Your company’s network contains a gold mine of sensitive information that you need to protect at all costs. While it’s absolutely the case that you need to make network security a top priority for your business, thankfully, multiple aspects of your security can be covered easily enough by implementing a single, enterprise-level security solution.
The solution we’re referring to is a Unified Threat Management (UTM) tool. It’s a powerful tool that combines the fundamental security features that every business needs, into one easy-to-manage package. If you’re looking to get a handle on your company’s network security, then consider these four ways that a UTM provides comprehensive protection.
A firewall is the first line of defense for your company’s network, protecting your business from the onslaught of online threats trying to sneak their way in. One can go so far as to compare a UTM firewall to a sort of virtual bouncer for your network that; assesses the threat level of your network’s traffic, garners if it’s a security risk, and then clears for passage only what’s deemed to be safe.
Every good firewall needs an antivirus solution to compliment it. After all, some forms of malware are sneakily engineered to play on a user’s ignorance so as to bypass the firewall. In such a scenario, antivirus software is there to quickly catch and eliminate threats such as viruses, trojans, spyware, ransomware, and more. Given the destructive nature of many of these threats, you’re going to want a powerful antivirus solution in place that prevents such viruses from spreading across your network and wreaking havoc on your systems. Additionally, while there are many kinds of antivirus solutions on the market, businesses will want to take advantage of a centrally located antivirus solution like what comes with a UTM. This way, updates and scans can be done automatically and in one fell swoop, instead of being left up to each individual user.
Having spam in your inbox is totally annoying, and it can also be dangerous. One common way for hackers to spread malware is by attachments found in spam messages. Plus, savvy hackers will employ spam as a phishing tactic to trick users into opening the message and following its instructions which appeal to emotions. Examples include a fake summons to jury duty, a fake package that couldn’t be delivered, a fake resume for a job opening, etc. A quality spam blocker will prevent these messages from hitting employee inboxes in the first place, which greatly reduces the risk of a user being tricked by spam.
Businesses also need a way to protect their networks from the vast amount of online threats that come from visiting dangerous websites. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for an employee to stumble upon a website that’s designed to harvest credentials or download an attachment designed to infect your network with a virus or even ransomware. With a content filter protecting your network, you’ll be able to block users from accessing suspicious websites in the first place. Additionally, a UTM content filter allows you to block time-wasting websites like social media, YouTube, Netflix, etc., making it a valuable tool that both protects your network and enhances productivity.
In order to be adequately protected, your business needs all four of these security features. A UTM from VentureNet conveniently offers your network protection in all of these ways, and more. To equip your network with a UTM security solution that’s customized to fit the needs of your business, call us today at 214.343.3550.
If we asked you what the most significant trend in today’s professional environment is, what would you say? For those who depend on technology to manage and maintain their operations, the cloud has allowed for some of the biggest and best advantages–so much that it’s perhaps one of the most prominent shifts that the world has ever seen.
How the Cloud Works
In essence, the cloud is a term that applies to any off-site computing done by your organization. It’s not far from the reality of the situation to suggest that cloud-based services work by using someone else’s computer to store and process applications and data.
The cloud provider rents their computing resources to you. Depending on their service model, you’ll receive services for a cost based on how much you store, how much power or bandwidth you need, or how many accounts must access it. The cloud provider needs to adhere to these guidelines if they want to keep you as a customer. Furthermore, safety and security are also required, as nobody wants to have their data stored in a place where it’s susceptible to theft. Finally, the cloud provider needs to be able to provide you the services at a rate that’s cheaper than if you were to find a way to accomplish the same thing on your own. This is a considerable amount of information to think about, especially with the other costs involved.
The most important features to think about are how much uptime and security are offered, as both are required by any organization. The problem is that achieving the required results on your own is difficult for an organization with a limited IT budget, making outsourcing to a cloud provider quite ideal. It’s a way to manage risk; you won’t be burdened by unexpected costs in the event of trouble, as it’s the responsibility of the managed service provider and not your organization.
However, the cloud service provider needs to do much more than manage a single computer. Instead, it’s managing many hundreds or thousands of virtual computers stored in a data center, all of which need to be maintained. Since they are being stored in bulk, the cost per unit drops, but security becomes an even larger challenge. Meanwhile, the cloud provider is capable of investing in more expensive and top-shelf solutions that your business might not be able to afford on its own. The end result is enhanced security and capabilities alongside technology that allows organizations to keep up with major industry trends–without the hefty price tag.
This Isn’t the First Time
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because this isn’t the first time that technology completely revolutionized the business environment. Back in the 1890s, before computers and cyber security were even pain points for organizations, business owners had to worry about how to power their site of operations with electricity. Factories used expensive on-site generators that could hardly be called efficient, and they were all but impossible to maintain without going out of your way to do so. Some employees needed to remain on-site just to ensure that operations didn’t stop due to a generator malfunction, simply because the organization couldn’t afford to allow productivity to halt, even for a few minutes.
This all changed when the Edison Power Company in Chicago found a better way of doing things. With the ability to provide reliable and clean electricity to factories at a more affordable rate, they were able to completely change the way organizations were run. The cost per unit became much cheaper, as the Edison Power Company found they could maintain their infrastructure by employing specialized technicians who focused on the upkeep of this equipment. 20 years later, you’d be hard-pressed to find an organization that didn’t utilize the power grid in some way.
How the Cloud is, More or Less, the Same Thing
Can you imagine producing the bulk of your organization’s electricity in-house? While this might lead to humorous imaginary situations, like hamster wheels or treadmill desks, such a notion would be absolutely silly. The same thing can be said for the cloud and your organization’s IT infrastructure. The fast-paced shift from on premise servers to cloud-based virtualization, along with the mobile device infestation, has made way for organizations to shed their traditional server and desktop infrastructure altogether in favor of a more streamlined virtual approach. With the cloud, your business will be able to implement solutions like email, document management, line-of-business apps, and so much more, all for a lower cost with enhanced security functionality.
In fact, some future-minded organizations have already begun taking advantage of this shift in ways previously unheard of. Instead of managing in-house servers and desktop workstations, these organizations host their infrastructure in the cloud, allowing for greater flexibility and energy saving costs. It’s just one way that the shift toward cloud computing is helping organizations achieve their maximum potential.
How will your business take advantage of the cloud? If you’re not sure, call us at 214.343.3550. VentureNet’s trusted technicians want to make sure that your business’s technology infrastructure doesn’t skip a beat.
Every software your company uses comes with a license, even freeware like Google Chrome and Firefox. Often times, you’ll see the license during the installation process when you’re asked to opt into the terms and conditions. We know how easy it is to blow through the pages of legal mumbo jumbo, yet, at the very least you should have a grasp of the details pertaining to the license.
By ignoring such important information, you very well could be setting yourself up for trouble down the road.
Understanding Software Licenses
Software developers are the ones that determine the licensing details of their product, which includes terms such as where and how often you can install the software, whether or not you can redistribute it, what modifications are allowed, and more. By going through with the software installation process, you’re agreeing to these terms. This grants you use of the software, as well as holds you and your organization responsible should any of the terms be violated.
Protection from having the software shared and distributed without the developer’s consent (aka, theft) is one of the most common clauses found in software licenses. Additionally, if you read the fine print closely, you may spot some rather unusual terms. One of the more famous examples comes from Apple, which forbids iTunes users from creating missiles and nuclear weapons.
How Negligence Can Lead to Big Fines
For many programs, at the time of installation, the software is activated and automatically sends a message to the developer in order to authenticate the license. During this activation process, one thing that the software checks for is whether or not the particular license has been installed before, or if it’s active anywhere else. If this is detected, you won’t be allowed to proceed and use the software. In some scenarios, you may be able to still use the software and you won’t find out you’re doing so illegally until your mailbox is hit with a cease and desist letter from the developer.
Although, this worst-case scenario isn’t something to be too worried about. Typically, developers have protocols in place that allow them to catch this discrepancy and provide users with an offer to purchase additional licenses. In some cases, a business owner may even be offered
a site licensing deal which allows for the purchase of multiple licenses at a discount.
Software Auditors Want to Talk With You
One motivation for making sure your software licenses are all in order is the very real chance of an audit by a group like the Business Software Alliance (BSA). This is an organization tasked with looking into businesses suspected of abusing software licenses, like running multiple copies of Windows and Microsoft Office off a single license. Should you be found guilty of such an infraction, you’ll receive a letter in the mail that will pretty much ruin your day.
Now, you may be wondering how the BSA can even find out if a business is violating software licenses. Well, one tactic employed by the BSA is to offer whistleblowers that report software violations by their current or former employer thousands of dollars in rewards, along with full confidentiality. It’s a method that can really be effective if a particular business has any former employees that may be rather disgruntled.
Failing such an audit can lead to a major fine that ends up being way more than what it would have been to simply pay for the software licenses in the first place; or, worse yet, jail time. If you happen to receive such a letter accusing you of software license violations, then you’ll want to seek the counsel of a lawyer and the assistance of an IT professional.
How to Prevent Software License Mismanagement From Ruining Your Day
As is the case with the majority of technology-related woes, a proactive approach to managing your software licenses is the best way to prevent this problem. This includes documenting your software licenses. When doing so, be sure to keep information up to date like, how many users you have, who is using it, how many devices the software runs on, and where it is deployed. You’ll also want to track the expiration dates of all of your software licenses, along with the terms and conditions. Plus, be mindful that a typical software license will allow for a single user to install the software on perhaps a few different devices, like your workstation and home PC–which is NOT the same as splitting a single license with two different users.
It’s understandable how easy it is to overlook software licenses. However, software licenses are a necessary part of doing business, allowing for developers to protect their product so they can in turn create better versions of the software you use every day.
To understand the status of your company’s various software licenses, a good first step is to have VentureNet perform a network audit. We’ll be able to investigate the compliance of your software, and take action to make sure that your business is in good standing. For help managing all of your company’s technology needs, call VentureNet today at 214.343.3550.
Over one-third of businesses don’t have any means of backing up their data. This is a major problem, especially considering how many threats there are that can derail operations. For managed IT providers like us, this is painful, as it’s unfortunate to hear about data disasters that could easily be prevented. We’ll discuss some of the biggest reasons why your business needs data backup and disaster recovery.
Hard Drives Break Easily
The hard drive is the part inside your computer that holds its data, but it is also susceptible to failing for one particular reason: it breaks easily. Consider the fact that the typical hard drive works by spinning a bunch of platters at very high speeds. It’s practically built with the risk of catastrophic breakage. These platters are outfitted with a thin magnetic coat that stores the data itself. A small arm rests over this platter with nothing but a cushion of air to hold it in place. The spinning itself is what keeps these two from colliding. If the head were to touch the platter, well… it’s safe to say that you’ll be wishing you had data backup.
While modern hard disk drives can somewhat bypass these issues and have failsafes built into them, mechanical devices with countless spinning parts should be expected to fail at some point or another. Constant operation will result in wear and tear, and even the most subtle shakes can take their toll on the reliability of the drive. If your data is only located on one drive, all it takes to ruin your day is a bit of bad luck.
User Error is Inevitable
What happens when one of your employees makes an admittedly understandable error and countless troubles follow suit? Perhaps your company uses spreadsheets to keep track of which services each of your clients receive. This template is what’s used for billing purposes. While this is a crude way of doing business at best compared to more recent innovations, if the original copy is lost or the files are changed unexpectedly, you could have a major problem on your hands. If this were to happen when you have data backup, you just need to restore the file from backup and everything would be right as rain.
Ransomware is Tricky and Unpredictable at Best
While the average PC owner understands that they need a firewall and antivirus protection on their computer, commercial-level solutions will simply not do for a business. There are threats out there that can pierce the defenses of the average security protocol. Some of the most renown recent threats include ransomware–malicious programs that encrypt data on your device and only unlock it when a ransom is paid. Cryptolocker and Cryptowall are some of the most notorious types of ransomware out there, and they’re as dangerous as they are crafty. Worst of all is that they are spread through spam and targeted phishing emails, so even some specialized security solutions may not spot them in time. In the event of a ransomware strike, the most practical way to recover is to just restore your data from a time before the ransomware infected your infrastructure.
Not Checking Your Backup
The scariest part of data backup isn’t the thought of not having it, but what would happen if your data backups failed. Frequently testing that your backups work is perhaps the most important part of using data backup and disaster recovery. VentureNet can assist you with the implementation and upkeep of your backup system. To learn more, reach out to us at 214.343.3550.
Run your Windows Updates and be very skeptical about opening unsolicited emails. Failure to do so may result in a very dangerous strain of ransomware that could infect your entire network and spread to your clients, partners, and prospects.
Microsoft has even released patches for some older, unsupported versions of Windows to combat the threat that infected PCs all over the world over the weekend.
What’s Going On?
A ransomware worm variant dubbed ‘WannaCry’ struck critical systems all around the world. While the attack has been addressed by Microsoft and halted for the time being, the threat is far from over, especially for users who don’t keep their computers updated.
Discovered early in the morning hours of Friday, May 12, WannaCry spread at a startling rate, reaching victims in 11 countries within its first few hours, and over 45,000 attacks (spread through 99 countries) after a few more hours. By Monday, over 150 countries had been hit by this global cyberattack.
There’s No Specific Target
The victims included many companies that provide utilities, like telecommunications, electrical, and gas companies. Even more frightening, WannaCry caused serious trouble in England’s healthcare systems, leading to massive numbers of non-critical patients being sent home or turned away at hospital doors. Russia found that thousands of its interior ministry computers had been infected. In the United States, the ransomware managed to infect FedEx’s systems, and these are just the big highlights. Businesses everywhere went dark as a result of this attack.
However, WannaCry did not target businesses of any specific industry. This particular ransomware worm is a threat to essentially any PC, old and new.
WannaCry was first discovered by security company Malwarebytes, whose director of malware intelligence, Adam Kujawa, had a few choice words to describe the malware, “The spread is immense. I’ve never seen anything before like this. This is nuts.” This opinion was repeated by many others in the industry.
How Do I Prevent WannaCry?
WannaCry relies on a security vulnerability in Windows. Microsoft deployed a security patch on March 14, so it is critical that users run the update, especially before putting themselves at risk and opening unsolicited emails. Computers that are patched face a significantly smaller risk of getting the ransomware. Key words here; significantly smaller, as in not totally in the clear.
To run your Windows Updates in Windows 10, open up your Start Menu and type “updates” in the search box and choose Check for Updates – system settings from the results. A window titled Windows Update should appear. From there, click the Check for updates button. If it says your device is up to date, you have the latest update. If not, you’ll need to allow your PC to install them.
Evaluating your computer and network security would be a good step in the right direction, as well as educating employees on some basic best practices like not downloading and opening unsolicited attachments.
It’s also critical that your files are backed up securely. If ransomware infects your network, it makes your files inaccessible unless you pay the ransom which only feeds into the problem. Utilizing an offsite backup solution that can easily be restored is the only way to go. If you do not already have a backup/disaster recovery solution in place, contact us about our solution, which we call Keepgoing.biz
I’m Updated, am I Still at Risk?
There is also the risk that WannaCry is still waiting on some systems that have not been used since the attack began, so this initial attack is still far from over. Any PC on your network that gets infected could infect the rest. Plus, even with the patch, a user could still accidentally download an infected file. It’s also possible that those behind WannaCry will devise a workaround to the patch. Therefore, you should always be mindful as you review your incoming email and do your best to protect your network with managed IT security solutions and backing up your files.
Events like these are why we always encourage timely updates to your systems. WannaCry depended on a vulnerability in Windows, and will continue to infect outdated, unpatched PCs to be effective, and so your first defense against it is to make sure yours has the most recent security patches from Microsoft.
As Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer Brad Smith said, “The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call.”
What If I’ve Been Infected By WannaCry?
Contact us at 214-343-3550 immediately. Under no circumstance should you attempt to pay the ransom.
If you haven’t been targeted, count your blessings. That said, it’s time to start thinking about having your IT managed and maintained to prevent issues like this. Contact VentureNet at 214-343-3550 and ask how we can help prevent business-crippling issues and security threats like WannaCry.
In an era where compromised accounts are occurring more and more frequently, the need to have secure password practices is more important than ever.
As a Managed Service Provider, part of our commitment to our clients is to help them be as secure as possible. As such, we will be recommending password policies for all network accounts for our clients.
Workstations that don’t work properly can get in the way of even the most diligent of workers. If the IT department is too busy to give them immediate assistance, where can your employees turn to? If your organization has a help desk solution, workers have a great way to get the assistance they need without having to wait.
It’s important that issues are resolved as quickly as possible, so they don’t negatively affect operations. A help desk is the best way to eliminate time and productivity lost to technology troubles, and it gives employees the freedom to request assistance as it is needed.
A help desk works by giving an employee who is experiencing a problem, the ability to quickly contact an IT technician that can, and will, resolve the issue. This is all done without disrupting anyone that doesn’t need to be involved because it is a direct line to assistance. A help desk solution serves as a great way to contain an IT issue from taking up more time and resources than it should.
With a help desk, your staff won’t be distracted by a member of IT arriving on the scene to resolve the problem. This also allows your IT department to keep all hands-on deck and allow your technicians to focus on doing what technicians do best; innovating and creating new ways to optimize technology for your organization’s benefit. Plus, it is likely that your IT staff has more pressing obligations and responsibilities than setting up someone’s email.
As a bonus, one major benefit of a help desk comes after an employee takes full advantage of it. Since the employee gets immediate assistance and isn’t being burdened by faulty technology, they’ll be able to get right back to work with minimal downtime. This means that you aren’t spending money to pay an employee for time that’s unproductive. Eliminating downtime is one of the key ways that businesses can save in operating costs, and a help desk helps you achieve this goal.
In the long run, implementing a help desk solution for you and your staff will pay for itself. Less downtime equates to more productivity and more money. To learn more about how a help desk can help your business save money, reach out to VentureNet at 214.343.3550.
Getting rid of unnecessary expenses is one of the best ways for businesses to save money. While it’s often unavoidable that you have to invest in solutions that serve a singular purpose, it’s more cost-effective to find solutions that have variable functions or that make life easier. One of the best ways to save money for your business is by performing a revamp of your telephone system.
Do you have a traditional telephone system in your office? A voice communication tool, like Voice over Internet Protocol, is much easier and more efficient to handle in the long run than a traditional system. We’ll discuss three ways in which VoIP improves the way your business runs.
One of the most immediate ways that VoIP helps your business is by eliminating all other telephone bills. Since VoIP is using the Internet, which you already pay for, you save money by eliminating a large, unnecessary cost with traditional telephone service. In the long run, you’ll continue to save money every month that you don’t have a traditional telephone system.
VoIP doesn’t necessarily require specialized hardware either, so it’s not like you’ll be paying an arm and a leg to make the switch. In fact, many VoIP solutions can work through the cloud, or via an app that can be installed on your own smartphone, and in some cases, you might not need to replace your existing equipment at all.
Collaborate and Record in Real Time
Cooperation between departments and documentation of important meetings are important for any business, and VoIP makes it easier to accomplish both. Through your VoIP solution, meetings can be held in real time and can be recorded so you don’t have to worry about missing any key details. VoIP allows your staff to transcend the barriers of the workplace, since any employee with an Internet connection can access your company’s phone system anytime, anywhere.
VoIP is capable of being run on a multitude of devices, depending on the specific needs of your business. This includes softphones for desktops or laptops, mobile apps for smartphones and even the traditional handsets that you might currently find in your office. Furthermore, you can use a combination of these technologies to maximize your availability, both in and out of the office. Since a single number can be set to ring multiple devices, you don’t have to carry around multiple devices so that you can be reached outside of the office. Furthermore, these devices can be configured to forward a call based on the time of day. This way, you won’t have to worry about receiving calls while you’re home – that is, unless you want to.
VoIP is a great way to get the most out of your phone system, especially when you consider the cost benefits of doing so. To learn more about VoIP, reach out to us at 214.343.3550.
Having consistent access to data is what drives business. If you can’t access mission-critical data, then you experience what’s called downtime, which drives profits into the ground. Therefore, you need to keep your data safe, especially if you want your company’s future to be prosperous. Therefore, you need data backup and disaster recovery.
Here are three best practices that can help your organization get the most out of your data backup and disaster recovery solution.
Always Keep RTO and RPO in Mind
These two terms are associated with how much data that you want to restore, as well as the actual time it takes to perform the restore. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that tape isn’t conducive to optimizing either of these. Tape backups can take hours or even days to restore, depending on how big your infrastructure is, since it takes a backup of everything. Plus, tape backups can only feasibly be done after-hours, since they are so resource-intensive. Unfortunately, this leaves you vulnerable to up to a day’s worth of data loss in a worst-case scenario. Clearly, tape backup can’t meet the standards that your business needs from a data backup and disaster recovery solution.
Having BDR as part of your company’s business continuity plan allows your organization to meet its recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO), by eliminating downtime and ensuring that you can recover as much data as possible. BDR is a fantastic tool that can significantly improve your company’s chances of future success, since an organization that cannot recover their data is at much greater risk of going out of business than one that has direct access to their backed-up files.
Store Backups in Multiple Locations
What would you do if your organization were to experience severe weather that threatened to destroy your physical infrastructure? Evacuating the building of personnel beforehand is a top priority, but it’s impractical to also evacuate your digital assets.
Therefore, you want to have your data backed up and stored in multiple locations. You’ll be in rough shape if you store your data in only one location (like your office) and something happens to it. What would you do if the location of your backups, as well as your office, were to be hit by the same disaster? BDR stores your backups on-site, off-site, and in a secure data center to ensure that you’ll always have access to a copy of your data.
Take Plenty of Backups
Tape backup tends to only work once per day, specifically because your network will be too burdened if you tried to take more than one backup during normal office hours. The possibility of losing an entire day’s worth of work is a threat, especially since tape backup isn’t an automatic solution and relies on employees executing it properly.
BDR, on the other hand, can take backups as often as every fifteen minutes. This means that it’s you’ll be restoring data that’s up-to-date, keeping data loss to a minimum in the event of a disaster. BDR also allows your organization to restore directly to a network device, which means you don’t have to immediately replace damaged hardware to be able to get back to work. Instead, BDR will provide you with a comfortable amount of time to get your assets in order and to shop around for replacement hardware.
Data backup and disaster recovery is something that cannot be taken lightly. If your organization is suffering from a lack of backup and disaster recovery, reach out to VentureNet at 214.343.3550. We’ll help your organization take the first steps toward minimizing downtime and improving business continuity.
Have you ever heard of event logs for your network? These are records of who is doing what on your network, and why. Understanding how event logs work can help to minimize leaked data and identify significant issues on a workstation or laptop.
Event Logs, Explained
Event logs keep track of events and notifications stored in your computer’s background. These logs contain errors and other important details concerning the performance of your PC, including notifications that may not appear in a popup window. In terms of security, one of the most valuable uses of event logs is identifying and tracking suspicious activity on workstations.
For example, what if a hacker managed to steal user credentials from a staff member? They could then log into your network remotely and access a wealth of sensitive information, all without setting off any flags. However, by reviewing the event logs, you may catch imposters accessing your network from across the world.
If a hacker is intent on infiltrating your network, they will likely use one of two methods; try to break in with brute force, or try to sneak past your defenses using legitimate methods. The latter is growing more common, as sophisticated attacks are difficult to detect in time to stop. If you’re not paying attention to your event logs, or you don’t have dedicated technicians to routinely comb through them, then you may not notice that there’s someone with an IP originating from the other side of the world digging through your network.
Additionally, event logs are crucial in helping IT technicians identify a hardware or driver issue before it negatively affects the end-user. By using event logs as an early warning system and catching a problem more quickly, downtime is minimized.
Take Advantage of Remote Monitoring and Management
Of course, you don’t have time to sit around and monitor event logs all day. In fact, this isn’t a job for your in-house IT technicians, either. They would rather be innovating and finding ways to improve operations, not keeping their eyes glued to event logs. A great way for SMBs to meet this need is to outsource the responsibility of network monitoring and management to a managed service provider.
Monitoring event logs is something that all businesses should do. To learn more about how doing so can help you improve network security, reach out to the IT professionals at VentureNet. We can remotely monitor and manage your infrastructure so you don’t have to. To learn more, call us at 214.343.3550.