Tag Archives: software

The Hidden Dangers Of “Shadow IT” To Your Business

14 Jun 17
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We all know that using information technology — programs, apps, or internet browsing — carries a certain amount of risk. Nobody wants to have their secure data compromised, but technology brings enough benefits that the risk is worth it. So you vet certain systems, you establish protocols, you update and patch your software, and you keep track of the technology used at work.

But what about the technology your employees are using that isn’t part of your official plan? We’re talking about messaging apps, Excel macros, cloud data storage, collaboration spaces, and even hardware like USB drives, smartphone storage, and personal laptops that you don’t control.

We call this “shadow IT,” and that’s a whole lot of potential holes to cover!

Even if you ignore the dangers of having accounts hacked, data stolen, and websites vandalized, shadow IT can be very inefficient. You don’t control it, so you don’t know where important information is or what work is being done. It makes it hard to avoid duplication of efforts and even harder to manage employee productivity. What are you to do?

Well, your gut reflex might be to “crack down” on using unauthorized technology for work purposes. Swallow that reaction, though — you can’t stop it, and you’ll just harm morale. You’ll also drive usage even further underground; your people won’t be honest with you for fear of reprisal. That means that if a compromise occurs, you’ll be the last to know.

Instead, keep an eye on the situation. Make it clear that you support employees using the tools they need to get the job done, as long as they let you know what those tools are. If your people start using cloud storage apps, that’s fine — but have them explain how they’ll keep that data secure. Just as you empower them to find their own tools, empower them to keep things secure.

You probably can’t come up with a list of all the shadow IT that’s being used at your work, but you can keep an eye on the trends as they develop. Research the technology that’s being used and watch the headlines for data breaches or other compromises.

In some cases, you will have to crack down on specific apps, programs, or devices being used at your work; they’re just too risky. If you’ve worked with employees and fostered good communication, this shouldn’t be an issue. Remember to avoid blaming employees when shadow IT becomes a problem — especially if they bring the issue to your attention themselves. There’s nothing wrong with asking your people to stop using a specific program or device, as long as you’re transparent and have good reasons.

Last, but not least, try to look on the bright side. Shadow IT may be a little risky, but it also presents opportunities for employees to drive productivity and try out new best practices. If they’re using a piece of technology, it’s probably doing something that the currently “approved” tech is not. They’re also showing self-starter tendencies and trying to do their job better. And that’s always something you should support!

Cloud Computing: Good, Bad & Ugly

18 Jan 17
lverbik
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When a network of IT gadgets like routers, DVR machines and closed-circuit TVs can take down hardened, well-provisioned Internet giants like Twitter, Spotify and Amazon – as happened last October – you’ve got to think twice before moving your data to the cloud.

Yes, a move to the cloud can yield big payoffs in terms of cost savings, increased efficiency, greater flexibility, collaboration for your workforce and more. Yet there is a dark side. It would be naive to think otherwise. Your choices about whether and how to use cloud technology in your network merits serious consideration.

So, just what is “the cloud”?

Instead of constantly buying new equipment and software, cloud computing allows you to pay for just what you need. Just as with a utility company, you get software and storage on a monthly basis, with no long-term contracts. Chances are, most of the software you now use is cloud-based. You simply access it on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Similarly, you can store data in the cloud, where it can be easily accessed when you need it. This reduces the need to buy and manage your own backup gear and software, thus reducing overhead. Yet, as with any major decision, it’s critical to be aware of both the benefits and pitfalls of putting your company’s data in the cloud.

The Pros

There are three major advantages offered by cloud computing:

  1. Scaling up or down can be done without major investment or leaving excess capacity idle. It also enables your entire workforce to get more done, where and when they need to.
  1. With data and software in a shared cloud environment, staff can collaborate from anywhere. Everything from HR to accounting, and from operations to sales and customer relations, can be managed from diverse and mobile environments, giving your team greater power to collaborate effectively.
  1. Disaster Recovery. Typically, data stored in the cloud can be easily retrieved in the event of a disaster. It also augments local backup and recovery systems, adding protective redundancy.

The Cons

While the cloud offers obvious benefits, it also increases your company’s potential “attack surface” for cybercriminals. By spreading your communications and access to data beyond a safe “firewall,” your network is far more exposed to a whole bevy of security concerns. Many of them can be addressed with these three best practices:

  1. Social Engineering Awareness. Whether you go cloud or local, the weakest link in your network is not in your equipment or software; it’s in the people who use them. Cybercriminals are aware of this fact. And you can count on them to come up with an endless variety of ways to exploit it. One day it’s a phone call ostensibly from your IT department requesting sensitive data, the next it’s an e-mail that looks official but contains malicious links. Make sure your employees are aware of and trained to deal with these vulnerabilities.
  1. Password Security and Activity Monitoring. Maintaining login security is absolutely critical any time you’re in a cloud environment. Train your staff in how to create secure passwords and implement two-factor authentication whenever possible. Take advantage of monitoring tools that can alert you to suspicious logins, unauthorized file transfers and other potentially damaging activity.
  1. Anti-Malware/Antivirus Solutions. Malicious software allows criminals to obtain user data, security credentials and sensitive information without the knowledge of the user. Not only that, some purported anti-malware software on the market is actually malware in disguise. Keep verifiable anti-malware software in place throughout your network at all times, and train your employees in how to work with it.
Backup

Will Your Backups Be There When You Need Them?

06 Jul 16
lverbik
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When the livelihood of your business depends on data stored in your computer network, you simply cannot afford to leave anything to chance. Data preservation and the ability to retrieve it at any point in time is the foundation of business continuity.

Yet the facts about backup failures are shocking:

  • According to the Boston Computing Network, 31% of PC users have lost data due to events “beyond their control.”
  • Analysts at the Hughes Marketing Group found that 40% of businesses that experience a critical IT failure go out of business within one year.
  • In a recent Gartner study, only 35% of backup tests were successful.

Some of the more common reasons for backup failures include unintentional formatting of a hard drive, accidental data deletion, malware or virus attack, firmware corruption, natural disasters, logical errors and continued computer operation when the hard drive is starting to fail.

So how certain are you that your backup system is 100% reliable? Could a false sense of security be preventing you from taking actions that will insure your backups will really be there when you need them?

7 Ways to Avoid Data Disaster Due To Backup Failure

Without proactive measures in place – and Murphy’s Law being what it is – the odds of a successful restoration when you need it most may not be as great as you’d like to think… So what can you do? Here are seven ways to avoid a damaging loss of data due to backup failure.

  1. Insist on regular, remote and redundant processes. A good rule of thumb is 3-2-1. That means three copies of your data stored in two off-site locations, backed up a minimum of one time per day.
  1. Don’t go too cheap on disk drives. Less expensive arrays that save money by doing without features like redundant power supply and hot spare disks may leave your data at risk.
  1. Guard against human error. Make sure people performing backups and restores know exactly what to do – and what not to do. Take people out of the loop and automate wherever possible. And be especially cautious in situations where backups aren’t a part of someone’s regular duties.
  1. Are your backup software settings being checked routinely? When new software or updates are put into service, a change in the way the settings are configured can cause incomplete backups, or backups that fail completely. Do the people who maintain your backups include this on their regular to-do list?
  1. Could some files be getting left out? As resources are added and priorities shift, files and folders can get misplaced or accidentally left off the backup list. Insist on a quarterly or annual meeting with your backup management team to make sure all mission-critical files are included in your organization’s data recovery systems.
  1. Address network issues immediately. Any component in your network that isn’t working properly can introduce another point of failure in your backup process. Every juncture in your network, from a misconfigured switch to a flaky host bus adapter, can hurt your backups.
  1. Ask for help with your data backup and recovery system. You cannot be expected to be an expert in all things. Yet data is the backbone of your business – its protection and recovery should not be left to chance. Why not leverage the knowledge, skill and experience of an expert in the field?

Even with all these measures in place, the best way to keep your organization safe from harm due to data loss is to verify your backup system by performing regular test restores. This will help identify any problems in advance so they can be fixed – allowing you to avoid getting hit with an ugly surprise when you least need it.

The Smart Way To Assure Backup Success

Unless your team has all the time and expertise required to consistently close all open loops in your backup system, your organization may be at risk of serious harm due to data loss.

Contact us today at 317-857-0150 – before disaster strikes.

3 Deadly Sins of Computer Care

18 May 16
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If you’re like most people in business, you require a computer to do some if not all of your daily work.  But how often do you actual consider the proper care your devices require to work optimally and keep you connected to the world around you?  

If you’re committing these 3 deadly sins of computer care, read through our suggestions to help ensure the health of your hardware.  The last thing you need is your computer crashing, losing unsaved work and ruining your productivity.  

1.       You don’t have a cooling fan.  A cooling fan for your laptop or computer will help ensure that it does not become overheated.  Sometimes the dreaded “Blue Screen of Death” will appear as a result of an overheated hard drive.  For PC users, a small desk fan will also improve the temperature control for those long work hours at the office.

2.       Is that a dust bunny in there?  A quick burst on the keyboard with your handy dandy “Can O’ Air” is not enough to keep the dust out of your computer tower.  Every couple of months you need to open the case of your tower and clean house!  Dust will slow down all of your systems and choke the processing speed right out of your computer.

3.      Snack-a-holic!  Eating in front of your keyboard is a fast way to sticky keys and stuck space bars.  Don’t let your keyboard become a garbage can due to your bad habits.  A clean work space is the key to cutting down the list of problems that can occur in and around your office.

If your computer could use some TLC, contact TechnoAdvantage today!

The Hard Job of Software Management: Four Ways to Optimize Your Software Licensing

09 Mar 16
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While the term software management might be routine to some businesses, others of you out there may not realize a strategy is needed to keep you cost efficient and in compliance.  This area has grown increasingly complex in recent times with the number of software titles going through the roof, and companies are finding that the situation can lead to overprovisioning as well as audits—both of which can cost your business greatly.

Think of a teenager’s closet shelves and book shelves and even under the bed stuffed with video games and you get the picture of what’s going on in business environments with software. How did you get so many software licenses? Aren’t some of these essentially duplications?  How much are we spending?

Here’s what you do:

  1. Think strategically before you renew. It’s that time of the year again for renewing software contracts. Just click yes and you’re set for another year, right? WRONG! Take a look at where you are, what’s happened in your business over the last year, how you’re doing business, and what needs to change. Then look at your software titles. Might it be time to thin out the pack? Have you grown beyond one program’s usefulness and need something more robust? Or perhaps one more full featured software to handle the job of two or three currently? Is there a way to bundle the software you need that will save you some money?
  2. Software is not valuable if it’s on a shelf—so keep it off. Software that is not being used due to obsolescence or overprovisioning is simply money thrown down the drain. Reevaluate what’s on your shelfware list and decommission what has outlived its usefulness. Bonus tip: Look for support contracts you may be paying for on software you’re not using, and start shaving the excess.
  3. Employ software asset management tools as part of your formal software policies. These tools can help you know which software is running and what it is doing. A couple examples of these are Snow and LANDESK IT software asset management products. The end goal is to make smarter, targeted software purchase based on needs, while keeping you in compliance. In addition, SAM tools help you avoid costly software duplication that can occur across your company when one department doesn’t know what the other departments are doing. You’ll get a centralized view of software assets to easily see where the duplications are occurring.
  4. Put together a software team. You may not be big enough for a formal software strategy—that’s okay. Better in your situation is either one expert or a crack team whose goal is to review, manage and maintain software and negotiate contracts in your best interest.

No one wants to be audited—and by paying heed to these four simple guidelines, you can come out ahead of the game with an optimal software strategy and money in the bank. For more software management tips, contact us HERE.

Do you Have a Good, Trustworthy IT Guy?

13 Jan 16
lverbik
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Whoever it may be—guy, girl, company—whoever holds the keys to your IT kingdom had better be someone you can trust, and someone who is doing a good job. You just can’t afford to get this wrong.

Your IT guy is the one with the most access to your valuable network—the heart of your business—and thus the most power to wield for good or evil.

Think about it—if this person were to disappear, would you know where all your passwords, software license, disks, etc., are stored? Do you have complete network documentation should you require another person to step in? Scary. Don’t leave yourself vulnerable.

Here are some questions to ask yourself about your IT provider. You should have all YESes. If you answer NO to any of these, you might want to think about finding someone who can do a better job for you.

  • Are they available for live phone consultation? Do they respond in an hour or less when you’ve got emergency tech support issues?
  • Are they keeping your network remotely monitored nonstop, and up to date on security settings, patches and viruses?
  • Are they vigilant about offsite and onsite backup monitoring, or do they not care if you are still using unreliable tape backups?
  • Do they periodically conduct test restores of your backups to make sure they’ll work in the event of a real disaster?
  • Have they give you full documentation of your network, including network passwords, software licenses, and hardware info, or are they the sole keeper of the secrets?
  • Are they always looking for ways to improve your operations, offering suggestions and new ideas? Or are they only there when you have a problem?
  • Are the timely and proactive it responding to your inquiries, providing status reports and progress without you having to hunt them down?
  • Do they explain things in regular people language and not tech talk? Or do they sort of enjoy keeping you in the dark about what they do?
  • Do they bill you at a fixed rate or is it open ended to cover their time and materials?

If you can say NO to any of the above, we’d like to give you a free IT assessment to set your mind at ease. It’s your right and freedom to get the best IT service possible, with someone you trust. We’ll check the “health” of your current operations and look for any places where improvements can be made to help you avoid data loss or other costly errors. Contact Techno Advantage today, and rest easy.

Running your business on relics? Time to think of cleaning house.

15 Sep 15
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You’re small, nimble, and don’t need the latest and greatest expensive technologies—we get that. It’s costly. It’s time consuming to research the stuff. You may not even know what exists out there. However, some of the old technology you’re still hanging onto to run your business may be costing you more money than avoiding a new purchase is worth in the long run. And you may be unwittingly blocking new profitable opportunities.

Now might be the time to embrace new technologies as you purge your office of the relics. So what are these old technologies you should think about getting rid of? Consider moving away from:

  1. Big old honkin’ desktop computers. They were once the standard, just like landlines. We all know what’s happened there. You no longer need these clunky space hogs that chain your employees to their desks. Today’s business is done on the go. Give your employees the freedom to get the job done anytime anywhere. Today’s laptops have all the power, speed and affordability that desktops had. There’s no reason not to make this change.
  2. Mobile phones for your business. To be clear: Mobile phones for your employees—yes, great. Paying for them—no, don’t. A more cost-effective and preferred route is the “Bring Your Own Device” policy. Most businesses today are doing this—and savings thousands of dollar each month. Don’t forget to protect your business with a written BYOD policy.
  3. Purchasing localized software. Used to be that businesses would buy software they needed for any old computer function: word processing, image/ graphics, accounting. These often came bundled in expensive packages along with a lot of crap they don’t need but were paying for.  If this is the way you’re still doing it, consider a move to Software as a Service (SaaS). You pay only for what you need and it’s stored on the fluffy white cloud. Many of the networks, platforms, and software you need are available as a service with more being added all the time.
  4. Using portable onsite storage exclusively. Backing up your valuable data with physical onsite storage devices has its place—external hard drives, flash drives, CD burners. They make sense for a lot of situations. But if that’s your only line of defense against data loss, you are putting a lot at risk. If a device fails or is stolen or damaged, you’re in trouble. Wise is the business owner who employs the cloud or offsite storage to back up his or her data.  There’s an efficient and cost-effective way to combine the best of both onsite and offsite data backup that will give you peace of mind.

Get in touch with TechnoAdvatange for more ways we can help your business flow with the best IT solutions.

Are You Ready to Migrate Away from Windows Server 2003?

21 Apr 15
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Last fall we wrote a post about planning for Windows Server 2003 end of life.  In that post, we recommended migrating to new server hardware and upgrading to the current version of Windows Server which is Server 2012 R2.  Well, now just a few months remain until Windows Server 2003 reaches the end and we thought it was worth another mention.  As of July 14th, 2015, security updates will no longer be released, new applications and programs will no longer support the OS, and systems will fall out of compliance.

You may be asking…”What steps can I take to prepare?”  Well, you can start with these 3 actions:

Step 1: Make an Applications List

The first thing you’ll want to do is assess the installed applications. For instance, do you have programs that currently run on a 32-bit Windows Server 2003 installation? Some of those programs may have issues when moving to a 64-bit environment such as Server 2012.  Identify items that will be affected and document them. Now is the time to think about updating legacy applications and solutions.  It may also be useful to create a list of users for each application.  Finding applications that no longer have active users potentially simplifies the migration plan.

Some applications such as an exchange server may be easily moved to a cloud solution such as Office 365.

Step 2: Determine Risks

Many things can go wrong during a server migration.  Consider the costs if a critical system would become unavailable.  During this phase of planning, get to know your backups and determine what could go wrong.  You don’t want to find out that one key application no longer works post-migration and have no backup in place.

Step 3: Make a Rollback Plan

As its name implies, a rollback plan lets you roll back or revert any changes you made so everything goes back to the original state—before you made any changes. It is important to have a rollback plan just in case something does go wrong. If downtime during the migration becomes unacceptably long, you should have a plan to revert back to Server 2003 and get everything back to normal.

An execution plan is the final step in the process and you need a strong team of IT professionals by your side to make sure your plan is solid.   Techno Advantage stands ready to guide you through the whole migration process from purchasing the equipment to implementation.  Don’t wait!  If you haven’t started thinking about this…you need a plan.

Read more about Windows Server 2003 End of Life on our blog.  CLICK HERE