What Can Businesses Do For Resiliency Against Cyber Threats in 2017

Looking at the cyber threat landscape for 2017, it doesn’t appear businesses will receive any relief from hackers, malware, or ransomware anytime soon. In fact, all these threats continue to grow in sophistication. What can you do to help your business gain resilience against cyber-attacks? Here are three things you can do to help

Work With, Not Against, Front-Line Providers

Since technology has introduced the cyber threats mentioned above, it’s tempting to distrust technology or those who provide or service it. In all reality, the exact opposite is true. Once you choose an able IT service provider or vendor – listen to them and follow their advice. They will understand your need to balance easy access of information while keeping your data secure, and provide solutions to satisfy both needs – but you have to do it right.

Introduce New Technology Mindfully

Technology should be selected and used to introduce efficiencies while assisting in making your business more agile and serve clients better. There are enough choices out there that you can start with how you want your business to operate, then select tech solutions to meet these goals. Don’t let technology tell you how to run your business.

Don’t Neglect the Human Factor

Regardless of your technology, it’s humans that make your business run. Your employees need to be trained and vigilant when it comes to their use of technology. Make sure your company’s stance on security is ingrained in your corporate culture. Humans decide whether to buy a product or not, so make sure your technology aids – not impedes – the quality of interactions between employees and clients.

Clare Computer Solutions has helped many companies adopt technologies and practices to make their businesses more resilient to cyber threats.  We can help your business, too –just contact us to get started.

We also provide onsite ransomware prevention consulting for companies – at no charge. Education is one the best ways to prevent social engineering tactics for launching malware.

See http://www.clarecomputer.com/resources/events/ransomware-survival-guide/ for more information.

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What’s New in the World of Ransomware

In the IT support world, ransomware was the big cyber-security story of 2016 and probably will be in 2017 as well. Why? It’s the first effective cyber-extortion tool. Previously malware has caused problems, enabling thefts of proprietary data and created launch platforms for other attacks and malware, but ransomware provides a way for cyber-criminals to become the highway robbers of the information superhighway.

Ransomware has become such a large threat because of its two core factors. One, it is typically delivered via crafty social engineering methods that are tough to prevent with existing anti-malware tools. Secondly, it takes the same state-of-the-art encryption designed to add security and uses it effectively (and potentially permanently) to encrypt victims’ data.

2016 saw these three trends that make us think we’ll be dealing with ransomware for a while:

1. New Sophistication in Social Engineering

Network user education is one of the most effective ways to prevent infection, but the emails carrying the payload are getting more sophisticated. They used to be spoofed messages appearing to be from trusted entities such as UPS or FedEx, but there’s been an increase in attempts that seem to come from friends or specific business colleagues of the recipients. We all have to learn to be suspicious of emails that seem to come from friends or even from within our places of employment!

2. Ransomware-as-a-Service

There are ransomware kits available online, enabling anyone that wants to ignore the risks of criminal prosecution to try their hand at distributing ransomware to extort money. Ransomware kit creators earn money by taking a cut from the distributors of their ransomware, and as RaaS becomes cheaper and easier to find, it has become more mainstream. By enlisting a large network of distributors, ransomware has spread to more victims, which creates the  bigger potential for ransomware profits.

3. More Platforms are Being Targeted

Windows-based PCs were the initial platform (an easy target due to such widespread use), but ransomware and other malware are targeting many other platforms. Mac users are now being targeted, as well as other IP-connected devices such as smartphones and televisions, many of which have little to no security on them.

There’s still no sure-fire prevention for ransomware infection, but a combination of technology and education can reduce the likelihood of infection, and downtime within your business and create an environment where an infection can be contained, and then utilize a rapid recovery solution to minimize the harm.

If you would like to learn more about Ransomware, and how to protect your business, you can view our video on Ransomware. If your business wishes to receive further education and training, you can contact us for more details!

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Will 2017 Be the Year of the Cloud for Your Business?

For years, we’ve heard how “the Cloud is coming”. How does the “cloud landscape” appear today, compared to when we first started hearing about it?

It’s time to take another hard look at what “the Cloud” can do for your business

The notion of a business getting rid of all its onsite IT infrastructure and putting everything in the cloud is not outrageous, but it’s not commonplace – yet.

With so many applications systematizing the daily process of an employee, you may find yourself already operating from within the cloud, with applications from Adobe, Google, Microsoft Office and others.

For most companies their first encounter with the cloud has been migrating email services. There are a lot of choices when it comes to providers, including industry giants such as Google and Microsoft, and the services tend to be competitively priced and increasingly easy to use.  Migration can be tricky if a company needs to move a lot of legacy email data up into the cloud, but once the migration is complete, the service seems to be as stable as the company’s internet connection.

The replacement of aging technologies is proving to become a driver for many who are now considering the cloud alternatives. Virtual computing in the cloud offers up-to-date servers at a monthly rate that includes maintenance, power, and air conditioning.

These solutions are what technology savvy CEOs have been waiting for. Hosting applications like Citrix, Veam, Microsoft Azure, VMware, and many more have created workable environments that can quickly scale to become as expansive as needed.

Two things are very important to keep in mind when considering this route:

1: Not all applications are cloud-ready. Applications which require vast amounts of data to communicate between the server and end user’s device, can have a hard time running in a cloud based environment, slowing job functions down to a crawl.

 2: Your Internet connection is extremely important to cloud computing – if the sole link to your business applications is your internet connection, you better make sure it’s fast, reliable, and redundant. This doesn’t have to be a showstopper – many metro areas have multiple carriers of very high bandwidth. For most users in the San Francisco Bay Area you may see Comcast, or AT&T for business, and in select areas, you may have access to specialty services like Google Fiber.

So, maybe 2017 is the Year of the Cloud for your business. Don’t go at this task alone — partner with a trusted IT support company to find the best fit for your cloud needs, whether it’s application implementation or an entire cloud environment.

Not sure your company is ready for the cloud?  The best way to find out is to have an assessment of your cloud-readiness. Armed with the facts, you can devise a plan to enjoy the cloud’s benefits and avoid the pitfalls, too!

It all starts with a discussion with Clare Computer SolutionsContact us today and we can help you determine what the cloud my do for your business.

Choosing a Managed Service Provider Whose Goals Match Your Own

Picking the right managed service provider (MSP) to manage your business technology can can quickly become an overwhelming task for anybody. Rather than having repairs as needed, you’re partnering with a company to assist you in assessing your current technology, building a scalable plan for growth, and responding in a timely fashion.

What’s the difference?

A fundamental difference between the two methods is, the transaction-based “break fix” service has the client and provider working at cross purposes: The provider needs the client to have problems in order to have work to do. All the risk for the network’s health and performance is on the client’s side. A managed service provider (MSP), assumes some of the risk by charging a flat fee for an allotted amount of hours to keep the network running smoothly.

So how does a company choose their managed service provider? Here are some things to check for when evaluating an MSP.

Procedure

Managing multiple networks takes a very organized operation, with state-of-the-art procedures and tools. There should be a definable, and repeatable process for receiving service requests (whether generated by clients or monitoring tools), evaluating them, prioritizing them and assigning resources to resolve each one.  Any good MSP should be able to describe this process clearly while providing metrics as to how they meet their service level goals.

Experience

An MSP that’s only now getting into the game is unlikely to be as effective as one that’s been through the growth pains and has deep experience with the procedures and tools that constitute the best practices in this field.  Similarly, ask about the service provider’s staff – do they have enough experience to be considered experts in Managed Services, too?

Capacity

Modern tools may enable a very small organization to become a Managed Services Provider. Many things that used to require site visits can now be done by remote means. However, at any given time, some percentage of an MSP’s client base is going to require some “hands on” service. Make sure the MSP you choose has enough people to effectively service their client base. What’s the size of their field force? Do they offer an on-location support center?

Communication

If a company decides to rely on an MSP to manage all or part of their IT infrastructure, it doesn’t mean they should be “out of the loop”.  The relationship is a partnership, and that means information about the health of the IT infrastructure needs to flow back to the client company on a regular basis, in the form of monthly reports and regular meetings. Similarly, to get the maximum value out of the relationship, the client company should seek to get the MSP involved in strategic planning, to ensure the network will continue to meet the company’s needs as it grows.

Clare Computer Solutions has been in business since 1990, and been providing Managed Services since 2003. We have proven procedures and processes in place to deliver a consistent level of service, and we track key metrics to ensure we maintain our clients’ service level goals. We also help clients with their IT budgeting. It’s time your company’s information technology was properly managed – contact us to get started.

View our video on the importance of documenting your network.

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