Cloud Security: Is the Cloud Ready for Your Confidential Data?

Cloud Security: Is the Cloud Ready for Your Confidential Data?

What is Cloud Computing?

You can’t look at any technical section of a newspaper or website these days without reading about “cloud computing.” The term seems to be popping up everywhere. So, what exactly is cloud computing? A simplistic definition is computing on the Internet. It allows users the ability to access everything on the Internet, from software to their stored data, without having to store anything on their actual computer. The user only needs a computer with a web browser in order to access the cloud.

What is So Great About Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing has the potential to allow small businesses or businesses on a budget the ability to have high quality computing at a lower cost. Business owners no longer need to invest in expensive IT equipment or pay an entire IT staff that would normally be required in order to keep a computer system running. Storing data on the cloud would help reduce IT costs while still allowing businesses to grow.

What Security Problems Does Cloud Computing Needs to Address?

Cloud computing is such a new technology that many of the kinks have not even been completely realized much less worked out to a satisfactory level. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking into what potential security and privacy concerns cloud computing could have for consumers. Some of these concerns are:

  • If you store your valuable business documents on the cloud and the cloud goes down, will it be coming back up with all of your important documents in tact.
  • It is also important to know that the company with whom you are storing your important information is financially stable and will not suddenly disappear taking all of your valuable information with it.
  • Where is your company located and where will your data physically be stored? If your data is stored in another country, is that country required to comply with the same security standards that you would expect from your home country.
  • Who is in charge of storing and managing your data? It is important to know that the people managing your data have the proper security clearance and credentials, and that they are handling it securely and not using it improperly for their own financial gain.
  • How secure is the login? Would hackers be able to easily gain access to your data?
  • Is your data encrypted so that others cannot easily view it?
  • Is the cloud storage company willing to undergo a certification process and willing to comply with certain security standards?

At this point, it is unknown how providers plan to resolve these issues, but whatever the solutions they will be critical to the future of cloud computing. Cloud computing has so much to offer businesses from flexibility to growth potential to tremendous cost savings. If the confidential data stored in the cloud isn’t secure, the only thing cloud computing will be able to offer businesses is a giant headache.

Eight Ways To Keep Your Small Business Secure

Eight Ways To Keep Your Small Business Secure

If you own and operate a small business, lowering costs is an important part of keeping your company in the black. Cutting costs on your IT budget could inadvertently compromise your company’s security. Even though small businesses may not have all of the resources that large corporations do, they are still just as vulnerable to the same security threats. Here are ways to help secure your small business:

Purchase Anti-virus Software

Every computer is vulnerable to the wide variety of viruses, trojans, and worms that are on the Internet. These malicious software programs can do anything from damage your computer and files to steal your password and other important information stored on your computer. Purchase a good anti-virus software program and make sure that it is always up to date. Also, check to see that your anti-virus software checks for spyware, adware, and any other type of malware that could be hiding on your computer.

Avoid Phishing Emails

It is important to discuss with your employees the importance of not opening spam email, attachments or forwards that could possibly contain viruses. Make sure that your email has a filtering system that helps to filter out spam and other malicious email. Responding to phishing emails can be another costly mistake. Phishing emails are disguised as legitimate emails that then request login and password information. Changing passwords monthly can help to lessen the damage should an employee accidentally respond to a phishing email.

Minimize Damage From Dishonest or Disgruntled Employees

It is often difficult to predict if one of your employees will become disgruntled or dishonest, but you can put some safeguards in place to help minimize the damage should you find that you have one. Thoroughly screen your employees before hiring them, especially if they will have access to any confidential or financial company information. Limiting the number of employees that have access to this confidential information and changing your company passwords often can help to prevent former employees from accessing company computers.

Secure Your Wireless Network

Make sure that your wireless router is encrypted, and that your business is using WPA2 wireless security. A firewall is another important key to protecting the security of your small business. A firewall will allow access only to authorized users while blocking unauthorized access to the computer.

Have An Internet Use Policy

Aside from the obvious lack of productivity that personal Internet use can cause for your business, it can often be too easy to click on websites that contain malicious software that could easily infect your company computer and shut your system down temporarily or even permanently.

Avoid Having Everything on One Computer

Purchasing computer equipment is costly, so many small businesses will try to get away with fewer computers in order to save money. If you have your financial information on the same computer that your employees are accessing their company emails, you could risk losing everything that is vital to running your business should an infected email slip through.

Have a Data Backup System

Be sure to have some type of data storage and backup system in place in the event that your current system goes down. Having all of your files readily available to you in case of an emergency can ensure that your business will retain customers and continue to run smoothly no matter what the disaster.

Minimize Damage From Stolen Equipment

It difficult to prevent break-ins or equipment from being stolen from your home or office building, but you can have some security by ensuring that all of the information on your computer is encrypted and password protected.

Trying to scrimp when it comes to your small business’s computer security can be a costly mistake. Arm yourself with the knowledge of what your business could be up against and take steps towards prevention. The investment will give your company the security necessary to keep your information secure

Making The Switch To Managed Services

Making The Switch To Managed Services

When the time comes to make the switch to managed services, it is important to know what you are looking for from a provider. As most business owners have or are beginning to realize, there are plenty of benefits that can be realized by bringing on a managed services provider to address IT and other needs. In order to get the most from your managed services contract you must carefully compare all potential providers to ensure they are willing and able to provide the services you need to keep your business moving forward in the future. If your managed services provider cannot supply the following three things (at minimum) keep looking until you find a company that addresses these issues.

  • Security- The managed services provider that you choose should work with vendors that guarantee security. This is imperative when trusting an outside party to handle and maintain private and confidential data that is crucial to the running of your business. Service providers should provide detailed proof of security procedures as well as how they intend to keep abreast of changes in the industry.
  • Recovery- Managed services providers are not only contracted to help keep the day-to-day running of your business going smoothly. They are also an important part of any recovery situation that follows a natural or man made disaster. It is important to discuss with potential providers what procedures they have in place to guarantee your downtown will be minimal and that you will be up and running as soon as possible after an emergency. These precious minutes and hours can make or break the recovery of your business.
  • Customer Service- As with any other business, if there is no customer support backing up the products or services, there isn’t much of a commitment from the provider.

Why are these three things important? To understand you must consider the managed services model. Managed services providers are hired by a company to provide any or all of the following services:

  • website hosting
  • network monitoring
  • network security
  • remote data backup
  • recovery services

Originally these services were provided to large corporations while small to medium size companies struggled to maintain an IT budget that was often more expensive then beneficial. Managed services providers charge a flat, or monthly fee, making it possible for smaller businesses to reap the benefits offered at a much lower price than in-house IT staff or outsourcing on an as needed basis.

The managed services platform continues to grow as many businesses look for ways to reduce costs in this tough economy. By offering technological services that might otherwise be beyond the reach of a small business budget, managed services make it possible for smaller businesses to remain competitive with others in their industry. Small business owners must take the time to carefully review and research each provider before signing on the bottom line. A good managed services provider can change the way you do business- in a positive direction, whereas the wrong choice could be a costly mistake that does more harm than good to your business.

5 tips for Creating a business continuity plan for your small business

Is your business prepared for any type of disaster? Even though small businesses may not have as many employees or as much equipment, they are still as vulnerable to disaster as a large corporation. If your business office were to be destroyed by a fire, you could lose valuable business if you don’t plan ahead. Many businesses don’t want to take the time and the expense to prepare a business continuity plan, but can you really afford not to make one?

Make a List of All Possible Disasters

The best place to start is to list different types of disasters and try to determine what could be lost in each case, and what you can do to prevent that loss. In Singapore, we don’t have natural disaster however we still need to prepare for man made disasters such as fire, office flooding etc. Next, try to estimate how long it would take, and how much it would cost, for you to get your business up and running again.

Communication

The middle of a crisis is not the time to frantically search for phone numbers. Even small businesses need emergency contact numbers. Have all emergency contact numbers posted or programmed into every phone. Do you have an alternate mode of communication should your main phone lines shut down? Could your clients seamlessly contact you without ever knowing that your office was in the middle of disaster recovery? The same principal applies to email and fax. Making arrangements regarding communication are critical to keeping your business running smoothly. Communicating with staff and clients can mean the difference between complete shutdown, or minimal a business interruption.

Preserving Your Data

In the event of a disaster, it is important to know that everything you need to function as a business is available. Identify all vital systems, documents, and data. While it is important for every business to back up their data on a regular basis, what if a fire destroyed your office? For this reason, offsite storage is critical to preserving your business’ valuable information. Offsite data storage allows to access to all of your stored data from any computer and from anywhere in the world.

A Temporary Work Site

It is also important to plan for a temporary work site. Depending on the goods or services your business offers, can you continue smooth operation if your office is shut down? Storing products in a second location can allow you to maintain your regular business schedule.

Test Your Plan

One of the keys to successful disaster recovery is testing your business continuity plan on a regular basis. It is important that you and your staff know exactly what to do, where to go, and how to access the necessary items you need to keep your business running smoothly to the outside world, even if you are standing in the middle of a disaster. Schedule regular plan tests to ensure that everyone in your office is on the same page and ready should disaster strike. Hopefully, you will never have to use your business continuity plan, but it is smart business to be prepared for any emergency should one arise.