operation costs, as well as personnel costs (salaries, benefits, and training). According to the Robert Half Salary Calculator, the average salary for a system administrator in Sacramento, California is $92, 340. Thats just one employee. While some organizations delegate a single individual to manage IT operations, the more prudent scenario is to employ several professional individuals with specific roles. When you calculate the salaries, you can easily reach an exceptionally large number. In comparison to hiring an MSP to handle some or all of your IT operations, the average monthly costs vary depending on the level of services provided and the size of your organization, but in the U.S. ranges from $100 to $250 per user/per month. For full managed services for an organization with fewer than 50 users, that works out to about $42,000 to $66,000/year. That amount is considerably less than the salary, benefits, and training you would pay a single employee to manage your IT services. 

2. Scalability

Change is a normal aspect of doing business. As your business goals change, your IT services will also need to change. Managed IT service firms allow you to determine the level of services they provide your organization. As your business goes through changes, you can modify those services. For example, if your organization is a startup operation with limited funds and resources, you may choose to start with a full-service option where all of your IT operations are managed by an MSP. When your business grows, you may want to minimize those services and start allocating resources to an in-house IT team that performs tasks that align with your business goals, and delegate only your routine support tasks to an MSP. 

3. Availability

It might seem strange that a firm outside of your organization would be able to boast availability as a benefit, but its true. The unfortunate reality of many in-house IT departments is there are more tasks than individuals to handle those tasks and the organization suffers because of that reality.  For example, when an employee encounters a problem with their computer that is preventing them from performing their work and your in-house IT staff is not available to render assistance right away, that ultimately impacts your organizations productivity. When you obtain the services of an MSP, one of the first steps is to create a Service Level Agreement (SLA). This is an agreement that outlines the details of the services the MSP will provide to your organization. Availability is an important component of an SLA. This type of agreement or expectation of availability typically does not exist within an in-house IT department. The usual process for an internal IT staff is to prioritize tasks and get to them as time allows.  

 [Free  Resource Download]: 7 Tips  To  Create A Password  Policy  For  Your  Organization

4. Reduced Downtime

Downtime is another aspect of doing business than can have a significant impact on your organization. One of the main methods organizations use to gauge the costs of downtime is the average provided by the research and advisory firm Gartner in 2014, which is $5600/minute. Of course, that average is just estimate. Your organization may vary considerably from that estimate. There are calculators available online that can help you more accurately determine the cost of downtime for your organization. The financial impact of downtime is important, but there are other ways that downtime can have a significant impact on your organization. If your network connection is down,  employees may not be able to perform their duties and your customers and potential customers may be unable to connect to you or your website. Your organizations brand may become tainted because of downtime. This is a potential consequence whether you have a well-established brand or are trying to establish one. Customers and potential customers may view a downtime incident as an indication of how you run your business. 

Managed IT service firms will, depending on the SLA, monitor your network and other systems from a remote location. Since they are focused on managing your operations, they are more able to quickly respond to potential problems and lessen downtime.

5. Constant Monitoring

Are your IT systems being monitored every hour of every day? If the answer is no, your organization may be an ideal prey for data criminals. Abnormal events such as changes to files and performance issues that occur in the late-night hours may be a sign of an intruder accessing your network. Logging is a common practice for detecting abnormal events. However, an issue discovered in a log may be too late to prevent a security issue. If your organization hasnt implemented 24/7 monitoring, you might overlook such critical events. Constant monitoring provides your organization with peace of mind. Constant monitoring tracks any changes or disruptions to the systems that can be investigated and, if necessary, resolved before they develop into data breaches. Constant monitoring enables your organization to take a proactive approach instead of one that is reactive.

6. Improved Security

If your organization has implemented monitoring tools and have reduced your system downtime, how confident are you that those systems are properly managed? If you dont have a lot of confidence, consider the consequences of such neglect. According to a report by IBM, the average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million. However, the costs of recovering from a security incident can be much higher with long-term effects. An example is the Equifax data breach of 2017. The consumer credit reporting agency used monitoring software, but its security certificate had expired, and the monitoring solution was subsequently rendered inactive. Equifax discovered the suspicious activity only after their security certificate was updated. Two years after the data breach, the company entered a settlement with consumers who were impacted by the incident. Equifax ended up paying nearly one billion dollars, not including legal fees.

The following are a few of the ways that a managed IT service company can improve your organizations security:

  • Assess your organization’s risk and implement security measures that mitigate those risks.
  • Remotely monitor your IT systems 24/7 for vulnerabilities and suspicious activity.
  • Ensure all compliance requirements are met and maintained.
  • Provide training for staff.
  • Inventory and track endpoint activity in the organization .


Related
: A Beginners Guide to Cybersecurity


7. Latest Technology

Its common knowledge that technology is constantly changing at a rapid pace. Managed IT service firms rely on advanced tools to provide the reduced downtime, 24/7 monitoring, and improved security benefits mentioned above. Many organizations are not able to justify the costs necessary to keep up with the pace of software to enjoy the benefits. 

8. Dedicated IT Team

As mentioned previously, the costs associated with hiring IT professionals can be excessive. Developing a team of IT experts that manage all IT operations in-house is not only a costly endeavor that can cripple an organization with limited resources, but one that can limit the value of the organization.  When a large percentage of the organizations resources are allocated to an in-house IT staff, that means that fewer resources are available for other activities such as growing the business.  

9. Higher Productivity

An IT department provides a variety of critical functions for an organization. All of these tasks are important, but some of them are routine and take time away from more critical tasks. Examples of routine tasks include hardware/software installation and configuration, endpoint maintenance (warranties, licenses, etc.) and troubleshooting. By allowing a managed IT services company to perform these tasks, your organizations IT staff can concentrate on tasks that help your organization reach its business goals.

10. Less Stress

The really great news about delegating your organizations IT services to an MSP is that you obtain a  combined effect of the benefits listed above in the form of a reduction of your organizations IT responsibilities. An overburdened IT staff can suffer burn out, make careless mistakes, neglect their duties, and  develop disdain for their job. All these effects can cause your IT operations to enter into a vulnerable state. Delegating just a few of your IT operations can have a positive impact on an existing It staff.

Next Steps with BACS IT Consulting Group

While there are numerous benefits associated with managed IT services, not all businesses that provide managed IT services are equal in the value they offer. Your organization should make sure the MSP that you choose is right for your organization. That means understanding the level of expertise, services offered, industry experience, and personability of the staff. Working with an MSP should be considered a partnership. Ensuring that the organization you work with has these skills will provide the best benefit for your business.

BACS offers expertise in a full spectrum of managed IT services and works with organizations to determine the best strategy to align with their business goals.

Contact Us for a FREE IT Assessment

wifi-security

Safeguarding Your Business from Wi-Fi Vulnerabilities

By | IT Support, Security

Businesses today must manage an ever-growing number of security risks. From client database breaches to malicious ransomware attacks, cybercriminals are continuously searching for new opportunities and methods of exploitation. One high-risk area that is often overlooked is your company’s Wi-Fi network.

While Wi-Fi offers the advantage of fast and easy access, this convenience is also its weakness. Unprotected Wi-Fi connections provide hackers with easy network access, allowing them to introduce malware onto any connected systems and devices. This malware can instigate a number of serious attacks, including phishing, DDoS, ransomware, and more.

 

Closing the gaps on Wi-Fi security

In the age of digital proliferation and broad network connectivity, creating a detailed, well-defined network security strategy is more critical than ever. It requires a holistic approach that effectively blends proven practices with cutting-edge techniques. Following are some common sources of Wi-Fi security vulnerabilities, along with some best practice strategies to address them.

 

Outdated firmware.

Keeping your business-critical data secure hinges on making sure your Wi-Fi network is operating with the latest firmware updates and patches. In some cases, your router will prompt you when an update is due. But for many IT teams, keeping firmware and drivers up to date can be a tedious, easy-to-overlook task. The best approach is to stay proactive. Periodically check the manufacturer’s website for any updates or patches for your device and keep this task high on your list of ongoing IT priorities. Today’s cybercriminals are persistent. Staying one step ahead requires ongoing diligence on your part.

 

A poorly protected print environment.

All devices connected to a business network, including copiers and printers, represent an area of risk that often falls outside the normal security responsibilities of an IT organization. Still researchers have identified print networks and printers as potential sources of security failures and data breaches. That’s why print security best practices should be given ample attention and action, including configuring appropriate IP addresses and status, and password-protecting connected printers, along with the entire print network.

Improperly managed user behavior.

A security system’s overall effectiveness hinges on correct user behavior within that system. Even robust systems can be compromised by an employee clicking on a phishing email, an ineffective firewall, or even accessing a network site on an unfamiliar device. Another area that demands business Wi-Fi attention is mobile device security. Inappropriate user behavior on a business network, including digital apps and email, can threaten a network’s security. Mobile device management focuses on both business-owned mobile device security protocols, and private or guest devices on a network.

 

Network piggybacking. 

Piggybacking on network access is a way of creating a wireless connection by discretely tapping into another subscriber’s wireless service without their knowledge or permission. This can be done from any wireless-enabled computer, and depending on the location of your business’s wireless access point, and can be completed from up to 1,000 feet away. Once on your network, the unwanted users can hack into sensitive information, monitor web traffic, or conduct other illegal activities.

 

Ineffective firewall.

A properly implemented firewall plays a vital role in helping to keep your company’s networks separated from the Wi-Fi. It helps prevent potential hackers from breaching the Wi-Fi connection and making unwanted entry into your servers and company networks. In addition to your network firewall, consider installing a host-based firewall, which provides an extra layer of protection between the network and connected devices.

 

Lack of data encryption

Encrypting the data on your wireless network helps prevent those who might gain unauthorized access from actually viewing it. Should hackers breach the Wi-Fi connection, any data they obtain is scrambled and unreadable. Several encryption protocols are available to help enable this protection. The strongest encryption currently available is Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA3). While WPA and WPA2 are also available, the best approach is to implement technology that specifically supports WPA3, since other protocols lack the robust protection today’s networks require.

 

Reaping the benefits of outside expertise

Whether you are upgrading your existing Wi-Fi network or starting from scratch, the best protection can be achieved through careful planning and expert execution. That’s where the knowledge and experience of a competent managed serviced provider can deliver substantial value.

By outsourcing your Wi-Fi security to an outside expert, you benefit from a more robust network design, clear policies and procedures, and better awareness of potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses. These outside experts can suggest tools and techniques for improving network speed and efficiency and recommend the latest best practices for securing your Wi-Fi network. These include:

 

Network monitoring.

Monitoring is the first line of defense against unstable or unforeseen events that affect your network performance and security. Real-time monitoring of Wi-Fi traffic through routers and network servers provides IT teams with vital insight into user behavior and trends, and helps speed response time in the event of a breach. Proactive monitoring of your business Wi-Fi network can help your thwart issues before they become a more serious problem. Remote monitoring capabilities are particularly critical for satellite offices.

 

Router protection.

Keeping your router out of public reach can help reduce the potential for tampering or someone attempting to circumvent security protocols. It only takes a few seconds to restore the access point to factory default settings. For optimum safety, keep the router high on a shelf, secured behind a door, or otherwise out of reach where a bad actor could potentially gain access without authorization. Router ports can also be secured by properly defining the IP address.  Be sure your router access point is housed in a secure area, such as a locked room or closet.

 

Maintain antivirus software.

Be sure to install the right antivirus software and keep your virus definitions up to date. Make sure your practices include automated patching to help enforce policies and keep systems and networks up to date and enforced with the latest software patching. Also, 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.

 

Protect your SSID.

To help prevent hackers from gaining easy access to your network, avoid exposing your SSID. At the minimum, be sure to change your SSID to a unique identifier. Keeping the manufacturer’s default ID in place could open the door to an attacker skilled at identifying the type of router and possibly exploit any known weaknesses.

 

Employ a VPN.

Installing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) as part of your Wi-Fi infrastructure can be a highly effective way to bolster your overall network security strategy. VPNs conceal user identities by masking IP addresses and routing data through a, alternate IP address.  By encrypting connections and sending and receiving points, VPNs help keep out improperly encrypted traffic. Cybercriminals who manage to access to data via your VPN will find it useless, since it is encrypted on its way from sender to a receiver.

 

Bolstering your IT strategy

With losses from cybercrime now reaching epic proportions (up to $6 trillion globally), Securing every aspect of your network is more crucial than ever before, and that includes making special considerations for your Wi-Fi security. Wi-Fi security is not only essential to sound IT strategy; it’s a smart business practice.

Security Protocols

Mitigating Potential Threats with Sound Security Protocols

By | Cloud, Data Protection, IT Support, managed It services, Networking, Security
Cloud Migration Free Resource

As cybersecurity becomes increasingly more complex, many organizations lack the resources or knowledge they need to create an effective security strategy. That’s why you need a trusted expert who not only understands the latest security trends but can accurately define your business requirements and implement a plan that aligns with your current and long term needs.  This is especially critical as companies move toward more hybrid cloud environments.  

 

One of the biggest advantages of the cloud―flexible data access―can also be a major weakness if security isn’t effectively factored into the equation. Safeguarding systems and assets against rising threats is crucial, but levels of protection should be carefully balanced against your unique business objectives.  

 

Technology plays a critical role, but equally important is the need to work with an experienced security expert capable of creating and maintaining effective security practices. Bad actors and cybercriminals s are continuously exploring new ways to penetrate your defenses, which underpins your need to develop and implement sound policies based on defined user preferences and your unique business needs.

 

Your managed service provider should be capable of implementing advanced security techniques and practices, including strong access controls, the latest malware protection, and proactive security scanning. You’ll want to make sure the provider you work with can adapt to change and growth and remains on the cutting edge of technology innovation.  

 

Your service provider’s security operations team should be able to clearly demonstrate the practices and processes it uses to safeguard vital business assets. To protect sensitive data, IT policy controls should be automatically enforced through technical elements, such as authorization, authentication, access controls, password complexity, alerting, and system monitoring. 

 

Your security provider should be clear about its procedures for keeping you informed about the ongoing performance and support issues. Your service provider should be able to clearly outline and define its response capabilities. What is the expertise level of support staff? What is the standard response time? What are your protocols for data access? 

 

Most managed security teams operate 24/7, with staff working in shifts to continually track and record activity and mitigate potential threats. Among the core operational protocols and security responsibilities include: 

 

 

Manage access. 

 

Strong application controls like encryption and authentication can help safeguard information across networks and on endpoint devices, helping to thwart attackers from transferring or copying critical business data. Your cloud provider should be able to provide documentation that shows a separation of duties for administrative functions, disclosing the level of access that each user has and how those levels are maintained. 

 

 

Define policies and procedures

 

Usage policies define what behaviors are and aren’t acceptable. You most likely have some protective measures in place to address internal threats. To help bolster this vital layer of defense, your security provider will work with you to define and implement policies and practices based on your usage preferences and requirements or mandates specific to your particular market.

 

Data protection. 

 

Data encryption is critical for organizations operating in a cloud environment, helping to make sure critical data remains protected while in use, at rest, or in transit. 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.  

 

Manage deleted data. 

 

Within a typical cloud environment, sensitive data can easily find its way into uncontrolled and hidden systems and services. When it’s time to delete confidential data, or remove resources storing sensitive data, it’s important to consider the potential spread or replication that often occurs during normal IT operations. Your service provider will analyze your cloud environment to determine where confidential data may have been cached or copied and decide the proper steps to help ensure successful deletion of the data.   

 

Preventative measures

 

To help potential threats, effective security protocols include preventative measures designed to keep team members up to date on the latest cybersecurity trends, recent advances in security techniques, and updates on new emerging threats. This knowledge can help shape your security roadmap and improve disaster recovery planning, helping to guide and prioritize your response in the event of a data breach. Preventative measures and protocols also include actions to mitigate potential, including regular updates to existing systems; modernizing firewall policies; identifying and correcting vulnerabilities.

 

Continuous monitoring

 

Security controls define the methods and protocols used by the operations team to monitor the network to identify anomalies or suspicious activity. Continuous network monitoring helps ensure your security team is immediately informed of potential or impending threats, putting them in the best position to prevent or mitigate impact. Continuous monitoring enables security teams to strike and optimum balance between proactive and reactive measures as any abnormality in activity is immediately detected.  

 

Effective recovery. 

 

In the event of a disaster, security protocols will be executed to recover systems and restore compromised or lost data. Actions may include wiping endpoint devices, reconfiguring and testing security systems, or implementing effective backups to circumvent the attack. Effective recovery execution will return your cloud infrastructure to its original state. Procedures and steps should also be in place to figure out what happened and how it happened. The security team will use event and log data to track the problem and identify the source.

 

Ensure compliance

 

Many cloud security processes are shaped by established protocols and best practices, but some are guided by compliance requirements. Your managed service provider is tasked with regularly auditing of enterprise systems to help ensure consistent regulatory compliance. Following regulatory protocols not only helps safeguard confidential data, it can also protect your organization from legal challenges and reputational damage resulting from a data breach.

 

A strategic approach to cloud security

As with any IT investment, migrating to the cloud comes with certain risks. Minimizing those risks and capitalizing on the full potential of cloud requires a strategic, pragmatic approach, evaluating essential infrastructure requirements, security protocols, risk factors, performance needs, and cost considerations.

it network assessment

Everything You Need To Know About Network Assessments

By | Cloud, IT Support, Networking, Security

Some businesses may think that once your network is set up you no longer need to invest any time or resources in it, but that is simply not the case. Your business’s network is constantly evolving and changing. Your network needs to be able to handle the growth of your business to ensure that there are no disruptions. One way to make sure your network goals and business goals align is by performing a network assessment

Unfortunately, assessing a network is often one task that is left at the bottom of any team’s to do list. This can create a number of problems that will send shockwaves throughout any organization. Any organization’s network can quickly become too complex and tangled to secure and manage if not properly managed. Companies that do not perform network planning and management miss out on optimization opportunities that could drive quality improvements and cut costs. 

Understanding the importance of a network assessment starts with a basic understanding of what a network assessment entails. 

Cloud Migration Free Resource

What Is A Network Assessment?

 

A network assessment is a comprehensive analysis of your organization’s entire IT infrastructure, management, security capabilities, and overall network performance. Network assessments are powerful tools that can be utilized to identify performance gaps, areas for improvement, and network functionality. The knowledge obtained during a network assessment can help executives make key decisions around IT infrastructure and strategy going forward. 

 

Often organizations will order network assessments when their IT systems become too big or too complex. There may be issues popping up that are difficult to pinpoint through standard IT analysis. At this point, it can be difficult for organizations to gain a full understanding of what is happening throughout their network. Companies should be performing network assessments often to ensure that their systems are never out of control. 

 

What Does A Network Assessment Include?

Every organization’s network is different, which means that every network assessment will also be unique. A majority of network assessments have a few commonalities that organizations can use to build their own network assessment strategy. 

 

Take A Physical Inventory

Any network assessment has to include accounting for all IT inventory that your organization has. If your organization has no idea how many servers and users have, then you will certainly have a difficult time understanding all of your IT infrastructure. Accounting for all of your physical assets can help your organization properly assess your network. For some organizations accounting for all IT assets could take weeks or even months. Identifying all of the physical IT assets can help teams identify which assets are being underutilized and what infrastructure needs are being neglected. 

 

Cybersecurity Evaluation

Another key part of any network assessment is identifying any vulnerabilities present in your IT systems. The cybersecurity assessment portion of a network assessment examines current security controls and how effective they are in reducing overall cybersecurity risk. This portion can identify any vulnerability in a network, such as an inefficient firewall or outdated software applications. 

 

A cybersecurity assessment does not just involve hardware and software; a proper network assessment will also look at how users interact with the network. Employees and customers are often the greatest risk in regards to cybersecurity. Understanding how big of a risk human error is in the context of a network can help an organization reduce that risk. 

 

Network Performance Evaluation

Assessing your network will also involve evaluating the overall performance of your network. A slow network can frustrate not only employees, but potential clients and customers using your network as well. Poor network performance can lead to lost revenue and missed opportunities. 

 

Network performance can suffer due to a number of causes, such as faulty software configurations or a high number of users. Identifying bottlenecks can help your organization resolve any network performance issues. A performance evaluation will help your organization identify the root causes of slow network functionality. 

 

Potential Network Assessment Benefits

Network assessments are not just for show; they provide a number of advantages to organizations who put the time and effort into performing them correctly. Companies who invest in network assessments will have an edge over competitors who neglect their networks. 

 

Patching Security Holes

A network assessment can help your organization find security vulnerabilities throughout your IT network. A network assessment that is properly done will uncover risks throughout a network. Typically, a network assessment will rank risks based on their threat level and likelihood of occuring. Decision makers can then take the appropriate measures to prevent the risks from turning into reality. Organizations can utilize the cybersecurity assessment to prevent catastrophic IT events, such as data hacks. A data leak can result in the loss of customer trust and hefty government fines. 

 

Identify Cost-Savings Opportunities

Another advantage that network assessments offer organizations is the chance to identify inefficiencies in IT infrastructure. A majority of organizations have networks that are ripe with inefficiencies. Even the simplest network assessment can identify low-hanging fruit that teams can easily work on. Executives can then capitalize on these opportunities and drive down costs and improve efficiencies. 

 

If your organization does not have the capabilities to properly conduct a network assessment, you may want to consider hiring some outside help. BACS has worked with various organizations to help them perform network assessments.  

 

BACS Helps Organizations Optimize Their Networks

The experienced team at BACS can help your organization perform a proper network assessment that will give you the big picture of your IT infrastructure. No matter how complex or simple your network is, BACS will ensure that you make the right IT infrastructure decisions going forward. From identifying security flaws to creating cost savings, network assessments can help drive your business grow. 

 

The BASC team is here to help you and answer any questions you may have regarding network assessments. Reach out to BACS today to learn more about network assessments and how a network assessment can help you drive business growth. We can develop a customized network assessment plan that meets your business needs. 

ent plan that meets your business needs.

Virtual Desktop Deployment

Benefits of Virtual Desktop Deployment

By | Business Continuity, Cloud, IT Support, Networking, Technology

Implementing virtualized desktops across your enterprise environment can provide users with a high-definition desktop experience while helping to improve security and reduce costs. While the potential benefits are compelling, implementing an effective virtual desktop environment requires more than installing and configuring software.

In planning your virtualized desktop deployment, 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. 

While no single strategy can cover every possible need or scenario, a sound implementation plan should take into consideration potential risk factors and adhere to best practice methods and procedures for optimum performance and return on investment.

 

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Define business needs.

 Virtual desktop deployment projects can rapidly expand in scope and complexity. That’s why it’s important to be clear about why you want to move to desktop virtualization. Understanding which capabilities and which performance requirements are most critical will help ensure you choose the optimum mix of infrastructure for your unique business needs. If you’re starting with just a few applications, determining performance and infrastructure requirements is easier because you’re not transferring every desktop to the cloud, but rather just a few applications to certain end users. You can use this initial scoping exercise to begin capacity planning. What are your current processing and storage needs? How many users will you be extending desktop services to? What will your virtual environment look like in a year or two years? 

 

Create a server plan. 

Servers are at the core of your virtualized desktop infrastructure, so it’s vital that I/O, memory, and other resources are available to support the processing requirement of desktop users. This requires having a clear understanding of the capabilities and limitations of your existing server environment. What applications and workloads run on which servers? What level of performance and availability do these workloads require? One drawback with creating multiple virtual machines from a single piece of hardware is that if that hardware fails, the entire configuration can be compromised. One remedy is to distribute virtual desktops across several servers so that a failure in one server won’t shut down all users. A more advanced approach is to implement a server cluster for virtual desktops, which spreads workload processing across all servers and can transfer the load to other servers in event of a fault. 

 

 

Implement access controls.

Although virtual desktops can provide users with a more flexible experience, it’s critical to closely manage which users are allowed access to specific applications and data. The more connections linking to a single device, the greater the risk of data exposure or compromise. The challenge is creating policies that aren’t overly restrictive. Ideally you want users to be able to maintain control of their devices while making sure operational flexibility does not undermine existing security policies and controls. Also, be sure to sure you include virtual desktop servers and endpoint data storage in your overall backup and disaster recovery plan.

 

 

Check compatibility. 

Make sure the hardware you select is compatible with the software you intend to virtualize. Many virtualization packages will support a standard set of hardware regardless of where that software resides. This will help ensure you have a standard hardware design template for each virtual machine, helping to reduce the time and effort in managing different driver versions across your virtualized environment. Consider what components are needed for a successful scale-up. IT teams often overlook the components needed to scale up to a virtualized environment, including host hardware, storage, networks, and hypervisor.

Allocate sufficient resources.

Virtualization increases the hardware requirements for your environment. So in the process of scoping out your ideal virtual system configuration, it’s important to makes sure you have sufficient storage and processing power for your virtual machines and software. This means your host servers must first have enough resources to support your virtualization software of choice, plus the operating system and software used within the virtual machines. How many users do you anticipate using the service at the same time? Is your network infrastructure capable of supporting this new client-server communication load?  An inadequately powered virtual machine or server diminishes the benefits of desktop virtualization. 

 

Train users.

The shift to desktop virtualization will alter the way users manage their endpoint devices, so training is often an integral part of the deployment effort. The resource sharing capabilities that virtualization enables can presents a number of issues that will need to be addressed. Which users will have control? What new skills will be required?  Training doesn’t need to be extensive since the desktop user experience should not change substantially. However, users should be aware of changes to their access controls and rights concerning their desktop privileges.   

With the right virtual desktop deployment strategy, you’ll be able to reap several important benefits:

Better productivity. 

Virtualized components can be configured and implemented quickly, reducing the time and complexity involved with provisioning new servers, storage or other resources. Fewer physical components also reduces the time and expense needed for ongoing management and support. 

 

 

Lower costs. 

The ability to create virtual versions of computers allows you to significantly reduce hardware costs. Less hardware to install reduces space requirements along with power and cooling expenses, allowing you to reinvest this savings into more strategic initiatives.    

 

Enhanced data protection. 

Virtualization helps simplify data protection processes. With consistent and automated data backups, meeting your recovery time objectives becomes a more reliable process.

 

 

Improved scalability. 

A core benefit of a virtualized environment is the ability to quickly configure the infrastructure to meet shifting business requirements. Virtual desktop machines can be rapidly reconfigured to enhance their “hardware” performance capabilities ‘on-the-fly”.

 

 

Better disaster recovery. 

Automated failover capabilities inherent in most virtualization platforms helps improve recovery so that if a disaster hits, your infrastructure is already preconfigured with the proper backup and recovery steps to ensure systems are brought back online quickly and securely. 

Charting a path to success

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 virtualized expert whose core focus is improving your technology and optimizing your return on investment. Implementing an effective, smooth-running virtualized desktop environment can be challenging and time-intensive, but when done correctly, the effort will pay dividends far beyond the initial investment.  

Engineering IT Solutions

Four Costly Misconceptions Many Construction and Engineering Firms Have About IT

By | IT Support, managed It services

Have you started to doubt the value of your IT service provider? Misconceptions about this complex field can arise from a lack of shared knowledge when observations do not present a full picture. If you wonder about your company’s need for information technology (IT) services, your experience as a toughminded decision-maker may contribute to your evaluation. Your depth of knowledge and experience in contracting or engineering may obscure your awareness of IT’s detailed requirements, and misconceptions can form. Some of them may cost more than you imagine.

Misconception #1

My computer network does not need monthly monitoring and maintenance; I only want to pay for repairs or support on an “as-needed” basis.

An erroneous understanding of technical issues creates preconceptions that can make you devalue your IT, and it frequently happens among smaller construction and engineering companies. With the complexity and dynamism of computer technology, the demand for technicians who understand the relationships between software, data, firewall applications, and the total system becomes increasingly important. Computer systems need regular updates and routine maintenance to deter cybercrime invasions and prevent attacks by viruses and hackers.

Here’s a checklist of the necessary IT tasks you can use as a guide to ensure your IT system’s consistent operation.

Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Updating Processes:

  • Check Bentley and Autodesk license managers for critical updates, conflicts, functionality, and potential issues.
  • Check Bentley and AutoCAD for updates and schedule updates with clients.
  • Update all Sage CRE, Viewpoint, Deltek, and other accounting applications.
  • Install security patches and updates as a critical factor in maintaining your system and detecting daily cyberattacks.
  • Update and monitor anti-virus software.
  • Update and monitor firewall applications.

Backup Processes:

  • Check backups daily to ensure that occurrences appear every hour.
  • Manage and monitor all computer networks and connected devices to safeguard against cybercrime, data loss, and sluggish system performance.
  • Monitor and maintain email file size to prevent difficulty with transmitting large files.

Maintenance Functions:

  • Install and update spam filter software.
  • Detect and remove spyware.
  • Conduct monitoring of workstations and server disk space.
  • Monitor hardware to detect any potential for failure.
  • Optimize systems to ensure maximum speed.

Recommended Action

You can expect a reliable IT support company to provide a regular schedule to update, backup, and maintain your system. You have a justifiable reason to replace a service that fails to perform these essential functions that protect your system. Regular service and efficient monitoring prevent the loss of valuable files and protect your system from malicious intrusion by hackers who intend to inflict damage.

 

Misconception #2

My nephew’s/neighbor’s kid/brother-in-law/office manager knows this IT stuff and can care for our computers.

Your ability to save money may account for at least some of your business success, and many other business owners share it. However, a decision to economize by eliminating a highly skilled position may produce counterproductive outcomes. The tasks of conducting maintenance, virus prevention, and updating computer systems demand an experienced professional’s full-time attention. Issues that may occur intermittently require time to observe; reliance on knowledge can help an IT technician identify and correct problems. When you remember that your experience helped you resolve difficult issues, you can understand the importance of relying on a qualified professional.

While interim part-timers may not know how to fix problems, you may find that they can create issues easily. Your IT network and the data that it contains may support the core of your business. Access to it by an inexperienced person can cause almost irreparable damage. The cost of restoring lost files or reversing the effect of mistakes can far exceed the price of a professional IT service.

Recommended Action

Stay with a qualified professional.

 

Misconception #3

All IT support companies offer the same service. You can find your best option with the one that offers the lowest price.

Generalizations can perpetuate preconceptions and help enforce false impressions. While assumptions may make you think that a product has low value because of a low price, the truth may lie elsewhere. In a high demand field, IT support technicians can demand competitive wages just as other professions require. Some may set lower prices to get started in the business, but a low rate may indicate a lack of experience. When you place a minimum of five years in business as a criterion for hiring an IT support company, you can expect a high-quality performance. You may find a closer alignment for your firm’s requirements by searching for a company with previous contracting or engineering firms’ experience.

Some IT service providers may offer a low price, but the quality of work may suffer. Outsourcing to overseas companies can allow access to your firm’s data, email, and personal files, providing a potential risk that can require your time, effort, and resources to resolve. Others may offer temporary jobs to college students or new technicians who accept opportunities to learn the work for low wages. The outcomes of these practices can produce consequences that you may not realize for weeks or months.

An unqualified technician’s improper diagnosis can allow work to proceed on a problem that does not exist. Television reporters have tested computer repair shops’ ability to find and fix a disconnected cable, and many failed. While not producing the same dire effects as a failure to note defects in your computer system, the possibility of an unknowledgeable worker accessing your company’s information deserves some consideration. No low price can compensate for damage to your accounting records, bank accounts, browsing history, client data, or your proprietary business concepts.

When you find a company that seems to fit your criteria, you can fine-tune your selection by interviewing its marketing representative. The best IT service providers spend time asking questions to understand how their services match your requirements. Just like your clients check your reputation with others who hired you for contracting or engineering services, any company that deserves your business can provide many satisfied customers’ references to check if you choose.

Recommended Action

Look for experience and knowledgeable questions as qualifications for your IT service provider.

 

Misconception #4

An honest IT support company can provide a telephone quote.

While the apparent convenience of getting a price estimate over the phone may appeal, your experience in the business world advises against it. Professional technicians need to inspect your system before they can tell you a price for their services, and you do yourself a favor by not asking for a guess. Some unscrupulous IT service providers offer a low price on the phone to get a contract with you, but the price may change with unexpected add-ons that add hours to the bill. Firms that you can trust do not use hourly billing. A flat-rate and a fixed fee quote before work begins can ensure you of reliable service.

Recommended Action

Invite an IT service provider to an interview at your site to review your requirements and provide a written quote for services.

Every misconception has at least a grain of truth in it, and each can provide a heads up to take note of vital issues. While they may mislead you on the importance of choosing a professional IT service provider with reliable references and competitive pay requirements, they serve a valuable purpose. By refuting them and getting to the facts, you gain knowledge that benefits your company.