You have no doubt been hearing about cloud networks over the past few years and understand that many businesses are searching for more and more ways to utilize this technology. As with most everything new that comes along, there are benefits and challenges. That said, you don’t want to be the company that fails to embrace new technology and find yourself being left behind. To do so you may find yourself virtually irrelevant when being considered by potential new customers or clients as they choose to partner with firms similar to yours, but that are more up-to-date in terms of network security, versatility, and speed to market. Here at DynaSis, having provided IT support in Atlanta for more than a quarter century, we can give you proper guidance in determining your best way forward.
One of the first decisions we will help you make is to determine the type of network in which you need to invest: public, private, or hybrid. A private cloud network is usually one that is owned by a large company and only serves that company, while public cloud networks are generally owned by major corporations and serve many companies of all sizes. There are also public clouds owned by very small companies, but we advise you to be very careful before engaging with this type of vendor as security may be a concern. Hybrid clouds, as the term implies, combines features of public and private. Which one to use is a determination in which we, as an IT support company in Atlanta, can give you guidance, but for the purpose of this blog, let’s take a quick look at the different deployment models.
In a private cloud computing model, a company uses its own proprietary architecture to run its own cloud servers within its own data center. This is what we call “single tenant architecture”. Your own hardware is used within your own premises and your IT team has direct control of the underlying infrastructure.
In this cloud computing model, a third party, generally a significantly sized company or major corporation, provides complete computing resources over the internet. Because the vendor is providing a complete service, the customer (your company) does not need on-premises server hardware. This is what we call “multi-tenant” architecture. Costs can be variable with rapid adjustments made as business’s computing requirements change.
This, of course, is a mixture of the above, combining some of the benefits of public and private.
Choosing between the different cloud models requires an in-depth look at your current infrastructure. DynaSis provides a complementary IT network and security assessment. During the assessment a highly experienced Solutions Architect and staff will analyze your network for capacity, security, speed, flexibility, and how up-to-date all your equipment is in terms of technical support and expected life.
If you choose, we will then provide you with cost estimates that may include new equipment that can be financed in such a way that your upgraded service and equipment actually costs the same or even less than your current costs. Because we assume the financial risk of the new equipment, we have the incentive to make sure it is always running at peak performance. This is truly a win-win situation.
Want to learn more about our IT support in Atlanta? Give us a call today at 770-629-9615 or contact us online. And remember, we are DynaSis: The Right Choice for Your IT Support!
Imagine you had a computer (we know you do, but play along). Imagine how much you could accomplish with that computer. Now imagine that you had four employees…but only one computer. If they all took turns on that computer, productivity would be a bit impacted. Well, maybe not a “bit”, but a lot. Now imagine four computers, one for each of your people. A lot more work, but a lot more expense. Now imagine that instead each of your people working at separate full-blown computers, your IT service set your company up so that they were working at four “dumb” workstations that all relied on a single more powerful “server” computer store applications and files and feed them to the workstations as needed. Here is what you have accomplished:
This whole process is called “virtualization”. By using virtualization software, your IT service able to effectively turn a single computer into four computers. Under this scenario, the workstations we mentioned above are called “clients” and are served by the “server” computer. The virtualization software is called a “hypervisor”…yes, it comes from the word “supervisor”. What your IT service did was take one more powerful computer and with the use of this software, turn it into four “virtual” computers, also known as virtual machines, or VMs. Each of these VMs is called an “environment.” (Sorry for all the Geek talk).\
What’s also really cool is that each of these virtual machine environments can run its own operating system. Windows, Linux, Apple OS. All can run simultaneously on this single computer and feed appropriate apps and docs to each client.
Now imagine a company with a lot more than four employees. Imagine a company with 50 employees. Instead of 50 full-blown computers, because of virtualization, your IT service can set your company up so you are using only 10 more powerful units, with 50 “dumb” workstations. Yes, the savings are multiplied, but we have accomplished a lot more than that. A server computer that serves five or six workstations does not need the computing power of five or six single computers. The full computing power of a basic computer may be needed on rare occasion but is extremely unlikely to be needed all the time and the need for the full computing power of six computers at the same time would be so rare that it is almost unthinkable. All this matters because, since the computing power of the server computer is shared between the six workstations, and since it would be rare indeed for even one workstations to require its full computing power, the server can get away with, say, the equivalent of four regular computers’ computing power, which your IT service can install for a lot less money. The computing power is then shared, applied to each workstation as needed.
Virtualization is a powerful tool that is used extensively in cloud computing and is something you may want to learn more about. If you do, read our recent article (with some cool illustrations) on Understanding Virtualization. And if you want to know how it can benefit your company, give us a call here at DynaSis at 678-373-0716, because we have been at the forefront of small to mid-sized business computing since 1992.
Here at DynaSis, as a managed IT services provider, we offer prospective clients complimentary IT and Network Assessments. The assessment gives the business-person a good look at where the company’s IT infrastructure stands at that moment regarding a number of potential security issues as well as understanding where it stands in terms of updates and upgrades. We then ask people to consider four questions:
We’re not going to review these one by one because the answers are pretty obvious. What may be less obvious is where to start, and that is with the Assessment. The Assessment serves as a roadmap and without it, a managed IT services provider is likely to recommend unnecessary changes, and miss some that would be highly beneficial, in the end creating a framework that does not accomplish what you are looking for.
There are some basic yet important goals that your IT services company should be helping you accomplish:
Does 99% uptime sound good? Not by our standards. That is 1% downtime, or 5,256 minutes annually. Our goal between 99.99% and 99.999% uptime, or 5 minutes to one hour downtime per year.
This is an important subject on its own and we encourage you to read a white paper we published earlier this year entitled Cyber Security 2018. As a managed IT services company, we are very much aware that the majority of cyber crimes are now committed against small to mid-sized businesses. Cyber criminals know that “enterprise” size companies have invested millions of dollars in protecting themselves, so small to mid-sized businesses have become the low hanging fruit.
Everyone is on the go. Employees work from home, in airports, hotels, clients’ offices, even on vacation. Mobility today means a lot more than having a smartphone. It means being able to access your files anytime, anywhere. It means being able to collaborate with your team members no matter where they are. Again, this is a subject worthy of discussion on its own, and we would be happy to speak with you.
People want to be productive and ensuring that your IT infrastructure is functioning at peak levels is necessary. In fact, studies show that millennials who are interviewing for all levels of management positions frequently inquire about the tools with which they will be provided to accomplish their jobs. An assessment will help here, too.
What we have discussed in this week’s blog is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the information that can be gleaned from an IT Network & Security Assessment. For a deeper look, we recently published a full white paper called The Value of an IT Assessment and we suggest you take a look. We believe you will find it eye opening.
At DynaSis, we have been providing managed IT services for more than a quarter century and we would love to start a discussion with you, so please give us a call at 678-373-0716.
The results of two recent surveys indicate that computer network support professionals working for “enterprise level companies” agree that a company’s own employees are often its weakest link in protecting against cyber-crime. (For specifics on these surveys and more information on the subject of employee training in general, read our White Paper on the subject.) So, as an owner of executive of a small to mid-sized business, consider this: if this problem is so prevalent in these enterprise level companies with large IT departments, where does this leave you?
It is well-known in computer network support circles that in this day and age of cyber-criminals who are relentless in their development of new ways to attack virtually everyone’s IT network that employee training is a key element. It is also known that careless and / or unintentional employee actions are the number one access point for these criminals. While all the other forms of network protection are still vital, employee education remains one of our best safeguards.
Here are some notes on areas that employees need to be taught, and then on which to be continuously reminded and updated:
Unbreakable Password Protection
Computer network support professionals are amazed at how many people still use easy to break passwords. Criminals use algorithms that can rapidly test millions of possible passwords, so if they have a reason to guess at part of a password, finishing it becomes a real possibility. Larger companies install protections against this, including automated requirements for regular changes as well as strong parameters. Try this. Current thinking among these computer network support people has changed from combining letters, number and characters, to letters only. Here’s why: if you combine three unrelated words of five letters each, (for example: househumanroses) those fifteen letters give you 1,677,259,342,285,730,000,000 possibilities. That’s 1.6 sextillion. And that’s only using lower case. Imagine if you mix upper and lower.
Downloading Unauthorized Software
Another activity that drives computer network support people crazy are the many software programs that can be downloaded for free with a simple mouse click. While many are truly useful, others may launch very destructive malware, including ransomware that can lock down an entire IT network.
Phishing and Spear-phishing – Social Engineering
These are tactics used to trick people into divulging sensitive information. You may not fall for the plea for assistance from the Nigerian Prince, but many people are fooled by realistic looking fake emails from banks, utilities, charities and others. One specific word of caution: the IRS never calls and never sends emails.
Social Media Scams
Fake Twitter Accounts: We all make typos. Studies show that a small percentage of people will inadvertently make mistakes and not correct them when typing. If you mean to send a tweet to a company called ABC123, but type ACB123, there may well be a fake account out there with that name, set up to trick you. These scam artists will set up hundreds of these accounts (ABD123, ABE123, ABC 123, etc.) to benefit from your mistakes.
The reality is, there are too many ways that employees can make mistakes or be fooled to cover in this blog, so, again, we refer you to the white paper we wrote on this subject. Once you better understand the risks, you can set up training programs for your people. If you don’t have an in-house computer network support team to conduct employee training classes, speak with us here at DynaSis. We’ve been doing it since 1992 and would love to do the same for you. Call us today at 678-373-0716.
Most companies these days allow, or even insist, that employees use one or more of their own devices for work. Rather than causing resentment, the majority of employees actually prefer using their own phones, tablets or laptops, rather than having to carry two of the same type device. They are comfortable with the devices they understand and are probably upgrading them faster than the company network support team would be doing, thus giving both the employee and employer the benefit of more current technology.
That being said, there are concerns that many employees have, some real, some perceived, that must be addressed and, additionally, network support and security for devices the company doesn’t own can be challenging. On the employee front, those who are required to use their own devices often feel they are losing privacy, including the possibility that their personal information may be accessed. This can be overcome with adjustments on the network support side and explanations (in lay terms) to the employees.
We won’t get into too much technical detail here, but on the employer’s side the issue of keeping company data secure demands serious consideration. This requires the creation of an “Acceptable Use Policy”, but please keep in mind that policies like this are only helpful if they are enforced. (If you want more information about BYOD policies, check out our White Paper on the subject.) If you are going to allow or require BYOD, here are some guidelines on how to begin:
Start small. If you only have a few employees, you may want to include everyone, but if you are mid-sized and growing, limit the participants until you’ve got the bugs worked out.
Involve All Constituents
A strong BYOD policy will involve every department in the company: sales, marketing, HR, finance, R&D, etc. Make sure people from each of these are involved in the set-up and roll-out discussions.
Employee training today is important in many areas of cyber security. Employee email accounts are the number one source of access for cyber intrusion of all types. BYOD is no different. This is an important network support issue.
Industry Specific Security
PCI, HIPAA, GLBA, DSS and others. You don’t want to be 100% in compliance in-house, then fail to keep employee devices adequately protected.
Device Level Security Isn’t Enough
Proper network support and security requires multiple defense layers. Hard as you try, you may not always be successful in keeping every device secure, so your network must provide protection for this.
Yes, by asking/allowing your employees to use their own devices, there will be savings, perhaps substantial. However, there may also be additional expenses to install updated infrastructure technology. All in all, however, the switch should help your bottom line.
Again, if you would like to learn more, check out the White Paper, or, even better, give us a call. We have been providing IT network support for more than 25 years and would love to chat with you. Call us today at 678-373-0716.
Is Your Business a Digital Business? It Better Be!
If not, you’re likely to be edged out and become a dinosaur in a modern world.
To be fair today, today every business is a digital business. Do you use email? Accounting software? Do you do research online? Do you have an online store? The question really is: do you use technology to your best advantage? In a White Paper we published not too long ago entitled A Digital Business in a Digital World we quoted a recent article by Forrester Research that essentially said (it’s too long to quote in its entirety here) that over the next couple of years your company is either going to become a “digital master” or “digital prey”. (Click above to read the whole quotation.)
The reality is that in today’s world the small business is already at a disadvantage. Big box stores have gobbled up the market share of hardware stores, office supply companies and apparel retailers. Even your dentist may now be the employee of a large national chain and your local car dealer is now probably owned by a conglomerate of 300-500 dealerships.
How does technology help you?
In a modern business, technology is intertwined into virtually every phase of that business. R&D, production, sales, marketing, finance, HR, customer service. Using technology takes us to the next level in every one of these departments (and all the other not mentioned here.) It keeps costs in line, enables us to provide better customer/client service, reduces errors, and generally makes us more effective in every way.
IT – Are You Inside-Out or Outside-In?
In most companies, IT has traditionally been an “Inside-Out” function, meaning that your IT focus has been on supporting your business as it exists today. This is the case whether you have your own internal IT department or are using a third-party managed IT support provider. This is ok. Your IT people need to be focused on the problems of today. But there is great value in shifting some of that focus “outside-in” so that your IT people are looking at, adapting and strengthening the disruptive business models that your business becomes the predator, not the prey.
What does this mean? Let’s look at some extreme cases. First, as this piece was being written, we saw a TV segment that Blockbuster was down to its last store. From 9,100 stores with 84,000 employees to one store with about 10 people working. Disruptive business models killed it. NYC taxi medallions (the license to own a taxi) have fallen in value from over $1,000,000 to about $200,000 because of services like Uber and Lyft.
Less “blockbuster” moves companies can make to disrupt their businesses positively can be updating websites to make them more interactive, adding third party products lines, more efficient production through technology, R&D to improve products and services ahead of your competition, improved employee satisfaction and productivity, and saving money across the board.
As an Atlanta-based managed IT support company, here at DynaSis we have had more than 25 years-experience helping small to mid-sized companies grow through secure technology. Give us a call and we will be happy to explain how. 678-373-0716.
Various studies have shown that the small businesses in general are not prepared to ward off cyber-attacks. In fact, a recent nationwide study showed that a full 78% were unprepared even though 60% of them had already suffered an attack. You don’t have to be Equifax, Uber or Home Depot to be a target. Today, almost 50% of attacks are against small to mid-sized businesses (which lost an average of $32,000 each) simply because cyber-criminals realize that they are easier targets than the big companies that have spent millions of dollars to protect themselves. That study also showed that it took these small businesses more than a month on average to recover. Other studies have shown that as many as 60% of attacked businesses that suffer a shutdown eventually go under.
Because of the growing public concern over the unauthorized release of personal identifiable information (PII), all companies should be concerned that their customers will begin to choose retailers, vendors, suppliers, service contractors, etc., based on how comfortable they feel about these companies’ IT security.
So how do you spread confidence instead of worry? Begin with an in-depth IT and Cyber Security Assessment, then get the word out. Of course, before you get the word out, you need to take the time to follow the security recommendations, if any, that may be presented to you. (If there are none, that’s great! Let the world know how up-to-date you are.)
In addition to providing great public relations fodder, a comprehensive IT and cyber-security assessment will benefit your company in another way…right away. The managed IT support company you bring in to run the assessment process will alert you to vulnerabilities in your IT network and patch them, because a properly done assessment is a lot more than just a scan of your network, and will alert you to more than just viruses and malware.
Older technologies that you are still using may be ill-equipped to deal with new threats. That includes hardware and software that you may be updating. It will also show you hard drives, firewalls, servers and other equipment that are at or near end-of-life and are at risk of failure. It can also make you aware of software and equipment that is no longer supported by the manufacturer, meaning that updates to protect your system from cyber-attacks will no longer be available.
An assessment can also show you where you need to be concerned about lack of password security, such as multi-factor authentication, or need for encryption. It will show you where your firewall(s), although in perfect working order, may be consumer grade equipment where business-grade is required. Backups: The single most important component of a secure IT network is your backup process. The assessment will help you determine if your Recovery Time Objective (RTO), how long it will take to bring your system back to 100%, and your Recovery Point Objective (RPO), how many minutes, hours, or days of data you are comfortable losing, is appropriate for your business. It will also show you if your backups are actually as secure as you think they are. (Note: we have been called in to try and rescue data when data files AND backups have been locked down by ransomware. This can and must be avoided.)
At DynaSis, we have been providing assessments and network protection to the small to mid-sized business community in Atlanta, including advanced business continuity protocols since 1992. We would be happy to begin a conversation with you, so call us at 678-373-0716.
Your IT strategy will differ from just about every other company – it will be completely unique to you. So if you’ve ever wondered how to actually craft a strategic IT plan or if you’re looking for a refresher on the subject, look no further.
We’ve identified four critical steps that can help you create the perfect actionable IT strategy that aligns your business goals with your technology.
You must always prioritize your IT in the context of the operations and strategy of your business over. Though IT is still paramount to your business success, it’s imperative to realize the key truth:
Every aspect of your IT must strategically empower your business.
Having technology for technology’s sake isn’t inherently useful and often results in unnecessary confusion and complication within your business.
By developing actionable goals for your business, you begin to form a roadmap that clarifies your path. This path will likely be very different than the path you’ll take 5 years from now.
Related: 51% of small-business owners cite time as the single biggest obstacle to adopting new technologies, and 18% say a lack of understanding is their greatest barrier.
Establishing these strategic paths for your business will help determine the general direction to take your technology.
For example, if you plan to grow your business to include more eCommerce transactions, you’ll want to start considering security compliance regulations, server storage, and cloud-based backup options.
After conceptualizing the path of your business, you can start to look at the current state of your IT infrastructure. Take stock of all your organization’s devices and software and figure out how they’re currently being utilized.
Even a cursory overview of your technology can tell you where you need to focus your efforts to optimize and then align for growth and change. For example, your office productivity may suffer due to malfunctioning and outdated workstations.
Even though you can’t do anything at this very moment, you’ve gained valuable insight into how and where to allocate your resources. That’s the perfect starting point for an effective IT strategy.
After you’ve taken thorough stock of your inventory and infrastructure, you can begin to analyze and implement solutions. You can start by examining the areas of your business that need additional resources to complete their tasks more effectively.
In addition, you can look for wasted resources. Take program licenses as an example – some users in your office may not need licensing for specialized programs. However, it’s easy to lose track of these licenses over time. Removing those you don’t use can put money back into your company that would be better suited for other areas.
Related: Worldwide IT spending is projected to total $3.7 trillion in 2018, an increase of 4.3% from 2017 estimated spending of $3.5 trillion, according to the latest forecast by Gartner, Inc.
You can also more easily identify operational bottlenecks caused by IT. The right technology can remove these bottlenecks completely, giving you back time, resources, and productivity.
Completing the initial implementation of your IT strategy doesn’t mean you should stop improving it. As you address all your bottlenecks and create implementation plans for necessary solutions, you must shift to an analytical phase.
The best progress in your business improvement is made during this phase. You can drill down into actual results and make tweaks as necessary. That may mean adjusting levels of devices and programs or even changing internal IT processes to fit the real-world needs of your organization.
Using these four steps will put you on a path to creating the right strategy for your organization. To get the most out of it, you’ll need to seamlessly integrate the strategy with other facets of your IT.
We’ve created a helpful acronym to ensure each and every part of your IT works toward both your strategy and business goals. We refer to it simply as “ASM” – it stands for Availability, Security, and Mobility.
Related: See how ASM can help you work towards your business goals and how your business can start implementing it today.
As more and more companies look to convert from cable to wireless connectivity, it is important to understand the difference between consumer grade and business grade wireless installations. Going wireless in your office should not be accomplished by going to your neighborhood electronics store and latching on to the latest router and modem.
The process should start with qualified technicians, and they can best be found through a managed IT support provider. Unless your in-house IT people have real world experience in determining the correct placement of wireless access points (WAPs), they will likely run into trouble if they try and do this on their own. If they attempt “overkill coverage”, placing too many WAPs can actually cause more problems than it solves, and existing wiring and metal studs inside your office walls can have a seriously negative impact on the installation.
One way to check is to create a heat map that shows the strength of wireless signals. Although not always necessary, this can be important at times, because it is not uncommon for the actual signals emitted to either be stronger or weaker than what is promised on the box. A heat map can help determine where to locate/relocate WAPs to get better results. One question that comes up is, why be concerned about signals that are too strong? The answer: when your signal is strong enough to spill out into the street, you are more exposed and that means more risk. People in your organization may run the same risks as those using public WAPs, like at Starbucks, and while requiring a password to get onto your wireless network is good, it will protect you just so far.
Making sure you have the right signal power can also mean the difference between downloading a file in a few seconds rather than a few minutes. For some of your employees, this may not be important, but for others, this may be a critical element in their productivity, not to mention frustration levels.
Of course, there is a cost involved, but it need not be overly expensive and the initial evaluation can usually be accomplished in a single day. You will likely need to have new cables run to the spots where new WAPs will be installed, and of course there will be some new equipment, but we believe that the final result, when done properly, will be well worth the cost and effort. One more suggestion: set up separate internet signals for guests, and have your own employees use this guest connection for their own mobile phones and other personal devices. This can keep malware that may be on their devices from infecting your business network. This is just part of the common-sense security precautions we would suggest for any business.
If you would like to discuss a complimentary assessment for wireless, or for a network and cyber security assessment, give us a call at 678-373-0716. DynaSis has been a Managed IT Service provider serving the needs of Atlanta’s small to mid-sized businesses since 1992.
Red Chalk Group, a Chicago based telecommunications consulting firm, tells us that 5G wireless is nearly ready and that it will mean major changes in the way people consume media on their mobile devices. If you have a teenager in your house, you probably find they prefer using their smartphones to tablets or laptops. While you and I may not be happy watching a major motion picture on a 2.5” x 4.5” screen (and that’s about the largest cellphone screen out there), the folks who will soon be young adults are very happy to do so. These people will also be very happy to learn about 5G because it will change the way their smartphones, and other mobile devices, interact with the entertainment world.
and from a technical standpoint (although exact technical standards have yet to be determined), it means a greater number of mobile broadband users will be able to user the same network at the same time, with each having much greater download and upload speeds.
Although we are still waiting for exact tech specs, Nelson Granados of Forbes believes that we will be seeing dramatic advances:
“Download speeds are bound to increase at least tenfold compared to 4G, and for true 5G standards, it could be up to 100-fold. So, if an HD movie takes six minutes to download in a 4G network, with 5G it could take a handful of seconds. Also, in the era of user-generated content, photo and video upload speeds will improve, fueling social media content.”
In addition to faster download speeds, with 5G wireless the quality of streamed media will also see a huge boost, which is a big plus for live events of all types, including concerts and sports. It is expected that the quality you will see on your mobile device will be the same as you get at home, and buffering will be a thing of the past.
But while better video quality while steaming is a big plus, the super-fast download speeds will also make downloading and saving movies, TV shows, etc., more practicable. Since you will be able to download in six seconds what it would have taken six minutes, and with increased storage capacity, why risk streaming, especially while traveling, and worrying about erratic coverage? Expect streaming services such as Spotify, Amazon and Netflix to offer more downloading purchase and rental options.
DynaSis has been serving the technology needs of the Atlanta small to mid-sized business community for 25 years. In addition to our complimentary IT Network & Security Assessment, we also offer a 15-minute one-on-one webinar to explain how your technology can become a powerful force, driving your business forward.