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How to Trim the Fat From Data Center Costs

60 When smaller businesses look to cut costs, they commonly take shortcuts that are risky to their bottom line. They may go out of their way to avoid upgrading dated hardware, buying software licenses, or increasing bandwidth. In some instances, they layoff in-house IT support, or avoid hiring new help, even as the business grows. This often leads to a very cranky and disgruntled “IT guy” with a bad attitude as he or she runs around the office putting out one fire after another – feeling overburdened and underpaid.

Operating even the most basic data center today means recurring operating expenses that aren’t affordable for most small-to-midsize businesses.

Unfortunately, SMBs just have to accept that keeping their data center alive and kicking means significant overhead and expenses. That’s just the way it is.

Or is it? There are actually several ways to reduce data center infrastructure costs without sacrificing the efficiency of your network, server, and applications, or the sanity of your IT guy.

 

Rent, Don’t Own: A data center needs experienced people and a virtual, always-on, 24/7 staff of administrators, networking experts, database specialists, systems managers, and dedicated IT personnel monitoring the network. From an economic perspective, it’s simply more logical to “rent” these workers rather than hire permanent employees.

 

Keep Things Remote & Energy Efficient: According to a study published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the fastest-growing sources of U.S. energy consumption are data centers. This is due to the increased power supply required to run and cool a data center. Hardware sprawl is also a problem contributor, as most businesses have space limitations and lack the available room for any additional hardware.

 

EMBRACE OUTSOURCING

Both of the aforementioned cost control measures can be accomplished by outsourcing data center operating expenses. Outsourcing isn’t a dirty word. Managing IT on your own is difficult and far from cost effective. Outsourcing the day-to-day IT management responsibilities through a Managed Services Provider is a strategic way to improve the efficiency of operations and dramatically cut costs. Is it any surprise that more and more SMBs today are tapping into the full spectrum of outsourced managed services to empower their business processes and reduce overhead? Are you?

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

4 Steps To Improve SMB Data And Network Security

 TO STAY SECURE – A GOOD DEFENSE IS THE BEST OFFENSE

SMBs must understand that the time has come to get serious with their security. Sadly, many small businesses have a false sense of security. In the McAfee/ Office Depot joint survey of 1000 SMBs, over 66% were confident in the security of their data and devices despite admitting to obvious flaws.

Cybercrime is only one cause of compromised data. There are 3 primary causes of breached security at businesses according to the June 2013 Symantec Global Cost of a Data Breach study. Only 37% are attributed to malicious attacks. The remaining 64% are human error and technology errors. 56

Data breaches aren’t always about bad people doing bad things. Many are the result of good employees making mistakes or of technology failure. SMBs don’t necessarily need a large budget or dozens of employees to adequately protect sensitive data. A secure environment is possible even on a SMBs budget. Here are a few steps to improving data and network security.

STEP 1

KNOW ALL DEVICES CONNECTING TO YOUR NETWORK

Keep a frequently updated list of every device that connects to your network. This inventory is especially important given today’s BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) workplace where employees can access your network through several different devices. Knowing what these devices are and ensuring they’re all configured properly will optimize network security.

All it takes is a regularly scheduled review to add or remove any devices and affirm that every endpoint is secure. Much of thisprocess can be inexpensively automated through a Mobile Device Monitoring (MDM) tool. A MDM tool will approve or quarantine any new device accessing the network, enforce encryption settings if sensitive information is stored on such a device, and remotely locate, lock, and wipe company data from lost or stolen devices.

STEP 2

EDUCATE & TRAIN EMPLOYEES

57 Every employee should participate in regular general awareness security training. This will not only reduce security breaches directly tied to employee error or negligence but also train employees to be on the defense against cybercrime. Employees are critical to your security success and the prevention of data breaches. Hackers commonly break into networks by taking advantage of unknowing employees. Phishing attacks – legitimate looking emails specifically crafted to mislead recipients into clicking a malicious link where they’re asked to provide their username and password – are still successfully used by hackers to capture login credentials.

If a large company makes the news for a data breach tied to an infected email, be sure to share that news with employees with a warning. Come up with fun ways to teach employees how to identify spear-phishing email attempts and better secure their systems and devices.

It is also important to have a security policy written for employees that clearly identifies the best practices for internal and remote workers. For example, password security is critical and passwords should be frequently updated to a combination of numbers, lower case letters and special characters that cannot be easily guessed. Security policy training should be integrated into any new employee orientation. This policy should be updated periodically. More important than anything, this security policy must be enforced to be effective.

STEP 3

PERFORM AN AUDIT OF SENSITIVE BUSINESS INFORMATION

If you want to keep your most sensitive business information secure, it’s important to know exactly where it’s stored. A detailed quarterly audit is recommended.

STEP 4

USE CLOUD AND MANAGED SERVICE PROVIDERS

Overall, the cloud is likely a more secure data solution for small business. Any conception that the cloud isn’t safe is outdated. Most of 2013’s security breaches were the result of lost or stolen devices, printed documents falling into the wrong hands, and employee errors leading to unintended disclosures. It’s fair to speculate that many of these breaches wouldn’t have occurred had this information been stored in the cloud rather than computers, laptops, and vulnerable servers.

SMBs with limited budgets are actually enhancing their security by moving to the cloud. Since there is no way a SMB can match a large enterprise’s internal services, moving services like emails, backups, and collaborative file sharing to the cloud not only reduces total-cost-of-ownership, but gives access to top-level security to better defend against internal and external threats.

Meanwhile, a Managed Service Provider (MSP) can assume responsibility for security measures like the administering of complex security devices, technical controls like firewalls, patching, antivirus software updates, intrusion-detection and log analysis systems.

MSPs are also capable of generating a branded risk report for any potential client or business partner reviewing your security measures. This third party manual assessment of your network security can instill confidence in prospective business partners by proving to them that any possible security risks or vulnerabilities will be properly managed and addressed.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

Cybercrime and SMBs

 WHAT HAPPENS ON MAIN STREET STAYS ON MAIN STREET

When hackers breach the security of corporations it makes headlines, yet there is rarely a mention when cybercrime hits small to medium sized businesses (SMBs). Very few people are even aware that today’s cybercriminals are targeting SMBs, not just supersized global businesses. According to Verizon’s 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report, 71% of the data breaches investigated by the company’s forensic analysis unit targeted small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Of that group, businesses with less than 10 employees were the most frequently attacked.

55 EVERYONE IS A VICTIM WHEN IT COMES TO CYBERCRIME

The loss and exposure of confidential data from a cyber-attack is costly to both the people victimized and the businesses whose data was compromised.

For the victim, hackers typically retrieve personal information, bank account, credit card and social security numbers, resulting in identity fraud. The stress and time involved to reclaim their identity and get their financial house back in order is beyond measure.

For businesses, there are 47 state-specific DBN (Data Breach Notification) laws in effect in the United States. Adding to the complexity and costs of this process is the fact that laws and compliance obligations vary from state to state. A breach of customer data in Pennsylvania will have different breach notification and follow-up requirements than a breach involving a customer in Massachusetts. This means firms servicing customers and clients from more than one state are responsible for these duplicative legal, regulatory and compliance burdens.

CYBERCRIME COMES AT A HIGH PRICE FOR SMBs

According to research compiled by the Ponemon Institute in their 2nd Annual Cost of Cyber Crime Study, the average cost per breached record in the U.S. is anywhere between $150 to $200. This amount factors in the costs of the investigation and notification process, fixing the issue that led to the breach, possible liability and litigation costs, lost business, and the time and effort that go into damage control. In many cases, a damaged reputation may prove to be irreparable. Nearly two-thirds of victimized companies are out of business within six months of a significant cyber-attack, making cybercrime the death knell for many SMBs. This is because the consequences of cybercrime extend well beyond the actual incident and have long-lasting implications.

Small businesses obviously don’t have the same financial footing to rebound and carry on with business as usual in the way organizations like Target, Amazon, Apple, or Citibank can.

Symantec’s research found that customers affected by security breaches are generally less forgiving of smaller businesses, especially smaller online retailers, than larger companies. SMBs are contending not only with lost revenue and expenses, but also the possibility of never regaining the trust of customers, clients and business partners.

Symantec’s 2012 State of Information Survey found that nearly half of all SMBs admitted to a data breach damaging their reputation and driving customers away. 53

The trend of cybercriminals preying on smaller businesses doesn’t seem to be waning. According to Symantec, the number of cybercrime attacks targeting firms with fewer than 250 employees jumped from 18 percent of all attacks in 2011 to 31 percent in 2012.

WHY CYBERCRIMINALS ARE ZEROING IN ON SMALL BUSINESSES

Large corporations have the resources to invest heavily in the most sophisticated security strategies and successfully stop most cybercrime attempts. A typical large enterprise may have over twenty in-house IT dedicated employees ensuring that every device connecting to their network is adequately protected.

In comparison, SMBs have neither the money nor the manpower of large enterprises and can’t afford the same level of security. Very few SMBs have fulltime IT dedicated personnel on hand to run routine security checks. Even those who do have in-house IT support often find that their internal resources are too bogged down with other tasks to properly address security upkeep.

A joint survey of 1000 SMBs conducted in September of 2013 by McAfee Internet Security and Office Depot further confirms how lax many SMBs are when it comes to protecting their data. 54

Not only have SMBs become easy prey for cybercriminals, but their sheer abundance also makes them an alluring target. There are roughly 23 million SMBs in the United States alone. Half of that figure is comprised of home-based businesses. Even in a struggling economy, it’s projected that there are still an estimated 500,000 startups launching every month with only a handful of employees.

SMBs ARE NOT “TOO SMALL TO MATTER”

Since most cybercrimes affecting smaller businesses go unreported by the media, there is no sense of urgency by SMBs to prepare for cyber-attacks. Too many SMBs mistakenly view their operations and data as trivial to hackers. They feel that large online retailers, global banks, and government entities are much more attractive targets for hackers.

The goals and methods of cyber attackers are evolving and will continue to evolve. The era of one “big heist” for hackers is over. Cybercriminals today often prefer to infiltrate the data of many small businesses at once, stealing from victims in tiny increments over time so as to not set off an immediate alarm. This method takes advantage of those SMBs who are especially lax with their security processes and may not even realize there has been a security breach for days or sometimes even weeks. SMBs must end the “It will never happen to us” mindset. For instance, political “hactivists” have been responsible for a number of high-profile Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks in recent years. The goal of a hactivist is to disrupt the status quo and wreak havoc on the technology infrastructure of larger corporations and government entities. It’s a form of cyber anarchy: A “stick it to the man” philosophy spearheaded by groups like 4chan, Anonymous, LulzSec, and Anti-Sec.

An owner or Chief Information Office (CIO) at a SMB may read of these high publicized attacks in the press and not think anything of it. They aren’t Sony, Apple, or the Department of Defense, so why would a hactivist target their data? But it’s estimated that there are on average 1.29 DDoS attacks throughout the world every two minutes and such activity is much broader in scope than the press may lead us to believe.

SMBs- THE ACCESS RAMP TO BIGGER & BETTER DATA

One reason small businesses are more vulnerable is they’re often the inroad to larger better-protected entities. They are often sub-contracted as a vendor, supplier, or service provider to a larger organization. This makes SMBs an attractive entry point for raiding the data of a larger company. Since larger enterprises have more sophisticated security processes in place to thwart cyber-attacks, SMBs often unknowingly become a Trojan horse used by hackers to gain backdoor access to a bigger company’s data. There is malware specifically designed to use a SMBs website as a means to crack the database of a larger business partner.

For this reason, many potential clients or business partners may ask for specifics on how their data will be safeguarded before they sign an agreement. Some may require an independent security audit be conducted. They may also ask SMBs to fill out a legally binding questionnaire pertaining to their security practices.

Moving forward, a SMB that is unable to prove they’re on top of their infrastructure’s security will likely lose out on potentially significant deals and business relationships. More large enterprises are being careful to vet any business partners they’re entrusting their data to.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

Stay Secure My Friend… More Hackers Targeting SMBs

Many SMBs don’t realize it, but the path to some grand cybercrime score of a lifetime may go right through their backdoor.  SMBs are commonly vendors, suppliers, or service providers who work with much larger enterprises. Unfortunately, they may be unaware that this makes them a prime target for hackers. Worse yet, this may be costing them new business.

Larger companies likely have their security game in check, making it difficult for hackers to crack their data. They have both the financial resources and staffing power to stay on top of security practices. But smaller firms continue to lag when it comes to security. In many cases, the gateway to accessing a large company’s info and data is through the smaller company working with them. Exposed vulnerabilities in security can lead cybercriminals right to the larger corporation they’ve been after.

25 Cybercriminals Target Companies with 250 or Fewer Employees

In 2012, Symantec research confirmed that cybercriminals are increasingly targeting smaller businesses with 250 or fewer employees. Attacks aimed at this demographic practically doubled from the previous year. This news has made larger enterprises particularly careful about whom they do business with. This means that any SMB targeting high-end B2B clientele, or those seeking partnerships with large public or government entities, must be prepared to accurately answer questions pertaining to security. This requires an honest assessment of the processes taken to limit security risks.

View Security Measures as Investments

CIOs must start viewing any extra investment to enhance security as a competitive differentiator in attracting new business. Adopting the kind of security measures that large enterprises seek from third-party partners they agree to work with will inevitably pay off. The payoff will come by way of new revenue-generating business contracts that will likely surpass whatever was spent to improve security.

Would-be business partners have likely already asked for specifics about protecting the integrity of their data.  Some larger entities require that SMBs complete a questionnaire addressing their security concerns. This kind of documentation can be legally binding so it’s important that answers aren’t fudged just to land new business. If you can’t answer “yes” to any question about security, find out what it takes to address that particular security concern.

Where a Managed Service Provider Comes In

Anyone who isn’t yet working with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) should consider it. First, a manual network and security assessment offers a third-party perspective that will uncover any potential business-killing security risks. A good MSP will produce a branded risk report to help you gain the confidence of prospects to win new business.

A MSP can properly manage key elements of a small company’s security plan. This includes administrative controls like documentation, security awareness training, and audits as well as technical controls like antivirus software, firewalls, patches, and intrusion prevention. Good management alone can eliminate most security vulnerabilities and improve security.

Stay secure and CLICK HERE for a free network assessment. Managed IT could prevent a security breach.

Achieving Hipaa Compliance & Data Security In The Cloud

Prioritizing Security & Privacy in Healthcare Sector

Physician offices, hospitals and health insurers take practical steps each day to protect private patient health information (PHI) and comply with HIPAA regulations. Anyone interacting with patients and regularly accessing or discussing confidential medical records is obligated to adhere to certain requirements to uphold privacy and security.

For example, employees must be mindful of what is said aloud pertaining to an individual patient. Doors must be closed when patient conditions, treatments and procedures are discussed in person or over the phone. Staff should never leave voice mails with specifics about patient health conditions or test results. Even simple acts like summoning patients from the waiting room must be carried out with patient discretion in mind.

Failure to do this can result in a reported HIPAA breach that can be accompanied by potentially heavy monetary fines and often-irreparable reputation damage. The industry’s need to prioritize the integrity of patient data is even more pronounced in this time of flux within the healthcare sector.

Transitioning to the Electronic Age

Healthcare service providers today are in the process of converting all paper medical records to electronic health records (EHRs) or electronic medical records (EMRs) to meet the meaningful use requirements outlined in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The ARRA incentivizes the healthcare sector to accelerate the adoption of enterprise-wide electronic medical data by 2015 or face possible penalties.

We are entering a period in our history where volumes of confidential patient health information (PHI) will be stored, shared, and accessed electronically for the very first time ever. There has never been a more critical time for healthcare service providers to ensure that patient rights are protected, confidential information is safeguarded, and this transition from the immovable locked file cabinets to today’s electronic-system is completely HIPAA compliant and secure.

How HIPAA Breaches Most Commonly Happen

The U.S. Department of Health’s Office of Civil Rights found that there have been 21 million HIPAA security breaches since 2009. These breaches have resulted in an average of 2,769 records being lost or stolen per breach. Among them:

  • 48% were stolen medical files
  • 48% were stolen billing and insurance records
  • 20% were stolen prescription details
  • 13% were stolen monthly statements
  • 24% were stolen patient billing/payment details
  • 19% were stolen payment details

During this period, 66 percent of the reported large-scale HIPPA violations were due to the physical loss or theft of electronic equipment or storage media such as a laptop or flash drive that held unencrypted PHI. Another 8 percent of the large-scale HIPAA breach incidents were the result of hacking and cybercrime.

Physical Theft

Based on the above findings alone, one can come to the obvious conclusion that storing such unencrypted data on a physical hard drive or any portable storage media device elevates the risk of an HIPAA breach. Therefore, eliminating the need to store or transfer this data on equipment such as laptops or flash drives should significantly minimize the risk of many of the HIPAA violations reported today.

Cybercrime

Cybercrime is a growing threat within the healthcare sector since the industry has been slow to adopt new technology. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, there were 17 reported financial industry data breaches in 2012 compared to a reported 154 healthcare industry breaches during the same time frame. The aging technology commonly used by healthcare service providers is rife with software and security flaws making it susceptible to data breaches resulting from hacking and other cyber-attacks.

Data thieves view private medical records as a high valued commodity – a gateway to identity theft. Safeguarding this data is challenging. With the shift to electronic records, data thieves have upped their game, finding new ways to gain unauthorized access to patient data by exposing vulnerabilities.

Defending against cybercrime requires constant monitoring for intrusion attempts and security upgrades. In this era where the volume of stored data is increasing, new cyber threats seemingly surface every day, and there is continuous demand to comply with regulations; healthcare service providers securing their own infrastructure will inevitably become overburdened and more vulnerable to attacks and HIPAA breaches.

 

The Case for Moving Data to the Cloud

Although many healthcare service providers have shown a reluctance to abandon their in-house IT infrastructure and security measures, on premise data center attacks are proving to be more prevalent, costly, and difficult to rebound from.

Healthcare providers who have resisted the cloud due to privacy and security concerns could be making a grave mistake. Increasing evidence suggests that the cloud can actually enhance data security. It does this while also freeing up manpower and budget dollars that can be better allocated toward the principle objective of improving patient care.

Proactive Remote Monitoring

Leading cloud-service providers offer an around-the-clock remote monitoring service that maximizes uptime while monitoring each node in the cloud infrastructure, each access point, and the data center platform as a whole. This is an extremely important function that detects and addresses potential issues before they become serious breach incidents. Metrics are collected and alerts are triggered whenever faulty conditions such as a data backup failure or an authorized attempt to access data are detected.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment and see how your sensitive information can remain secure in the cloud.

Cognoscape’s Michael St. Martin on KRLD last week “The Educated Investor”

Michael St. Martin, Cognoscape’s COO visited with Todd Volkman on Todd’s KRLD 1080AM radio show “The Educated Investor” last week to discuss how small and medium business owners and executives can leverage technology to increase revenues, productivity and cost savings. Listen “I had a blast speaking with Todd and hopefully explaining how to wade through the quickly changing and sometimes complex landscape of today’s technology” says Michael.   Topics covered include technology planning, back up and disaster recovery, hosted email, cloud computing, free or low cost web apps, and other nuggets of info for you.   Happy listening!

Cognoscape Secures Law Firm Data from Loss, Virus and Potential Disaster

Cognoscape Secures Law Firm Data from Loss, Virus and Potential Disaster

Dallas, TX (PRWEB) April 28, 2010 — In a city that’s famous for being considered the lower section of “Tornado Alley” it’s comforting to know that one of your most important business assets (data) is secure and recoverable. With uncomfortable memories of the recent 10 year anniversary of a tornado that ripped through the west side of the Dallas/ Fort Worth Metroplex in 2000, the threat of a disaster that could potentially put an entire business at risk is quite real. Thirty three businesses were damaged or destroyed in that disaster.

Ft. Worth Tornado

Cognoscape, a Dallas based Computer Services start up has secured a local law firm’s data through their sophisticated TotalCare Data Back Up and Disaster Recovery solution. With both on-site and off-site data backup and recovery, *GoransonBain, one of Dallas’s premier family law firms, is now protected from data loss, hard drive failure and major disaster. “Backing up data in and of itself is certainly not a complicated issue” states CTO of Cognoscape – Charles Tholen, “but a sophisticated system allowing for a complete and quick recovery is paramount to maintaining business continuity and keeping a business up and running.”

  • 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. 50% of businesses that found themselves without data management for this same time period filed for bankruptcy immediately. (National Archives & Records Administration in Washington)
  • 20% of small to medium businesses will suffer a major disaster causing loss of critical data every 5 years. (Source: Richmond House Group)
  • 30% of all businesses that have a major fire go out of business within a year. 70% fail within five years. (Home Office Computing Magazine)
  • This year, 40% of small to medium businesses that manage their own network and use the Internet for more than e-mail will have their network accessed by a hacker, and more than 50% won’t even know they were attacked. (Source: Gartner Group)

“The sad part is that most small and medium businesses think they are covered for Backup and Recovery but don’t have sufficient systems and/or don’t test those systems on a regular basis to know if they even work properly or not. Add to the mix, little or no security for the network itself against virus or malicious attacks and this compounds the problem.” says Michael St. Martin, Cognoscape’s COO. In addition to Data Backup and Disaster Recovery, Cognoscape has also improved the overall use of technology at GoransonBain with the latest in servers, desktops, laptops, software and applications which has streamlined the law firm’s business process and increased productivity. Thomas Goranson, attorney and managing partner at GoransonBain states that “not only do we feel better about our data security but the use of newer technology allows our lawyers to focus more on our business and our clients.”

With a number of technology solutions, all carefully chosen to ensure business continuity, Cognoscape is uniquely positioned to make a name for itself in the growing Managed Services market. “It’s been quite a ride so far, and I look forward to being able to continue to deliver to our clients the ability to make them even better at what they already do well”, says St. Martin.

For a free Backup & Disaster Recovery evaluation contact Cognoscape at 214.377.4884.

About Cognoscape – A growing Managed Services and Technology Solutions company that focuses on Business Continuity and delivering Enterprise Class Technology Solutions to Small and Medium Business. Using the latest Cloud Computing technologies such as redundant or fail over server capability, hosted Microsoft Exchange, sophisticated network monitoring & management and government grade security we allow you to focus on your business while utilizing technology as a competitive advantage.