The Importance of Cloud Computing to Your Cyber Security Strategy

security-cyber.jpegMoving your data to the cloud is more secure than keeping it on-premise – not less. That’s why it’s increasingly the foundation of a cyber security strategy for a growing number of businesses.

Cloud computing has been around for more than a decade, and service providers have developed some unprecedented techniques using sophisticated IT security detection and mitigation processes that are simply not within reach of most businesses.

From the physical security of servers in data warehouses to using machine learning algorithms to detect network probes by hackers, today’s cloud service providers meet and exceed all of your expectations for an airtight cloud implementation.

On-Premise Doesn’t Always Mean More Secure

For years, the common perception is that an on-premise implementation is always the most secure way to keep your data safe. The problem is that this is not always that case. All it takes is one phishing email or the failure to update an important piece of software for your data to be breached. All we need to do is name some of the latest corporate security breaches: Equifax, Target, Sony, JPMorgan Chase -- and you’ll start to understand that on-premise solutions aren’t always able to defend against cyber security threats.

An article from the Columbia Business School spells it out:

The truth is that applications and data maintained in the cloud can be
more secure than data held in on-premises corporate systems. That’s
because moving to the right kind of advanced cloud system represents
a more dynamic approach to risk. The security of the barriers is
based not just on keeping people out, but on watching people who come in.
You learn from every use of your data, and even from any attempted attack.

Your Cyber Security Strategy Should Start with Cloud Computing

You already understand that cloud computing models lower costs, increase accessibility, and improve the scalability of your most basic functions. But that scalability means massive computing horsepower– and that same bandwidth is important for monitoring cyber threats.

If you have big data, you need the kind of big security found in cloud models. Not only will your data be housed in secure data warehouses with restricted access to physically keep your data safe, but there are also software and hardware controls in place to monitor the network 24/7/365.

Cloud providers also utilize advanced monitoring solutions in order to keep an eye on your data and defend against threats. In some cases, these providers use machine learning algorithms to detect and deter threats as they arise. Picture computer code that runs pattern recognition to look for behaviors across all corporate activities from marketing and ecommerce to logistics and customer care. Cloud computing models monitor and learn from the behavior of anyone that interacts with your company.

Also, your on-premise server room can’t always keep up with the changing threats. With the cloud, vulnerabilities are detected and patched immediately, which is crucial to mitigating security risks. Remediation is as close to instantaneous as you can get. 

These are all great reasons why your cyber security strategy should lean heavily on cloud models. To find out how your business can migrate and secure your data in the cloud, contact CWPS today.

Guide to Keeping company's data safe

Public Cloud Computing with Office 365 – How Can It Help my Small Business?

T1NUHZ0SU7.jpgYou probably remember when Microsoft cornered the market with their office suite. Today, Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint remain the go-to office tools for every size and type of business.

The next generation of Microsoft tools is here; Office 365 in the cloud is designed perfectly for your small business. Industry leaders are saying that “Microsoft Gets it Right with Office 365.”

Let’s look at public cloud computing with Office 365 and the specific ways it can help your small business stay competitive in today’s marketplace.

Office 365 – Tools You Can Use

Microsoft has been the leader in office applications for years, and with the Office 365 release, they’ve packaged all of the most useful resources into one cloud-driven application.

The first benefit of Office 365 is the same as any other public cloud service; you do not have to install and maintain expensive hardware. You don’t have to purchase a firewall or malware protection; your cloud provider handles all this, saving you time and money. These services are accessed via a monthly subscription, which makes for a budget-friendly line item in your expenses column.

Another benefit is increasing productivity that comes from accessing data storage and office tools all in one place. Your Office 365 subscription comes with SharePoint, which serves as a central hub for data sharing. You won’t have to worry about version control because SharePoint handles versioning along with restricting access so simultaneous edits can’t occur.

Your small office will also benefit from being able to access work from anywhere there is an Internet connection and on any digital device. Email, document sharing, conferencing, and office tools are now all in one place and accessible at any time or from any location, resulting in improved collaboration.

The time to deploy software is crucial in any office setting, but particularly in the smaller office, where workers tend to wear multiple hats. Office 365 has the same familiar feel of the Microsoft products you’ve been using for years, which will help you get up and running quickly on your new service. The user interface (UI) on Office 365 is instinctive, clean, and efficient.

Compliance is another important benefit for small offices seeking to engage in government contracts, or medical offices concerned about HIPAA. Microsoft Office 365 is fully compliant with ISO 27001 standards, SAS70 II and I audits, HIPAA, FERPA, and have received the EU Safe Harbor seal.

Office 365 – Security in the Cloud

Despite a mass migration to cloud technology, there are still holdouts that say the cloud is not safe. But TechRepublic highlights the security of Office 365 as a key reason to select it.

Microsoft uses 128-bit SSL/TSL encryption, which makes it unreadable to those without permission. Anti-spam and anti-virus protection along with standard security measures in Microsoft data centers that are considered to be industry best in class.

Small businesses simply cannot afford the kind of security measures Microsoft employs.

These are just some of the benefits of public cloud computing with Office 365. Contact us to talk about how this service could help your small business.

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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

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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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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Cloud Computing Service Providers: Which is Right For You?

pexels-photo-335907 (1).jpegThough there are hundreds (if not thousands) of cloud computing service providers available, there are three major providers that you hear about most frequently: Amazon (AWS), Microsoft (Azure), and Google (Google Cloud Engine). Other forerunners include IBM SmartCloud, Rackspace, and VMWare, but these are smaller and generally engaged for more specific use cases. Most businesses looking for a cloud computing service are going to at least consider the big three -- and there isn't necessarily a clear answer regarding which is the "best." Here is an overview of the three major providers and how they may (or may not) work for your organization.

“The Big 3” Cloud Computing Service Providers

Amazon (AWS)

Amazon Web Services is often considered to be the top option, both in terms of cost effectiveness and resources. AWS has been steadily decreasing many of its prices and building out its offerings, including storage and content delivery, computing and networking, databases, and application services. AWS is one of the most stable and reliable cloud computing service providers and its platform has been utilized to develop many major web applications and services. For those who want to be able to manage their cloud services themselves, AWS provides extensive online documentation and training. 

Microsoft (Azure)

Microsoft Azure has been growing steadily in the last few years as Microsoft has shifted towards its cloud solutions. For a Microsoft-based environment, Microsoft Azure is the perfect solution -- it is easy to deploy and integrate Microsoft solutions through the platform. Microsoft Office provides software-as-a-service through MS Office 365 and data storage through the Microsoft Private Cloud, which has enhanced security features. Both Linux and Windows virtual machines are available through the system.

Google (Google Cloud Engine)

Compared to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, the Google Cloud Engine is slightly more niche. It offers software-as-a-service through Google Apps and storage through Google Cloud Storage, but otherwise it isn't intended as a versatile all-in-one enterprise system. Instead it's designed for those who have unique use cases for the Google App Engine that would require deployment within a Google environment. Nevertheless, the Google Cloud Engine is able to provide very scalable, high-performance virtual machines, which can be customized and come with some significant discounts. Because Google bills in minute-level increments, this service may be ideal for those who have relatively inconsistent resource needs. 

If you are struggling to select a cloud computing service providers, an MSP may be able to help. MSPs will be able to go over your organization's needs to determine which cloud solutions partner will not only meet your needs but also the most cost-effective for your organization. Contact CWPS to find out more about the right cloud solutions for you.

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The 4 Biggest Cloud Migration Pitfalls (And How to Avoid Them)

pexels-photo-335907.jpegIt's inarguable that moving towards the cloud is beneficial for many businesses. In fact, it's become the de facto standard for organizations of all industries and sizes. But that doesn't make the process of migration a simple one; a poorly executed migration can result in administrative headaches, business interruption, and even lost data. With that in mind, here are four of the biggest cloud migration pitfalls and how to avoid them.

1. Choosing the Wrong Vendor

Microsoft, Amazon, and Google all provide cloud-based services, but these services aren't necessarily equal -- and attempting to mix infrastructures could lead to more complication than is necessary. Companies should not only be aware of which vendor they want to use, but also the licensing agreements that they require for their current (and future) workload. An MSP can aid in analyzing the benefits for each vendor, as well as determining the resources that will be needed.

2. Not Considering Third-Party Integration

Businesses are now running multiple apps in cloud-based environments. When transitioning from on-premise apps to cloud-based apps, organizations are going to have to re-integrate all of the third-party solutions that they use -- and this may not always be as clear cut a process as it should be. Third-party solutions should be integrated and tested out in a pilot test program before the organization completely transitions.

3. Investing Too Little Time Into Preparation

Is your organization going to use a private cloud, a public cloud, or both? How many services are going to be run on each? There are many advantages to a multi-cloud approach, but it also takes a lot of planning. A cloud migration should be 90% preparation and 10% implementation. Too many businesses begin their transition with very little idea of how they're going to complete it, by transitioning small portions of their infrastructure at a time.

This is an area where working with an MSP can really shine. An MSP can give your organization all of the information it needs to complete its transition in a well-prepared and well-scheduled fashion. Ultimately this transition will take far less time and will be far less risky.

4. Failing to Protect Their Data

As of 2017, security is not the paramount concern of businesses on the cloud. Instead, most businesses are concerned with reducing costs. But security is still one of the major issues for businesses new to the cloud, as a cloud-based infrastructure requires a different approach to security.

Not only do businesses need to protect their data once on the cloud, but they also need to protect their data during the process of transition -- and they need to choose a cloud service model that appropriately protects their most important digital assets. To avoid this, businesses need to carefully consider the benefits of a private cloud, public cloud, and hybrid cloud, and need to invest time and money into training employees regarding the new security standards.

For the most part, organizations stumble when migrating to the cloud because of inexperience rather than inattention; there are some things a business simply would not know about cloud services and cloud integration beforehand. MSPs can help an organization prevent costly and time-consuming pitfalls, and ultimately save an organization both time and money. For more information about completing your cloud migration, contact the experts at CWPS.

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