As the sophistication of network infrastructure becomes more complicated, seemingly on a daily basis, more small and mid-sized businesses are contemplating the outsourcing of this work to IT service providers. This transfer of duties to an outside firm with the expertise to manage a growing network can deliver loads of benefits, but there are also problems that can arise in this type of arrangement.
Here are 3 sources of IT problems for businesses and how to avoid them:
* A misunderstanding of the other party’s expectations – These types of misunderstandings can occur for a variety of reasons including the definition of job duties, billing, and differences in opinion of how to achieve stated objectives.
* Modifying a project – Once terms have been agreed and a project is put in motion, making modifications can add significantly to the duration and cost of the project.
* Going with the lowest bid for the project – A bid that is significantly lower than the bids from other IT service providers, like in any other type of work, is low for a specific reason. The possibilities include using low-wage personnel, the integration of cut-rate equipment, and/or the possibility that the job will not come close to agreed upon objectives.
All of these potential issues can be avoided with a high level of communication between the parties. By defining expectations, the objectives of the project and exactly how the project will be run from start to finish can help to avoid 3 of the most common sources of IT problems for businesses.
If the recent report released by the Pentagon is any indication, the cyber war between the United States and China is hotter than ever. The headline quote from the report, which confirmed the years-long suspicions of many network security specialists stated, “In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military”.
The report added that the purpose of the cyber attacks is to gain access to sensitive information and intellectual properties from industries related to defense programs in the United States. Further accusations include the Chinese military’s backing of and involvement with one of the most notorious assemblage of hackers in the world, known as the “Comment Crew”, which over the last 7 years has stolen data from over 140 organizations and businesses across a spectrum of 20 industries.
So, to answer the question, “What does your website have to do with the Chinese Army?”, if you’re running a retail operation that sells apparel, probably not much. On the other hand, if your business has anything to do with the military complex in the United States, your business may be more at risk than you think. Whether your business is supplying an incremental piece of the puzzle for military-related domestic travel, the bulk of the technology behind a missile guidance system, or something in between, there is a chance that your research, data, and intellectual property may have the attention of outside groups that don’t necessarily have your business’ best interests in mind.
Unified messaging is the result of the integration of voice, text, email and fax messages into a single interface that can be accessed via email, cell, or smartphone. Having a single location for these types of messages has many advantages including:
Access to different types of messages through a single interface – With the wide variety of message types that can be received in the course of doing business, having a single interface for all communications can eliminate the need for accessing related materials using different devices. This also allows the user to view a clear timeline on the order in which information was received rather than flipping back and forth between devices.
Improved user efficiency – With the gathering of all communications in a single location, united messaging users can view and analyze multiple messages related to a single topic, deal, presentation, etc., without running the risk of overlooking a vital piece of information that is stored on a different device. Efficiencies may also be realized in sharing, replying to and forwarding messages.
Improved collaboration – With a single unified messaging location, team members can collaborate while looking at the same interface, which can literally get everyone on the same page.
Remote access – With an increasing amount of business being done with smart phones, being able to access multiple message types on a single screen can be a huge advantage versus going back and forth between interfaces. This is particularly true due to the smaller screen size of smart phones.
Your employees, whether there are in the office or out in the field, will receive different types of messages throughout the day. By integrating these message types into a single interface, unified messaging can make your employees more efficient and productive, which can add to your bottom line.
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks have become an extremely popular method of attacking websites and is a favored weapon of the “hacktivist” group known as Anonymous, which has used the practice to take down the websites of the CIA, the Department of Justice, the FBI and a variety of United Kingdom government websites to name a few.
In a DDoS attack, the targeted website is flooded with requests for information or other inquiries from hundreds or thousands of different computers to ultimately render the server system for the targeted website inoperable. This type of attack, unlike viruses or malware, is not intended to benefit the group behind the attack and is instead used in many cases to make a statement against the targeted site.
Anonymous, for example, has waged DDoS attacks as a form of protest against the entities that sponsored the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) as well as the FBI for its role in the shutdown of the file-sharing site MegaUpload. Unfortunately, there is little to protect a website that is targeted for a DDoS attack without making a substantial investment in server capacity and other types of infrastructure that may or may not ever come into use.
Companies can, however, take action to prevent one of the most common forms of a situation that results in a Denial of Service; that of an explosion in traffic that overwhelms servers due to an event or other circumstance that that drives loads of traffic to a site. The key in these situations is to make preparations in advance of a big announcement or other event to handle the increase in inbound traffic with load balancing tools or additional server capacity to be able to capitalize on the opportunity of new visitors finding the site.
Outsourcing IT needs for small businesses has several advantages over the alternatives of relying on in-house people to handle issues and/or building an in house IT department.
These advantages include:
* Delegation of IT services to sharpen the focus of the business – Multi-tasking is part of the territory for small business owners but many of the aspects of tending to the company’s network infrastructure can become a distraction from the focus needed to reach goals and objectives.
* Focused use of resources – Outsourcing IT services allows access to resources on an as needed basis. This availability enables a business to deploy sophisticated initiatives using skill sets that may only need to be accessed for a short period of time, rather than dedicating resources toward in-house hires.
* Lower expenses related to IT – Once IT demands exceed the knowledge level of in-house employees a business can hire a full time IT staff, which adds to payroll and requires desks, phones, computers, etc. Outsourcing IT provides the less expensive route of employing services only when they’re needed.
With an intensifying competitive environment, small businesses need to focus their strengths and resources on execution, operating efficiency, and reaching short and long term objectives. Outsourcing IT enables this kind of laser focus by removing the time consuming aspects of managing a network while also allowing for additional resources to be allocated toward moving the business forward.
As the evolutionary pace of cloud computing increases, more companies are grappling with the decision of whether to outsource their computing needs or stay with the traditional model of purchasing, leasing, or licensing products that are integral to their operations. One of the primary concerns for businesses trying to protect their data is the level of security provided by a cloud-based infrastructure. In these situations, companies can opt or be mandated to store highly sensitive data on local servers protected by the company’s own firewall.
While there are many opinions regarding the use of private clouds to ensure the security of mission-critical data, many industry watchers insist that public cloud-based security is at least the equal of security provided in a private network and in many cases exceeds it. Where securing company information is mandated for compliance issues, the private cloud and the expenses that go along with it is a necessity but one where only specific files need to be stored. To mitigate costs, the balance of less sensitive applications and data can be then exported to a public cloud.
Here are some of the advantages of this type of model:
* Companies can let a public cloud do its heavy lifting – Services accessible through a public cloud can enable companies to engage in heavy data mining and processing at a fraction of the cost of purchasing hardware and software on their own.
* A drastic reduction in licensing fees – Provisioning software licenses across the infrastructure of an enterprise-sized business for desktop use can add up to an exorbitant amount in a hurry. Instead, access through the cloud can be billed as a “one-off” or as a function of time in use, which can cut expenses by a wide margin.
* The elimination of costs related to increasing storage capacity – Storage limitations can prove to be a hindrance but cloud platforms can deliver virtually unlimited storage capabilities.
* Data recovery – Recovering data lost in local servers can consume both time and resources. Cloud service providers typically have efficient recovery protocols in place, meaning that data can be restored quickly and easily.
* Easy integration of software platforms – Companies accessing multiple software programs can benefit from streamlined integration between platforms without spending the time and effort to do it themselves.
With mission critical data secure behind a company’s firewall, cloud computing offers a plethora of advantages that can improve a company’s operations and its bottom line. For more information, visit Decision Consultants, Inc. at: http://www.dcicorporation.com/
Public computers such as those found at libraries, hotels and cyber cafes are a fertile hunting ground for people seeking information that will allow them illicit entrance into networks and bank accounts. While these public terminals can increase the productivity of your employees, computers that are used by a chain of people also increase the potential for hackers to wreak all kinds of havoc that can disrupt your operations and cost your business a lot of money.
Here are some of ways in which public computing by your employees can put your network at risk:
* Using computers that are set up with a “Keylogger” – Keyloggers are used for a variety of legal purposes including the monitoring of children’s computer use at home and employees’ usage at the office. This technology is also a favorite of hackers because it tracks each keystroke on a keyboard, which can then be stored or transmitted virtually anywhere. Using the information gleaned by the Keylogger, a hacker can bypass all the security measures put in by a network with user names and passwords that were used on the public terminal. The potential for damage in these circumstances is limited only by the imagination of the hacker.
* Being filmed – While not as sophisticated as Keylogger’s technology, a simple video camera can yield the same information in the form of user names and passwords that can devastate a business’ network and bank accounts.
* Using Wi-Fi hotspots with shared passwords – Coffee shops around the world now offer free Wi-Fi accessible via shared passwords. While these cafes may offer the convenience of being able to log with the morning brew, these are essentially open networks. These networks are not typically encrypted, and instead record everything in very readable plain text.
* Careless terminal use – Users that don’t log out or delete their history, browser cache, user names, passwords etc. are leaving valuable information behind that can cause big trouble. Even if the information left behind doesn’t pertain directly to your company’s network, that information may show up in other places such as an employee’s personal email account.
The simplest way to protect your network from the risks posed by public terminals is to educate yourself and your employees on how these computers can be used to cause a whole lot of trouble while discouraging their use for accessing sensitive sites and information. For more information on keeping your network at a maximum safety level, visit Decision Consultants, Inc. at: http://www.dcicorporation.com/