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.

Pros And Cons Of Cloud And Physical Backup Solutions

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

When it comes to backing up data, you have two choices – you either maintain physical copies of your data or you utilize cloud services to host your data. Before you make a decision, you should look into the pros and cons of each and determine which one is a good fit for you.

Pros of Cloud-Based Services
Utilizing the cloud requires no capital investment for additional hardware or personnel to monitor and maintain your data locally.
Cloud service providers offer scalability to your data needs. No more adding additional drives or servers to maintain your data.
Data stored in the cloud is safe from any disasters that your office may have.
Your data can be accessed from any Internet connection in the world.
No maintenance of data drives. The cloud service provider takes care of everything on their end.
Cloud-based storage for your data will remove any risk of data corruption or hardware fault. This will allow you to reduce overhead by reducing the amount of IT staff personal assigned to manage and maintain your company’s data.

Cons of Cloud-Based Services
Cloud storage requires an Internet connection for uploading and downloading of data. If your connection is slow, you should expect slower uploads of data and increased access time to your data.
While almost every cloud service provider offers plans that come with data encryption, not all do. Make sure your cloud provider is securing your data.

Pros of Physical Backup
No vendors to deal with. You are in complete control of your data. You control how it’s backed up, accessed and maintained.
Data backups tend to take less time. There is no dependency on an Internet connection for backing up or accessing your data.
You are in complete control of the security process that protects your data.

Cons of Physical Backup
Localized data storage does offer the sense of control and knowing where your data is. However, that piece of mind can incur some high costs and overhead.
As the size of your data grows, so does your investment in storage media such as flash drives, external hard drives, internal hard drives and additional servers.
Physical devices will fail. It’s not “if,” but “when.” All mechanical devices will fail at some point in their life cycle. Additional IT staff will need to be put in place to monitor and maintain the physical equipment to ensure data integrity. This increases overhead.
In the event of a disaster in your business, data accessibility and recovery will be dependent on if extra steps were taken to secure physical copies of your data off-site.
Doing this will require the purchase of additional hardware and additional manpower to ensure the data is corruption-free.

Again, before deciding which method to implement, figure out which solution will work best for your business. Not every company’s backup or data storage needs are the same.

For assistance in setting up either cloud-based or local backup solutions, call the experts at Tech Experts: (734) 457-5000.

The Importance Of Centralized Storage

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

Do you know where all of your data is? Is the file you’re looking for saved to workstation-01 or workstation-12? What happens when a user deletes a file you need from their workstation? What happens if your workstation dies?

If you’re a business owner or manager and have trouble answering those questions, centralized storage of your data may be your answer.

You can remove the stress of accidental deletions, have direct mapped access to your files, secure your data from intrusion and, most importantly, make it easy and simple to back up your data.

Centralized storage can include an external hard drive, USB flash drive, NAS (Network Attached Storage) device, cloud environment, or storage on a server. The best method is determined by your business structure.

Smaller businesses may opt for simple external devices attached to a workstation or a NAS device to save and back up their data. Simple external devices such as larger-sized USB flash drives and external hard drives are a low-cost solution.

NAS devices cost more, but they are useful additions to business networks. Most mid-ranged NAS devices offer raid levels 0, 1, and 5, so they can be customized for speed or data protection.

Some NAS devices are running a server-style operating system that will integrate into your existing AD. This will offer additional security features over a simple external hard drive or USB flash drive.

Businesses and home users that opt for the simple and least expensive method need to be very diligent about their data. Smaller devices are more susceptible to theft and damage.
They also tend to have shorter lives than other more costly methods. Should you go this route, make sure you maintain backups of your data and immediately replace your device at the first sign of possible hardware failure.

Data recovery from a simple solution device may not always be possible and it can become very costly to try.

Closeup of open hard driveLarger businesses will want to opt for on-site storage with network drives and backup solutions in place. Or they may want to invest in the cloud for a storage. Most medium-to-large scale businesses already have some form of a network server and backup in place, so all that may be needed is additional hard drive space or the creation of folders to house data.

You may also want to install a dedicated server for just data storage and possibly to handle your printing management. Cloud-based storage can be costly depending on the amount of data that needs to be stored, the security level, and the number of simultaneous connections to your data.

Cloud-based methods tend to be best as a secure backup option, but can be used for raw storage. With web-based access, all your employees need is an Internet connection to access their data.

Both on-site server storage and cloud storage offer strong backup options, the ability to restore deleted files, ease of access from off-site locations, and the sharing of files and folders across a wide area.

Whether you choose to go with a low-cost simple solution or a more robust solution, centralized storage brings peace of mind that your data is accessible and secure.

Your business will become more efficient and streamlined just by maintaining your data in one easy-but-secure location for your employees to access.

For more information about implementing centralized storage in your business, call the experts at Tech Experts: (734) 457-5000.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

Is My Business Data Safe in the Cloud?

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

One of the newest business technologies is “the cloud” that more and more people are using. It’s an elusive term that is difficult to pin down, and it is precisely that vagueness that inspires fear in those who are considering transferring sensitive business data to it.

The cloud, however, isn’t as mystifying as you may think, and, if you use an online data drive or social media, you are already using it. Simply put, the cloud consists of networks of servers worldwide that are capable of storing information.

The primary benefit of using the cloud for business is that it eliminates the cost and hassle of purchasing and maintaining a physical server. Also, employees don’t have to waste time downloading and running applications and programs when they can pluck what they need from the cloud and virtually put it back when they are done. While this all sounds well and good, the question remains, “Is business data safe in the cloud?”

[Read more…]

Cloud Vs. On-Premise Systems – Pros, Cons And Costs

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

A common discussion among the business owners I work with is whether to store their data in the cloud or an on-premise IT system. The conversation usually starts with the cost implications; however, there are many things that need to be taken into consideration when comparing the two options, such as some of the following:

Cloud
The recurring monthly service cost is often the main and sometimes the only cost factor that is considered when comparing cloud solutions with an on-premise option.

Pros
• Although much is said about cloud solutions outages, public and private clouds can provide much better reliability and uptime than an old, outdated and poorly maintained on-premise system.

• In the long term, the total cost of ownership (TCO) for cloud solutions is much lower than that for on-premise systems for most businesses.

Cons
• Offloading hefty workloads to the cloud demands sufficient bandwidth. Without it, any savings you might be making from not running an internal server could potentially be negated by slowness and productivity loss.

• Similarly, any increased needs in Internet connection costs should be accounted for in an objective comparison of moving to the cloud versus staying in-house. If you are contemplating moving to the cloud, talk to us about the amount of bandwidth you need for your business.

• When dealing with cloud servers, you will often find that while you can move as much data as you wish into the server, transferring data out usually has an associated cost.

• Moving large amounts of data to the cloud may take a significant amount of time depending on your office Internet connection; it may not be enough to transfer these workloads in a timely manner between endpoints.

ПечатьOn-premise IT systems
Many people mistakenly believe that the cost for on-premise systems start and stop with how much they need to pay for new hardware and software.

Pros
• They are more suitable than cloud solutions for large capacity file sharing of 50GB or more, or for operations that would be bandwidth-prohibitive in a cloud scenario, such as rural offices with weaker Internet connectivity.

Cons
• In contrast to standard computers or laptops, the average solid server has a mixture of multiple-socket processors, dual power supplies, multiple hard drives and numerous other components that all increase your electrical overhead cost. You should also factor in the cost of cooling your hardware, which is critical in maintaining these components.

• On average, organizations replace on-premise systems every five years, which means you will incur upgrade costs to retire old servers. Even if staying in-house may be cheaper than moving to the cloud when you consider the monthly costs, your five-year upgrade or replacement costs could be even more expensive, and opting for cloud solutions may still be better in the long term.

It is worth noting that while one solution may seem more favorable than the other, it may not apply to all businesses.

As such, it is important to objectively compare these factors based on your business needs and make the most suitable decision accordingly.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

Choosing The Best Option To Back Up Your Data

by Michael Menor, Network Technician
We highly recommend that all computer users regularly back up their data in order to prevent losing information in the case of a disk failure.

We recommend at the very least backing up files that are frequently changed. A basic backup strategy involves copying important files to a location separate from your hard drive.

Having more than one copy of important data is insurance against the loss of that data in an event such as a hard drive or system failure.

To make your backup strategy more complete, you should try a trial restore of your backup so you will be comfortable enough with the process to use it before you experience the loss of data.

Flash drives that plug into a USB port are a convenient technology for backups. They do not generally require any extra software and are very portable and they can be reused many times.

Flash Drive
A flash drive can serve as an external repository for important data as a protection against an event such as the failure of your hard disk.

However, a single flash drive does not have the storage capacity to backup an entire hard disk or file system, and they tend be more expensive than other storage methods for the same amount of data.

Cloud Storage
You can access your data from any computer or mobile device with an Internet connection and you don’t have to keep track of any extra hardware or external storage media.

There are many providers that offer free online storage. A few popular ones are Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft SkyDrive.

Many of these are cross-platform applications that enable you to access whatever data you have stored as though it were stored in a folder on your computer’s hard drive.

CDs/DVDs/Blu-ray discs
CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs are also an option for backing up data if you have an internal or external drive that can write to one or all formats:

  • CDs: 750 MB
  • DVDs: 4.5 GB (single layer) or 8.7 GB (double layer)
  • Blu-ray: 25-100 GB

CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs are among your cheapest backup options (per gigabyte), and they are also among the most durable (no moving parts to wear out or metal parts to rust).

However, while it is technically possible to back up your entire system to CDs, DVDs, or Blu-ray discs by spanning multiple discs, it would be a time-consuming process that would require many discs.

External Hard Drives
An external hard drive is often the same type of hard drive as found inside most computers, only in a stand-alone enclosure with a USB or other data port that is powered by your computer or a separate wall adaptor.

As such, it is possible to purchase an external hard drive that is as large or larger than your computer’s internal hard drive, allowing you to backup your entire system to a drive that you can separate from your computer, carry with you to transfer your files, or set aside as a backup.

Most external hard drives have moving parts, however, making them more prone to wear and damage due to drops or vibration than some other backup options.

Also, some external hard drives do not operate cross-platform, which means that if your drive is formatted for use with Mac OS X, it may not be recognized by a Windows computer (or vice-versa).

External hard drives are available in sizes ranging from 100 gigabytes to many terabytes, and some are small enough to carry in a purse.

However, in whatever size you choose, external hard drives are the fastest and most versatile way to back up large amounts of data.

Four Simple Things To Help You Get More Done In 2013

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

Making New Year’s resolutions is a cliché these days, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile. Whether we’re successful or not, I think it’s healthy to take some time each year to look at where we’re at, and what improvements make sense.

One of the biggest resolutions, of course, is to be more productive. Toward that end, here are four simple things you can do to get more done in your day.

Block non-work related websites
This one won’t be popular, but if you want to get more done, then get rid of the distractions.

Of course if part of your job is to manage the social media for your company, this doesn’t apply; for all the other workers in your office who don’t need to be on Facebook and Twitter all day, this will remove the temptation to pop on social media sites “for just a minute.” This adds up to hours of wasted company time, and zero productivity.

A content filtering firewall, or even special filtering software, can easily manage which sites you can visit. Other things to block include gambling sites, employees searching for a new job on company time, and bandwidth wasters like Youtube.

There are also many distraction-blocking apps you can use to help you disconnect. AntiSocial and Freedom will make time-sucking sites unavailable for however long you choose.

Set up remote access
With the ubiquity of fast residential Internet, it’s easy to set up a VPN to your office to access files, e-mail and programs from home (or while on the road) using remote access applications or cloud technologies.

This lets you work when forced to stay home with sick kids or to wait for the repairman to show up.

Studies show that employees generally put in several more hours of work on their own initiative if they can easily jump on their home PC to finish up a report or check their work email.

Use dual monitors
According to a University of Utah study, you can increase your efficiency by 25% just by adding a second monitor.

A second monitor increases effectiveness and usability, decreases errors from switching between applications, and makes task tracking easier. All of these factors combined show vastly improved productivity.

Put your storage in the cloud
Cloud storage began as a way to backup data, but now you can use it for file storage just like a network drive.

Cloud storage can boost productivity by giving you access to your data anytime, anywhere. Get even more done when you pair cloud services with mobile devices like iPads and smartphones.

Each of these is an easy update for us to implement. If you want more details on improving productivity in your office, just give me a call at (734) 457-5000, or send us an e-mail at support@MyTechExperts.com.