What Exactly Is The Cloud? And Is It Safe?

It’s the kind of question you’d think would be easy to answer, until someone asks you: What exactly is the cloud?

Put simply, it’s using someone else’s computers over the internet to do things we used to do in our own computers. Like run software or store data.

When you run software in a tab in your browser, that software is still running on a computer… it’s just not your computer. That means you can run very powerful applications without needing a powerful computer. Excellent!

So, is the cloud safe? The answer is that it depends.

While there’s no technology that is 100% safe – working with the larger cloud providers is often safer than running things on your own network. Simply because they have dedicated teams of security experts.

You should also focus on making sure your business’s use of the cloud is safe too. Such as by:

• Never ever sharing logins (even amongst your team members)

• Making sure you use randomly generated passwords protected by a password manager, and

• Keeping all devices 100% up-to-date at all times with Updates and Next-Gen Anti-Virus tools

The Biggest Cloud Advances In The Last Decade

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Yes, believe it or not, we have closed out yet another decade in technology. As we are entering the second generation of the “Roarin’ 20s,” it felt like the perfect time to look back on the ‘10s.

Even though cloud technology was widely available prior to 2010, the technology has made significant strides in gaining acceptance as the defacto business solution. From communications to storage to backup, the cloud is now where it is at.

In the beginning….
There were three cloud giants that emerged. Between Google, AWS and Microsoft, the cloud market was valued at an astonishing $24.65 Billion.
[Read more…]

Five Benefits Of Virtualization For Small Businesses

Virtualization offers real and attainable multi-faceted advantages for small businesses. Here are some tangible benefits:

Low operating costs

A growing number of businesses are using virtualization because the technology helps reduce costs drastically.

For instance, server virtualization eliminates the need to have physical servers, which are typically costly to run and maintain. In addition, instead of purchasing separate licenses for each server, you would only purchase one license and host additional servers at no extra cost (some limitations and exceptions may apply). With fewer physical servers, you also save money on power bills, maintenance fees and data center office space and fees.

Increased efficiency

Server virtualization makes more efficient use of computing resources; it becomes possible to increase the utilization of your servers from 15 to 80 percent, eliminating the need for extra servers.

You essentially consolidate multiple physical servers onto one machine running a number of virtual servers. As such, you would cut your capital expenses.

Improved business continuity

Server hardware failure is the most common cause of data center failure. In a virtual server, live migration is a feature that helps maintain business continuity by eliminating downtime.

Faster deployment

Virtual devices allow faster installations of new server applications and/or routers as well as to switch software services, since you don’t have to order equipment.

Instead, all you need to do is configure a new virtual machine, router, switch or storage drive using your special virtualization management software tool. The process typically involves copying an image, significantly reducing setup, configuration and recovery times.

Improved disaster recovery

Backing up virtual infrastructure normally entails making copies of virtual machine file images – an easier process than working with different physical servers.

In addition, hosting virtual infrastructure doesn’t require much equipment, so companies can buy multiple servers and house them in different locations. This makes backups redundant and disaster recovery quick for higher uptime.

Administrators can seamlessly move live virtual machines between physical server hosts without turning them off and without downtime.

Top Reasons To Jumpstart Your Paperless Initiative

Want to “go paperless” with your company? See the many benefits of paperless business and learn how to jumpstart this initiative for effective results.

Many businesses toy around with the idea of “going paperless,” but what’s actually in it for the companies who decide to go through with it? To be sure, not all businesses are cut out to go paperless.

Certain documents in certain industries simply must be in paper form. Therefore, depending on your industry and unique company needs, you may end up unnecessarily complicating affairs if you try to do everything digitally.

At the same time, a great many companies will benefit significantly from making this change. Below, we’ll go over the specific reasons why it might be a good idea for your company. First, though, let’s define what going paperless actually means.

What does it really mean to “go paperless?”
The term “going paperless” simply refers to the shift from printed documents to digital documents. For example, instead of printing invoices, order forms, and tax documents, a company would issue all of these documents digitally, sending them via email or storing them as files.

What are the top reasons to “go paperless?”
You’ll save money. Cloud data storage is a lot less expensive than on-premise data storage. Moreover, on-premise data storage forces you to pay for the maximum amount of storage you may need upfront. With cloud storage, you can easily scale your storage capacity up or down, depending on your needs.

You’ll have document access from everywhere
Most businesses who go paperless store their documents in the cloud. When you do this, access to these documents is available wherever you can find an Internet connection.

This makes it easier to hire remote workers, send employees on work trips, and access important information even when you’re away from the office.

You’ll save time
Consider the time it takes to print, scan, copy, collate, organize, and store all of your paper documents. Additionally, remember that when you have a huge number of documents to contend with, protocols and systems must be developed, instituted, and monitored. Lastly, think about how long it takes to find a specific document within your files. All of these tasks are time- consuming, and in any business, time is money.

When you switch to a digital system of document storage, you’ll be saving an immense amount of time. Documents can be digitally created, copied, sent, edited, and stored.

There’s no need to run to the printer or search through endless boxes for the paper file you need. When searching for files, you can simply pop a few keywords into the search bar of your data storage system, and voilà — it will appear!

You’ll save space
Consider how much space you currently use to store paper documents. From old tax returns and invoices to printed data and memos, an accumulation of individual sheets of paper can actually take up quite a lot of room. Digital documents, on the other hand, are virtually invisible. As long as you have enough data storage capacity available, you’ll gain tons of physical space when you make the switch to a paperless system.

The Cloud – Have You Harnessed Its Strategic Advantages?

The cloud may still feel like a new technology – but in reality, it’s been around for more than 10 years now. Does that make you feel old?

Let’s be clear about something – the cloud is here to stay. In recent years you may have still heard the occasional “industry insider” suggest that the world may be moving too quickly to an untested and unsure platform in cloud computing, but no more. The cloud is now an integral part of daily life for private consumer and business users alike.

What Is The Cloud?
The cloud is a network of technologies that allows access to computing resources, such as storage, processing power, and more. That’s where the data is – in these data centers all around the world. Which data center your data is in depends on what cloud service provider you’re working with.

The Cloud Isn’t As New As You Might Think
Would you say the cloud is “new”? To some, this may seem like a question with an obvious answer, but it’s not that simple. The way in which we think about technology can lead to something feeling new for a lot longer than would make sense otherwise.

After all, the cloud is more than a decade old, but a lot of people still think of it as a new technology.

You Need To Keep An Eye On Your Cloud
As beneficial as the cloud can be, it’s important to note that it can also pose risks if it isn’t managed properly. It all comes down to the classic binary relationship between convenience and security.

The cloud gives you unparalleled access to your data from anywhere with an Internet connection. That means that external parties (including cybercriminals) can have undue access to your data as well if you don’t take the necessary steps to secure your environment.

That’s why you need to monitor your cloud. No matter who you entrust your data to, you should ensure that you or someone in your organization is given appropriate visibility over your cloud environment. That way, you can guarantee that security and compliance standards are being maintained.

If you don’t have the resources to manage this type of ongoing monitoring, then it would be wise to work with the right third party IT services company.

Doing so will allow you to outsource the migration, management, and monitoring of your cloud.

You’ll get the best of both worlds – security and convenience.

53% Of Businesses Have Publicly Exposed Cloud Services

Chris Myers is a field service technician for Tech Experts.

Malware comes in many different forms and is used by hackers in a number of different ways. It can be used to steal information, locate vulnerabilities in your IT systems for a secondary attack, or simply to cause damage.

There are countless hackers out there just waiting for your business to leave your data vulnerable. With the introduction of the cloud, you felt a bit more secure and slept slightly better at night – but now, it seems that was precisely what hackers wanted us to do.

A recent Cloud Security Trends study found that 53% of businesses using cloud storage accidentally expose their data to the public. This is like securing your whole house, locking all doors and windows, and then going to sleep with the garage wide open.

This doesn’t just point the finger at small businesses either. The study showed that even big-name companies such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) had inadvertently exposed one or more of these services to the public.

The scary thing is that the previous survey showed this was occurring only 40% of the time. Now, this number has grown to 53%.

This study was conducted in 2017 between the months of June to September. Within those two months, they found that businesses are not only exposing their own data but they are also neglecting vulnerabilities in their cloud. When you ignore these things, you put not only your customers at risk but also the livelihood of your company as well.

What Are You Exposing?
The report shows that businesses weren’t solely leaking data such as customer information, but incredibly dangerous information such as access keys and other private data as well.

These cyber-attacks commonly expose data such as personal health information, financial information, passwords and usernames, trade secrets, and intellectual property. With two million new malware attacks launching every day, it’s more important than ever to stay in a constant state of vigilance.

Ignoring Vulnerabilities
A common misconception is that it’s the service provider’s responsibility to keep cloud data safe – this is not true. Most of the damage caused by ignoring vulnerabilities can be prevented by training.

If your staff is trained to recognize weaknesses, then they can be more proactive in fighting against them. More than 80% of businesses are not managing host vulnerabilities in the cloud. Vulnerabilities include insufficient or suspicious credentials, application weaknesses, and inadequate employee security training.

Complex Attacks
Not all the attacks and vulnerabilities are the fault of the business. Some of these attacks are far more complex than most businesses are prepared for, including big-name companies. These sophisticated attacks not only know and bypass the company’s vulnerabilities but also various application weaknesses.

What Can You Do About It?
The first action you can take against attacks is recognizing suspicious IP addresses. Have a policy in place for identifying, flagging, and isolating suspicious IP addresses. Spending a few extra minutes of your time could save months of recovery and downtime.

It’s important to pay attention to mistakes that others have made so you don’t suffer the same consequences. Be sure to train and certify the IT staff you already have. Cyberattacks are guaranteed, but what isn’t guaranteed is how prepared your business is to thwart off those attacks.

Five Ways To Take Your Business Paper Free

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

If you’re a small business owner, chances are you always have one eyes on your operating costs and the best way to reduce or eliminate extra expenses and improve staff efficiency.

One great way in which you can gain some great cost savings is by eliminating paper.

Paper-based tasks increase storage, postage, and compliance costs and can be a major overhead for modern-day businesses.

Here are five ways you can reduce paper usage and save yourself some cash in the process.

Smart Project Management

Traditionally, the process of managing company projects that involve different departments and multiple people generates massive amounts of paperwork.

More contemporary organizations are taking the smart project management approach through the use of cloud-based solutions, such as Basecamp, Asana or Trello, which allow you to ditch the paper while running a project online with unlimited users.

Electronic Payroll

Rectifying payroll issues costs half of all small business an average of $850 annually. Using decent payroll software reduces the errors and facilitates paperless processing. An electronic payroll system automates all the manual calculations such as tracking hours worked, calculating salaries, and filing taxes.

Salaries can also be paid electronically rather than printing checks or visiting the bank.

The additional benefits of electronic payroll include self-service functionality, and allowing staff to view their payroll data, such as personal details, tax deductions and pay slips online from any device.

Receipts and Invoices

Eliminate paper (and postage costs) by offering customers the option to receive electronic receipts either by email or text.

Your customer will then have it for future reference. Ask suppliers to issue and email digital invoices, which you can save into your accounting software.

Cloud Storage

Small businesses spend a lot of money to purchase, fill and maintain filing cabinets!

Switching to cloud storage can reduce most of this cost as many services, like Dropbox, offer a free allowance.

Most cloud-based options also allow you to organize documents into separate folders.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software

CRM software can reduce the extent to which you rely on paper to store and track customer details, purchase orders, quotes and other correspondence.

Features include the ability to store customer data and interactions, manage staff details and vendors, and store documents.

The Cloud Can Propel Your Small Business To The Next Level

The cloud has changed the way we do business and allows small enterprises to connect better with customers and innovate more rapidly. Organizations are moving more and more of their business operations to cloud-based platforms in a bid to take advantage of the speed, flexibility, and engagement opportunities these applications offer.

But what exactly do you stand to gain from embracing the cloud?

The cloud is helping businesses to bring new products and services to market much faster than ever before. As opposed to internal budgets and red tape to get a project prioritized, more and more organizations are turning their attention to the cloud to get things done.

Enhanced customer engagement
Data is big business in the contemporary business world, and an estimated 54% of the world’s top firms use big data to market, target, and retarget their products and services. The cloud is offering SMBs an ideal mechanism by which it is possible to connect more closely with customers to understand their behaviors and what they need.

A flexible system
Using the cloud is far from an all-or-nothing investment. In fact, most cloud-based service providers allow you to scale your usage in accordance with your business needs. If your data storage needs start off small, you can secure a suitable plan for what bandwidth you will actually use and then gradually upgrade the plan as your needs change. This means you can avoid large initial capital investments and simply pay a monthly fee that is aligned with your consumption.

An Introduction To Cloud Computing

Anthony Glover is Tech Expert’s network engineer.

So what is cloud computing? In definition, it’s the practice of using a network of remote servers on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, instead of a local server or a PC.

Ideally, cloud computing is the future of computing, from creating a backup to managing cloud software. Think of this as the easy-access entity for your computing devices, network, etc.

Using the cloud improves mobility and, should you find yourself in a situation with data loss or equipment damage, it shortens disaster recovery time. Additionally, it can significantly lower prices on hardware.

So why utilize the cloud?
Today, the cloud is broadly used and anyone that doesn’t use it today is left in the dark in several ways. The main issue is the redundancy and the ability that can be utilized with the cloud.

A cloud interface for items – such as local software, local backups, your everyday access of traditional programs used throughout your organization – can all be gathered and placed in a cloud environment, making them obtain a failsafe attribute that no other service today can provide. The ability to access, change, and provide these features end-users live for through a managed cloud-based environment is essential in any technical environment today.

How secure is the cloud?
The cloud is the safest environment for your data – as well as the most cost effective and easiest way to manage each and every aspect of computing at your business.

Your data can not only be backed up via the cloud, but can also be expanded just by paying for additional space rather than additional equipment. Some services even provide real-time backups that update as you add new material to your PC. This brings in the peace of mind that your data is not only backed up, but safe.

How fast is the cloud?
The cloud is as seamless as your Internet connection. The faster the Internet connection, the faster the cloud connection. Of course, network equipment can also be a contributing factor when having a seamless cloud environment. With that said, the faster the networking equipment, the better.

Of course, there are recommended system requirements for any cloud device or service, however they do vary based on the solution depth and complexity.

Can I have multiple devices backup to the cloud?
Yes, you can. You can have multiple seamless cloud backups going at once that can not only be real time, but managed by a professional to make sure that all of your critical data is accessible and up-to-date.

At Tech Experts, we can provide a solution that can fulfill your cloud back-up needs with a managed environment you would expect from a technical provider.

I’m interested – where do I sign up for the cloud?
The cloud is closer than you think. In fact, it’s just a phone call and a service visit away.

Call one of our trained and detail-oriented professionals today at (734) 457-5000 to inquire about a cloud-based managed solution that’s suitable for your small business.

Five Ways Cloud Computing Can Improve Your Business

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Regardless of the size of your business, you can harness the power of the same high-tech tools used by Fortune 500 companies, thanks to cloud-based technology.

According to recent studies of small- to medium-sized businesses, those using cloud computing greatly outperformed those that didn’t. One study showed an average of 26% more growth and 21% more profitability for small- to medium-sized businesses using cloud computing over those that only had their heads in the clouds.

Here are five concrete ways the cloud can help your business:

Reduced costs
Cloud computing eliminates the need for a large IT department. With the data centers located off-site, your business is not responsible for the electricity to run, maintain, or periodically upgrade those servers. The money saved by using cloud computing can then be redirected into growing your business or marketing to new clients. [Read more…]