Tips for Using Skype for Business Effectively

using skype for business meetingWhile there are plenty of conferencing solutions out there, few give teams breadth and depth of collaboration features that Skype for Business offers.

But while more businesses are turning to Skype, many struggle to utilize the tool effectively. This article looks at some of the features available when using Skype for Business, including some of our best tips and tricks for optimizing this terrific remote communications tool.

Using Skype for Business – Best Features

The Microsoft universe includes a suite of office communication and collaboration features. But adding Skype for Business means that the internet can finally leverage the Internet as a full-service communications tool.

Since Microsoft purchased Skype a few years ago, the platform has expanded from a consumer-only product to something that both businesses and individuals can use.

The latest configuration is Skype for Business Conversations, which features tighter integrations with Office 365. Now users can chat or set up a voice or video straight from their inbox. A simple click of a video or phone icon from the Outlook window places the call. You can even join a meeting in progress with one click. For more informal communications, there is the chat feature, which is a relatively new addition to the Office 365 ecosystem.

But before using Skype for Business, we recommend a few tips to maximize your technology:

1. Make sure your audio is set properly for the microphone and speakers you’ll be using.

2. If you’re using a laptop or desktop built-in camera, make sure the room is lit properly. Before the meeting, open the Skype webcam options and look at yourself to see how others will view you.

3. Also, turn off any other applications that you won’t need for the call.

4. We suggest using a headset to help reduce ambient noises.

Using Skype for Business is a crucial tool for today’s mobile workforce. Here are 10 tricks for using Skype more effectively for your business:

1. Directory Search is a feature that lets users search the global Skype directory and add contacts beyond your organization. In the past, connections could only be added if you knew the individual’s username.

2. Broadcast meetings help organizations create town hall-style meetings of up to 10,000 participants. It also lets you record the meeting and release it as an on-demand video within the Office 365 environment.

3. Share PowerPoint presentations to a Skype meeting – even one that’s already in progress. If you’re in slideshow mode, just click the “present online” tab. A drop-down box will list Skype for Business, allowing you to present the PowerPoint in a Skype meeting or as part of a conversation.

4. Portability means that Skype for Business travels well on any devices. Up to 250 co-workers can conduct meetings from their desktop, laptop, tablet, Android, or iOS device. You will need a solid internet connection for audio, video, or web conferencing.

5. Integration with your Outlook calendar is a terrific feature that allows users to schedule tasks and meetings, with a web scheduler for summarizing upcoming events. It also has a notes section for tasks or topics.

6. The dashboard control panel in Skype for Business helps you retain control of the meeting. You can mute people or block video or even invite people that were inadvertently left out of the original invitation. The dashboard is also very customizable, allowing users to set it up how they prefer.

7. In the same way you would get up and draw a concept on a whiteboard, Skype for Business now lets you do this on the screen and then share it with meeting participants. It’s a phenomenal feature that allows Q&A, an audience poll, or simply lets you share your thoughts visually with others in a meeting.

8. Record meetings by simply clicking an icon. Select the red symbol at the top of the screen so everyone in the meeting will see it’s being recorded. The recording is saved in an MP4 format and can be archived or set up as on-demand. To find the recording, start at the Skype for Business main screen, select the settings cog. Choose tools/recording manager from the drop-down.

9. Define contact relationships by naming them as:

--Colleagues that can view notes, your location, and all contact info.

--External contacts that can only see your name, title, email, company, and picture thumbnail during the Skype call.

--Friends and family who have permission to see your location and contact info.

--Workgroup that can see everything (except your home contact info) and can interrupt your do not disturb status.

--Blocked contacts are prevented from reaching you via Skype for Business.

9. Another cool Skype for Business tool is the transfer to mobile If a meeting is running long, but you have to jump in the car, you can transfer the meeting to your smart phone. Select “Settings, then tools/options/phones/mobile phone,” then enter your phone number with country/region code, and hit “okay.” Changing this setting will allow you to select the “Call Controls” button during a Skype for Business meeting, hit “Transfer,” and send the meeting to your phone.

Here’s a bonus tip for using Skype for Business effectively: Did you know it would let you send short videos to your contacts? You can right click on the person you want to send it to and select “Send Video Message.” You’ll see a small window pop up and your webcam should pick up your face. Click the red “Record” button and away you go.

Contact CWPS if you have questions about these or any of the other features found in Skype for Business. Like a lot of Microsoft tools, this communications feature continues to improve as it integrates more tightly with Office 365. We’re looking forward to the generation of improvements to this already excellent business tool.

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Webex vs Skype - Which Makes Sense for Your Business?

skype-2.pngWe already know how important web conferencing is to today’s mobile workforce. Two of the best and most popular web conferencing services on the market today are Cisco’s WebEx and Microsoft’s Skype for Business products. Both are cloud-based software products that bring the power of remote conferencing to businesses of all sizes and types. Millions of people all over the globe use both products to stay connected. 

This article looks at WebEx vs. Skype including the features and benefits that may make one or the other best for your business. If you’re trying to decide which service to use, this article will help.

The History: WebEx vs. Skype

Both WebEx and Skype were created as digital disrupters seeking to fulfill the promise of the internet as a global communications tool. The roots of WebEx date back to 1996, and a company called ActiveTouch. An Indian programmer and a Chinese entrepreneur got together and created the video conferencing software, which was later renamed WebEx in 1998. One year later the firm relaunched their original on-premise software as a SaaS product. It was, in fact, one of the first SaaS applications.

Fast forward to 2007 when the Internet really got rolling, and the purchase of WebEx by Cisco for a cool $3.2 billion. Today, the Cisco WebEx site says the platform holds 26.5 million meetings per month.

Skype was released in 2003 by Swedish and Danish developers. In 2005, eBay purchased Skype for $2.6 billion. Four years later, an acquisition occurred headed by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. At that time the market value of the platform was around $2.92 billion. But by May 2011, when Microsoft bought it, Skype was worth $8.5 billion. Today, there are more than 300 million active Skype users each month. The Skype mobile app has been downloaded more than one billion times. TechCrunch says that equates to more than two trillion minutes used. 

Side-by-Side Comparison WebEx v. Skype

“As people increasingly embrace video as the de facto method of communicating, ease of access to the call or meeting is crucial. Most attendees are usually online, but there’ll always be some who are out and about – and who need to join remotely by either dialing in or a dial-out option.”
James Porter, Sei mani

Finances Online has a nice side-by-side comparison of the available features in WebEx vs. Skype. In it, they list the overall performance uptime of Cisco WebEx as 8.9 and Microsoft Skype at 9.0. That places both companies in a neck and neck performance race. Skype edges out WebEx in user satisfaction, though, at 98% to 96%.

Cost-wise, Skype has a “freemium” payment model; the basic service is still free. Businesses typically use Skype as part of their Office 365 subscription and the two services are increasingly integrated – more on that in a moment. At this time Cisco does not have a free option for individual users.

Both services offer some similar features, specifically:

> Web and video conferencing for 200 people or more (Skype offers the most at up to 300).

> Secure unlimited meetings under the monthly SaaS fee.

> Screen sharing.

> File sharing.

> Chat and brainstorming tools like whiteboarding.

> The ability to record meetings.

> Live support.

> Administrative controls.

But that may be where the similarities end. One big difference between the two platforms is that WebEx does not have a feature-driven instant-messaging framework like Skype does. With the addition of WebEx Spark, Cisco sought to stay competitive with Skype but adding IM and file storage. Traditionally, WebEx has been the platform for just pre-planned calls or events. An article in sei mani points out that:

The linking of WebEx and Spark does not provide a feature- rich messaging and presence environment and in the same way that an Android mobile can call an iPhone – Cisco’s interoperability play means every endpoint will connect with any other standards-based endpoint from any other vendor, hard or soft.

TechTarget reminds readers that comparing WebEx vs. Skype is not apples-to-apples, “The biggest differentiator is the breadth of the applications.” TechTarget suggests that Skype (see their comparison chart here) has many more features than WebEx, including: 

1. The ability to toggle between full window and a compact screen in admin view.

2. Add participants at any time to a video session in progress.

3. Interoperability with other Microsoft products – including the ability to make calls from Word.

4. The ability to switch devices during a conference session.

5. Telephonic features like call forwarding, holding, and muting.

6. Manage simultaneous IM conversations.

7. IM history automatically archived.

8. Syncs with Outlook calendar.

9. The ability to hand your desktop to other participants so they can make changes to documents.

10. Permission-based file sharing.

11. Handles up to 300 people in meetings and has a broadcasting/webinar function that handles up to 10,000 participants.

In October 2017, Microsoft released a new version of Skype that gave the platform a more youthful feel. Whether this is appropriate for business remains to be seen; TechCrunch suggests, “It’s the kind of feature that makes Skype seem like it’s aiming for a more youthful demographic, rather than one that serves its professional use cases.” 

The new Skype seems to be distancing itself from the slightly-more-stodgy WebEx; there are now personalization features that let users organize contacts in a number of ways in a more flexible dashboard interface. There’s a media gallery tied to each IM chat, which makes it a lot simpler to sort through conversations. Unlike WebEx, Skype allows for add-ins like Expedia or StubHub. Other IM platforms such as Slack could benefit from Microsoft’s ideas in this area. 

It should be noted, too, that Skype for Business is about one-half as expensive as WebEx. Dial-out calling is included in the price, plus users can now search for any global user just like a PTSN landline call.

Pros and Cons WebEx vs. Skype

PC Magazine reviewed the two competitors WebEx vs. Skype. They found similarities and differences, strengths and weaknesses. 

Their look at WebEx revealed an easy to use service that they call “not inexpensive.” In fact, it’s about double the price of Skype. However, all the paid plans include up to eight simultaneous video conference lines, screen sharing, the ability to record meetings, free mobile apps, and more. 

“Cisco WebEx Meeting Center’s user interface (UI) has a modern look compared to other services.”
PC Magazine

WebEx meeting hosts can share their files or desktop, and control attendees from a dashboard. There’s a virtual whiteboard for sketching ideas. Cisco WebEx does not offer phone conferencing. However, the service is compatible with multiple phone conferencing providers. It has all the features necessary for web conferencing. The service has a callme feature that calls to invite you to a webinar. However, it’s a pricey option with a subscription and a per-minute rate.

“If your business is interested in this kind of group collaboration, then you’ll want to skip Cisco WebEx Meeting Center and just get a Cisco spark meetings account.”
PC Magazine

PC Magazine suggests that Skype for Business “hits that sweet spot for small businesses that need more than the consumer Skype.” They suggest that the service has grown up since Microsoft has taken it over. Instead of a piecemeal series of application integration, Skype is the communications hub within the Microsoft office function.

One of the biggest pros of Skype for Business is that it is becoming more and more integrated with Office 365 tools. Businesses can use SharePoint for file storage, for example, and set up Skype calls straight from that portal. Or, integrate Skype meetings easily right into the Outlook calendar. 

There is a “meet now” feature that works well for impromptu communications as well as the traditional web-based video conferencing that most of us have used. It’s easy to run a side conversation alongside your Outlook email and calendar.

Skype for Business generally makes it easy to complete a conference call. It’s a click and invite process via the Microsoft Surface Hub – just tap the phone icon. There are four views to choose from as well, that really puts the meeting organizer in the driver’s seat.

Which is Better for Your Business: WebEx vs. Skype

The online message boards and feature comparison links show a pretty close feature-rich experience between both WebEx vs. Skype. The best way to approach the decision-making process is to lay out the features and benefits you’re searching for in a web-based video conference service. Are you already using other Microsoft products, like Office 365? Could WebEx be a better option if you need a more robust VoIP service? The truth is that both of these services are excellent. 

To learn more about the differences between WebEx and Skype for Business, contact us today.

Office 365 Migration Steps – A Breakdown of the Migration Process

1._cloud_to_cloud_backup.jpgMigrating a company’s infrastructure to the cloud is the sort of task that can make an IT administrator lose sleep at night.  While most organizations are taking the leap to the cloud, it remains to be seen which of these organizations will conduct their migration seamlessly.  

This article looks at some of the best practices and necessary considerations when mapping out your Office 365 migration steps.

Why We Recommended an Office 365 Hybrid Migration

Unless your organization is a one-stop shop, the steps necessary to transition to the cloud will require a great deal of time and attention. 

When it’s finally time to migrate your on-premise systems to Office 365 in the cloud, there are some basic pre, during, and post-steps that should be followed to help create a seamless experience. 

The pre-work should consist of an evaluative mapping of existing systems to determine how the data should be moved. This process could take months, and if your IT administrator has never completed these tasks, then we highly recommend seeking the guidance of an IT consultancy like CWPS. This is challenging task even for veteran IT personnel.

Here’s what’s at stake: data can be lost, employees may not be able to answer email, calendars and scheduling could break down – and more. Office 365 is designed as a business communication hub. Just imagine what would happen if that hub turned into a broken wheel.

This is why we often recommend an Office 365 hybrid migration, where critical infrastructures are split between on-premise and cloud services, then migrated gradually instead of in one big bang.

Another important step is to consider the bandwidth that it takes to complete the migration. These cloud data migrations are typically bandwidth-intensive; dozens or hundreds of gigabytes or even terabytes are transmitting from on-site servers to the cloud. Remote offices may need to be flagged if the bandwidth available could cause a bottleneck. Fortunately, Microsoft offers an alternate delivery of data via hard disks to their data center. There are also some third-party tools that can help. 

This might be a logical time to consider redundancies in cloud connectivity and network links – a process that is never a bad idea. 

In addition to looking at the impact of migration on current functions, another question to consider is how will staff be trained on these new systems? The cloud deployment of Office 365 will bring new capabilities to teams. Any Office 365 migration steps should include training on the new features, which will improve team efficiencies and innovate workflows. 

Office 365 Migration Steps

The steps taken in order to migrate to Office 365 will vary a bit depending on the method of migration as well as other factors like number of users, current infrastructure, necessary integrations, etc. However, the steps will generally look like this: 

1. Communicate the change to users and verifying domain ownership.

2. Prepare the servers for cutover and creating empty mail-ready security groups in Office 365.

3. Create a migration endpoint by connecting Office 365 to an on-premise email system.

4. Migrate the mailboxes.

5. Provide the users with licenses.

6. Configure the domain to route directly to Office 365.

7. Verify that the routing changed, then deleting the cutover migration batch.

8. Complete post-migration tasks including assigning licenses, creating an auto discover DNS record, and decommissioning any on-premise Exchange servers.

9. Send a welcome message to new users with details on how to sign in and training tips.

But even this relatively simple process must include a great deal of planning to ensure it all rolls off without a hitch. Redmond Magazine published some great tips on ensuring a smooth transition a few years ago that still hold true today. They include:

1. Accurately estimating the migration time commitment for you, your staff, and for the data itself.

2. Don’t skip any steps related to establishing migration architecture to support the transition. For example, if you’re doing a staged migration, you’ll likely need Active Directory Federation Services running on a secondary server to help with identity management between environments.

3. Utilizing a step-by-step test migration process before the actual deployment.

4. Understanding the impact on all existing workflows, employee functions, and even nuances related to software or hardware versioning. Migration can break calendar sharing, for example, so thinking the process through must include those crucial connections to other applications.

5. Make sure your organization understands what is happening by using Microsoft’s Office 365 Health, Readiness, and Connectivity Checks tool. This tool has been helpful in ensuring that the proper configurations are in place before migration.

6. Have a migration plan in place for your clients, as well as all critical business functions. Check browser compatibility, and do a software inventory to head off any interoperability issues.

Taking the time to plan for any technology migration is a crucial part of any successful deployment. There are third-party organizations like IES and tools that have the experience to make this a smooth transition. Remember, this is your migration; you set the timeline and the process that will make – or break – the transition. If you’re feeling organizational pressure to make a fast transition, having a team like IES on your side could not only ensure the success of your migration, but a speedier process.

Office 365 Migration Steps: Some Technical Details to Consider 

In an Office 365 hybrid migration there are some special considerations for technology interfaces, including:

1. Determining the health of your Active Directory and the Azure Active Directory. This should include a process for provisioning new or decommissioning old users. Tackle any of these potential security vulnerabilities now as part of the migration or increase your risk later on. In an Office 365 hybrid migration there are some special considerations for technology interfaces, including:

2. Also look at the health of your Exchange Server. Clear any configuration issues, corruption, or sub-performance before the migration. Any of these issues could slow down or hamper the move to the cloud.

3. If you’re using SharePoint, consider the impact of current customizations that may not be supported in SharePoint Online. Review ownership of the content structures in SharePoint and consider whether the current architectures should be changed or cleansed before the migration.

4. Consider what hardware is tied to the Exchange architecture. For example on-premise email archiving platforms, scanners or other multi-function machines that move documents between staff members, will need to be reconfigured after Exchange Online is deployed. Review any CRM systems that are integrated with Outlook; these configurations will need to be readjusted.

5. Discuss and analyze your firewalls to ensure they fit the Office 365 requirements. For organizations with multiple offices and a dispersed network, there will be new rules related to how these structures are handled.

6. Determine what legacy equipment will be decommissioned. If you have current Microsoft or other licensures, make certain these are retired, along with the equipment, so the organization is eliminating unnecessary payments.

Another technical detail to consider when planning out your Office 365 migration steps is the issue of compliance. Depending upon the type of organization, there may be specific compliance rules related to email archiving or encryption that must be addressed. Is your organization governed by any local, state, or federal rules related to data at rest or data transmittal? Are there geographic limitations related to data storage that may necessitate a private versus a public cloud?

While the CWPS team has a great deal of experience with these issues, it is always a good idea to consult legal counsel around these areas. Talk with your counsel about Office 365 data privacy rules and whether the encryption found within the service also mesh with the compliance rules that govern your organization. If it does not, there are third-party encryption services that will help keep you legal. 

Best Practices for a Successful Office 365 Hybrid Migration 

Developing your unique Office 365 migration steps will help guarantee a seamless transition to the cloud. Any plan should have some standard steps to undertake across any type of organization, including: 

1. How the migration will be phased by department or by office. This phasing is crucial to ensuring your organization will continue to conduct business as usual even during the cloud migration.

2. Rules related to ownership of the various tasks and content affected by the migration.

3. The timeframes for migration and the release of online capabilities and functions offered to your staff.

4. A backup and recovery plan that will take the organization through the migration and beyond. If your organization hasn’t developed a business continuity plan, it should be a logical part of your Office 365 migration steps.

Third-party consultancies like CWPS have been through these migrations dozens of times. IT administrators rarely have thousands of hours of experience in analyzing, planning, and safely migrating the varying frameworks and configurations that make up the heart of your business. Contact us to avoid any pitfalls in your move to the cloud.

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Which Cloud Collaboration Tools are Best For SMBs?

2016-06-26-1466941803-9206234-424782cloudcomputing-thumb.jpgCollaboration between teams doesn’t have to be hard, even though employees can sometimes be spread all over the world. Thanks to the internet and a whole host of software-as-a-service tools, there are plenty of collaborative tools out there for businesses of all sizes.

But which of these tools are best for the small to mid-sized business? This article breaks out cloud collaboration tools by category and then looks at the characteristics that give SMBs the best ROI.

What to Look for in Cloud Collaboration Tools

These collaboration tools have been designed to provide low-cost solutions for some of the most common problems faced by business teams:

1. Miscommunication caused by dispersed teams that struggle to connect.

2. Documents that get buried in emails and are difficult to find.

3. Projects run over budget because they weren’t organized properly.

We’ve divided cloud collaboration tools into three categories to tackle these issues. We’ll look at our “good,” “better,” and “best” recommendations for communication, file management, and project management.

Communication Tools

Good: Amazon has a simple cloud email platform that has many of the same features as Microsoft Outlook. However, it integrates primarily with other AWS products.

Better: Google mimicked the Microsoft office products, creating Gmail, online document sharing and storage, and even their version of Excel.

Best: Office 365 collaboration tools in this category include some of the most well used and loved office software products in the world. From Outlook email, and PowerPoint, to Skype for Business, these products have cornered the SMB market.

File Management Tools

Good: Huddle is one of the latest disruptors in the file management space. It’s a low-cost cloud tool that offers file storage and document collaboration.

Better: Dropbox for Business syncs files across employee devices. Files can be permission-based and password protected.

Best: Microsoft collaboration tools include SharePoint and OneDrive. OneDrive, like DropBox, is more consumer focused, while SharePoint is much more sophisticated. From a file storage perspective, SharePoint is great – but it also acts as a document collaboration and project management tool all in one.

Project Management Tools

Good: Basecamp is a simple and easy to use project management platform that is a relatively inexpensive tool for SMBs. Users can set up tasks, store files, and communicate from one primary hub.

Better: Trello is a more sophisticated version of Basecamp. The software organizes projects by cards that have all the tasks in that one spot. There’s a drag and drop interface, and it has email notifications when documents are revised.

Best: Microsoft collaboration tools include SharePoint, which allows teams to create intranet sites by client or project. Each SharePoint site can hold everything related to that project, whether it’s a calendar or instant messaging, file storage or a task list.

These cloud collaboration tools bring the power of the enterprise to SMBs. Of course, our preferred pick is Microsoft. But what we like most about Microsoft products for SMBs is the ease of set up and guaranteed integration between these tools. This helps SMBs work a little smarter by reducing redundant tasks. 

Contact CWPS to find out how cloud collaboration tools could improve your business.


Protecting Your Network Against Cyber Attacks in 2018

network-security.jpegIt’s time to stop fooling around with your network security. 

2017 went down as the year of the cyber attack. Ransomware crashed hospitals and forced CEOs to pay a fee to unlock their computers. A DNS attack took down the Internet. The world’s largest credit reporting agency lost 143 million data records to hackers.

This has been escalating for years. Just look at some of the big names so suffer a breach:

  • Uber: 57 million-driver records hacked last year.
  • Yahoo: 3 billion accounts were hacked in 2016.
  • Anthem: 80 million personal records hacked in 2015
  • Target: 40 million credit and debit cards hacked in 2014.
  • Home Depot: 53 million emails were stolen in 2014.

Even the National Security Agency had 234 megabytes stolen in 2016.

With all these big organizations struggling to keep their data safe, you might be wondering how a small to mid-size business could even attempt to create an airtight security umbrella. Or, you may still have your head in the sand, thinking that your organization is too small even to be a blip on some hacker’s radar.

The Truth about 2018 Network Security

Here is the cybersecurity reality for 2018: If you’re vulnerable, someone is going to view you as a target. It takes just one employee to open a phishing email to unleash big problems in even the smallest of networks. 

We’ve seen five common business technology practices that open the doors to hackers:

  • Outdated antivirus software.
  • A lack of network monitoring to identify a cyber breach.
  • Failing to update security patches.
  • Using legacy or outdated software.
  • Poor password control.
  • Employee carelessness or mistakes.
  • Failure to backup data.

Many times hackers simply exploit these vulnerabilities in order to access your technology infrastructures with disastrous results. 

The good news is that cloud technology can now be leveraged to shore up your network vulnerabilities and turn the tide on cyber threats.

How to Protect Your IT Network in 2018

Creating and implementing a cybersecurity plan is a necessity for 2018. CWPS uses cloud-driven security tools to provide our clients with a next-generation security infrastructure that provides a barrier between you and cyber terrorists. We do this in four ways:

1. We prevent malicious attacks with a Secure Internet Gateway powered by Cisco.

2. We stop viruses with Cylance Antivirus Protection, which uses machine learning smart computing to stay two steps ahead of hackers.

3. We stop data breach with the Cisco firewall application.

4. Finally, we train and test your employees with KnowBe4 to help create a culture of cybersecurity that you can feel comfortable with.

These four steps will ensure the data security of your organization. The solutions are cloud-based, meaning they are extremely low cost while staying constantly updated in the cloud. There is no equipment to install and the CWPS Security Foundations bundle starts at just $15 per user per month. 

How much would a cyber breach cost your organization? In an environment where cyber terrorism is in the news almost every day, how can you afford not to have a conversation about cybersecurity?

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How Can the Cloud Improve Network Security?

cloud-security.jpegToday, when we say “computer network” we’re really talking about two different endpoints -- One network extends beyond the confines of your office and into the cloud. The other network starts where the cloud ends, at your on-premise computers, printers, and wireless in-office devices.

Network security must encompass both of these external and internal universes and all the different points where your employees are connecting; from a Starbucks Wi-Fi network to an unprotected employee-owned smartphone.

That’s what makes network security such a tricky endeavor; each touch point along these digital highways can lead a hacker back to your critical data. Today though, we can use the cloud to our advantage to improve network security, whether your business is small or global.

Network Security from your Office to the Cloud

Cloud service providers actually provide a good measure of security benefits to anyone utilizing software, platforms, or infrastructure in the cloud. Here are four examples of how cloud providers provide security:

1. Big industry players like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services handle security vulnerabilities with some high-power tools. This includes data encryption, file integrity monitoring, threat assessment, and mitigation.

2. These companies also have security teams devoted exclusively to monitoring cloud security – something small businesses and many mid-level companies simply can’t afford.

3. Security updates happen constantly in the cloud. On-premise applications require a technology staffer to physically complete the latest upgrade – in most cases, this constantly lags behind the latest threat.

4. If your data is stored in the cloud, backups also happen constantly which help ensure business continuity should a cyber attack occur. 

It’s important to understand that we’re talking about Internet security external to your office, from the moment you type in “www” to whatever site you’re surfing. But what about the internal security from your office laptop to your Wi-Fi connection? Turns out there are now cloud options for firewalls, antivirus, and more.

Improve Network Security at the Office

There are four crucial measures that are considered best practices for protecting data within the confines of your office.

A decade ago, these internal systems were all hardware hardwired components. Remember installing software via a CD-ROM? Each of these options was expensive and time-consuming to maintain properly, and if a component failed, expensive to replace.

Today, each of these security models can be cloud-based. As in all cloud models that makes for a less expensive option suitable for any size business. In the new era of cloud security, this means that you will have access to the latest security upgrades as they happen, making sure you are protected from any evolving threat.

Looking to improve network security? CWPS can show you how the cloud can improve your chances of surviving a cyber attack. Contact us today.

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Network Security for Small Business: Top 4 Tips

Itechnology-servers-server-159282.jpegf there’s one thing your small business needs to understand about cybersecurity in 2018 it is that you are a target for hackers. Small Business Trends shared some important statistics about a year ago that we should probably revisit in order to illustrate our point:

  • 43% of cyber attacks focus on small businesses.
  • 60% of small businesses fail after a cyber attack.
  • 48% of data breaches are tied to malicious software; the rest are tied to human error or system failure.
  • 14% of small businesses say their network security is “highly effective.”
  • After a cyber attack, small businesses spent an average of $879,582 on recovering their data and replacing technology.

Despite these startling statistics, the same study indicated that only 51% of small businesses are allocating any budget toward lessening their risks.

There is one piece of good news in all this gloomy cybersecurity news: there are steps that small businesses can take in order to stay safe.

Best Cybersecurity Tips for Small Business

Cybersecurity is no longer inaccessible to the small business because of tight budgets. Small businesses can now take advantage of the same cloud models that have made software tools both accessible and affordable to even start-up companies.

We have four crucial components to a robust security plan for the small business IT infrastructure. Our best recommendations include:

First, establishing a secure firewall with content filtering, centralized management, and intrusion prevention to help control who and what are accessing your network.

Second, applying top-of-the-line antivirus software that unleashes intelligent automation to respond to cybersecurity threats before a data breach occurs.

Third, using an Internet gateway that blocks malicious sites before the surfer can cause harm, while applying ad and malware blocking, content filtering, protection against botnets, and more.

Fourth, creating security awareness by providing ongoing cybersecurity training and testing for all employees.

This four-pronged approach provides your small business with a robust security framework that can defend against most threats.

While executing these tips may seem like a huge expense, advances in technology have also made security more affordable. Cloud based security solutions, for example, makes it much easier and practical for small businesses to protect their data.

Why Security in the Cloud?

Applying security in the cloud means that your small business will mitigate cybersecurity risks. Some of the benefits of cloud security include:

  • Lower costs
  • Scalability to add more users quickly
  • Constantly upgraded as new threats emerge
  • Easy go-live
  • Peace of mind

CWPS has teamed up with some of the biggest names in the technology sector and cybersecurity industry, including Cisco and Cylance, to provide even the smallest client with the biggest of tools to protect their data.

The CWPS cloud security bundle can be configured to fit your unique situation and can be managed through one secure portal. Contact us to find out more.

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What are the Four Must-Have Security Components for Your Network?

security-protection-anti-virus-software-60504 (2).jpegWhen it comes to cyber-attacks, 2017 was a benchmark year, both in terms of the number of attacks and in the size of the attacks.  It is believed by many in the cyber security field that 2018 will be even worse. This makes cybersecurity a top of mind issue for most CIOs and business owners.

Because our technology infrastructures are both diverse and widespread, there isn’t really one security tool that covers all of the bases. However, we think there are crucial elements for establishing and maintaining security hardware, software, and protocols to shore up even the weakest of network defenses at every touch point on your network.

A One-Size Security Architecture Doesn’t Fit All

Not only are all security tools not created equal, the specific network interfaces and needs of an organization differ. That calls for an IT assessment as a first step to determine the maturity of the security protocols in place, the ways users interact with it, and the subsequent risks inherent in the architecture. Finding out the current state of your security solutions, along with the gaps in coverage, is an important first step toward creating a robust, secure IT infrastructure.

While each scenario should be handcrafted to fit the business, we do believe there are four crucial components to any security architecture. They include:

1. Web filtering and intrusion prevention. This is particularly crucial thanks to the Internet. That’s why the Cisco Umbrella is so important; it’s a cloud based DNS with web filtering that blocks infections before they even cross your digital doorstep. For example, an employee can click on a fraudulent website, but the umbrella will prevent access, protecting your network from harm.

2. Updated anti-malware software. This solution should constantly scan the IT network for anything that appears suspicious. Software such as CylancePROTECT use the latest in machine learning and artificial intelligence to provide advanced threat protection across your network.

3. Cyber Security Training. As this article in Network World suggests, educating your staff on cybersecurity is the number one thing your organization can do to help prevent cyberattacks. KnowBe4 offers an online assessment of your employee’s understanding of security risks, simulated testing on their likelihood of falling prey to a phishing scam, and then training to help create a culture of cybersecurity in your organization.

4. Next-Gen Firewalls. The latest generation of firewall designed to reduce attacks by controlling the applications that run on your network. Cisco Meraki lets administrators sift the applications accessing your network, allowing them to customize permissions.

Today’s multi-layered security architecture must go beyond the firewalls of the past. These tools provide a redundant framework to shore up the people, processes, and technology that could allow bad actors access to your critical infrastructures.

Together, these four tools make up the CWPS cloud security infrastructure, which can be scaled to the smallest business or the largest enterprise. No matter what your industry, these are the tools needed to prepare for the uncertain times ahead. From phishing scams to social engineering, the threat is real and growing across the globe. Every organization must respond to protect their digital frameworks or run the risk of being tomorrow’s headlines.

Contact CWPS to talk about your security infrastructure – we can help.

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What is a Best-in-Class Digital Security Strategy?

security-protectionWith myriad threats looming around our technology infrastructures in 2018, mapping out a best in class IT security plan is an imperative. That’s because protecting your intellectual capital, client data, and corporate reputation is paramount in an era of Equifax hacks and ransomware bullies.

As the digital threats evolve, what strategies must a company have in place to protect their assets?

Cybersecurity Strategies 101

The best IT security strategy for 2018 will encompass the agility to morph with the evolving threat landscape. Any business continuity or disaster recovery plan must be a living document that constantly responds to new threats while proactively defending against those “oldie but goodie” scams and vulnerabilities designed to crop up and cause harm.

There are four critical steps to developing this strategy, and four cybersecurity technologies designed to provide a best in class IT security experience. Let’s start with the steps to developing a cybersecurity strategy:

  1. Understanding the risk. This means assessing everything from the technology to the human workflows that can create unintended vulnerabilities in your infrastructure.
  2. Integrate cybersecurity across every aspect of your organization. These plans must include physical security of infrastructures along with technical security and training in the risks for employees.
  3. Use a protective and proactive monitoring approach to guard against breach incidents. This includes setting policies for handling data safely and a way to monitor employees from wherever they’re accessing the network.
  4. Plan for a breach. The threats to your infrastructure are so high, that some IT pundits are suggesting it’s not a matter of if your company’s IT architecture will be compromised – it’s a matter of when. Establishing protocols for the effective mitigation of cyber attacks means you will be able to respond quickly and effectively to shore up the breach and regain control.

While these planning steps are all important, they must be combined with the right technology for the one-two punch that will effectively knock out any cyber threat. CWPS recommends the following four best-in-class tech tools to make your infrastructure as airtight as possible:

  1. Establishing a secure Internet gateway to extend your protection beyond the confines of your office to cover users wherever they are accessing your network.
  2. Protect network endpoints as a secondary protection in case the hackers make it past your first line of DNS defenses. This requires an intelligent antivirus solution that uses machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence to monitor and respond to digital threats.
  3. Creating a culture of cybersecurity requires training for every employee that touches your network. Since most viruses evolve from a simple phishing email, helping your employees understand the risk will also make you less vulnerable.
  4. Launch a best-in-class firewall that controls all of the applications intersecting with your network.

CWPS has taken steps to provide our clients with a first-class solution to today’s cyber worries. To find out more about the CWPS Cloud Assist Security Foundations Bundle, contact us today.

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Pros and Cons of SharePoint for Small Business

IMG_1047.jpgSharePoint is a great tool for team collaboration. It’s the unquestioning ruler of the intranet – those internal company websites that are perfect for project-related communications.

SharePoint is not only a large file storage tool; it also was designed to bring together dispersed teams. But there are pros and cons related to using this robust software tool. While big businesses use SharePoint to facilitate communication, is SharePoint really the right choice for the non-enterprise level organization? Is SharePoint too much of a good thing for an office with less than 25-employees?

This article seeks to define the benefits and drawbacks of SharePoint for small business. Let’s look more closely at whether SharePoint is right for your team. 

SharePoint for Small Business? 

It’s easy to define the benefits of SharePoint for small business. SharePoint Online offers the affordability of a monthly subscription service that can be accessed from any digital device. Documents can easily be uploaded and then worked on by multiple users without the traditional version control issues that plague many collaborative teams. An internal website can be set up that is client or project specific, and all communications can be organized and stored in that single location.

But these pros could quickly turn into cons if there are only a few members of your office team. For example, while SharePoint helps eliminate traditional hard copy printouts of documents, your organization may still prefer to do business this way.

But even the smallest business would likely benefit from the mobile access inherent in web applications. SharePoint for small business allows any size organization to take advantage of some of the best tools on the market to improve office and project productivity.

It is precisely the communications features of SharePoint that could be of particular benefit to small businesses. For example, SharePoint offers social networking tools like chat that will let teams and individuals talk online instead of by phone. If your small business has employees that travel, SharePoint offers project-specific intranet sites where teams can engage in project-specific communications from anywhere in the world.

One clear benefit of SharePoint for small business is the integration with Microsoft Office tools. Many small businesses rely heavily on Office for daily tasks from spreadsheets to sales presentations. Adding an online SharePoint subscription is immediate; existing MS Office tools are already integrated with SharePoint.

But there are also drawbacks related to SharePoint for small business to consider. One is simply that the platform may be too sophisticated for what your business currently needs. For example, the SharePoint search feature requires some administrative customization that small business teams may not be comfortable using. If this is the case, SharePoint simply won’t be optimized and the end user may be frustrated in the long-term. 

Conclusions: SharePoint for Small Business

So, is SharePoint right for your small business? The answer is: it depends. Typically we see the small business owner who does not have access to an IT team overwhelmed by the sheer volume of SharePoint features. In these environments, we recommend an online subscription to Office365, which allows document storage in the OneDrive.

Having the expertise to set up SharePoint is an important part of optimizing this tool. If you have a small to mid-sized business that is ready to upgrade to a more powerful document collaboration and communication tool, CWPS’ Cloud Assist 365 is the easiest way to get started. Contact CWPS to learn more.

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