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Tips on Securing Company Data Beyond the Infrastructure

As news headlines report recurring events of data breaches affecting American institutions, government parties and public figures, businesses of every size must take a closer look at the security of their data that goes beyond data backup. Employee interactions, third-party interfaces, remote devices and even outdated software can affect the safety of your data.  Here are some tips to address potential security threats in these areas:

 

Guard Against Internal Threats

According to PWC’s 2014 US State of Cybercrime Survey, more than one in four enterprise data security events originate with insiders such as current and former employees. Poorly trained workers, weak passwords, file sharing, unattended computers and unenforced data security policies can weaken the security of company data. In some instances, bad employee behavior results in leaked passwords and stolen files.

 

Data Security Tip: Ensure that laptops have encrypted hard drives only accessible with a 2nd authentication method such as a token or fingerprint scanner. Encourage employees to use password phrases instead of simple passwords and change them for different sites (social media, email, Intranet, etc.) to reduce the chance of hackers getting access to everything at once. And change passwords often as part of company protocol. All systems should have methods to implement password complexity and forced changes.

 

Strengthen Vendor Interfaces

Many companies use application programming interfaces (APIs) to move information between their and vendor programs to expedite processes by eliminating duplicate work. However, depending on the size of a company, hundreds of vendors could be operating within a corporate system, posing potential threats to data confidentiality and integrity. Unfortunately, many businesses do not address third-party data security. According to a 2016 Ponemon Institute report on third party data risk, many IT and data security professionals find it difficult to manage cybersecurity incidents involving multiple vendors.

 

Data Security Tip: Ensure that all vendors review and sign a corporate data security policy that requires notification of any breaches involving your data. Encrypted email and multi-factor authentication should be used wherever possible. Third party software that provides access to corporate data should have additional security mechanisms.

 

Create BYOD Policies

With the growing trend of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), employees are using their own mobile technology in the office, at home and while traveling to access corporate data. While potentially increasing productivity by enabling employees to maintain constant connectivity to the office, the use of various mobile devices not owned by the company poses challenges regarding unauthorized access to corporate data, uploading viruses and losing information. Some of the most popular mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are prone to attacks by hackers as employees connect to external Wi-Fi spots without properly security protocols.  A lost or stolen device connected to a corporate network also can spell disaster.

 

Data Security Tip: Companies supporting BYOD should have policies that outline protocols for workers to access data remotely and incorporate mobile management platforms that ensure devices are securely encrypted and can be remotely wiped if lost or stolen. Parsing outgoing emails for private information such as social security numbers or Private Healthcare Information (PHI) is an added step companies can take to mitigate risk. Locking out external devices such as USB drives is another popular option.

 

Update Software

Software updates guarantee that applications are working with the latest security features. Hackers are known to exploit flaws in software that may exist in previous versions, providing access to corporate data. The same holds true to infrastructures with aging servers and older operating systems. While seemingly operating at sufficient capacity, older technology is prone to higher security risks as hackers understand their vulnerabilities.

 

Data Security Tip: Companies must pay attention to firewall\network firmware upgrades as they address security holes and other issues. Keep track of server and PC operating systems end of life to know when support or upgrades will discontinue from the manufacturer. Another option is considering on-demand cloud technology such as Microsoft Office 365 that provides the latest version of Office applications on any device.

 

Nettology can help IT departments maintain the security of corporate data through technical administration and support for hosted applications such as Office 365, firewall/VPN devices, as well as firewall management between client sites and hosted cloud data centers such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Contact us today to discuss your data security concerns at 610-558-1730 or complete the online inquiry form.

 

network vulnerability assessments, cyber security
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Let’s have the conversation, should your email server live in the cloud, or under your pillow?

Email is critical to businesses, it is as crucial as gas is for your car. In years past organizations hardly realized how crucial email is until they hear that dreadful phrase “The mail server is down”. In those days your mail server usually lived in a glorified closet in your office, running Microsoft Exchange, or Sendmail. Now-a-days there are other options such as Office 365, which is Exchange in the Cloud, or Business Gmail. There are so many options, and deciding which to use can get complicated. Before we get all worked up let’s remember one thing, email is essential in order for businesses to run………so what do you do.
The cloud scares a lot of business owners since they have to take all their internal communications for their company and have another company control, and have access to their information. However, we are at the point where Email is a vital commodity. Does it matter to you where you buy your gas from, or is that a decision based upon price and convenience?

I am currently working on two Email Server projects; one is for a company with about 75 users and the other 400 users. Both of these companies require a mail server with redundancy and both CEO’s have told me that their email is critical and they cannot afford any down time. They also informed me that they are currently using Exchange but are interested in newer versions.

As a consultant I can either buy them servers and migrate their mailboxes, or I can buy them a cloud service Exchange account and move mailboxes to the cloud. The tricky part is what is more cost effective for my client, yet still provides all the functionality they want, and even more important, won’t go down.

This led me to seriously look at Microsoft Office 365 for larger organizations. I have used it before for 20-30 companies, it makes since, and is a lot cheaper than running their own servers. I thought once you get to 100 users or so, in house would be more cost effective, so with my two current projects I ran the numbers.

Understand, in house exchange means buying servers, storage, software and licenses per user. With Hosted Exchange this means buying an account at a set price per month, on average is $8-$10 dollars per mailbox. Now my belief is any technology investment should be looked at as a 5 year purchase, meaning if you buy a server or storage infrastructure its life cycle is roughly 4-5 years before you essentially have to do it again.

Nettology cloud support and services
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The Small Business Network Consultant is Dead

Long Live the Small Business Network Consultant

As an IT infrastructure consultant, I have had the opportunity to work on many small to mid market corporate networks. From rock solid and secure (although is anything really secure these days?) to really shoddy excuses for a business network. My job as a small business network network consultants is to help – to be able to look at both the big picture functionality and efficiency of the network as well as the details of what makes it work properly and securely or not to so securely (as I have come to find all too often). There is a certain confidence you get when you can actually see the datacenter, the physical security and the underlying hardware on which precious company data is housed. Having the ability to look at that Cisco ASA firewall, observe all the green lights on your EMC SAN or HP server array hard drives, and know that you have built so much redundancy into the Client and you have covered all your bases should there be an issue is what I thrive on. It’s a good feeling knowing that if you can sleep at night because their data is protected then your Client can rest easy also.

Enter Cloud Computing and its inevitable revolution of providing “As a Service” for everything including your refrigerator. Say goodbye to the traditional “Small Business Network Consultant” at least as we know it. Why put a “Microsoft Small Business Server” in your office for thousands of dollars when you can pay monthly for more services and flexibility? (Maybe one reason is because the Microsoft Small business server does not exist anymore – but we wont go there just yet.)

A sad truth is many organizations (even startups) are now bypassing the small business network network consultant and spinning up servers by reading directions on the hosting companies website. OK so not everyone can do this but if you are even slightly tech savvy you can get through some of the wizards and viola – you have a server and you did not have to pay a consultant!! Pretty cool huh – that you had your web developer put up a database and file server for you in the cloud and your livelihood is running on it!

Well on the surface that may have been a good cost saving business decision but wait there’s more ……..

There is a very scary part to this scenario that I have observed over the last two years. Companies are bypassing traditional common sense security practices assuming that the servers and databases the put up in the cloud are secure. Because they skipped over the “network design and consulting” step basic security principles are not being followed. There are major assumptions about the underlying hardware and redundancy (or lack of) provided by the hosting provider. I have seen companies that are doing business with fortune 100 companies that do not have any firewall or intrusion detection solution, and have servers that have no business being public facing with dangerous and unnecessary ports open to the outside world. I have seen servers are built with zero redundancy. Companies have invested tens of thousands of dollars on application development and customization but yet they have no methodology for backing up the images of these servers. While the hosting company they are using provides various services including firewalls, imaging, and high availability, they are not implemented. Entire architectures have been built with significant “single points of failure”. The basic building blocks of traditional network security and efficiency are being skipped because it was easy and inexpensive to do, and these folks clearly were not given proper direction. Unfortunately this is not just one company, I am seeing this over and over again.

We can’t just lay blame on the companies (well maybe). Are we a dying breed or has the Small Business Network Consultant not adapted quickly enough to the Cloud paradigm? We can’t just sit on that MCSE Certification from 10 years ago and hope none of our clients “catch on to this whole cloud thing”. Consultants need to educate themselves to truly consult in this rapidly changing environment. There is an immense amount of cloud based infrastructure technology out there to learn and the industry is maturing quickly. Amazon Web Services has developed an entire curriculum and certification program around their services. Microsoft is modifying many of their partner competencies and certifications to adapt to their Azure and Office 365 service offerings. There are also many third party solutions are out there that fill the gaps missing from the hosting providers.

Good small business network network consultants are desperately needed to right the ships of many companies that have strayed into uncharted clouds. So if you are an IT Consultant that has lost your way, get it in gear, start learning, and start consulting again! And if you are a Business Owner or IT Director in the midst of making decisions on Cloud infrastructure, call your friendly neighborhood IT Consultant.

Long Live the Small Business Network Consultant – Be it Dead or Alive!

Nettology MSP and consultants
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The Small Business Network Consultant is Dead

Long Live the Small Business Network Consultant

As an IT infrastructure business network consultant, I have had the opportunity to work on many small to mid market corporate networks. From rock solid and secure (although is anything really secure these days?) to really shoddy excuses for a business network. My job is to help – to be able to look at both the big picture functionality and efficiency of the network as well as the details of what makes it work properly and securely or not to so securely (as I have come to find all too often). There is a certain confidence you get when you can actually see the datacenter, the physical security and the underlying hardware on which precious company data is housed. Having the ability to look at that Cisco ASA firewall, observe all the green lights on your EMC SAN or HP server array hard drives, and know that you have built so much redundancy into the Client and you have covered all your bases should there be an issue is what I thrive on. It’s a good feeling knowing that if you can sleep at night because their data is protected then your Client can rest easy also.

Enter Cloud Computing and its inevitable revolution of providing “As a Service” for everything including your refrigerator. Say goodbye to the traditional “Small Business Network Consultant” at least as we know it. Why put a “Microsoft Small Business Server” in your office for thousands of dollars when you can pay monthly for more services and flexibility? (Maybe one reason is because the Microsoft Small business server does not exist anymore – but we wont go there just yet.)

A sad truth is many organizations (even startups) are now bypassing the Consultant and spinning up servers by reading directions on the hosting companies website. OK so not everyone can do this but if you are even slightly tech savvy you can get through some of the wizards and viola – you have a server and you did not have to pay a consultant!! Pretty cool huh – that you had your web developer put up a database and file server for you in the cloud and your livelihood is running on it!

Well on the surface that may have been a good cost saving business decision but wait there’s more ……..

There is a very scary part to this scenario that I have observed over the last two years. Companies are bypassing traditional common sense security practices assuming that the servers and databases the put up in the cloud are secure. Because they skipped over the “network design and consulting” step basic security principles are not being followed. There are major assumptions about the underlying hardware and redundancy (or lack of) provided by the hosting provider. I have seen companies that are doing business with fortune 100 companies that do not have any firewall or intrusion detection solution, and have servers that have no business being public facing with dangerous and unnecessary ports open to the outside world. I have seen servers are built with zero redundancy. Companies have invested tens of thousands of dollars on application development and customization but yet they have no methodology for backing up the images of these servers. While the hosting company they are using provides various services including firewalls, imaging, and high availability, they are not implemented. Entire architectures have been built with significant “single points of failure”. The basic building blocks of traditional network security and efficiency are being skipped because it was easy and inexpensive to do, and these folks clearly were not given proper direction. Unfortunately this is not just one company, I am seeing this over and over again.

We can’t just lay blame on the companies (well maybe). Are we a dying breed or has the Small Business Network Consultant not adapted quickly enough to the Cloud paradigm? We can’t just sit on that MCSE Certification from 10 years ago and hope none of our clients “catch on to this whole cloud thing”. Consultants need to educate themselves to truly consult in this rapidly changing environment. There is an immense amount of cloud based infrastructure technology out there to learn and the industry is maturing quickly. Amazon Web Services has developed an entire curriculum and certification program around their services. Microsoft is modifying many of their partner competencies and certifications to adapt to their Azure and Office 365 service offerings. There are also many third party solutions are out there that fill the gaps missing from the hosting providers.

Good network consultants are desperately needed to right the ships of many companies that have strayed into uncharted clouds. So if you are an IT Consultant that has lost your way, get it in gear, start learning, and start consulting again! And if you are a Business Owner or IT Director in the midst of making decisions on Cloud infrastructure, call your friendly neighborhood IT Consultant.

Long Live the Small Business Network Consultant – Be it Dead or Alive!

small business network consultant
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Is it time to store your important information in the cloud?

Cloud Computing, Philadelphia – Is it time to move your business into the Cloud?

Disaster strikes and your server, desktop, tablet or cell phone has been destroyed. You may be insured for the cost of the hardware, but what about that valuable data?  The work databases, contacts, accounting records, even family pictures and personal data? As we move deeper into a digital age our entire lives are stored on our laptops and mobile devices or corporate servers. Storing/backing up your critical files and documents in the cloud allows you to have instant access to all your files no matter what happens to your hardware.

Cloud backup services provide the ability to automatically backup your files and documents; all you need is an Internet connection. Below are some companies that offer cost effective cloud storage programs. Some are even free! While some of the services charge a monthly fee; they are usually small compared to the piece of mind of knowing your data is safe and sound in the cloud.

Cloud backup services:

  1. Dropbox
  2. Google Drive
  3. Microsoft OneDrive
  4. Box
  5. Mozy
  6. Carbonite
  7. Mankayia

Cloud computing Philadelphia area solutions are a Nettology speciality. Nettology works with many cloud-based backup and file sharing services and can help you choose the best fit for your situation.  For business data, Nettology also offers its own cloud backup appliance, giving you the ideal combination of a local backup (for faster recovery) and a cloud backup (in case of a serious disaster).

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Hosted PBX phone systems – the new choice for small and mid-sized businesses

Hosted PBX phone systems are an attractive option for small to mid-sized companies.

A hosted PBX provides a sophisticated telephone system without a heavy upfront investment in equipment.  Instead of having a phone system in the wiring closet or data room at your office, the switching equipment is hosted in the cloud.

A hosted PBX lets your employees work from the office, from home, or while traveling while still being connected to the office telephone system.  Just like a Fortune 500 telephone system, you can transfer callers, customize music or messages that callers hear while on hold, set up conference calls or have the phone answered by an automated attendant that directs callers to different departments.

But a hosted PBX is much less expensive than traditional phone systems or even on-premise voice-over-IP (VoIP) systems. One monthly fee includes the cost of all the equipment, telephones, and software required.

While hosted PBX systems are inexpensive and simple to use and manage, setting up a hosted PBX does take some experience.  As an established IT support company based in suburban Philadelphia, Nettology can design, configure, install, and support a hosted PBX phone system that is the right fit for your business.

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