Offices Without Walls – The Mobile Workplace Revolution

Advances in cloud and mobile computing technology have made it possible to have an office without walls – something that would not have seemed possible just a few years ago.

Local Area Networks (LANs) revolutionized work within offices because they enabled everyone on the network instantaneous access to the same applications and data. Now this capability is not even limited to a physical office.

The Mobile Workplace

Advances in mobile technology, security tools, and cloud services, along with falling costs for bandwidth, have enabled companies to think outside the office. They can now extend the work environment to wherever workers happen to be. Wide Area Network (WAN) technology is affordable for even small and medium size enterprises now.

The upside to this revolution is workers don’t necessarily have to commute to work each day, and they can be more productive when traveling. In addition, companies can make more resources available for satellite offices.

Along with the obvious benefits, though, is the need to ensure that company data is properly protected and that remote workers work experience is optimized, and not bogged down by bandwidth or latency issues.

Here are three things to consider to when planning to take advantage of the modern mobile workplace.

Make Sure Remote Access is Secure

This seems so obvious it hardly bears mentioning. But remember, your data is not just traveling over wires within your office anymore – it’s in the air and in the cloud. Use connection methods that employ strong authentication processes and encryption. Data needs to be secure while in transit and when it’s stored. Your industry may have specific regulatory or compliance requirements – take these into account as well.

Make Sure Applications Are Optimized for Remote Use

Not all applications are cloud-ready. Others require very specific access methods to be usable via remote connection. To enable remote work for travelers and satellite offices, you will need to examine all the applications and data required for your business and make determinations as to the best ways to remotely access them, from a usability and security standpoint.

Make Sure Employees are Trained for Efficient Telecommuting

In the office, workers often save files locally to their PCs, which is OK if that’s their only work device. Once they try working outside the office building, though, some or all of those files may be inaccessible remotely. To make workspaces mobile, data and applications need to be centralized in a place that is (securely) accessible from anywhere. Policies can be set up to make it easier for employees to save things to a network drive rather than a local drive, but helping the employees understand where they’re saving things will help, and also reduce your IT support costs.

There’s no reason why your business can’t reap the benefits of mobile computing. Clare Computer Solutions has been helping businesses take advantage of the latest technology since 1990. Contact us to get started!

4 Tips to Control IT Costs at Your Business

One of the keys to success for any business is to control costs. Technology can help reduce costs through added efficiency and agility, but sometimes companies find it a challenge to control the costs of their IT department itself. Here are some tips on controlling those IT costs.

Keep Infrastructure up-to-date

and control your IT costs working lifespan, network devices need to be maintained by applying security patches, operating system updates, software updates and anti-virus updates. Much of this can be automatic, but care needs to take to ensure an update does not adversely affect installed software. One vendor’s update may have an effect on another vendor’s installed applications, so evaluation of updates and patches is a recommended practice.

Cycle Out Aging Equipment

This does not mean just replacing machines that fail. One of the things that make IT costs go up is the emergency replacement of broken network components. Modern network infrastructures can be monitored to detect signs of impending failure so that action can often be taken before it becomes a problem that affects business productivity.

In addition, equipment and software have a lifecycle, so companies can save costs by making an orderly technology refresh cycle part of their ongoing IT maintenance. Often, this can be done in phases, so that the cost of keeping the network modern is spread out and becomes a consistent and manageable part of the IT budget.

Be Prepared for Trouble

Better management of the IT infrastructure will reduce costs of unexpected downtime, but preparing for the unexpected is also wise. Loss of production due to a server crash, data loss, or other disasters (big or small) can make IT costs soar. Create a disaster recovery plan Invest in technology to enable your company to get back up and running quickly when something unforeseen happens. Back up your company’s data and store backed up data locally, and in the cloud. Backup images too – these can be used to quickly deploy a virtual version of a downed server.

Be Strategic

Companies that successfully use technology as a competitive advantage make IT part of the corporate culture and growth plans. They understand that technology isn’t just a set of tools for the day to day operation – technology can transform the business and its operations and provide a true competitive advantage. As you make your business plans and set goals for the next year, or two, or five, consider how technology can help your company run more efficiently, achieve agility and be a leader in your market.

Managing IT Costs for Business

Why doesn’t every company follow these 4 tips to control their IT costs? Usually, it’s because they’re too busy with running the business. This is where an IT consulting firm can have a huge impact. Engage the services of an IT consulting firm (like Clare Computer Solutions) to implement and maintain these 4 steps, and your company will fully realize the power of technology (and control those IT costs!)

Ransomware: How to Reduce Risk and Protect Your Business

The malware is known as ” Ransomware ” has many variants which utilize an array of methods to find a series of entry points (usually an attachment to an email) to infect and encrypt a company’s servers and data. Once the virus finds an entry point, it will begin to rapidly encrypt all the drives it can quickly access within the infected system.

You will become aware that the infection has occurred when someone attempts to access a file that has been encrypted or it hits the Server Operating System. There are no tools or Data Recovery Services that can decrypt your data; it is unrecoverable in this state.

All is not lost once your system has been compromised. We have found that there are two solutions that work the best once your system is compromised. Your two options are to restore your system from the last good backup or simply attempt to pay the ransom.

The IT industry does not encourage the payment of the ransom – and doing so does have risks. Sometimes a decryption key is never sent or won’t work, and the criminals don’t have an IT support team!.

But if you have no backup process for your data or you’re unsure and cannot take a chance on an unchecked backup then you may have no choice but to attempt to pay the ransom.

Prevention is the Best Option – Use These Steps

Educate Your Staff:

One of the most common causes of infection is an employee clicking on a link or opening a file sent from a legitimate source they might have corresponded with in the past. Train them to recognize “suspicious” emails

Employ Content Scanning / Filtering on Email Servers:

All incoming email must be scanned for viruses; this is the primary entry point for Ransomware. The next is websites that are infected; this is where a web content filter should come into play. If the website is infected the web filter will prevent its entry.

Maintain Patch Levels for OS and Applications:

It is an industry best practice to keep the workstations, server operating systems and applications up to date and patched as this will help prevent infection to your network.

Block End Users from Executing Malware:

Newer Antivirus and Malware programs such as Symantec, Malwarebytes and Webroot have products that work well for this service. You can configure and use “Group Policies” to implement software restriction policies to prevent the threat of Ransomware from running in the protected system areas.

Install and configure Host Intrusion Prevention:

Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) solutions are very helpful but do require a certain amount of administration such as monitoring for alerts, notifications, and events.

Limit User Access to Mapped Drives:

If users do not need access to drives or sharing privileges then remove them from the shared list. Group rights and login scripts will help to map drive access in your company.

Deploy and Maintain Backups:

The most important solution we constantly offer to our clients would be to constantly backup your system – we cannot stress this enough. The biggest takeaway from this article is that the best protection is a solid backup scheme. We prefer image-based backups like Datto, Storagecraft, and Veeam.

This is not a complete list of all the methods or solutions that can be used; however these are the most common and cost-effective methods of prevention. Remember, doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Again, if you take nothing else away from this article please make sure that you have a solid backup solution in place and it is working.

For more information about Ransomware and how Clare Computer Solutions can protect your company, contact us or visit our website at www.clarecomputer.com to find out what CCS can do for you.

Server Virtualization – Doing More With Less

Sooner or later, your old reliable server will no longer do its job, and it will be time to replace it. If you have several servers, this technology refresh cycle may be the right time to consider consolidating several servers into one, using server virtualization.

The Basis of Server Virtualization:

Server Virtualization is not a new concept – it’s been used in mainframes for decades to allow users to define a virtual machine within a host machine with the exact specifications they need, and keep those needs separated from other virtual machines in the host. Each year more and more workloads are on virtual servers, and since 2014, more than half of workloads are virtualized.

Advances in technology, coupled with a proliferation of servers in Information Technology (IT) environments of mid-market businesses paved the way for widespread adoption of virtualization in that space, and it’s become the norm.

There are major players in virtualization on the hardware and software front, including HP, IBM, VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft, providing technologies specifically designed for the SMB market.

Virtualization advantages for mid-market sized businesses:

Energy Savings – a virtual host running multiple virtual machines typically will require less power and less cooling than the same number of separate servers, plus they will take up less space.

Agility – deploying virtual machines takes much less time than setting up and deploying separate servers. This can be extremely helpful in disaster recovery scenarios, such as trying to replace a down server, or restoring a server to a pre-disaster state. In addition, deploying new servers is easier and quicker.

Flexibility – each virtual machine will have its own operating system, CPU, and memory allocation – and these can be easily changed as needed. Moreover, management of these machines can be done from a single management console.

Cost Savings – The costs of a suitable host machine plus the virtual machines that run on it are less than if there were a number of separate server machines.

You should definitely consider virtualization if the benefits listed above appeal to you! Contact Clare Computer Solutions and let’s have a strategic conversation – your next technology refresh may be your opportunity to save money and time, while increasing performance and agility!