remote working

All the Places the Cloud Can Take You

Remember just a few years ago when the only place you could really get your work done was in your office?  That all changed when cloud computing gained popularity.  Now, thanks to advances in security, telecommunications, and mobile devices, the cloud brings your office anywhere- allowing you to work anytime, anyplace.  You’re no longer tethered to a desk and stuck in the four walls of your office.  So where are you going to go?  Here are a few suggestions as to where you can travel to work thanks to the cloud.

The first place we’d imagine you might work outside your office is at your client’s location.  With cloud computing, you can reach a new level of customer service and collaboration.  The best part about this is that with this technology, you won’t need to be on your client’s WiFi or their network in order to have access to your private files and data.  Modern cloud computing allows you to have separate and unique access to your critical files and data, so your sensitive information is never vulnerable.

You could take your business on the road to the beach.  Imagine crisp ocean air and warming rays of sun while you complete tasks for your clients and business.  On the beach, you can kick back a bit and enjoy the great outdoors while handling a few of your business necessities. Also, thanks to advances in cloud computing, you no longer need a computer or laptop to access your files.  You can have access to everything on all of your connected mobile devices, whether they be your smartphone or your tablet… you know, things that won’t get sand in them.

Finally, forget about merely going to Korean barbecue down the street from your office when, with cloud services, you can collaborate in real time from around the world.  Why not take a trip to South Korea and enjoy the culture, environment, and great food while getting your work done at the same time?  With remote working opportunities offered by the cloud, the only difference from being in the office with your colleagues is the time.  When you use the cloud and services like VoIP, you can work virtually from anywhere in the world… or virtually work from anywhere in the world.

What’s keeping you from utilizing cloud services? Did you know that according to Tech Target, by the end of 2016, 41% of all small to medium sized businesses said they planned to expand into cloud services?  That means that your competitors may already have the idea to take a newer, more relaxing approach to getting their work done.   In addition, Gartner says that by 2020, just about every business in America will have converted to using the cloud. Don’t get left behind.

There’s no need to let your competitors get ahead while you toil away in your office.  Expand your horizons, and work from the place that works for you.

If you would like to learn more about the cloud and how we can offer remote working opportunities, simply give us a call.

business disaster

How the cloud can protect your business from apocalyptic disaster

In the movies, any scene depicting an apocalyptic scenario typically comes with a large special effects budget. Cinematic doom tends to be very colorful, kinetic, and loud. Apocalypse, for your business, might warrant an Academy Award nomination if it results from a natural disaster, like a volcano eruption, tsunami, or comet strike.

Companies, however, don’t often experience cataclysms as filmed by Michael Bay. Corporate apocalypses tend to be a bit more silent. Air conditioning units on the roof leak into the data center, knocking the company website offline and create thousands of dollars per hour in lost revenue. A botched application update or user error deletes important records forever.

The cloud sounds like a Deus ex Machina used at the end of a technology-minded thriller. Actually, it can be exactly that in real life when it comes to helping avert an apocalypse. The cloud can help keep your business going in many ways when disaster strikes.

In the old days, a business relied on applications installed on local computers or in company server rooms for its business needs. If something happened to those computers or server room, even something as mundane as a power outage or as devastating as a tornado, the company was offline and out of business until the power came on or the building and all of its computers were restored.

However, with cloud-based application deployment, distributed data centers around the country can host and run needed applications. Users, customers, and employees can reach them no matter what might threaten the corporate HQ. Your applications can be distributed across many data centers to ensure continued operations in the event of a regional power outage like the one suffered by the northeast in 2003 or an earthquake that devastates California. Or both at once.

If running applications in the cloud doesn’t suit your company’s style or business needs, the cloud can still help provide shelter in a mega storm. You can replace equipment and software lost due to an alien invasion, but the data your company has collected over time is irreplaceable. Hopefully, your team has some backup procedures in place—perhaps backing that data up weekly to tape drives. A cloud-based backup solution offers a more robust solution. By storing your data in the cloud, you protect it from a localized Armageddon that would destroy mere local backups. Additionally, a cloud-based backup acts automatically—you don’t have to physically swap and store backup media, freeing your employees to fight actual fires.

While it’s unlikely your company will suffer from a real apocalypse, the odds that some computer problem will impact daily operations is far greater. A software application outage or a data loss could cost your business a great deal of money at the very least—or perhaps effectively end your business. The right cloud-based solution for your organization can turn an apocalypse into a mere inconvenience.

Cloud computing

How dependent is your routine on the cloud?

Perhaps you have been accused of living in the clouds while daydreaming. Truthfully, you might already be living in the cloud—the world of cloud computing.

Cloud computing has emerged and evolved subtly in recent years, interacting in your daily life in ways you might not recognize. When shopping for a product or service, it’s unlikely you’re making numerous phone calls to different salespeople to locate the best price for something. Similarly, we don’t often step out to the curb and cross our fingers a passing cab will stop and take us to our destination.

You might already enjoy cloud computing without knowing it. Imagine a day that looks like this:

5:00: The alarm on your cell phone rings. As you turn it off, you scan the notifications on new messages, the weather, and news—all delivered by the apps in the cloud.

6:30: Ready for work, you use your favorite coffee shop’s app to order a triple shot large cappuccino for pick-up.

7:15: Cappuccino in hand, you arrive at your desk and fire up your laptop. Collaboration tools allow you to interact in real-time with remote workers and other offices, when they get in.

8:30: Using video conferencing software, you have a morning meeting with your client and with colleagues.

9:05: Using your company’s preferred document sharing solution, you pull down the action plans your team is working on to flesh out some ideas you covered in the meeting.

11:15: You use your local restaurant app to reserve a table for lunch.

12:30: After lunch, but before you’re back on the clock, you set your favorite show tonight to record since you’ve decided to go to a sporting event with friends.

4:30: You save the document you’re working on to open it later tonight on your tablet to reorganize some parts in the second and third sections to punch it up a bit.

5:00: You visit a ticket broker website to see if you can find inexpensive tickets to tonight’s sporting event. You can, and you order them.

5:25: You hit the grocery store for a couple necessities on the way home, and you use your mobile phone to pay.

7:30: Thanks to a social media app, you’ve found your friends and have rounded them up for the sporting event.

10:30: After the sporting event—and a couple of drinks—you use an app to summon a car to take you home.

11:00: You review the document you wanted to work on tonight and decide instead to work on it first thing in the morning.

Throughout the day, you use websites and mobile applications that reside in the cloud. If you already have appliances or home systems—such as your thermostat—connected to the cloud, you have even more cloud exposure than most people do. This itinerary would have seemed like science fiction just a few short years ago. As cloud computing evolves, its impact on our daily lives will make tomorrow seem like today’s science fiction.

Man holding cloud

Business Before vs. After the Cloud

Given how business has adapted to the convenience and the portability of cloud computing, it’s hard to remember how we did business in the B.C. (Before Cloud) era. But life and business really were different in those by-gone days. Customers and clients have come to expect the flexibility that cloud-embracing businesses provide.

Customers already know what they want.

In the B.C. era, customers might not know what they wanted or what was available. If someone wanted to buy a house, for example, he or she had to call a real estate agent to find out what was on the market in the target area. Savvy customers called more than one. Now, people looking for houses visit a variety of web sites to do their research before contacting a real estate agent.

Back then, some companies provided information through advertisements or through catalogs. Customers got a sense of what was available through these company-push offerings. While companies still use these means to communicate, along with new email and text alerts, customers use the cloud to research products and offerings they want. To keep pace, companies need robust cloud-based communications to ensure customers can research their business offerings.

Customers want to do business whenever they want.

Do you remember the term “banker’s hours”? In the olden days, businesses were open from nine to five on weekdays. Customers needed to make plans to make their purchases or conduct their needed transactions when companies were open.

Now, customers want to conduct their business whenever the need or mood strikes. Online stores are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (366 days a year on Leap Year). If a consumer gets a good gift idea at five o’clock in the morning, he or she can use a web site or mobile app to buy the item immediately and have it shipped for fast arrival. If someone burns the midnight oil working on a project, and discovers a software tool or professional service to make the job easier, he or she can request a demo or order a download immediately, often without dealing with salespeople.

Customers want to do business wherever they are.

Back in the twentieth century, customers had to come to you to conduct business. They visited a store, or they met with you over a conference table. Now, customers want to conduct business wherever they are. They want to use a mobile app at the coffee shop or their laptop at their kitchen tables. They want to buy your product, use your service, or communicate with you wherever they are and wherever you are.

Customers will evolve with the cloud.

The Internet and cloud computing continue to evolve. Customer experiences and expectations will also evolve according to new advances. Your company will need to keep up with these changes, too, to ensure that customers remain engaged with your offerings, and that your way of doing business does not become a relic of a bygone age.

 

Dropbox security

Dropbox Isn’t As Secure As You Think

Shocking, right? Where does such a bold claim come from? Dropbox services over 100,000 businesses and 300,000,000 users. The company reports users upload over 1 billion files every 24 hours, and 97% of Fortune 500 companies utilize some form of the service. What do the millions of users need to know about Dropbox? Dropbox is not as secure as you think.

Let’s Talk About the Issues

Claims about security lapses are nothing new to Dropbox. A “potential” security lapse occurred in 2011 when users could access other accounts without passwords, followed by a handful of ambiguous statements made by the company when the event occurred, to the 2012 intrusion that resulted in Dropbox users being spammed. Not to mention the appointment of Condoleezza Rice in 2014, the very person who worked under an administration that supported and encouraged NSA data-collection strategies.

In 2014, Dropbox faced yet another black eye. In October 2014, rumors circulated the Internet warning of a data breach within Dropbox. Although the research proving a data beach simply did not exist, as the original announcement was posted on Pastebin, the damage was done. An anonymous entry on Pastebin suggested that the hacker had access to login information and credentials for over 7 million Dropbox users. The claims consumed the Internet like a firestorm, which promoted Dropbox to release a statement about the “hack.” The company outright dismissed the claims, saying the claims “weren’t true.” Dropbox reassured the media, the clients, and the naysayers that the email accounts listed for sale were not associated with active Dropbox accounts.

What is the Takeaway?

So if Dropbox backs up each issue with confidence and claims that the service is in fact safe, what is the takeaway from all of this? What can Dropbox tell you about your own privacy, your cloud-based accounts and your vulnerability? The answer: You never know. What Dropbox should teach users is that cloud-based services must provide maximum protection as well as transparency. How can you keep yourself and your data safe?

  • Do your research about the remote service you and/or your company plan(s) to use. Know the ins and outs, the security provisions and parameters, and the news headlines about the cloud-based service.
  • Do not use the same password for all your accounts, and whatever password you do use should not be one that can be guessed easily.
  • Enable a two-step verification process that requires you to input both a password and verification code. When the password is entered online, a verification code is sent to your mobile device and must be entered as well to access the cloud-based account.
  • Remove authorized devices used to access your account when you log out.
  • Enable mobile or email notifications
  • If you are running a business, do not rely on personal cloud-based services to protect your data and IT system.
cloud backup

How Cloud Backup Can Keep Your Business Data Secure

Data backup used to be a lot more difficult than it is now. Remember the days of floppy disks? Fortunately, the system eventually made its way to CDs and then external hard drives, but it is even easier than that. Did you ever wonder what would happen in the disks got into the wrong hands or they burned up in a fire? You do not have to worry about any of that with a cloud backup; it is safe, secure, and not as risk for catching on fire. Discover the many ways a cloud backup can keep your business data secure. Remember, to benefit from data archiving, you have to actually back up the files. According to a Harris Interactive poll, over 2,250 users admitted to never backing up their computers, and only 7% actually practice safe archiving on a daily basis. What gives? Your computer’s data is definitely not safer just sitting around it he computer. You put your credit card back in your wallet every time you use it, so why not tuck your essential data away too. Discover how cloud backup can keep your business data secure.

  • Backup features are automatic and recovery is swift. This makes it easier for a user to recover critical data at any given moment and from any location. If human error, natural disaster, or an electrical outage cause a user to lose his/her data, everything the user needs will be stored in the cloud.
  • Access is only granted to permitted users, and the host can revoke cloud privileges at any time.
  • Some services encrypt files on the PC before they are uploaded with a SSL connection. The files will remain encrypted until the user(s) need to access them again.
  • Files are inaccessible unless the key can unlock the encryption algorithm.
  • The cloud services allow the users to create their own password or keys to access the files, so if the password is incorrect, the encryption process will make the data inaccessible to outsiders.
  • There is also a physical protection when a business uses a cloud-based backup system. Not only are your documents are data subjected to online activity and theft, but they are also susceptible to burglary and fire.       If the files are not backed up or company hardware is stolen, data can be destroyed or accessed by thieves with sinister intentions.
  • Some services permit access only with facial recognition.

Need help choosing a good cloud computing solution? Cognoscape can help!

Let’s talk about your company needs. Contact us today for a free consultation.

 

Top 4 Ways Cloud Computing Will Make Your Life Easier

Your life if full of decisions. If you own a business, there’s no doubt you have to make several important choices on a daily basis that contribute to the success of your business. With the help of cloud computing, you can rest assured knowing you’re making the right decision for the growth and future of your company. Here’s why:

Financial Savings

You don’t want to spend more money than you need to. Imagine if you could reduce your spending by limiting your need for hardware, IT system maintenance, downtime, and even the amount of electricity you use. Over a period of time, cloud computing can provide you with some AMAZING cost-cutting benefits!

Flexibility

Flexibility is extremely important for a business. To be truly effective, you need to be able to adapt to most situations in a timely manner in order to be successful.

With cloud computing, you have a TON of flexibility. You can access your information from anywhere, at any time, and you can move your information from one server to another – so you’re no longer restricted by the limits of your hardware!

Disaster recovery

Preparation is often the key to success.

With the aid of cloud-based services, you’re not only preparing your company for any future problems, but you’re preparing to succeed. Cloud computing providers will help solve most issues you encounter, and they’ll help you do it quickly and efficiently.

With the cloud, you no longer have to worry about losing your valuable information to power failure, natural disasters, or any other crisis. Once your data is stored in the cloud, you’ll have peace of mind knowing it’s backed up and protected in a secure location.

By utilizing the cloud, you’re making complex and time-consuming disaster recovery plans a thing of the past.

Communication and Collaboration

A lot of important things happen at the work place, and communication and collaboration are often overlooked as necessary tools for company growth.

One amazing benefit of cloud computing is the ability to improve communication and collaboration within an organization. By converting to cloud based services, you and your employees have all the necessary resources they need to work efficiently from almost anywhere. Regardless of where they are located or which devices they’re using, the cloud will allow immediate distribution of relevant information to everyone within your company, ensuring constant productivity.

Overall, cloud services can be a huge asset to your company. Contact Cognoscape today, and let’s work together to build the perfect infrastructure for your business!

Why it’s Time to Move on if Your Hosting Cloud Provider Won’t Sign a HIPAA BAA

68Despite new HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA) regulations going into effect in 2013, many healthcare organizations are still encountering the occasional cloud service provider who refuses to sign a BAA. Although they may have a logical explanation, any refusal to sign a BAA should be seen as a red flag.

Here’s the logic from their angle. There are still many cloud vendors who view themselves more as conduits of Personal Health Information (PHI). They feel their role is more akin to that of a mailman. They’re merely transporting data to others and have no real access to the actual contents.

If the data is encrypted and cannot be read, or If they don’t touch the actual PHI data at all, the cloud service vendor will argue that HIPAA regulations do not apply to them and possibly refuse to sign a BAA.

Fair enough, right? If the data is encrypted and the vendor doesn’t hold the encryption key, what’s the problem? Well, here’s the problem.

File this in the unlikely yet not improbable category. Let’s say that the PHI data wasn’t properly encrypted before it was sent into the cloud or unencrypted data was mistakenly transferred over to the cloud service provider. If the cloud provider has refused to sign a BAA, this jeopardizes your HIPAA compliance and could potentially result in a fine anywhere from $50,000 to $1.5 million.

This is why those in the healthcare sector must move on from any cloud provider that is reluctant to sign a BAA. They are basically refusing to be complaint since the new HIPAA Omnibus Rule clearly defines a business associate as anyone who creates, receives, maintains, or transmits PHI on behalf of a covered entity. By refusing to share accountability for HIPAA compliance, they’re a liability to your organization that you just can’t afford.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

 

2 Steps to Ensure Healthcare Data Availability in the Cloud

66In 2013, major companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft experienced outages. Not only were these big name outages disruptive to users, but they also made headlines and proved to be costly to each brand. Google’s hiccup footed an estimated bill of $500,000 while Amazon’s 30-40 minute blackout contributed to roughly $3 million in losses.

2013 was also the year the healthcare industry embraced cloud computing thanks to modifications to the HIPAA Privacy, Security, Enforcement and Breach Rules. With these modifications extending the definition of a Business Associated (BA) to cloud service providers, many of the data breach concerns that had previously kept the healthcare sector from taking to the cloud have been quieted.

But as more patient health data is electronic and residing in a virtual environment, the availability of this data is just as important, if not more important, than securing it. Unlike Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, the disastrous effects of data outages in the healthcare sector can have potentially deadly consequences.

Not only is high uptime mandatory in a healthcare cloud, business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plans are also crucial. The good news is the cloud’s virtualized infrastructure, coupled with the expertise and cloud monitoring of a trusted Managed Service Provider (MSP) can help healthcare organizations maintain uptime and reliability. Here are two helpful steps:

  1. Risk Assessments Are Absolutely Necessary

While risk assessments are critical to protecting patient health information, a 2012 audit conducted by the Office of Civil Rights revealed that many healthcare entities and contracted service providers fail to perform them. These evaluations must be conducted regularly and require an honest assessment of probable risks ranging from malicious cybercrime attacks to acts of nature such as natural disasters, flood, earthquakes and power outages. Analyze both the architectural vulnerabilities relative to data availability and security as well as the effectiveness of the counteractive measures in place. The goal is to minimize the plausible impact of such an event and prevent service disruption.

 

  1. Proactively Monitor for Cybercrime

It is often months before a security breach is detected. By this time, hackers have had ample time to infiltrate your system and feast on its data. Since cybercriminals use an unpredictable array of methods to strike, such as viruses, malware and phishing schemes to steal credentials, the strength of your detection system is key. Alerts should be set up to identify anomalies such as unusual application requests, forced entry attempts, suspicious spikes in traffic, and abnormal data patterns that suggest a breach. The proactive monitoring tools available through a MSP can help scan, pinpoint, and remediate such attacks.

Any BCDR plan must be built upon your organization’s recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). Your RTO is the duration of time in which your service level must be restored to avoid dire consequences. Your RPO is the maximum age of the recoverable files in storage to resume normal operations. A MSP can help determine the optimal scenario for your healthcare organization and prioritize the most critical health care information with near real-time replication.

Through this preparation and foresight, your organization can lay the groundwork to not only protect healthcare information in the cloud but potentially save patients’ lives in the event of an unforeseen outage.

CLICK HERE for a  free network assessment.

Healthcare and Cloud Computing Together at Last

65 For years, the healthcare industry was thought to be the very last sector to embrace cloud computing. With HIPAA compliance, storing private patient data in the cloud seemed much too risky from a security and legal standpoint. However, with a government issued mandate to migrate patient data to electronic heath records by 2015, the cost-effectiveness of the cloud was simply too logical to not entice independent practitioners and small healthcare entities now burdened by the need to invest technology and tech-savvy personnel. If only there was a way around the security and privacy concerns.

Wish granted. In January of 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services introduced a few revisions to the regulations administered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Labeled the “Final Omnibus Rule,” this update spelled out the legal framework to be used by healthcare organizations working with cloud service providers.

With a signed Business Associate (BA) agreement, a cloud service provider accepts the responsibility to protect patient data under HIPAA law. This expanded definition of BA means that the government can now penalize cloud service providers accountable for data breaches.

Although many healthcare organizations had already entrusted certain cloud service providers with their data, only the HIPAA covered entity (the healthcare organization) was penalized in the event of a breach prior to this ruling. While the HIPAA covered entity is still responsible for oversight, this shared accountability with the cloud service provider has expanded responsibility and has led to an influx of healthcare organizations and cloud service providers working together, worry-free, in perfect harmony.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.