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Managed IT Services Improve Business Efficiency

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In many ways, IT departments form the backbone of today’s businesses. Most things that a business works towards required computers, Internet connections, servers, software programs, and other technological devices. Although these items may differ depending on the business, the basic idea is the same – without technology most businesses wouldn’t be able to thrive.

At the center of all this technology, IT departments have a crucial role. The departments’ jobs are to oversee the technology that a company uses. This includes issues of governance, designing and overseeing the IT infrastructure, and also implementing the various technologies for the greater good of the company.

In other words, IT both supports and manages the infrastructure and when its done right, it can make the company more efficient. However, not all IT is created equally. Here’s a look at why managed IT services are often better at increasing a business’s efficiency than internal IT departments:

Managed IT Services Can Handle Security Concerns

Often, internal IT departments are too close to a business’s IT infrastructure in order to effectively assess whether or not the security protocols are effective or not. In fact, internal IT departments aren’t always equipped with a staff that specializes in cyber security. The truth is, all businesses are vulnerable and not accurately identifying all the security risks a business could face is something that could decrease efficiency.

When a businesses experience a security breach or other security event, such as a natural disaster, this could not only result in a loss of valuable company data, but also cause the business to go offline, which could also cut into the company’s revenue. Rather than hire a security expert internally, businesses are much better off using a managed IT provider since they keep security experts on staff. Together, the managed IT provider and the business would come up with a security plan that will help keep the business safe and also make it more efficient.

Experience Leads to Efficiency

Using a managed IT services provider can also boost business efficiency because the business would have access to IT professionals who have a high level of expertise in the field. This means that no matter what type of IT service the company needs, there is likely a professional who can provide the necessary level of expertise. This not only saves the company time, but it also saves them money. When hiring IT professionals to service internal IT departments, it is often difficult to find candidates who can cover a wide range of skill sets. Managed IT services solve this problem by giving businesses access to everything they need at a fraction of the cost.

It’s true that managed IT services can improve efficiency. By giving businesses access to IT professionals who have a diverse breadth of skills, it can increase a company’s productivity. They also are particularly well versed in helping businesses keep their company’s valuable information assets secure, which can not only prevent valuable data from going into the wrong hands, but also prevent the company from going offline, which can decrease revenue.

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How IT Departments Can Improve BYOD Safety

how-it-departments-can-improve-byod-safetyThese days, most workplaces have enacted a BYOD policy and many people do use their personal smartphones, tablets, and computers for work purposes. While BYOD makes employees’ lives easier, it can certainly cause headaches for IT departments. Since BYOD is here to stay, it’s up to the IT departments to make sure the associated security risks aren’t a factor. Here are some strategies that IT departments can use to help make BYOD as safe as possible:

Limit Personal Device Use

Although IT departments can’t really stop people from using personal devices at work, it is possible to limit which employees can actually access the business network. By restricting the amount of devices that are able to access the network, this can seriously reduce the risks. For instance, by making the business network only accessible to upper management, this allows IT the chance to approve the devices and also install security measures. That way, if a security issue does arise, it is much easier to identify a cause if there are fewer BYOD users.

Develop a Support Strategy

In many cases, it isn’t possible or practical to limit BYOD use to a select number of users. If BYOD is a widespread company policy, it makes sense to develop a sophisticated support strategy. Does the IT department have measures in place to help users problem solve issues on their devices? Will the business benefit from enacting community support tools, which will enable users to assist each other to take the burden off of the IT departments? In general, support strategies will vary depending on the nature of the business.

Encrypt Sensitive Data

Data is considered to be one of the biggest assets that a business has. Unfortunately, BYOD often causes this data to be vulnerable, which means that it is often easy for it to fall into the wrong hands. One of the ways that IT departments can protect sensitive data and keep it out of the hands of hackers is to encrypt it. Even though data encryption isn’t completely foolproof, it can still dissuade hackers from using the personal devices to breach the system.

Install Security Measures on Devices

There are plenty of security measures that can be installed on the devices, such as antivirus software and anti malware measures. Rather than leave this up to the device owner, however, it can help considerably if the IT departments made this measure mandatory. In fact, IT can take this a step further and actually recommend the security tools that will most effectively protect the devices. From there, it is up to the IT departments to make sure that the users are in compliance by installing the necessary security tools.

It’s true that BYOD can cause IT departments plenty of headaches. That’s why it’s important to make sure they’re up to the task. Be sure to contact Roan Solutions for assistance implementing a more secure BYOD policy.

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How RTO and RPO Relate to Data Backup Solutions

Backup

When it comes to business continuity planning, it’s important to implement a system that not only backs up all important data, but to also have a recovery plan in place in case a disaster does occur. While it isn’t possible to predict when the disaster itself will occur, it is possible to be prepared in case one does happen. The goal of any data recovery plan is to recover as much of the data as possible. When forming the continuity plan, it is important to consider key metrics, such as the RTO, or recovery time objective, and the RPO, or recovery point objective. Here’s an overview of the RTO and RPO and what they mean in relation to data recovery:

What is RTO?

RTO, or Recovery Time Objective, is the target time needed to recover data after a disaster occurs before in order to avoid any consequences, such as permanent data loss. This metric is determined by calculating how quickly a business needs to recover the information. This metric is necessary in forming a data recovery plan because all of the details contained within the plan, such as the equipment needed as well as the overall budget, will depend on this metric. For instance, if the RTO is set at three hours, which essentially means that the business can survive being down for three hours, the budget needs to reflect an amount that will ensure that the system will be up and running within that period of time.

What is RPO?

RPO, which stands for Recovery Point Objective, refers to the maximum, targeted time-period in which the data might be lost completely. In other words, this metric has to do with your company’s overall tolerance to any data that could potentially be lost. It is calculated by analyzing the time that occurs between backups in relation to the potential data that could be lost if a disaster occurs between backups. So, if the RPO is set at five hours, this means that the business can only be without this data for five hours before the normal operation of the business suffers.

RTO, RPO, and Data Backup Solutions

Although the RTO and RPO may seem similar, they’re actually distinct. The main difference behind them lies in their purposes. RTO requires looking at the business from a big picture perspective by analyzing all the systems involved with its operations. In doing so, the RTO is set to facilitate business continuity. The RPO, on the other hand, specifically relates to the data itself and how quickly a company can recover after a potential data loss incident does occur.

When it comes to creating a business continuity and data recover plan, both the RTO and RPO need to be considered. Roan Solutions can help you determine these key metrics in order to develop a backup solutions program that is specifically tailored to your organization.

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How to Insure Smooth Cloud Migration

how-to-insure-a-smooth-cloud-migrationIn recent years, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding cloud computing and how it can benefit businesses, such as the cost savings and flexibility of being able to work from anywhere. Even if businesses want to make the transition, the endless options attached to it can seem overwhelming. Decisions such as which cloud platform businesses should use, what aspects of a business’s infrastructure should migrate over to the cloud, and the exact process that will be used to control the migration are all things that need to be considered.

In other words, every detail needs to be planned and executed perfectly. Here are some ideas on how to insure a smooth migration over to the cloud:

Develop a Strategy

No business can transition to the cloud successfully without having a detailed transition strategy. Too often, businesses execute cloud migration long before they’re ready. At this stage, companies should list the data, apps, and workloads that will make the transition to the cloud. It is also a good idea at this stage to outline any potential challenges that may be faced during the transition in order to plan for them.

Another thing to consider as part of the planning phase is that the migration shouldn’t interrupt a company’s daily activities. At the very least, this interruption should be minimized as best as possible. The company’s IT department or managed IT service provider can help not only plan and execute the cloud migration, but also insure that the daily operations are minimally interrupt.

Execute the Strategy

Once the plan is developed, the next step is to execute it. The IT department of managed IT service provider will help insure that the process is as smooth as possible. Even while following a well-designed plan, kinks can still occur. Typically, non-essential items should be moved to the cloud first. Essential applications, such as email and data storage, should transition to the cloud during off-peak hours.

Once the transition is complete, the IT department should check to make sure that everything was moved correctly and that the same information can be easily accessed in the cloud as it was when the company used the on-premise exchange as an example. If the transition was done correctly, employees won’t even notice the difference. The key is to make sure that the data itself was moved 100% accurately from the on-premise exchange to the cloud. To do this, the company’s IT department or a managed IT provider needs to monitor the transition every step of the way.

Business of all sizes can take advantage of the many benefits that the cloud has to offer. However, in order to allow these benefits to be fully realized, the migration from an on-premise exchange to the cloud needs to be as smooth as possible. This takes advanced planning, knowledge, and a focused effort to make sure that all data components were migrated effectively.

Posted in News

Why Businesses Should Backup Their Data

Backup Computer Key

Data is one of the biggest assets that a business has, yet, many businesses treat their data as an afterthought. As long as the data is stored in a way that makes it easily retrievable, employees, including management, often don’t pause to consider the repercussions of not properly backing that information up. What would happen if all the data somehow got lost? Here are some very good reasons why businesses should consider creating and executing a solid data backup plan:

Data Loss Can Happen Accidentally

Even if businesses have a solid plan in place to prevent cybercrime, this doesn’t indicate that the data is adequately protected. The truth is, cybercrime only accounts for a small percentage of lost data. Other issues, including software failure and human error, are also risk factors. According to the Disaster Recovery Preparedness Annual Report, 50% of incidents result from software error and 43% of data loss incidents occur from human error. That is why having a data backup plan in place is so important. It is much easier for a business to rebound after a data loss incident occurs if the lost information can be recovered through the backups.

Lost Data Can Equal Lost Revenue

Depending on how severe the data loss is, losing important data can result in a loss of revenue. In a recent study released by EMC, they estimate that businesses lose 1.7 trillion dollars total due to data loss. The true issue with this statistic is that in a majority of cases, the situation could have been prevented. By having a dependable data backup solution, this can prevent the ensuing loss of revenue that results after the data is lost since it can easily be recovered. However, it is important to understand that data loss can still result in a hit to revenue since it could still take some time before all the information is recovered. Still, the damage will likely be much smaller than if no backup system were in place.

Data Loss Can Result in Lost Efficiency

These days, workplace efficiency is directly tied to profitability. What happens when people within a company experience lost data? Well, unless the data is recoverable, this means that all projects, correspondences, and information the individuals are responsible for will be lost. This indicates that employees will waste valuable time repeating their efforts, if possible. If it isn’t possible, the important information is simply lost. Each moment spent trying to deal with the repercussions of a data crash without a backup results in a serious loss of workplace efficiency. The best way to prevent this from happening is to insure that there is a data backup and recovery plan in place.

When businesses fail to plan and execute an effective data backup and recovery plan, they put the health of their companies at risk. The best strategy is to make sure that these businesses not only have a backup plan, but to make sure that the process of recovering the data is also efficient.

Posted in News

3 Ways Businesses Can Prevent Cybercrime

Virus Alert

Virus Alert

Although it’s the large companies that seem to make the headlines when a cyber security breach occurs, no business is immune to the threat. The truth is, small to medium-sized businesses are also vulnerable. Many companies tend to wait until a breach occurs to address the issue, but this isn’t ideal. The goal is to stop cybercrime before it starts. Waiting for a problem to surface could have disastrous consequences, such as information leaks and loss of revenue. Here are some things businesses can do to protect their sensitive information:

Ramp Up Email Security

When preventing hackers from accessing a company’s sensitive information, the goal is to create multiple security layers. This means that the hackers will need to fight through multiple layers to gain access, which decreases the likelihood that they’ll be successful. By encrypting emails and communications, it creates another layer that hackers will need to break through. This extra layer of protection could discourage hackers because they may feel it isn’t worth the hassle.

Develop Companywide Password Policies

Passwords leave a business’s sensitive information vulnerable because they are often easy to crack depending on how the password is defined. That’s why it’s important to create companywide policies regarding passwords. Issues such as how often they are changed to creating smarter passwords should be addressed in these policies. The workforce can be made to adhere to these rules and offers another layer of protection that could prevent some cybercrimes before they occur.

For instance, many employees often use the same password for multiple uses, and this is something that makes it too easy for a hacker to gain access. Requiring that employees never use the same password for multiple uses is an example of a rule that could be included. Businesses could also require a two-factor authentication that would not only require a unique password, but also an authorization code that could be sent to a mobile device as an example.

Install Protection Software and Keep it Updated

Businesses can further protect their assets by installing malware, antivirus, global DNS protection and firewall software programs. In fact, each machine in the company should have all four of these installed in order to prevent cyber attacks. It is critical that the IT department, CIO, or VCIO research the programs that will best service the needs of the company. From there, it is also crucial that the latest versions are always installed so that they can be as effective as possible.

Cybercriminals are dedicated to their craft, which means that their skills evolve quickly. That’s why businesses need to take an aggressive stance when preventing security breaches by using these strategies. However, it is important to understand that even after the security infrastructure is in place, a company’s work isn’t finished. It is important to ensure that everything in the company that is associated with cyber security, such as antivirus software, are all continually up to date.

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Servers Also Need Antivirus Protection

 

Antivirus Alert Firewall Hacker Protection Safety Concept

Most businesses know how important it is for every workstation to have antivirus software installed because viruses and malware can all put the valuable company assets at risk by exposing information such as passwords and other sensitive information to hackers and other intruders. They also prevent the computers from working at their peak because viruses and malware can slow the machines down considerably.

However, workstation computers and laptops aren’t the only machines that need to be protected by antivirus and antimalware programs. Viruses and malware can also begin infected other machines within the company and once a server is compromised, it can infect the IT infrastructure as a whole through it’s native sharing capability. Servers need to be protected, as well. Here’s more information:

Why Servers Need Antivirus Protection

Unlike desktop workstations and laptops, servers are not designed for the end user. This is one of the major reasons why companies often feel as if they don’t need to install antivirus are malware protection. However, even though computers and laptops are a lot more vulnerable, the risks that a server will be infected are still there, especially if the virus or malware enters the company through an unprotected channel such as a desktop or laptop. Since the server is responsible for storing, maintaining, and processing a company’s valuable information, it makes sense to protect it.

Let’s imagine that the virus gets past the antivirus and malware protection that is in place at the gateway of your netowrk and it manages to get into the server. Once it does that, it then has the capability of infecting the entire IT infrastructure, which will enable it to spread throughout the entire business. However, if the server had its own protection, the virus or malware would have been detected before it could spread.

Operating Systems Can Leave Servers Vulnerable

Regardless of which operating system is installed on the server, savvy virus and malware developers can still exploit any OS’s weaknesses. Even if the company uses an operating system that has a low incidence of being infected by viruses or malware, it is still possible for a breach to occur. If the operating system is widely used, as is the case with the Windows Server operating system, this increases the likelihood of ending up with a virus. Rather than fixing the situation after an infection occurs, it is much better to have an antivirus and malware solution in place to prevent it.

Businesses of all sizes need antivirus and antimalware solutions that will protect more than just the employees’ desktop workstations and managed antivirus solutions should include protection for servers, as well.

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Why Assess an IT Infrastructure’s Performance

Two businessmen using computer in server room

Regularly reviewing an IT infrastructure’s performance is an important step that is often overlooked. Businesses often set up the infrastructure and only make changes as needed or if a problem surfaces. An even better approach is to identify areas of improvement before the need arises, which will allow the infrastructure to perform as efficiently as possible.

Assessments can identify opportunities to improve efficiency, reduce expenses, identify security vulnerabilities, and also make sure that the IT environment is in compliance with industry or government-related expenses. Here are some things that need to be done when assessing an IT infrastructure’s performance:

Assess the Backup and Recovery Environment

Does the IT infrastructure have a reliable and predictable away to allow for data backups? Issues surrounding data backup and recovery can cause some serious headaches for IT professionals. Having the capabilities in place for reliable backups is a good first step. Another item that needs to be determined is whether or not there is a series of protocols for employees to implement on a regular schedule. Developing the capabilities for regular backups and implementing a series of protocols for employees to follow will allow for more efficient and reliable data recover should the need arise.

Determine How Well the Network is Performing

How well the business’s network is performing has a lot to do with how productive the workforce is. Both the Local Area Network (LAN) and Wide Area Network (WAN) need to be assessed during this stage to determine if it is high performing enough to meet the needs of the business. For instance, if the workforce is BYOD friendly, the network needs to support that functionality. If many in the workforce continually change locations, the network performance needs to be robust enough to support that, as well. Defining what the network needs are can help whoever is performing the assessment determine if the network is performing at a high enough level to support all business operations.

Assess the Infrastructure for Data Storage

Another thing to assess when performing a review of the IT capabilities within a company is to also take a look at the data storage infrastructure. In some ways, this represents the backbone of the company because without an organized data storage infrastructure, it can cost the company some serious money. Do the current data storage capabilities need an overhaul? The assessment will reveal any issues that need to be addressed as well as possible solutions, such as cloud computing. Cloud storage offers businesses of all sizes a viable solution for data storage that is also cost effective.

Performing an IT assessment on the existing IT infrastructure is an important move for businesses of all sizes. The end result is that the business will have a clear idea of what needs to change in order to make things run a lot more efficiently. It can also give an idea of what is currently working, which will help when making any future changes to the infrastructure.

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Protect Your Assets with Cyber Risk Management

Information security threats drawn by a hand

Cyber threats come in a variety of forms, and no business is the same when it comes to what their unique risks are. As a result of this, there is no one sizes fits all approach when compiling a strategy for mitigating these cyber risks. No matter what the unique security business are, the process for creating and executing the right security plan to handle these cyber threats will also be similar. Here is a list of some essential points businesses should consider when composing a strategy for their cyber risk management:

Use a Cyber Security Framework

An effective framework that has its basis in the company’s specific industry is a good place to begin since it is at the core of the cyber security management plan for the business. For instance, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cyber Security Framework is being used across a variety of industries. This framework provides business of all sizes that are in a variety of industries the backbone needed to strengthen their cyber security efforts. The framework also lists five functions by which data is managed – identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover. From there, the framework outlines action items as to how a business could better secure these five core functions.

Determine the Scope

However, identifying a framework to use is only one piece of the puzzle when determining a cyber risk management plan. The program’s scope needs to be identified, as well. More specifically, the plan needs to be as specific and address all the elements that will be used to protect the company’s assets. For instance, with most businesses, the scope will include networks, personal computers, and other devices. In fact, the scope will include anything that is connected to company’s network, even a computer-controlled thermostat, automatic doors controlled by a computer, and anything else that is accessible to the company’s internet connection. Savvy hackers can take advantage of anything that is unprotected so nothing should be left out.

Prioritize the Risks

Because a company’s resources are usually not unlimited, the goal is to develop a cyber risk management that maximizes protection using the resources they have available. To do this, a good first step is to prioritize the risks that make the company’s resources most vulnerable and then develop a strategy for combating these issues. For instance, weak passwords or passwords that haven’t been changed in a while continue to be a problem and to solve this issue, companies can put a strategy in place to encourage employees to strengthen their passwords and change them on a regular schedule. For most companies, it isn’t necessarily a good use of resources to come up with a security strategy for everything.

Since each business is different, cyber risk management protocols won’t be the same from one company to the next. Developing effective ones for businesses of all sizes requires some advanced research, such as using a cyber security framework, identifying the company’s unique risks, and determine which of these risks has a higher priority.

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Incident Response is Important in Cyber Security

Warning Threat Detected. Security concept sign

Typical cyber security management plans focus only on preventing an attack from occurring in the first place. Yet, despite a company’s best efforts, security breaches can still occur. However, a breach doesn’t need to have disastrous consequences. As long as companies have an incident response protocol in place, this could minimize the collateral damage that a cyber security breach can cause.

The goal is to establish a reliable method for not only identifying a breach immediately when it occurs, but to establish a series of protocols that will squash the intrusion before it causes damage. Here’s an overview of how businesses of all sizes can establish an incident response protocol that will minimize damage and strengthen the overall cyber security management plan.

Detection

Intrusion detection and response go hand in hand, and how effective the incident response strategy is depends on how sophisticated the methods are for detecting intrusions. The longer a hacker has to extract data, the worse the collateral damage will be. If it takes hours or even days to detect the breach, it could be too late to mitigate the potential losses. Detection can be achieved through a combination of automatic means using tools such as software programs and manual methods when professionals scan security logs visually.

Response

Businesses of all sizes need to determine in advance how they will respond to an incident once it occurs. There are two things that need to be considered when it comes to assessing response. First of all, the organization needs to have series of protocols in place that outlines how they will respond to the incident. Secondly, they will need to determine how they can prevent the security breach from having a major impact. Overall, the industry response plan should take into account the company’s size and industry, as well as technological factors that are unique to each company.

Review

After a security incident occurs, it is a good idea to perform a thorough review to assess not only why it happened, but also to determine what can be done in the future to prevent further incidents. Why is it that the security measures that were in place didn’t work? How can it be prevented in the future?

Overall, there are multiple steps to performing an effective review, including talking with employees, customers, and clients who may have been impacted. From there, it is important to discover the true nature of the security breach. Knowing the exact steps that the hacker took to perform the intrusion will enable companies to establish a solid action plan for coming up with a solution.

In an ideal world, a well-designed cyber security plan will prevent security breaches from occurring. However, the threat of a security breach will always be there despite a business’s best efforts. That is why it is so important to have a well-established set of protocols in place for responding to an incident once it does occur.

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