Four Tips For Securing Your Data In The Cloud

June 24th, 2014

Cloud security concept

Moving part of your business’s operations to the cloud offers you a number of advantages, including more flexibility and mobility. It does introduce a few challenges related to security, however. Since employees are able to access more from more places, that means the possibility of criminals accessing important data increases. Another possibility is a crippling denial of service attack that makes any applications or data stored in the cloud unreachable. That’s what happened recently to a company hosted in Amazon’s Web Service Cloud. That attack prompted Tech World’s Brandon Butler to publish a list of tips for protecting any infrastructure as a service cloud.

  • Two-Factor Authentication

The primary worry when data is available from anywhere is that log in credentials will be stolen or hacked allowing a third-party to access everything stored in the cloud. To prevent this from occurring, two-factor authentication is extremely useful. Rather than a simple log-in name and password, two-factor authentication requires a unique PIN for a user to log-in from an unrecognized device. This PIN is often sent to the user’s registered phone via text message. If an unrecognized device tries to log-in to the cloud, even with a recognized username and password, a PIN will be required, which should keep attackers out.

  • Monitor Activity

One of the keys to spotting a developing problem with the cloud is closely monitoring regular activity. You need to know what behaviors are normal so you can spot irregular or suspicious activity and investigate before any real problems develop. There are a number of tools available to help monitor activity like when and where users log in from. Keeping a close eye on these reports allows you to see when unknown IP addresses are attempting to gain access.

  • Encryption

Unfortunately, no security tool can guarantee that no criminal will ever gain access to your data. In the event someone does gain access to the cloud, it’s important to have encryption in place so important data isn’t readily available to them. It’s also important to understand that not all encryption is created equal. While some is useful to protect your data in the event of a large scale attack against the whole system, that same encryption likely wouldn’t be effective should an individual user’s account be compromised.

  • Back-Up

As with anything else, if it’s important, it’s important enough to make copies. Making back-ups doesn’t improve security or protect you from an attack. It does, however, make attacks much less costly because recovery times are much shorter and much less data is completely lost. Some cloud services automatically back-up data stored there, but not all do. It’s important to know if your data is being backed up, or if you need to make arrangements yourself. You’ll also need to decide if everything stored in the cloud needs to be backed up regularly, or if there is specific, vital data that needs the most attention.

The cloud is becoming an invaluable tool for business and securing it properly is vital to the success of your operations.

For help implementing and securing the cloud, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

Three Common Misconceptions About Cloud Computing

April 17th, 2014

Servers in front of clouds

Cloud computing has experienced monumental growth and adoption in the past year. If your business hasn’t incorporated some cloud services into your infrastructure, it likely will be doing so soon. But, not everything you hear about the cloud is gospel. Michael Brown of MSP Mentor explains three “half-truths” about cloud computing that you should understand.

  • Everything to the cloud

Reading some of the recent headlines touting the cloud’s power, you might think that your business should move entirely to the cloud. But, the truth is that not every application is appropriate to be integrated with cloud computing. Many businesses will likely be expanding their use of the cloud and making it an essential part of their IT infrastructure, but a hybrid model that uses both the cloud and more traditional methods will likely become the new normal.

  • The cloud is for cutting costs

Let’s be clear. The cloud is capable of significantly cutting costs for any size of business. Reductions in spending on hardware alone make the cloud one of the most effective cost cutting tools available. But, to sell the cloud as only a money saver is selling it short. The cloud is also able to expand your company’s capabilities and improve on current methods. With enhanced mobility, easier collaboration and always available scalability, the cloud far exceeds its price tag.

  • Every cloud is created equal

To most business owners, cloud providers are all offering the same product. In actuality, cloud service models vary from provider to provider. Despite the fact that each likely offers solutions for file sharing, remote computing and data storage, the subtle differences are important to take note of. The way a cloud service integrates with existing applications and other cloud services is important to understand before integrating a cloud into your business. For this reason, carefully consider and plan for how you want to use cloud computing so that you can match your needs to a provider who’ll be able to fit them.

Cloud computing is a powerful tool capable of transforming many aspects of your business.

If you’d like to explore cloud solutions for your company, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

Users Report Windows 8.1 And SkyDrive Don’t Get Along

December 19th, 2013

Windows 8 on laptop

Microsoft released an update to Windows 8 about a year after the operating system first hit the market in October of 2012. A preview of that update has been available since June and many users have stuck with the beta version rather than updating fully. Microsoft is now warning that the beta version will expire in January, so users need to update before then. The problem is that users without Windows 8 on their machines will have to pay for the upgrade to 8.1. As Juan Carlos Perez writes for PC World, even more troubling are reports that Windows 8.1 causes issues with the SkyDrive cloud storage service.

Since installing the update, users have reported persistent error messages, slow performance, lost and corrupted files, sync problems and an inability to upload new files. All of these problems make cloud storage ineffective and un-usable.

A Microsoft spokesmen stated publicly that the company is aware of the problem some users are experiencing and are working with each of them individually to resolve it. However, of the more than 100 threads started about the SkyDrive issues on Microsoft’s Community forum, few have been given attention and a satisfying answer from moderators. The official company stance is that Windows 8.1 and SkyDrive work together fine for most users.

This opinion suggests that no patch is forthcoming from Microsoft that would fix the problem. That’s led many users to abandon SkyDrive for competing cloud storage services. That defeats the purpose of SkyDrive, since it was included in Windows for a seamless, hassle-free back-up and storage option.

This isn’t the first problem reported related to the update to Windows 8.1. In the weeks following its release, multiple bugs were found, including some users being unable to boot up there machines at all.

For those who have yet to update, it would be a good idea to back-up anything you have on SkyDrive with another cloud service. That way, if your system has issues, your files will be safe.

If your computer is having issues after a recent update, or for any other reason, bring it to Geek Rescue or give us a call at 918-369-4335.


Tips For A More Secure Cloud Computing Experience

December 17th, 2013

Cloud computing concept

For business and even personal use, the cloud is earning the trust of more and more users. But, privacy and security remain major concerns. Victoria Ivey of CIO published a list of ways to maintain better security with the cloud, which mostly involve more diligence from users.

  • No Sensitive Data

There are a seemingly endless number of options for how to use the cloud, but it’s not for everything. When it comes to storing data, your most valued, vital, important files should probably stay away. Cloud storage isn’t particularly insecure, but it doesn’t provide enough security for the data you absolutely cannot afford to lose.

  • Read User Agreements

Perhaps the most disregarded document in history is the user agreement. For cloud storage solutions, however, it’s necessary to wade through them. They contain important information about what your cloud provider offers and what level of protection you’re afforded. If you’d rather not read it, take some time to talk to your provider in-depth about the services. Knowing the details of your cloud service will help you use it better.

  • Take Passwords Seriously

Passwords are a respectable security tool when used correctly. Unfortunately, most users insist on using a password they can easily remember and use no other considerations. This makes a password easily hackable. This doesn’t only apply to the cloud, but strong passwords are a must for every online account.

  • Encryption

For added cloud security, use encryption on all data stored there. This way, if a third party does gain access to your cloud storage, there will be another layer of security in place to keep them from stealing data. There are a number of ways to encrypt files and some cloud providers will include encryption with your service. There have been cases where cloud providers have decrypted users’ data, however and allowed access to other parties. So, be cautious when choosing a provider and don’t blindly trust encryption services unless you’re the only one holding the key.

These are some basic, general tips for improved security with cloud computing. Research your provider and the services you’re signing up for and make sure you understand how the cloud works and how to best use it.

To find out what the cloud can do for you, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. We offer a variety of cloud services and help you understand how the cloud is best utilized by your business.

The Capabilities Of Security Within The Cloud

November 22nd, 2013

Cloud security concept

Cloud computing holds a number of advantages for businesses, but some are still apprehensive citing security concerns. Ricky Ribeiro, of BizTech Magazine, spoke with security expert Kurt Roemer, to uncover how companies can stay secure while using the cloud. Here’s a look at the most compelling information.

  • Overall cloud security

In order to properly secure your company’s data using an entirely physical infrastructure, your security budget has to be incredibly large. Because of this, security in the cloud is, in many ways, an improvement because it takes a smaller budget to put necessary security in place. A company needs to diagnose their security needs and speak to a professional cloud provider, who can manage their cloud services and provided the needed security.

  • Hybrid cloud security

A hybrid cloud set-up allows a business to use both a private cloud, which can be organizationally owned or managed by a cloud provider, and public cloud services. Security provisions must be in place in both the private and public cloud to keep sensitive data safe, whether it’s being stored or passed between clouds. To ensure security, connection points between the clouds need to be automated.

  • Mistakes of cloud security

While cloud computing offers an alternative to the traditional data center, it can’t be managed the same way. When IT departments view the cloud the same way they’d view physical machines, it seems that private clouds are the only viable option. It’s true that the public cloud isn’t right for every application, but they can be used effectively in some situations to increase the cost-effectiveness of the cloud. Data security needs to be diagnosed to decide what is appropriate for the public cloud and what needs the added safeguards of a private cloud.

  • Typical hacks

The downfall of cloud security comes in many forms that will be familiar to those with experience in traditional data centers. Weak passwords, account sharing and absence of encryption all lead to common security problems in the cloud. There are a number of protection options in the cloud to overcome these concerns, however. Multitenant administration, delegated responsibilities, distributed lifecycle management and security automation can all help you overcome typical user weaknesses.

If your business isn’t using cloud technologies yet, you’re falling behind your competition. To find out how cloud computing helps make your business more efficient, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

Dispelling The Most Common Cloud Computing Myths

November 1st, 2013

Laptop in clouds

Cloud computing is rapidly growing in popularity. It’s easy to see why. The cloud allows businesses to have a scalable IT infrastructure with files and applications available from virtually anywhere. As Zuahair Siddiqui writes for Techopedia, however, there are a number of myths that have cast doubt over the cloud’s effectiveness. Here’s a list of some of those myths dispelled.

  • Insecurity

Security is naturally a concern for cloud users given that their sensitive data is accessible remotely. For public cloud services, like Dropbox or Google Drive, security has been an issue in the past. There have been multiple cases of data being stolen from public clouds, which is why many security experts advise against storing your most important data there. Private clouds managed by a third party provider are much more secure, however. While complete safety is unattainable, a private cloud will often offer more security than  even on-site data storage can.

  • Limited Customization

Cloud services are certainly not one size fits all. There are seemingly limitless options of ways to customize your cloud services to fit your needs. Choose from a public, private or hybrid cloud. Then choose operating modules like Platform as a Service, Software as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service. None of these are dependent on each other, so you choose only what you need in any combination.

  • Public versus Private Costs

Many public cloud services offer a pay as you use model, which can seem like a money saver. It can be for short-term needs, but for applications that are vital to your organization and consume a large amount of resources, a private cloud with a monthly fee is a better choice. When it comes to budgeting for cloud computing, be sure to choose the most efficient cloud model on a project to project basis.

  • Productivity

One of the selling points of cloud services is that they increase productivity. This is because they make collaboration easier between multiple employees and offer access from virtually anywhere. Processes that previously took a long amount of time are much faster when operating through the cloud.

Cloud computing affords IT options that were never available before. It also allows smaller businesses the opportunity to use similar resources as larger competitors.

To explore all of the ways cloud computing helps your business, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

Not Every File Belongs On The Public Cloud

October 16th, 2013

Cloud and server

Cloud computing has been hailed as a great innovation that changes the way we do business. It’s not without its flaws, however. There have been a number of well-publicized exploits of public cloud systems over the past few months. Tom Scearce, of Data in Motion, suggests that, while storing some files in the cloud is a great idea, there are a few types of files that aren’t worth the risk.

  • Financial and Legal Information

Many businesses store tax records or bank account information in the cloud because it’s always accessible, but doesn’t take up storage space on a physical drive or server. What happens, though, when a hacker is able to access the cloud? Suddenly, your most critical documents are available to a third party. Despite the supposed advantages, storing this type of information on a public cloud is ill-advised. 

  • Passwords

Security experts advise you to create a strong, unique password for each of your online accounts. That adds up to more passwords than most can remember. Storing your password on the cloud seems like a great solution, but once again, the lack of security could give a criminal access to all of your accounts. Even LastPass, which is hailed as the industry standard password manager, has experienced exploits. 

  • Employee and Customer Data

Your human resources department has collected social security numbers, tax and financial information from your employees. You’ve also collected credit card numbers from customers. Where should you store all of this information? If you decide to keep it on a public cloud, you’re asking for trouble. While losing control of this data might not directly impact your business, there are liability and credibility issues at stake. 

  • Presentations and other Time Sensitive Files

The other concern, besides security, with the cloud is availability. One of its advantages is the ability to access and share files from anywhere with an internet connection. There are outages and downtime, however. If there’s a file you absolutely have to have at a certain time, it’s best to keep it off the cloud. 

There are other options available for these and other types of files that aren’t a good fit for cloud storage. Rather than using public cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive, consider investing in a private cloud. Not only will that improve security, but you’ll also be able to directly contact your hosting company if there’s any downtime.

Geek Rescue offers a variety of cloud based solutions. Call us to find out how cloud computing can help you do business better.


How Can Outsourcing Help You Business?

September 30th, 2013

Outsourcing street sign

Running a business involves a seemingly never ending list of tasks that need to be done just to keep the lights on. When you’re inundated with these chores, it’s difficult to find time to create, innovate and improve. That’s why you hire others to do some of these tasks for you.

It’s the same with your IT department. Rather than spend their time on meneal, day-to-day maintenance tasks, consider outsourcing services by using cloud computing and a managed service provider. Patrick Zelten, of Baseline Magazine suggests some things to consider before deciding on outsourcing.

  • Diagnose your needs

Just because it’s possible to use a managed service to save your company time doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Before making any decisions, think about the day-to-day operations of your business. For any service you’d like to outsource, you need to know how critical it is to you operations. How sensitive is the data shared? Are their advantages to handling this service internally? And, be sure to have a goal for what you hope to accomplish by outsourcing. 

  • Know your employees capabilities

Another factor in determining what needs to be outsourced is knowing the expertise of your employees. If a system is easily managed by your current staff without being a time burden, then it likely doesn’t need to be managed by a third-party, regardless of other factors. If, however, it will take dedicated time to learning how the system should be run, and keeping up with updates and new functions constantly, then using a managed service provider would save time and money. 

  • Managed, Co-managed or Cloud

Choosing managed services allows you to retain control. It’s almost like adding additional IT personnel. Applications are divided between you and your managed service provider. The two groups will work closely, which can sometimes lead to problems. 

Co-managing is similar, but rather than completely turning over some of your IT tasks, both your staff and the managed service provider work together on the same applications. This provides flexibility, and the ability to easily scale up or down.

Using a cloud system allows you to get started almost immediately and also allows for quick changes in scale. Your cloud provider will handle the set-up and maintenance, so the services you outsource will be continuously updated. This model is less secure than others, however, so what you choose to put in the cloud should be a careful decision.

Outsourcing the right services and applications takes the strain off your company. For help deciding which model is right for you and what the cloud or managed services will do, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.


Public Clouds Could Be Harmful To Your Business

September 26th, 2013

Cloud computing

Using a cloud system to store and share files has become a common business practice. The cloud makes data available from practically anywhere and makes it easy for employees to collaborate on projects. However, not enough attention is being paid to the security of these clouds and who could potentially have access to valuable information.

Yorghen Edholm writes on his ComputerWorld blog that these security issues are of a particular concern when employees use a public cloud. Services like Google Drive and Dropbox are easy to use and have free options. They present a security risk, however.

It’s not necessarily these public clouds themselves that pose the problem, although they aren’t nearly as secure as private cloud options. The real problem stems from employees using public clouds without supervision from superiors or the IT team. That means others are unaware of potential risks and unprepared to solve problems.

Many employees use a public cloud because it’s convenient. They may be planning to temporarily store a file, or quickly share it with other team members. Usually, they lose track of exactly what is being shared and believe that they’ve only added files to the public cloud that don’t contain any potentially damaging information.

There’s also a concern over who exactly will have access to a public cloud. Recent headlines have enlightened the public about the government being able to snoop on files stored this way. Storing your data more securely doesn’t necessarily restrict the government’s access, but at least you’ll be able to keep track of what they’ve seen.

It may not be possible to keep every piece of data stored privately. But, you should strive to gain oversight of all the data being shared, and how it’s being shared.

For help implementing a cloud computing system at your business, or to enhance security, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

Be Aware Of Challenges When Implementing A Cloud

September 18th, 2013

Cloud computing

Cloud computing is vital to business for storage, security, disaster recovery and continuity. As many as 90-percent of companies have adopted some sort of cloud service and many of those use multiple cloud models.

David Deans, of Business Technology Roundtable, explains how the reliance on cloud computing is changing e-commerce business. This change comes with inherent challenges.

  • Rogue IT

This refers to IT and the rest of your business not being connected. Your business may have needs that IT doesn’t yet know about and those needs may be addressed by adopting a new cloud technology before consulting with IT. This results in security concerns, redundancies and incompatibility. With cloud computing, communication across all departments is more vital than ever. 

  • Cost Surprises 

Shockingly, a number of businesses fail to adequately track the cost of their IT usage. Usage costs, training of staff members and upgrades to networks all contribute to a price tag that ends up much higher than expected. When implementing any new technology into your business, cloud systems included, it’s important to budget and track costs closely. 

  • Transforming Set Practices

A cloud system allows your business to run differently than it ever has before, but sometimes old habits die hard. Many professionals report that altering existing policies is an even greater challenge than integrating the new technology. 

There are a number of benefits to adding cloud computing to your IT infrastructure, but as with any change to your business, there are challenges as well.

For help integrating a cloud into your business, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.