Ready to Ditch the Protocol? Reasons to End Remote Desktop Protocol

Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)has been known to IT professionals for years, added into our arsenal since the original release with Windows NT 4.0. This provided the technical people the ability to treat any system or task as though it were local. Before we go further, it’s worth noting most Ransomware attacks occur through the open-ports in your network. These ports are what leadership sometimes use to remote into a work machine. You’re internal IT uses this to assist in taking control of your work PC to troubleshoot a problem.

Quickly, the productivity tool was adopted, widely seen by many as an initial attack vector. From a security standpoint, any software or program that takes remote control of your PC is worth of severe scrutiny. In the wrong hands, RDPs can assist cybercriminals in deactivating device’s in the organization’s network, concerning endpoint protection, and deliver nasty payloads of malware.

Using a publicly accessible Remote Desktop Protocol session to reach systems creates major concerns surrounding your network vulnerability. Public sessions are targets, with cybercriminals discovering new ways of conducting port and IP sweeps. According to Tyler Moffit, Webroot’s Senior Threat Analyst and partner “It’s a matter of when not if.

Recent reports suggest the state of banking security as half of all banks in the SF Bay Area have left remote access and control interfaces like Remote Desktop Protocol, openly accessible from the internet. Shocking finding for many in an industry built on securing customer information.

Turning Remote Desktop Protocol into an Attack Vector

Although most cyber attacks are from the results of lateral movement through your IT network, malicious payloads will spread between each system, fully compromising and stealing each PCs data. By adding pubic accessible Remote Desktop Protocol, you compromise those with weak credentials, using password breakers to easily accomplish these lateral movements, from user to user.

With four high-level options for securing your environment, and managing them with more security:

  1. Consider eliminating the Remote Desktop Protocol access by changing the default TCP ports and leveraging a virtualized network, or VLANs to critical systems. A more secure option would be to block all RDP connections through none whitelisted IPs. Additional solutions are available when it comes to logon monitoring and activity summaries with heightened visibility utilizing multi-factor authentication.
  2. Secure all systems and endpoints first, with solution designs to monitor and remedy any network anomalies. Similar to that of an RDP session from other workstations and notify your technical team or leadership.
  3. Utilize paid encryption Solutions for remoting into work systems. Some of the most popular remote solutions are TeamViewer, LogMeIn, and Screen connect all companies through encrypted connections to release communications as need.

Ready to Ditch the Remote Desktop Protocol?

With security threats and attack vectors mounting, remote desktop options are out there, and your Managed Service Provider or IT Consultant should be attending to the major attack vector. Companies must begin to recognize the security dangers across their network, and how to best leverage their current technology investments. Paired with our award-winning suite of solutions, better secure the access to RDP, the data, or black all remote sessions until further notice, per security posture.

To learn more about what Managed IT Support can do in terms of your networks RDP, contact us today to get started in discovering network vulnerabilities, the criminals will leverage.

The Benefits of Using Assessments like Azure HealthCheck

Assess physical and virtual infrastructure, provide in-depth reporting, make informed decisions on costs, and plan smooth cloud migrations. Expand your efficiency and effectiveness around the fastest-growing cloud platform, Microsoft Azure. It can be hard to know where to begin the conversation— especially if your organization doesn’t have deep experience in infrastructure.

Thorough Reporting

Our pre-migration assessment, also known as “Azure HealthCheck,” provides the data needed, to illustrate the true ROI of the cloud, building a migration plan with the corresponding workloads, and consumption. Explore the immediate advantages of Azure with consumption-based models, flat-rate billing, and regional data centers, allowing businesses a better cloud experience than ever before.

Collecting workload and usage data over the course of 14 days, to identify trends and patterns that allow for the accurate sizing of your network including, drives, computing power, processing speeds, and storage. Identifying virtual and physical server dependencies, workloads, architecture and shadow IT.

Detailed Cost-Analysis

Tracking maximum, minimum, and average workloads to accurately project the total cost of ownership in the cloud. Adjust data center regions, and capacity planning tools to make sure, your business-line applications have everything it needs before taking off to the cloud.

Planning Tools

Optimize configurations based on performance needs, NOT matching them to existing hardware, to show best and worst-case scenarios. Explore multiple configuration mappings for migration strategy plans, choosing optimal migration settings and firewall rules to prepare for a smooth transition.

How It Works

Step #1: Scan
We deploy BitTitan agents for Azure in the provided environment, scanning and collecting detailed information about each physical and virtual machine, and any additional nodes on your network.

Step #2: Report 
See live costs for moving to Azure by measuring Infrastructure-as-a-Service(IaaS) or active workloads. Providing businesses with access to detailed reports about individual nodes, processing time, memory/app usage, disk mapping, network usage, ingress/egress speeds and active ports.

Step #3: Plan
Find dependencies between nodes and applications, learning the cloud readiness of each node, optimal migration settings, and network recommendations -planning your move to the cloud has never been easier.

 

Get started with our Azure HealthCheck Assessment for on-premise and virtualized networks

Learn more at www.clarecomputer.com/azure-healthcheck

 

How Hybrid Cloud Computing Has Taken the Market by Storm

If you’re still viewing the hybrid cloud as something outside of your IT strategy, or adoption plan, it’s time to change your thinking. In a recent study conducted by Cisco, and several other partners. The report uncovered, of the IT departments surveyed, 65% hope to prioritize the cloud as we begin 2018. This was a shocking number to most, as hybrid clouds have been around for some time.

Hybrid Cloud Wants vs Needs

The hybrid cloud has become a critical component of companies’ efforts in moving towards a “digital transformation.” Regardless of business size, technology leaders in your business need to begin weighing their options when it comes to on-premise infrastructure and cloud platforms.

For most, cloud platforms were enterprise-class in all respects and should encompass Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform (PaaS) and Infrastructure (IaaS), with a high level of integration between them all. Many believe hybrid cloud solutions using public and private platforms offer the greatest benefits and commonality with on-premises infrastructure. Enabling your business to move workloads once stuck on-premise between private and public clouds.

That’s a serious list of requirements – thankfully, cloud providers are already moving in this direction. With Microsoft offering Azure, Microsoft 365, and a hybrid-stack for those with AWS. It’s no wonder they have taken off as the cloud leader. With Azure recently boasting several SQL Server enhancements, including in-memory support and the ability to move SQL Server applications to the cloud for seamless hybrid cloud use.

What Does It Mean for Business Owners?

With a growing list of cloud vendors in the market, we have already begun seeing solutions that over-promise, and under-deliver. Many are still skeptical of the cloud, having given Azure’s Active Directory a try. Using the security management of Azure and Microsoft, businesses can secure the identity of employees, their access, and some minor support. Encouraging the adoption of the hybrid cloud and safer computing networks.

With these innovations in cloud computing, you get vast transformative capabilities. With scalable platforms that enables you to deploy new applications, augment resources, and move apps between clouds. It’s these tools we see as the first steps in workload and process automation. It’s time your information technology began working for you – if poised correctly, the hybrid cloud can be the answer to the technology innovation your business has been lacking.

Clare Computer Solutions has provided the SF Bay Area with IT support and consulting services for over three decades. Realize the power of your technology today – Contact us to begin using the cloud to answer some of your largest technology questions.

File Sharing: 4 Reasons You Don’t Use Consumer Grade

As the digital transformation begins to gain traction in the market for business technology. File sharing continues to lead many to a more efficient work path. Starting with file sharing through iCloud, and Google cloud. Followed by the Dropbox adoption, and now into Slack’s interface, using drag and drop mechanics, with little permissions around sharing or asset management.

File sharing services are very common these days, and it’s easy to see why. These online services provide an easy way to store files in the cloud, where you can readily access, and share them, from a variety of devices. Many of these services are free of charge, too – up to a point.

For personal files, these solutions do a great job, since they are free! If you’re only sharing personal files – vacation pictures or non-sensitive personal communications – security is NOT a paramount concern. But beware of using consumer-grade solutions for your business.

These personal file sharing services are a prime target for hackers, and you owe it to your business, and all your business contacts to protect data you’re storing and sharing.

For businesses that want to use the convenience of file sharing apps, it is wise to make sure the solution you choose has business-level capabilities such as:

  1. Encrypted data – keeping data safe, during editing, in-transit, and at rest.
  2. Controls – not every user’s needs are the same, and not every user’s privileges should be the same.
  3. Customization – it should appear to the people with whom you’re sharing information that the program you’re using is a part of your company – not a “freebie.”
  4. No Such Thing as Free – at some point, your organization will reach a scale where these solutions can no longer be viable.
    1. (Dropbox & G-Suite are capped capacity, unlike similar O365 variants)

Clare Computer Solutions can help your company get set up for a business-grade file sharing solution, tailored to fit your business needs – Contact us today to get started.

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Hybrid Infrastructure Makes Cloud Migrations More Strategic

Cloud computing holds great promise for the future of information technology (IT). As the technology matures, and the install base grows, more businesses are choosing to mix on-premise and cloud environments, to create a “hybrid infrastructure.”

Demystifying Hybrid Infrastructure

Most businesses are finding their existing IT infrastructure is not suitable to move to the cloud entirely. Issues with bandwidth, latency, and compatibility have made many companies realize that often, moving everything into the cloud it isn’t the best solution. This requires businesses to do some advanced planning, to maximize the benefits of the cloud. Here are some things to consider:

Analyze Current Infrastructure

What applications does your business rely on to function day-by-day? How does it handle sales, marketing, ordering, shipping and receiving, research and design workloads? How do your employees interact with clients, colleagues, and suppliers? How is data stored, where is it stored and how is it backed up? Of all these applications, which will provide benefits if moved to the cloud? These answers to these questions will help your businesses plan to make the move from on-premise to hybrid infrastructure or, possibly, in the long-term, from hybrid to a fully managed cloud.

Consider Bandwidth and Latency

Different programs handle data in different ways. Sometimes the data that flows to the end user device is in small increments. Other times, a large amount of data must be sent to the user’s device(s) often and quickly. Bandwidth matters, of course – a large data pipe can move more than a smaller one. If large amounts of data need to traverse long distances, latency will degrade the user experience, and impact productivity, and responsiveness.

Consider Reliability and Redundancy

The more your business relies on singular data connections, the greater effect an “internet down” event will have. Connection schemes should be designed with reliability in mind. It should be set up for a quick fail-over if the primary circuit ever has problems. Of course, this is a good argument to have assets already in the cloud. If the office connection goes down for any reason, many businesses can have people work remotely.

The advantages of cloud computing are real, but it takes careful planning to fully realize the benefits. Choose the cloud strategy that provides the most benefit for your business, with a trusted partner. Clare Computer Solutions can help you migrate appropriate workloads to the cloud – contact us today to get started.

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October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month

The Department of Homeland Security has designated October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month. This is an annual campaign to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity. The Internet touches almost all aspects of everyone’s daily life, whether we realize it or not.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) is designed to engage and educate public and private sector partners through events and initiatives to raise awareness about the importance of cyber security, provide them with tools and resources needed to stay safe online, and increase the resiliency of the Nation in the event of a cyber incident.

Clare Computer Solutions is very involved in helping clients ensure they have the tools and education to mitigate the risks from a variety of cyber threats. The NCSAM website has some tools, too – and they break them into separate toolkits for a variety of users. They call this the “StopThinkConnect Toolkit” – they have some very sensible advice.

Here’s the URL to access these tools: 
https://www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect-toolkit

Busy executives may find it difficult to take the time to go over these materials in detail, but Clare Computer Solutions can definitely help. We can have a conversation with you, learn about your business, help you pinpoint your major concerns around cyber security or any technology, and help you devise a road map to prepare your company to avoid problems with cyber attacks.

Threats include malware (viruses, worms, ransomware), and hacking. The consequences can be business disruption, destruction of data, and theft of data. These threats come in from a variety of places – from sophisticated hackers getting through a firewall, to unwitting employees clicking on an email attachment.

Your employees, your colleagues, and especially your customers, are counting on you to take the proper steps to protect your business. It all starts with a conversation – contact us to get started.

Cyber Security Awareness month

When Is it Time to Call an IT Consultant

When is it the right time to call an IT consultant? As information technology continues to change, the lines can be blurred as to when your business should bring in an IT Consultant. Any modern business with more than a handful of people has an IT infrastructure, and this has been the case for at least a decade. What has changed, is people are generally more familiar with technology, and the technology itself has become more user-friendly. Many aspects of maintaining that infrastructure have grown easier.

Another change is the depth to which technology has permeated business operations. It’s not just crunching numbers anymore, or word processing. Technology affects every aspect of a business, from marketing to operations, accounting, and communications. This should be seen as good thing, but managing the IT infrastructure has not become easier. With clouds, and SaaS, VDO, DNS, VMWare, it’s no wonder companies drift off course.

This is where an IT consultant can make a huge difference for your company. Even if you have an in-house IT staff to deal with parts of your network, there are some areas where a consultant can add tremendous value. Here are a few of them.

Strategic Planning

Despite IT being an integral part of most businesses, we don’t see many hiring IT staff with business skills.  An IT consultant can help you align your IT initiatives with your business goals – going beyond technical details and guiding IT decisions and plans with a business context.

Multi-Vendor Management

Most infrastructures contain equipment and services from a variety of vendors. This is fine – you should choose the products and services your business needs. But all these things have to work together, reliably, for your business to really realize the power of this technology. When things go awry in a complex environment, vendors often default to an “not our fault” mode, making sorting out of responsibilities and next steps, a real struggle. A consultant can aid in unraveling issues that span, several vendors’ products and services.

Hybrid Environments

The cloud is here to stay, but most businesses aren’t moving everything to the cloud, for a variety of reasons. For businesses that are considering moving workloads to the cloud, an IT consultant can help by evaluating a company’s existing IT environment and devising a cloud strategy to determine which workloads should be moved to the cloud, when to do it, and how to manage the resulting hybrid environment.

Clare Computer Solutions has helped hundreds of companies in the San Francisco Bay Area grapple with the complexities business encounter with regards to technology, and helped companies integrate IT into their business operations to provide the best advantages. We can help you, too – and it all starts with a business discussion. Contact us today to begin the process!

Hybrid Infrastructure Trends Towards “Everything-as-a-Service”

For years, Information Technology (IT) focused on physical platforms – the computers and the software that ran on them.

IT costs were capital expenditures that purchased these products initially, and as they reached the end of their lifespans, more capital expenditures were incurred to replace them.

This was the normal way to do business and this model was the standard for decades.

The rapid changes in physical platforms led to an undesirable result: companies found they had equipment that was considered obsolete more quickly, than ever before, and that drove costs up, to try and keep the infrastructure modernized.

Sometimes companies try and beat this trend, by over-buying computing capacity, in the hopes that a company could grow into it before the hardware became obsolete. As server virtualization became more common, and internet bandwidth came down in price, this opened up a new paradigm – buying IT capabilities as an ongoing service.

This had several appealing characteristics:

  • Increased agility – it’s fast and easy to build out computing capacity in the cloud, and it’s easy to adjust that computing capacity, so companies can buy only what they need when they need it. Some services can be allocated dynamically, too.
  • The shift of IT expenditures from capital expenditure to operational expenditure – this makes managing cash flow easier.
  • Decreased consumption of space and power for physical servers in the office.
  • Protection from hardware and software obsolescence – the cloud provider handles ensuring up-to-date versions of hardware and software are being used.

 

Does this mean companies should immediately put all their IT workloads in the cloud?

Of course not, for several reasons. First, your existing infrastructure could be a year or more away from obsolescence. Or your business may have specific applications that do not lend themselves well to cloud computing.

Many businesses opt for a hybrid infrastructure, with some services delivered by the “as-a-service” cloud subscription model, and others through on-premises infrastructure. Regardless, cloud services present a win-win scenario for businesses to utilize the best technologies to make their business run better and compete more effectively in their market. Clare Computer Solutions has been helping companies realize the power of technology for over 25 years – we can help your company, too. It all starts with a conversation – contact us to begin your transformation.

Three Reasons Why You Should Migrate to Office 365

Six years ago Microsoft adapted their enormously popular Office productivity suite to meet the needs of an always connected, mobile workforce. Not only has Office 365 become the standard in enabling and increasing business productivity, but Microsoft continues to add applications to the Office 365 suites to build even greater value at a low monthly cost. The cloud is finally here to stay, and Office 365 can help your company take advantage of the benefits.

Here are three reasons to look at switching to Office 365:

Reason #1: Work Anywhere, From Any Device

Mobility is important to workers these days, and Office 365 makes it easy. First of all, the licensing allows each user to use the product from up to five devices – perfect for the modern mobile worker. Secondly, cloud storage ensures that the work they do is always saved and available – in its most current state – the next time they access it.

Reason #2: Office 365 Scales With Your Business

Cloud services are easily scalable – add more storage if you need it, add more user licenses quickly (Clare Computer Solutions, as a Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider, can help with this!), and even change the specific SKUs for users if their needs change. This scalability and flexibility translates to higher productivity and increased agility for your business.

Reason #3: You’re Always Up-to-Date in the Cloud

Remember the disruption any time a new Office suite became available, and you had to upgrade all your users? With Office 365, everyone always has the latest version of Office productivity applications.  Similarly, you don’t have to maintain or update a mail server either – it’s always up to date in the cloud.

Speaking of being up-to-date, Microsoft is constantly updating the available feature set in Office 365 now includes – Yammer, Delve, Teams, Skype – there’s an ever-growing list of tools you can use to facilitate better production, communication, and collaboration within your company.

Moving an important part of your business to cloud-based model is a big decision. Clare Computer Solutions has helped businesses just like yours make the right decision – we can help your business too. Contact us today to begin the discussion.