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.

Five Areas To Consider Before Transitioning Your Business To The Cloud

May 28th, 2014

Cloud concept

No doubt you’ve heard about and read about the capabilities, features and benefits of transitioning your business, or at least a portion of it, to the cloud. Before diving into it, however, you’ll need to carefully assess your needs. At Beta News, Andy Lancaster published a list of key areas to consider that will affect the transition to the cloud and the operations of it.

  • Asset Utilization

Most likely, your on-site IT solutions have been built to handle the peak workload of your operations. This means that much of the time, assets and resources are being wasted, which means money is being wasted. The advantage of the cloud in this context is that it is flexible and able to quickly scale up and scale down. A careful assessment of your assets and their use will allow you to accurately gauge your needs and plan for peak usage.

  • Migration

Transitioning to the cloud can be a tricky process. Before moving any of your storage or applications off of your on-site servers, you’ll want to carefully consider which will be best served on the cloud and what order they’ll need to transition. Not every application will offer benefits by being in the cloud and some may need to migrate at a different time than others. Planning ahead allows to save on costs, reduce downtime and results in a better, more stable environment.

  • Integration

Some applications can be moved directly from a physical server environment to the cloud with little to no alterations. Some require more attention, however. Effectively integrating some applications with the cloud may require “re-architecting” in order to efficiently host them. This could affect your decision to transition that application to the cloud so it’s important to consider this factor.

  • Security

Security is a primary concern for businesses integrating with the cloud. You’ll want to consider where data will physically reside, how the data center is protected and who will have access and maintenance responsibilities. Also, think about how you handle security in your organization now and consider how integrating the cloud could complicate, or streamline those operations.

  • Disaster Recovery

Most likely, you’re conducting regular back-ups and planning for disaster recovery in-house currently. Transitioning these responsibilities to the cloud frees up resources and IT staff. Be sure to consider how you’ll re-appoint staff and think about if you’ll be able to get rid of servers and other hardware.

Introducing the cloud to your company’s IT infrastructure can save time and money, but it needs to be done intelligently.

At Geek Rescue, we help you use the cloud effectively for the maximum benefit to your business. To find out more about cloud solutions, call us 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.

Three Keys To Effective Access Management

January 7th, 2014

Password screen

Taking charge of access management for your company is a vital step towards better security. Very few members of your organization need access to all of the applications and data on your network and access management ensures that each employee is given access only to what they need. This significantly decreases the likelihood of a data breach and allows you to keep closer tabs on who is accessing data and how they access it.

Cloud computing and the bring your own device trend make data security more difficult than ever before. Effective access management is crucial in tandem with these new technologies. David King of IT Manager Daily published a list of policies all businesses should follow to limit access to critical data and prevent data breaches.

  • Communicate Role Changes

The more employees you have, the more roles change. Communication between departments is important so that when an employee’s role changes, due to a promotion, firing or change in projects, their access changes too. Problems arise from individual users having access to data they no longer need. Especially in the case of workers who are no longer with the company, access changes should be a priority and made immediately.

  • Regular Reporting

Staying up to date on who can access what data and how and where they’re accessing it is a big time investment, but it’s necessary. Without regular checks on data access, you’ll be caught unaware when a problem occurs. Many times, warning signs of an impending breach, or at least a potential vulnerability, exist days or weeks before any data is actually stolen. Data being accessed during off-hours or being accessed off-site are warning signs that someone is accessing data that shouldn’t be. They don’t tell you definitively that there’s a problem, but they suggest you should look into the matter.

  • Password Security

Part of access management is ensuring that employee accounts are only being used by those employees. Educating workers about the dangers of weak passwords is important. Make sure each employee understands what a strong password consists of and is using one. Also, prohibit the sharing of passwords or inheriting accounts from others. This weakens your efforts to limit access to certain employees and opens loopholes that workers can exploit after they’ve left the company.

Data breaches can be extremely costly to any type of business. Investing in security now can save you later.

For help improving all facets of data security at your company, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

Subtle Changes Made With The Windows 8.1 Update

December 20th, 2013

Laptop updating

The update for Windows 8 has been available for about three months. Some of the new features are obvious, like the re-inclusion of the ‘Start’ button. But, as Ciprian Rusen of LifeHacker writes, there are a few interesting features that aren’t so evident. Not all of these are changes for the better, but all affect the way you’ll use Windows 8.1.

  • Privacy Controls

One of the biggest advances within Windows 8.1 is the ability to block the data apps from the Windows Store have access to. You can prevent apps from accessing your name and location. You can also turn off the advertising ID so you don’t get personalized ads using your information. Best of all, you can limit what apps have access to your microphone and webcam.

  • VPN Support

A virtual private network, or VPN, is a powerful tool for keeping your data safe when surfing the web. It’s particularly useful when you’d otherwise be on an unsecured connection like public WiFi. Windows 8.1 offers better support for VPNs than any previous version of the operating system. There are a number of new customization options when setting up your VPN and even included support for certain providers. Windows will even prompt you to sign into your VPN when an app attempts to access information best accessed over a secure connection.

  • Reading Mode For IE 11

Part of the updates included with the jump to Windows 8.1 was an update to Internet Explorer that introduces Reading Mode. Load any page with IE 11 and you’ll have a Reading Mode icon in the address bar. Using it will reload the page without distracting elements like ads to allow you to easily read the content you came for.

  • No Right-Click From Networks List

In Windows 8, users could right click on a Network and access customization options for that network connection or even use the ‘Forget Network’ option to remove the connection for the list. In Windows 8.1, this capability has been removed. Customization options for network connections haven’t been removed, they’re just more difficult to access.

  • SkyDrive Unavailable Offline

SkyDrive and Windows 8.1 have already had their problems, as reported by many users. A planned change with this update was to make SkyDrive documents only available with an internet connection. Files aren’t fully downloaded to your hard drive, so you’re only able to access them from the cloud with an active internet connection. A new column in the SkyDrive folder, called ‘Availability’, tells you if a file is ‘Available offline’ or ‘Online only’. This change is intended to help tablet users and those with very little available hard drive space. For those with more available space that want to avoid this irritation, changing the default to allow all files to be accessible while offline is easy to do through the ‘Settings’ menu.

Whether you’re running the latest version of Windows on a new PC or using an older computer, Geek Rescue has you covered for repairs. Whatever the problem you’re having is, call us at 918-369-4335 and we’ll fix it.


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.

Cloud Based DNS Services Boost Security

October 22nd, 2013

Cloud security concept

The Domain Name System, or DNS, is an essential part of the internet. To oversimplify, it associates domain names, or the name of a website, to the numerical IP address. This makes it much easier to navigate the web.

Robert Lemos,. of Dark Reading, explains how DNS services can be used to secure your company’s network through the cloud.

Rather than having to store DNS servers in-house, which requires a large budget, using a third party cloud service offers similar flexibility and increased security features.

There are many forms of malware that can be detected or stopped with DNS services. Recently, a banking Trojan was discovered used an algorithm to generate random domain names and communicate with other servers. Some malware is able to change the IP address associated with a domain, which causes all sorts of problems. In both cases, a cloud DNS service would be able to detect the malware’s actions.

Mobile users won’t be protected when DNS servers are being run on internal servers. DNS services on the cloud are able to protect mobile users, which comes in handy when employees are using their own devices. Even outside your company’s network, there’s still security in place.

Using internal servers for DNS services isn’t possible for most small businesses. Fortunately, there are a number of features cloud based DNS services offer that internal servers can’t.

For help setting up cloud based services, or to find out more about the cloud’s capabilities, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.