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News, opinions and updates from the Virtuoso team.

Jamie Laridon

Jamie helps our SME customers use technology to improve their businesses. Through research of emerging technologies and industry trends, as well as feedback from client representatives, he is able to recommend tailored solutions which save money, drive efficiency and improve collaboration.

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Nov
23

The Cloud - Demystified In Less Than Ten Minutes

Posted by Jamie Laridon in Opinion, Cloud

The Cloud

For years ‘the cloud’ has been talked about constantly in business technology circles. And by now you’ll find that most SMB owners are already aware of how cloud computing is transforming the way that companies do business and cuts IT costs. However it’s still a fairly complicated subject if you’re not technically minded and the potential business value of migrating to the cloud might not be that clear.

It might entertain you to know that according to research done by Wakefield research, 54% of SMB’s stated that they had never used cloud technology. And of that 54% it was found that about 95% of them were in fact already in the cloud and had been for years, they just didn’t realise it.

We are going to explain ‘the cloud’ for anyone who perhaps isn’t 100% certain of the details. The cloud is here to stay and the economic benefits make too much sense to ignore.

Put simply, the cloud acts as a storage space. If you imagine your online storage system as a cramped office with files spilling out over the filing cabinets, there is no budget to upgrade offices but it’s becoming chaotic. Then imagine that your building manager offers to rent you an empty filing cabinet in the basement.

The basement is shared with other tenants who have their own filing cabinets and spaces but only you have the key to yours. You move your files into the basement and suddenly your office is less cramped and running more efficiently. And you can pop to the basement to collect files whenever you need. This is a rough analogy of how the cloud works.

Large businesses have higher IT budgets, which allows them to own a massive internal network infrastructure, but SMB’s often don’t have the budget or support to do this. That’s why the cloud has allowed the playing field to be leveled between small, medium and big businesses. It’s an equalizer in many ways. It gives SMB’s the opportunity to do large-scale business at a lower cost.

The cloud is more or less a sexy (if you like that kind of thing) buzzword for the Internet. Or at least the next evolution of the Internet. Anyone who has ever used or hosted an email provider like Gmail has stored sensitive data in the cloud, even if they didn’t realize. Cloud-based email hosting was the first and most broadly adopted cloud service used for both personal and professional use.

Use services like Amazon, Netflix, even Facebook and Twitter? You’re part of the public cloud.

The cloud is big. It’s big and its made up of different elements. It has three deployment models, private, public and hybrid.

Private Clouds are often built by large companies with bigger resourses and deeper pockets than SMB’s. But what has been a game changer for SMB’s is the Public Cloud, public cloud deployments are 100% virtual. This means less hands-on management is required as the infrastructure (hardware, devices, network equipment etc) is all off-premises. And with this an SMB benefits from not having to pay for and manage the hardware, deal with software licensing or updating or pay for empolyees to manage it all.

Cloud migration companies generally offer one of 3 categorised cloud-computing services that are referred to as layers within the cloud. These 3 services are:

Simply put, the cloud hosts an application for any type of work process that an SMB will need.

What are the advantages of using the Cloud?

Reduction of costs: Since the cloud works on mass scale computing, onsite physical storage hardware and internal IT staffing are reduced.

Anytime and Anywhere Access: Since data access is no longer restricted to single employees or physical devices, users can share and collaborate in the cloud at any time and anywhere.

Better collaboration: The cloud is available on demand to computers and devices from any location at any point of time, this allows for better faster collaboration between employees, especially as today's workforce is increasingly dispersed.

Faster deployment: Cloud-based services can be deployed within just an hour or a few days rather than the weeks or months it often takes to strategically plan, build and implement an internal IT structure.

Environmental friendliness: The clouds energy efficiency is attractive to any company conscientious about the environment and wanting to be ‘green’. For example, having fewer machines to run is obviously more energy efficient.

Improved security: Many SMB’s cite security concerns as the main reason they are reluctant to move to the cloud, however, there are actually very few data breaches involving cloud providers. Data stored in the cloud may actually be safer than data stored on computers and company servers with an array of security vulnerabilities. Unlike a laptop, the cloud can’t be left behind on a train.

Business Continuity: Data storage and back up is one of the most frequently used cloud-based services amongst SMB’s. Many cloud service providers offer SMB’s unlimited storage capability, automated data sync and back up processes that reduce or eliminate downtime events

Still concerned?

SMB’s who are still uneasy about a move to the cloud can consider cloud monitoring through a local managed service provider (MSP). Cloud monitoring helps SMBs deploy to the cloud with confidence. Cloud monitoring gives the SMB owner around-the-clock end-to-end visibility into the performance of their cloud services and IT infrastructure. Monitoring services offer SMBs proactive monitoring, automated alerts, and full problem resolution support by way of a fully dedicated 24/7 networks operations center (NOC). Cloud monitoring is also carefully monitored with frequent audits to identify and address vulnerabilities.

The continuous analyzing and testing of your network, website and mobile applications can reduce downtime hugely. And cloud monitoring also tests your email server at regular intervals, which minimizes failure deliveries, and other issues that affect sending and receiving emails.

Concerns about security are still valid but small businesses today may actually be exposing themselves to more breach vulnerabilities by not being in the cloud. The notion that data must be on-site to truly be secure is as misguided as the belief that money is safer tucking beneath a mattress than in the bank.

To see how we can help you with cloud migration visit our website or get in touch for more details

https://www.virtuoso-uk.com/managed-it/it-outsourcing

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Tags: #Opinion, #Cloud
May
06

Just Because You’re Not a Big Target, Doesn’t Mean You’re Safe

Not too long ago, the New York Times’ website experienced a well-publicised attack, which raises the question – how can this happen to such a world-renowned organisation? If this can happen to the New York Times, what does this bode for the security of a small company’s website? What’s to stop someone from sending visitors of your site to an adult site or something equally offensive?


The short answer to that question is nothing. In the New York Times’ attack, the attackers changed the newspapers’ Domain Name System (DNS) records to send visitors to a Syrian website. The same type of thing can very well happen to your business website. For a clearer perspective, let’s get into the specifics of the attack and explain what DNS is.

The perpetrators of the New York Times’ attack targeted the site’s Internet DNS records. To better understand this, know that computers communicate in numbers, whereas we speak in letters. In order for us to have an easy-to-remember destination like nytimes.com, the IP address must be converted to that particular URL through DNS.

Therefore, no matter how big or small a company’s online presence is, every website is vulnerable to the same DNS hacking as the New York Times’ site.  The good news is the websites of smaller companies or organizations fly under the radar and rarely targeted. Larger targets like the New York Times, or LinkedIn, which was recently redirected to a domain sales page, are more likely targets.

For now...

There is no reason to panic and prioritize securing DNS over other things right now. But there is a belief that DNS vulnerability will be something cybercriminals pick on more often down the road.

Here are a few ways to stay safe

Select a Registrar with a Solid Reputation for Security Chances are, you purchased your domain name through a reputable registrar like GoDaddy, Bluehost, 1&1, or Dreamhost. Obviously, you need to create a strong password for when you log into the registrar to manage your site’s files.

Nonetheless, recent DNS attacks are concerning because they’re far more than the average password hack.  It was actually the security of the registrars themselves that was compromised in recent attacks. The attackers were basically able to change any DNS record in that registrar’s directory. What’s particularly frightening is the registrars attacked had solid reputations. The New York Times, along with sites like Twitter and the Huffington Post, is registered with Melbourne IT. LinkedIn, Craigslist and US Airways are registered with Network Solutions. Both had been believed to be secure.

So what else can be done?

Set Up a Registry Lock & Inquire About Other Optional Security

A registry lock makes it difficult for anyone to make even the most mundane changes to your registrar account without manual intervention by a staff registrar. This likely comes at an additional cost and not every domain registrar has it available.

Ask your registrar about registry locking and other additional security measures like two factor authentication, which requires another verifying factor in addition to your login and password, or IP address dependent logins, which limits access to your account from anywhere outside of one particular IP address.

While adding any of these extra safeguards will limit your ability to make easy account change or access your files from remote locations, it may be a worthwhile price to pay.

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