Shirien Elamawy

Shirien Elamawy is CWPS’s Marketing Manager living in the D.C. area. She is known by some of her peers as a “YouTuber” for having amassed over 30,000 subscribers and millions of views on her channel. You can follow her @ShirienEG.
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Is Public Cloud Computing Safe for My Business?

network-2402637_960_720.jpgPublic cloud computing, which encompasses the storage of data and the accessing of software tools on the Internet, is exploding exponentially. Gartner says cloud adoption will increase another 18% this year, making for a global market that tops $246 billion.

This growth, after a decade of Internet usage, has disrupted nearly every industry in every market, signals that the last enterprise-level holdouts in the most traditional of businesses are now adopting cloud service models. Banks, hospitals, and CPAs are all moving to store their data in the cloud while moving legacy IT systems off site.

We already know the benefits of cloud computing -- characterized by easy-to-use, affordable subscription models that you can access from anywhere, the cloud is today’s most popular business model. While cloud adoption is on the rise, there are still those that ask themselves the same old question: Is public cloud computing safe for my business?

Here’s why public cloud computing is usually the safest option for your business today.

Cloud Security isn’t an Oxymoron

We get it. Giving up your data to a remote server somewhere feels risky. But cloud providers encrypt your data while it’s in transit and at rest on their servers. Cloud providers have hundreds of mechanisms in place to both monitor data for breach and provide backup resources in the event of an outage.

Compare that to a typical office, which often lacks the redundant resources that you find in large data centers. Too, even the largest enterprise organizations often lack dedicated security technicians devoted exclusively to monitoring and mitigating cyber threats.

The point here is that hackers are constantly creating new ways to target your data. If you fail to keep your legacy platforms updated against these threats, you leave your business vulnerable to the next ransomware or virus that is unleashed. All it takes is one employee to click on a phishing email and you’re in serious trouble. With the cloud, you don’t have to wait for your IT team to upload a security upgrade. Upgrades in the cloud are seamless, constant, and ever vigilant.

Here’s an example: In May this year, 16 U.K. hospitals were shut down by ransomware because internal IT teams failed to upgrade to the latest operating systems. Could public cloud computing models have prevented this crisis?

When taken in this context, you start to realize that the cloud is safer than housing servers in the basement of your business.

Public, Private, or Hybrid – CWPS

When was the last time your business had a cyber security assessment? Have you considered public cloud computing as an option to help cut costs and improve the security of your legacy systems? Did you know there are alternatives to public cloud computing that could include a private or hybrid cloud?

CWPS is devoted exclusively to helping you answer these and other burning questions related to the streamlining of your crucial business functions. Contact us when you’re ready to discuss the security of your data and how cloud computing could change your business for the better.

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Cloud as a Service: Where Office 365 Fits In

carl-heyerdahl-181868.jpgBusiness Insider broke the news with this headline: Microsoft is bundling up all its best stuff in a bid to overtake Amazon in the cloud wars. They described Microsoft’s new cloud as a service bundle in a way that made you think of cake and ice cream – a delicious and palate pleasing duo for businesses hungry to improve their efficiencies.

It’s true that we’ve had customers salivating over the new offering. That’s because this bundle of services was designed specifically for the small size business looking for the benefits of the cloud along with the best technology and tools that Microsoft can offer.

What’s Different about Cloud as a Service?

Let’s give you some backstory in case you’re too embarrassed to acknowledge that you never quite figured out what the cloud is. In fact, you probably use the cloud every day. The cloud is a form of computing in which data and applications are housed on a remote network, not a local network. The ‘net has enabled software geniuses like Microsoft to offer software-as-a-service (SaaS) in the cloud instead of requiring you to buy a box of discs and install it on your office computer.

Cloud as a service models can encompass everything from your email to document storage to software, and much more. It simply means that your data is securely stored in one of Microsoft’s mega-server farms, where it is encrypted, stored behind firewalls, and monitored 24/7/365.

Cloud as a service models allow even the smallest office to access some really big tools, like Microsoft Office 365, via a low-cost monthly subscription. You don’t need to buy any hardware, just connect to the cloud platform. You also don’t have to worry about security – patches are happening constantly in the cloud, where you have a team of experts monitoring constantly for data breach and security threats.

Cloud as a service models are also characterized by being scalable. This means you can add or subtract subscriptions, as you need them. It’s particularly valuable for companies that have seasonable up and down trends.

Benefits of Office 365 Cloud as a Service

Cloud models are also typically easy to install and deploy. They are interoperable with other software you may be using and are very mobile-friendly. All of these characteristics make for a particularly useful, robust, and intuitive set of software services that benefits can business from. Office 365 has been repackaged in the cloud with a set of tools designed for your business. Microsoft has been paying close attention to the needs, wants, and priorities of their customers. This bundle includes the Office 365 productivity suite for the cloud, the Windows 10 operating system, and all kinds of tools for your IT administrators to play with to customize and streamline this cloud as a service model.

Speaking of customization, CWPS is a leading provider of Microsoft managed services. We can help your team with customized packages to benefit your business. CWPS can also help with security and training to optimize your software and hardware investments. Contact us for a demo of the new Office 365 cloud as a service today.

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 Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

How to Develop an Effective Cyber Security Strategy

igor-ovsyannykov-277756.jpgUnderstanding and adapting to today’s threat landscape means developing a robust cyber security strategy. It doesn’t matter if your business has five employees or 5,000, developing a strategy to prevent cyber breaches is job one for today’s IT professional.

That’s because the threat has multiplied exponentially along with our network usage. From new trends in malware, ransomware worms, DDoS attacks using IoT devices, to cyber terrorism as an act of warfare, the threats are real, evolving, and very dangerous.

How can a cyber security strategy help to mitigate these risks and prevent a data breach?

Old School Cyber Security Strategy Versus 2017

Traditionally, cyber security encompassed a wide or local area network with static assets and a concentric ring of protection around them. That was so 2006. Today, our IT networks span an array of digital devices that access our internal corporate networks. From Internet of Things (IoT) devices to employee handhelds, the IT ecosystem has evolved into multiple touch points across a virtually unlimited spectrum of entry points. LANs and WANs are giving way to cloud computing environments that exist wherever and whenever we want to work.

While firewalls, intrusion prevention, encryption, and two-factor authentication are important, even blockchain has shifted into the spotlight as part of an evolving series of cyber security tools. Information Age suggests that “Cyber security is not an IT issue, it is a business-critical issue.”

If you’re not worried about this new infrastructure and how to protect it, you are simply not paying attention to the risk.

The Future State of Your Cyber Security Strategy

For small to medium sized businesses without dedicated security specialists, building a cyber security strategy can be difficult, if not near impossible. Today’s IT environment requires working with a managed security services provider to mitigate your risk.

A managed service firm can assess and then develop a cyber security strategy that includes a business continuity and remediation plan in the event of a breach. Crowe Horwath says an effective cyber security strategy must encompass the people, processes, and technology that make up today’s sprawling IT infrastructures.

Specifically, look for a plan that:

  • Includes a governance structure to monitor the infrastructure and the data it houses.
  • Is comprehensive in scope to include every device that accesses the infrastructure.
  • Includes a cloud based DNS and other tools in order to filter network activity and block potential threats.
  • Offers threat modeling, breach mitigation, and a risk analysis as part of the process.
  • Has incident response and business continuity planning.
  • Features dedicated cyber security resources, not just an in-house IT team.

Creating an effective cyber security strategy should include a process of looking at the network from the outside, as a hacker would, searching for any points of vulnerabilities and then creating a risk mitigation procedure to shore up weak areas.

We believe an effective cyber security strategy is a living document that will evolve along with changes to the threat matrix. Testing the plan, identifying ways to improve, and engaging employees in the success of the venture all will create a more effective implementation of real cyber security for your business. Contact CWPS today to find out how we can help you mitigate your cyber risk.

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Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

How to Prevent Phishing Scams and Create a Culture of Security in Your Office

Defend against phishing.jpgIf you’re concerned about cyber security then phishing should be high on your worry list. That’s because phishing is one of the most common causes of cyber security breaches on the planet. In order to remain vigilant against this hacker’s technique, your entire workforce must be aware of how to prevent phishing, and the consequences of falling prey to an attack.

Let’s look at creating an office culture that focuses on to preventing these cyber threats.

Phishing 101

Phishing typically takes the form of fake emails designed to unleash a virus in your computer or steal personal information. Global security firm Symantec says 54.3% of all emails generated are spam with a potentially malicious intent.

Some of the phishing techniques today include:

  • Embedding a link in an email that takes you to an external site and asks you to enter information.
  • Attaching a file to an email that spreads a virus.
  • Requesting sensitive information via faked credentials that look very, very real.

Because these techniques are designed to exploit the individual within your company, it is imperative that your entire team understands how to prevent phishing attacks and what to do if they make a mistake and the unthinkable happens.

Training Staff in How to Prevent Phishing 

Creating a cultural emphasis on how to prevent phishing starts with training and education. The first step is to teach anyone that receives email in your organization how to recognize a potential phishing email. Here’s what to look for:

  • The email will likely be from a company you’re familiar with; it will have an easily recognizable logo stolen from a real business.
  • Do you see misspellings in the email? That’s always a red flag!
  • Never click on a link in an email. We used to suggest that you rest your mouse on the link (without clicking!) to see a string of digits that in no way match the URL of the supposed sender of the email to prove it’s a phishing scam. Today, it’s not even safe to do that; there’s a line of malware (viruses) now that have a new type of link. If you hover over the URL containing Zusy malware, it will release the virus.
  • If you receive an .exe file, that file is likely a virus just waiting to be unleashed.
  • If the web address (URL) resembles a popular company but the spelling is slightly off – it’s a scam.

Barkly reminds us the number one vehicle for computer viruses is email. The Verizon 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report said two-thirds of all the malware on infected computers in 2016 came from phishing emails. 

Is Your Business Prepared?

In addition to training your team to be alert for phishing scams, make sure your operating systems; firewalls and security intrusion systems are fully up to date. Make sure your IT team is backing up all of your data frequently. Also, always encrypt sensitive company information. 

CWPS offers security training in how to prevent phishing and other cyber security threats. Businesses depend on our managed services that include cyber security intrusion monitoring and mitigation. Contact us and keep your business safe.

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Markus Spiske

What is a Cloud Automation Framework and How Can It Help Your Business?

Hybrid_Cloud_Solution-1.jpgA cloud automation framework is a simple framework that automates certain operations within the cloud-based infrastructure. Cloud automation frameworks are generally split into three separate modules: infrastructure automation, deployment automation, and self-healing automation.

The Types of Cloud Automation

Infrastructure automation is one of the most basic types of cloud automation; it involves creating a template for infrastructure that can then be easily replicated and deployed. A little more complex is deployment automation, through processes are automatically deployed throughout the system, and manual effort is reduced. Finally, self-healing automation involves finding errors within the system and correcting them automatically, though those who are responsible for managing the infrastructure will still be notified of the errors. 

Cloud automation offers better control over a system without consuming a large amount of additional resources. Systems have grown in complexity, and there are now a lot of moving parts; by automating the monitoring of these systems, companies can ensure that nothing is forgotten or overlooked. 

The Benefits of a Cloud Automation Framework

Fewer accidents. A system that is automated is going to perform the same task at the same time in the same way -- repeatedly. Through automation, you eliminate the possibility for human error... and that can be incredibly useful, especially as your organization grows.

Lower cost. Cloud automation frameworks have lower costs associated with them, as less administrative and IT time needs to be spent on these now automated tasks. Instead, the resources that would have gone to these automated tasks can go to improving upon operations and to revenue generating activities.

Better scalability. When businesses grow, they often no longer have the time to spend on daily tasks. Automating these tasks creates an organization that can scale up without having to worry about allocating an ever-increasing amount of money and time.

Improved security. Systems that can detect and mitigate their own threats -- by self-healing or auto-correcting -- are systems that are far more secure. As systems grow in complexity, it becomes more difficult to identify potential threats.

Automating your business practices will save you both time and money. In your daily operations, your administrative time will be reduced. In extreme scenarios, automation can avoid costly mistakes. Either way, though, actually attempting to automate your business can be a little overwhelming. CWPS can help. Contact CWPS if you want to explore areas in which automation can help your bottom line. 

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Cloud Collaboration Tools: Making Sense of Your Options

cloud collaboration toolsCollaboration is arguably the most important component to any business. If employees aren't able to work together effectively, they aren't able to get work done. But the proliferation of out-of-office workers, remote employees, and "house" calls has also made it difficult for employees to be able to collaborate effectively. This is where cloud-based tools come in. Cloud-based tools let employees collaborate as though they were working in the same office, even from halfway across the world. Here are some of the best options for cloud collaboration tools.

Types of Cloud Collaboration Tools

Cloud-Based Chat Utilities

The ability to send and receive messages on the fly is incredibly important for employees who are on the go or out of the office. Yammer, Slack, and Skype are all utilities that allow employees to chat while on the job, while also keeping logs so that they can refer to the information that they need later on. Microsoft's Skype also functions as a high-quality video chatting system and is now integrated into Office 365 for easier use. Other utilities, such as Gmail, provide an online chat utility associated with an email account. 

Cloud-Based Web Conferencing Utilities

It often becomes necessary for multiple employees to be able to communicate as though they are in the same room. Platforms such as Office 365 and Cisco WebEx have extensive support for web conferencing, allowing meetings with just a few people to dozens at the same time. 

Cloud-Based Productivity Utilities

There are many productivity solutions also available, such as Evernote for notes, or Prezi for clear and concise online presentations. For Microsoft Office 365, PowerPoint and Outlook notes can both provide similar feature sets. Cloud-based productivity solutions are particularly effective because they can be used anywhere the employee goes. 

Cloud-Based Storage Utilities

OneDrive, DropBox, and Google Storage are all examples of cloud-based storage utilities. Cloud-based storage makes it easier for employees to access the documents that they need, often with the references and notes that they require from other employees. OneDrive, in particular, is linked together with the rest of the Microsoft suite, creating an all-in-one system through which documents can be created and shared. Cloud-based storage utilities can often provide redundant backup copies of files and can make it easier to share files with clients and vendors. 

The cloud has many options for those who are looking to improve upon collaboration. Of these tools, Microsoft Office 365 provides one of the most complete environments. If you're interested in the power of Microsoft 365 or simply want to learn more about cloud collaboration tools, ask us about our Cloud Assist 365.

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Saas Vs On Premise Monitoring: What You Need To Know

1._cloud_to_cloud_backup.jpgIf you want to keep your system up and running, you need monitoring. But should you invest in on-premise monitoring or SaaS monitoring? More enterprises today are moving towards SaaS monitoring solutions -- both because of their cost and their versatility. SaaS solutions are preferable to on-premise solutions in virtually every way. With rare exception, they should be able to save your organization both time and money.

SaaS Solutions Have Better Resources

A SaaS solution is able to leverage the power of cloud-based resources; in other words, they can scan faster, more reliably, and more thoroughly. An on-premise solution is always going to be limited by the company's resources, which could be a problem if the organization has legacy equipment or simply doesn't have the speed. Many cyber exploits rely upon the failure of monitoring solutions, whether it's through brute force flooding or recent exploits that have not yet been caught. A SaaS solution will usually be able to stop these exploits dead in their tracks, as it will have superior resources and be up-to-date on its alerts. 

SaaS Solutions Are Autonomous

SaaS solutions are autonomous compared to the rest of the infrastructure. If an on-premise monitoring solution is connected to a system that goes down, there may not be the appropriate alerts sent out to others. SaaS solutions are on a completely different system, freeing them up to respond to issues that would otherwise take the system down entirely. 

SaaS Solutions Come With Help

A SaaS solution is going to be associated with a 24/7 support group that can help your organization should any unexpected threats come in. SaaS support can provide expertise and knowledge regarding these SaaS solutions, due to their familiarity with the technology. On the other hand, on-premise monitoring has to be maintained solely by the organization's employees, who may not necessarily be well-versed in the system and who may be costly to employ. 

So when should you have an on-premise monitoring solution? Very rarely. On-premise monitoring solutions only make sense for the largest of enterprises, and even then, they only make sense for unique IT infrastructures. SaaS monitoring will be most useful for the vast majority of organizations. Logic Monitor provides a premiere SaaS monitoring solution that can be tailored to businesses of any size and industry. If you want to transition to a SaaS -- or want more information about Logic Monitor -- you can contact CWPS now.

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6 Tips for Securing Your Cloud Computing Solutions

nature-laptop-outside-macbook.jpgCloud solutions are more effective, reliable, and affordable -- but security can still be a concern. Cloud computing solutions need to be secured differently from traditional on-premise infrastructures, however. and securing them improperly can lead to significant issues. Here are some important tips for keeping your cloud computing solution secure. 

Securing Your Cloud Computing Solutions

1. Get your team on board. Your employees are likely going to be your biggest security risk. Training, seminars, and lessons may all be necessary to ensure that they are current on modern security standards. When employees are trained in security procedures, they are more likely to be active and engaged with security maintenance

2. Invest in identity management and authentication services. Cloud services are highly accessible and this can be a double-edged sword. In order to secure your cloud-service, you need to control your credentials. Identity management and authentication services should be used to secure the entirety of a system, so that a single log on is used and needed. 

3. Always have a very clear chain of command. Employees should always be aware of their own responsibilities during a security event and the chain of command that flows above them. Employees are more likely to be responsive to security risks if they know exactly who is responsible for each security issue. 

4. Invest in a layered security platform. A layered security platform will divide your organization's infrastructure based on priority, thereby ensuring that the most important items are behind multiple layers of security -- without compromising the performance of other components of the system. 

5. Restrict permissions to those absolutely necessary. Every employee should have only the permissions that are necessary for them to successfully complete their work. When employees leave the organization, they should have their permissions changed -- and when they move from department to department, the same thing should happen. Restricting permissions isn't about trusting employees; it's about reducing the amount of damage should their login information fall into the wrong hands.

6. Encrypt files and backup files.  Any copy of a company's files needs to be treated with the exact same level of security as the originals. Your cloud computing solution should encrypt all of its files and its backup files. Even if there is a security breach, the company will be able to recover. 

Securing a cloud computing solution isn't as difficult as it used to be -- in fact, thanks to the extensive resources the cloud environment offers, it doesn't have to be difficult at all. CWPS can help your organization in building your security from the ground up, to defeat even the most persistent of cyber attacks.

Guide to Keeping company's data safe

What is Edge Computing and Why Does It Rely on the Cloud?

cloud_computing_for_businesses.jpgEdge computing is now being touted as the future of data processing. But what exactly is edge computing and how can it benefit organizations? Edge computing is considered to be a cloud-reliant service that provides better data processing for organizations at a lower cost. At the same time, edge computing may also lead to certain potential drawbacks, such as security issues.

What is Edge Computing?

In traditional infrastructures, computing is done at the center of a cloud or of a data warehouse. With edge computing, the computing is done at the very edge of the network -- at a multitude of endpoints. By pushing data processing to all of these individual endpoints, the system is able to allocate its computing closer to the actual resource of its data. Edge computing is currently being used to optimize many existing systems, both in terms of cost-effectiveness and speed. The benefits of edge computing are simple: it provides easy and powerful computing services through resources that would often otherwise go unused.

But there are some security challenges that are involved in edge computing. Because this type of computing requires numerous endpoints, it has the same drawback as the Internet of Things: it makes it very difficult for a system to be secured. As a result, advanced security systems and endpoint protection suites such as Cylance are practically essential for edge computing. These suites are able to regularly scan endpoint systems and detect and mitigate issues as they arise.

Why is Edge Computing Reliant Upon the Cloud?

Though the cloud is not strictly necessary for edge computing, on a practical level the easiest way to achieve such a system. Edge devices can be secured directly through a cloud-based infrastructure, and they can be updated, monitored, and analyzed through the cloud. Edge computing does require a spectacularly large number of endpoints, and because of that, it requires a consolidated system. As IoT devices become more common and cloud solutions grow in effectiveness, edge computing will become more popular.

Edge computing is still a fairly new technology that is being explored; consequently, some companies may not feel comfortable implementing edge computing or may worry about potential security issues. For these companies that need endpoint protection, CWPS is standing by to help.

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Is a Cloud to Cloud Backup Necessary? (Answer: Yes)

pexels-photo-541522.jpegWith 90% of leaders within the IT industry now transitioning their backup and recovery services to the cloud, it's time for many businesses to follow suit. Though cloud solutions are redundant, backups are still incredibly important -- and a cloud-to-cloud backup solution eliminates an organization's reliance upon a single cloud-service provider. Here are a few reasons why a cloud-to-cloud backup solution is likely the best option for your organization.

The Benefits of a Cloud-to-Cloud Backup Solution

Rapid deployment of your data. Through a cloud-to-cloud backup solution, data can be re-deployed after being damaged within a matter of minutes. Many cloud backup solutions feature one-click restoration so that your organization will be back in business nearly immediately. Downtime costs a business an average of $5,000 to $8,000 a minute, depending on size.

Off-server storage of data. What happens if your cloud service simply shuts down overnight? A business should never be too reliant on any single service. Having cloud backups available means that the business can continue its work elsewhere even if their cloud solutions disappear.

Cheaper costs. Storing data on a cloud server is far less expensive than having to maintain and store this data in on-premise equipment. Businesses can then funnel these costs into other areas where the business requires an investment. 

Protection against threats. Threats such as ransomware have become very popular -- it is the #1 security-related concern for many businesses, and nearly half of all businesses have been attacked by it. Having accessible backups is one of the few and most effective ways that ransomware can be mitigated. 

Automated services. Cloud backups will take backups automatically and can encrypt them through the use of the advanced system resources available. Otherwise, an organization will be responsible for backing up their data, which could potentially be saved with glitches or errors. 

For small businesses, cloud-to-cloud backup solutions are the most versatile and cost-effective options available. A small business can easily automate their backup system, taking advantage of a cloud solution's ability to encrypt and store redundant copies of their data. Though a cloud solution will theoretically be able to back itself up redundantly, there can still be issues that arise that require an organization to have additional backup copies -- such as ransomware or other cyber-attacks. In these situations, a cloud-to-cloud backup solution is necessary for peace of mind.