The Year of the Hack (Data Breach)

The Year of the Hack (Data Breach)

 

My blog at the end of the year is usually about products and services and trends over the past year and the future of computing.  This is the year of the hackers from Crypto Locker to the usual menace of spyware and malware.  Big companies like Target, Sony, JP Morgan the list goes on and on and the only constant I hear is that it could have been prevented.  A good friend of mine Todd Ruback, Data Breach Analyst, writes about this in his December Dispatch report: http://marketing.evidon.com/acton/rif/4197/s-026f-1412/-/l-375a:15a4/l-375a/showPreparedMessage?sid=kyoeRwBoC

That sums up the State, the US and European countries are in but my quest as a Cloud Integrator is how can I protect my clients and what they can do to help in this cops and robbers battle.

For one thing, I always tell my clients that it’s best to pay the extra $$ for encrypted tunnels and for their data at rest (where it lives) this will not stop a crypto locker type attack but the whole point is a layered approach as encryption will stop many others. For things like Malware and spyware and Trojan viruses there are other layers that must be applied for instance never use your main email account for shopping online, get a Gmail or Outlook.com or apple me.com account and keep your personal spending separate from your corporate world.  Change your password on a regular basis not once a year but every 30-45 days.  Have multiple passwords and yes I know it gets hard to remember them so I use an app like www.Keepersecurity.com  or www.onelogin.com   to name a few.  The best approach is always a proactive approach and make it hard for the hackers by using multiple layers of security from content filtering to antivirus, malware detection and yes firewalls even for your home network.  OK so enough about doom and gloom what’s hot these days…

We closed on the Acquisition of Cloud nation http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/10/prweb12267677.htm  to be able to provide a better level of service in the cloud that’s faster more scalable and much more robust then we were able to provide previously.  I get asked all the time is the cloud less safe than a local server and the reality is that a local server in someone’s office is rarely locked up, it is under a sprinkler system, not always backed up and the data is rarely encrypted.  In the cloud you have redundant data centers, encrypted data during transit and at rest options and it is not physically reachable so a disgruntled employee can’t go in the server closet and destroy your most valuable asset in the company.

2015 will be year of the BYOD “Bring your own device” and run on the cloud and not just for companies but individuals are embracing the cloud to free themselves up from Brick and Mortar and work where ever, whenever on any device.  The world is getting smaller and smaller every day and the cloud is enabling people, communities and corporations to work in better environments and under less stress.  I have found that employees that I let work from home will login earlier, stay online longer and are more productive.  This may vary depending on your team but it is easier to concentrate in a quite environment and with collaboration tools such as www.smartsheet.com or www.confluence.com to name a few and the likes of www.skype.com the world is your office if you so choose.

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CLOUD 2.0 – The next phase of cloud computing has arrived

I can safely say that every conversation I am having about how the cloud can be used today is a reminder that the hot topic is no longer about security and performance, it’s about how they should be using it to further their business objectives.

We started moving our clients to the cloud over 5 years ago.  It started like a lot of others, building our own — Virtual Office Recovery Center — in our data center, we called it VORC because IT guys love acronyms. We built it to have spare virtual machines with the ability to restore client data to these virtual machines nightly.  In the event of a disaster we could restore client functionality with a Front End Server, FES, like a Citrix or Terminal Server.  This is also known as a ‘warm site’.  While this was functional it was not automated and I knew we had to find Imagesomething that was.  So we began the process of building our first live cloud environment.  We built our Business in a Box, BIAB as we called it, by clustering three VMware environments and hosting our client’s applications and data in our datacenter.  This too had its issues, at the time Exchange was not multi-tenant and while scalable this solution would be very costly due to continuous hardware upgrades.  That’s when we found a back-end provider who, at the time, was one of the few that had a true functional and scalable hosted cloud solution for Virtual Desktops and Servers, we were off and running.

After a few years of growing the business we began to notice a lot of slowness and degradation.  What we had tried to avoid by not owning our own hardware, our provider fell into the same challenges we tried to avoid.  As we evolve we learn and grow.  Now we use utility computing.  This is like consumption of IT resources as you need them rather than over purchasing resources to plan for future needs.  We then coupled that with multiple front end technologies to deliver a fully scalable solution at a very affordable price. 

Cloud 2.0, as we like to call it, is out and on the rise.  More and more people are in the cloud, Storage services alone have over 350 Million users and it is projected that this number will climb well over 500 Million!

Below are some facts on data storage in the cloud, from Extreme Techs.

  • Facebook, in its IPO filing, said it stores over 100 petabytes (PB) of media (photos and videos). It’s not unrealistic to say that Facebook probably has a total storage of capacity well beyond that, once you factor in backups and other data (status updates, likes, and so on), possibly in the 300PB range.
  • Microsoft recently admitted that Hotmail stores over 100 petabytes, and that SkyDrive, with “17 million customers,” stores 10PB of data. Like Facebook, Microsoft’s total capacity, once we factor in the rest of Azure and its web properties, is probably well over 300 petabytes.
  • Megaupload is relatively tiny in comparison, apparently storing just 25 petabytes.
  • Amazon, rather than giving us a nice, easy number of petabytes, instead announces the total number of objects stored by its S3 cloud storage service. As of April 2012, Amazon S3 stored 905 billion objects. If we assume an average size of 100KB, that’s around 90 petabytes; if the average size is 1MB, that’s 900 petabytes — almost an exabyte!
  • Dropbox, a year ago, stored “10+ petabytes” of data. It had 25 million users then, and 100 million users today, so all things being equal the company now stores around 40PB of data

As the cloud get’s bigger and more applications are accessible from anywhere, anytime over any device or connection we as a society will rely more on its power.  

I am trying to stay ahead of the curve and Cloud 2.0 is it.

 

Steve

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File sharing aka Syncing, is it the right tool for businesses?

English: Cloud Computing Image

English: Cloud Computing Image (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My guess is, you have heard of Drop Box, Box or maybe even ShareFile.  All of these are file synching apps that store and share files in the cloud and then down locally to a phone, tablet, laptop, PC or even a server.  In today’s fast paced, “I need access now”, environment, file syncing/sharing has been embraced by millions, maybe billions, of people.  This new environment allows you, the user, to share documents and folders to the cloud and automatically synchronize to as many devices or people as you wish.  This technology will also update the cloud version as documents get added or changed/deleted.  While this is a great evolution of the cloud it’s still the new frontier and security is a major issue.

Drop Box claims to have over 45 million users in the consumer space with over 4 billion file uploads daily!  What does this mean for the business world?  Plenty of headaches if not addressed properly but that’s accompanied by tremendous opportunity for employee productivity and moral.  Remember that first sentence of the post?  There is more than one provider and some of them are more technically secure than others.  Choose well and you can reap the benefits of this technology.  Employees can collaborate on the fly and share documents as needed from handheld devices at a moment’s notice.  If a client needs an updated, sensitive document that shouldn’t be shared across public networks then this is a solution that fits the bill for your mobile workforce.  Sales teams, legal departments, project management and any other collaborative team environment will embrace this technology with open arms.

Buyer beware!  We are all facing the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) issues of… Where is the data stored?  Who owns it?  And who has access to it?  Let’s not forget the 900 lb. gorilla in the room “Compliance”.  So, what do you do? Well, there are business class file syncing apps out there like Synchplicity, Soonr, Egnyte and even some white label products that allow for security and compliance incorporated in to remote wipe allowing the devices to be managed from the back office.  Even Drop Box has announced a reseller channel that will allow Managed Service Providers (MSP’s) to capture the current consumer base within a company and separate the personal data from the corporate data.

Virtual servers and desktops are what I specialize in.  We are a cloud provider and could easily say, ‘if it’s not controlled on our virtual desktops it’s not secure or proper!’  That would be very narrow minded.  The matter of fact here is that syncing folders makes very good sense.  By no means is this a backup and recovery solution since you can’t sync system files and application data, however, it does give you access to your information anytime, from any device, over any internet connection.  Mobilizing a lot of people and empowering them with the data they need when they need it.

The primary question you should be asking yourself is not “when is it going to happen?” but more so “how will we embrace and make it safe and secure?”  In my opinion, the easiest way is to enforce through policy that only authorized applications be used to connect to the workplace, those products I mentioned before could be suitable for your needs. Whatever you do, learn and understand the risks as soon as possible because the consumers are driving this one and they are demanding faster access and easier distribution of the workplace data.

Happy Holiday’s

Steve

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Mobile Device Management

MDM, better known as Mobile Device Management, is becoming more and more important as we embrace smartphones and portable devices like laptops, iPhones, Androids, iPads and tablets in the workplace (BYOD). Here’s the snag… Managing and monitoring the devices and the business critical data they can have access to. Since Bring Your Own Device, BYOD, is inherently unsecure from a business networking standpoint we need to secure corporate data and access while still allowing employees the freedom to use their own favorite mobile device. This is exactly why Mobile Device Management is used.

There are only a couple of ways to handle this. Currently, the most secure, available and cost-effective way is to use MDM. MDM allows a central server, managed by your IT provider, to monitor a devices health and location in real-time. The service can also update software and even wipe the device if it becomes lost or stolen. From a corporate policy standpoint it can prevent your users from gaining access to business applications and data over unsecure Wi-Fi i.e., free Hot Spots. Preventing unwelcome access to your business network. FYI, hackers prey upon people using free hot spots. The alternative to MDM is to not allow mobile devices to access business data at all, that means email too. Hard pill to swallow, right?

At Compunite we use a method to help our client protect and manage all their devices and we encourage you to do the same regardless of your company size.

We are a society that lives and breathes technology. Technology is getting smaller and more convenient but this means that we are also opening ourselves up to more risk, using MDM will mitigate that risk and reduce corporate costs.

There are other options aside from MDM that are being developed but they are either still in beta or far too expensive to deploy to the SMB. We will be sure to stay on this topic and keep you updated!

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Things Will Get Worse Before Getting Better

The world knows Hurricane Sandy devastated NJ.  South Jersey & Shore Points were hit hardest but still many Northern New Jerseyans are still without power 2 weeks after the storm. Staten Island was destroyed, people lost lives, homes and personal items.  I was in Long Beach Island, NJ in August 2011 during the earthquake then 2 days later I was evacuated from the beach due to Hurricane Irene and yet again the days prior to Halloween 2011 we got a nor’easter that took down trees, power lines and shut the power off for days.

If that wasn’t enough, would you believe, it is all happening again almost in the exact same order and exact same storms as last year.  As a matter of fact we just had a 2.0 earthquake a few days ago.  The closest thing I can remember to any of this was while I was in the Marines stationed in Okinawa circa 1980 and we had a typhoon/monsoon for weeks. The devastation was reminiscent of Hurricane Sandy but lasted longer.

I have spoken to some friends in the Southwest and they say that the news is not giving this as much press as Katrina, I am not going to say which storm was or is worse but it is a shame that the rest of the country does not really see how bad it truly is here, still. Maybe these pictures will help you all understand.

I have been very fortunate to be able to help my fellow neighbors with generator power for their sump pumps, and refrigerator’s. My chainsaw and I have been cutting down trees and have witnessed the great American spirit that comes when tragedy strikes. I am glad I was able to help.

For my family, we had generator power for the essentials but no heat, stove or oven to cook. A lot of people had it worse so I am very grateful and fortunate to have not lost anyone close to me.

Now we are confronted again… Here comes yet another nor’easter about to dump snow, rain and 50 mph winds. All of us will hunker down, yet again!

Thank God my business clients that are in the cloud will be able to work as long as they can get to internet and power. We even had clients come to our office, which had power during the Hurricane, to use our desk and conference room to get to their Virtual Desktops.

I am proud to say that 4 years ago my vision of people working in the cloud was one that would benefit not only me but clients, friends and colleagues. It made more of a difference than I could have ever imagined. We have given the small business person a Business Continuity solution and preparedness that they would otherwise never be able to afford.

Here is an email I got from one of them.

So as I head into this next storm, let me say to everyone… Be safe, be smart and hopefully you have prepared your personal and business lives for a future that looks to be a bit bleak up here in the Northeast.

Steve

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MSP Mentor 2012

I have said it many times. I am not much of a bragger but I am very impressed that I was, for the 5th year in a row, awarded top 250 Managed Service Providers (msp’s) Mentor, Entrepenuers and experts in the world.

WOW this is cool!

Top 250 MSP Mentors List

Excerpt from the write up…

“Ferman has once again reinvented himself and his company. A prime example: He has converted 60 percent of existing clients from managed services to virtual hosted cloud servers and desktops. Ferman has also added over 20TB of cloud data protection to his cloud backup and recovery practice. This year Ferman will exceed his goal of 1000 hosted desktops under management. Next on the horizon is building a virtual hosted desktop and server reseller channel.”

The entry mentions how I have, once again reinvented myself and our company.

In reality, we have been able to see the next trend in computing and management of computer systems.  By no means am I a genius, believe me.  I watch, ask questions and listen and people have been telling me for over 4 years that they don’t want to own their infrastructure anymore.  All people and companies want to do is what they do in thier industries…focus on their core revenue generators and they certainly don’t see managing their computers, networks and data as a core revenue generator.

I have learned from migrating over 60% of my existing clients to the cloud that they are happier and have become more efficient.  Whether working from home or at the office thier IT spend is predictable and a lot less then it was in an infrastructure (local server model).  Peace of mind has improved since we have placed them in a cloud with multiple data centers providing redundancy that they could never afford before and are more comfortable with the fact that they are now working in disaster ready mode all the time

I guess being named top 250 is cool.  The really cool part is that I get to help my clients through the use of technology.  Helping them be more productive, secure, efficient and cost effective.  All while providing a disaster ready environment that most couldn’t afford nor would ever take the time, energy or money to setup.

Steve

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Unsung Heroes.

Many of you know me well but for those of you that don’t, I am not one for bragging or at least not that much.

In June 2012 we were named the Unsung Backup Heroes for 2012 by Asigra.  This is a brand spankin’ new award given to companies that show leadership and direction in the world of cloud backup and data recovery.  We enjoy helping people to understand what we have known for years “its not about the backup but the recovery that matters”.  I say this all the time cause in a disaster what truly matters the most when it comes to your success and survival in the business world is your ability to respond to adversity.

In other news, I have been learning more about growing “10X” at my business entrepreneur workshops run by Dan Sullivan at the Strategic Coach.  I must say that “10x” is a great concept and really not that hard to do if you focus your energy.  All you need to do to grow 10X is do what you do best and nothing else, but at the same time you need to get your team to also do what they each do best.  Thus creating a machine where everyone loves what they do, doing it 1000% and everyone working toward the same goal.  This has created awesome momentum and success for me.  I can not thank my Coach Dan Sullivan and the Strategic Coach enough for helping me, your typical ADHD Entrepreneur, achieve my wildest dreams and goals.

Steve

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