Skip to Content

Blog

Hacking – why does it keep happening?

computer-hacker
Obviously this week the big story has been TalkTalk who it would appear have been hacked and potentially allowed details of 4 million customers into the wrong hands. This is the third large cyber-attack which TalkTalk have received and it is not at present clear why TalkTalk are targeted or who did it but it is far from being the only company that keeps being hit!
Most, if not all, large companies will receive cyber-attacks every day, it is unfortunately the norm. This is the reason why large companies invest in heavily in cyber security but being ahead of the cyber criminals isn’t easy. Around 1 million new malicious programs are created on a daily basis according to security firm Symantec.
It is extremely unlikely that any large company has not received cyber-attacks, it is also very unlikely that any of these large companies haven’t suffered a breach of security due to these attacks at some point. It is only the clever companies that are aware of these breaches and learn from them. It is likely that many companies will not know they have been breached which is much more dangerous than being aware!
Can it be stopped? Very unlikely, unfortunately it is just a case of staying one step ahead of the hackers which in reality is extremely difficult and expensive.

0 Continue Reading →

All White for Winter?

snowMAIN_1788610b

We know the weather predictions are always a tad dramatic with phrases such as ‘Arctic Freeze’ and ‘El Nino’ but it is worth paying attention to the fact that your business could suffer because of the winter. At present weather predictions for this winter are suggesting the El Nino (named Modiki) weather Phenomenon and reportedly maybe the strongest since 1950. In this year heavy snowfall brought chaos to much of the country with temperatures in some areas being as low as -22C with around 50cm of snowfall, certainly worse than the ‘big freeze’ which we remember in 2009/10.

The ‘El Nino’ happens when ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific, near South America, rise due to a change in the normal wind direction, creating knock-on effects across the globe due to the amount of heat released into the atmosphere. The polar jet stream tends to move further south, and brings wetter weather across the Atlantic, which causes heavy rainfall in warmer months (we have certainly had this), but can bring snow in the winter.

So is your business ready in case we do have a bad winter? Typically in the UK a bad winter means the public transport system grinds to a halt or at best is a very poor service. The reason for this, apart from the weather affecting equipment and roads, is due to Staff not being able to get into work and so we get into a vicious cycle!

If your staff cannot get into work whether it be due to public transport or the highways what contingencies do you have in place to allow your business to continue? Should it just be for a single day most businesses will be fine, albeit probably lose some revenue, however if the weather spell lasts a week or more then it could be much more serious.

Points to consider:

  • Remote access – Do you provide remote access whether it be via Remote desktop, Citrix, Outlook web access. Is this setup for all staff? Are they aware of the details? Do you have enough licences? Does your internet connection give sufficient bandwidth for inbound connections?
  • Telephony – do staff have desk phones at home? Can staff access the telephone system through soft phones (PC or smartphone apps). Can diverts be put on remotely?
  • Backup – if using onsite backups who will change the tapes/disks? How will the data get offsite for safe storage?
  • Meetings – do you have video conference services available to take meetings internally and externally given that travel is limited?
  • Communication – are staff aware of the business continuity plan? How they will access systems? How will staff communicate?
  • Suppliers – depending on your business your supplier’s business continuity plans maybe extremely important if you cannot receive deliveries of vital goods and services – they should be asked the question.

 

Whilst we have seen predictions previously for heatwaves, bad winters and even the end of the world eventually predictions do happen so it’s always best to be prepared. Please get in touch should you be interested in any advice on the above (excluding weather forecasts).

0 Continue Reading →

SPAM – what is it?

spam

Whilst we would rather have this as a fritter (us northerners) how did this term ever get into email? SPAM in terms of meat stands for Specially Processed American Meat but in email terminology it simply means ‘unsolicited email’

Spam as an email term does not actually stand for anything but was just a name that started and continued purely by chance. This came about in 1994 as part of a lawsuit in the US. A company had advertised its product on the usenet newsgroups (one of the first mass forums) and were flooded with complaints. Complaints made due to the misuse of the then scarce internet resources. Disk space and bandwidth was massively consumed by this single action, given the storage costs and modem dial up solutions back then you can imagine the issues. After this the name Spam simply caught on and is still with us today.

It is currently estimated that 70% of all emails sent are actually Spam and of this figure 90% can be attributed to a core of 200 Spam outfits.

Spam unfortunately is an overwhelming fact of life. Filtering however is available relatively cheaply to keep 99.9% of it out of your inbox, please contact Cloud53 should you need advice.

0 Continue Reading →

Backup, Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery – are they the same??

Burning_keyboard_medium

Recently after talking with clients we have realised that these terms all appear to mean the same thing to some of the business market out there and this is a dangerous assumption. Typically people only understand the differences after an incident and when it’s too late. Therefore we thought it may be useful to summarise what each is and what it means:

Backup –this typically happens once per day and overnight so therefore it is technically possible to lose around 23 hours’ worth of data. In addition a backup simply backs up data and restore may involve building a new server and then restoring the data to this server which if from tape could mean 24-48 hours before the server is back up and running as was. Therefore in this case the Recovery Point objective (RPO) is 23 hours and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is 48 hours. With tape this is always assuming each backup is successful and that you have a suitable tape drive to read from.

Business Continuity – This is essentially how your business (as a whole) will recover from an incident. This incident may not affect IT although most incidents do. It maybe related to the scenario that the office is inaccessible due to a gas leak and therefore how do your staff work from another location or it could be a gas explosion within the building which destroys the IT infrastructure. BC is about the capability of the organisation to continue its business following a disruptive incident. BC is the big plan of which IT Disaster Recovery is a subset.

IT Disaster Recovery – is how you plan to recover from a disaster and this isn’t simply restore from backup as let’s not forget you might not have any media to restore from, you might not have an internet link, you may not have servers or tape drives! DR is about how you recover from the worst possible disaster and as quickly as possible. In the business world the only way to guarantee your IT infrastructure to be always available is to host it outside your business in a datacentre (with redundancy / replication) or to host internally but replicate to a remote datacentre using real-time replication, therefore in the event of a disaster your RPO is less than one minute and your RTO is also just minutes. With auto fail-over and the correct replication software this is easily achievable.

0 Continue Reading →

Welcome to Summer!

airon failed

So it seems we are approaching the time of year when things warm up which is great news if you’re not at work or maybe work in state of the art offices with aircon (that works) however it’s not necessarily  good news for servers, network kit and the like in areas without dedicated air-conditioning.

Typically once we hit real summer there is a rise in server and network failures as this kit is still in the small room or cupboard that it is all year round but with an added 10°C or 15°C to work in. The kit still produces the same heat itself but the heat isn’t dispelled as well as it is in the cooler months. Often this means that a router or some other network kit fails first as often this is situated above the servers and of course heat rises. Without am ambient temperature being maintained then due to any additional heat, the servers have to work harder, spinning the cooling fans more to try and combat the heat being produced by the disks and the CPU’s. It’s a vicious circle until either the room cools or a component fails unfortunately

Remember in the summer months to keep an eye on temperatures in these areas and allow extra ventilation / aircon if you can.

  • An average server generates 1360btu/hour which is about the same as a small radiator.
  • It is recommended that server rooms maintain a temperature of between 18°C and 24°C.
  • Typically the server CPU’s will run at around 45°C however anything past 60°C for long periods can be dangerous and result in failures.
  • Disks are more likely to fail the older they are and as such temperature changes may contribute to these disks failing sooner.
  • Humidity is just as important to IT kit as temperature.

 

The obvious solution is to look at hosting your servers externally – why not get in touch with Cloud53 to discuss? Apart from taking the worry away it should also reduce your on-going costs!

0 Continue Reading →

Smartphones – is your data safe?

app-for-that-1024x989

Are you aware that a SINGLE data protection breach can result in a fine up to £500,000?

We’ve all heard the stories of laptops (even by Government people) being left on trains or being stolen that are not encrypted…. But of course these days all company laptops are fully encrypted…aren’t they?

One area often over looked are smartphones, which let’s face it we all use far more than laptops these days but, are they encrypted? I suspect not! The chances are all your company email is on your smartphone including contacts, attachments and other sensitive material. So why do we not place the same caution on the smartphone as we do the laptop?

Whilst you cannot necessarily encrypt all smartphones you can follow some easy steps to ensure that the data contained on it is safe.

Typically companies have 2 sets of smartphones, those provided by the company and so known about but also more worryingly those smartphones owned by staff who like to have the company email on their smartphone, these are the ones to be most concerned about!

Do you restrict staff who can access email on their smartphones? Do you have a company policy to cover this? If you answer ‘no’ to either of these questions then please give it some thought.

With mobile device management in place you can force all phones accessing company email to be protected by a 6, 8 or 10 digit password. In addition should the device be lost or stolen then a simple ‘phone call to Cloud53 can ensure that your smartphone is wiped clean of all data so whilst you may have lost the ‘phone, your data remains safe.
To find out more about this service please contact Cloud53.

0 Continue Reading →

If moving to the Cloud consider…

Cloud-Computing

Cost – There should be virtually no upfront costs and payments should be made on an ongoing monthly basis. This allows costs to be predictable and so budgets can be managed much easier. The cost of cloud should be less than the alternative of staying in house (including hardware, licensing, staff, power, backup, footprint etc.)

Flexibility – Ensure that employees can access their applications and data from anywhere, at any time and by any method required e.g. PC, Mac, smartphone, tablet etc. Licensing should allow this.

Resiliency – Moving to cloud should give you much increased resilience in terms of power, network, hardware etc. Be sure to check the availability figures quoted by the cloud company, remember 99.7% actually means potential downtime of more than 3 working days per year! Also to note your business is much more reliant on its connection to the internet, without this you cannot connect to cloud so maybe worth factoring in a backup line solution.

Scalability – A genuine cloud computing platform allows organisations to provision resources in real time, for example you should be able to scale your computing resources (processor, memory, disk space) both up and down quickly and easily.

Security – You need to be aware of where your data is stored and could be stored. It maybe that your data is not stored in the UK by default or it might be that it is stored in the UK but replication and failovers copy your data to another country. This isn’t necessarily an issue but depending on the country there are different laws for the security of your data and ownership. Ideally your data should never leave the UK.

Data Protection – The cloud solution should not breach Data Protection laws especially given fines of up to £500k are now possible.

Customer Lock-in – Ensure that you can get your data back at any time whether in contract or not and ideally without large penalty payments, an easy exit is essential! Your data should always be owned solely by you!

Cloud53 takes all these points into consideration with our cloud hosted services and would be pleased to discuss these with you

0 Continue Reading →

Cloud not for you? Think again!

Cloud-with-three-laptops-connected-to-it

The world of Cloud Computing can seem a little daunting. The buzz word “Cloud” is everywhere we look, yet many people aren’t entirely sure what the Cloud is or how it may benefit them. The truth of it is that you’re probably already using the Cloud in some fashion, perhaps without even realising it. Gmail, Hotmail and Dropbox are all an example of Cloud services.

Maybe you use Cloud storage services to store your digital information online. You probably also use some form of Cloud based email service. Just because we haven’t thought of email as a Cloud service doesn’t mean that it isn’t one.

According to a recent survey carried out by Citrix 95% of us in the UK believe we’re not actually using the Cloud when in actual fact, we are.
Furthermore 22% of people surveyed confessed to pretending that they understand how the cloud works.

Cloud Computing doesn’t need to be scary. Businesses and individuals need to choose a Cloud supplier who understands their needs and has a proven track record of delivering Cloud technologies. A move to the Cloud should improve your business practices whilst also saving you money.

If you’re considering a move to the Cloud or want to see how much you could save speak to our Cloud experts today.

0 Continue Reading →

Do you backup your data? ……Really?

where data

When you are asked that question you say a firm ‘Yes’ immediately, after all who would be stupid enough not to? But what is your backup? Is it checked? Is it safe? Is it up to date? Have you tested a restore? These are the questions where people are more hesitant.

Traditionally tapes have been the solid way backups have taken place however to anyone who has had to invest in a tape drive and assorted tapes to a reasonable backup rotation scheme will know how costly this is not to mention the man hours that have to go into this and backup software.

More and more firms are moving to cloud backup as it is simpler, faster, more reliable and a far lower ongoing cost. Security is often an argument heard however how often do tapes just go missing or you see a pile of them on a technician’s desk? Cloud53 backups are encrypted (only the customer has the security key) and stored in a Tier3 UK Datacentres.

How important is your data? Some facts regarding data loss

  • 6% of all PC’s will suffer an episode of data loss per year
  • 31% of all PC users have lost all their data due to events beyond their control
  • 34% of companies fail to test their tape backups – 77% of these have found backup failures
  • 60% of companies that lose all their data shutdown within 6 months of the disaster
  • 42% of attempted recoveries from tape backups fail
  • 20% of all small businesses will be hacked within the first year
  • 40% of small to medium sized firms who manage their own network will have their network accessed by a hacker, more than 50% will not be aware

 

To find out more about how Cloud backup by Cloud53 could benefit you, please get in touch.

0 Continue Reading →

End of 2003 Server = Start of a cloud??

win2k3endisnear

Windows server 2003 has been arguably the most successful Windows server platform ever released, being quite radical in its day, however its day was certainly some time ago. 2003 server was released on April 24th 2003 when Andre Agassi was the Tennis world no 1, Room 5 were at the top of the charts and the Nokia’s 1100 was the no 1 selling Mobile phone. Even iTunes had not been released.

We have certainly come a long way and many of you still have the trusty 2003 server running but with support coming to an end in July 2015 what do you do? Keep running with fingers crossed? Upgrade to 2012? Or is it the opportunity to shift your infrastructure to the Cloud?

A recent survey showed that 61% of businesses have at least one Windows 2003 server running and that only 8% intend to keep them, the rest favouring upgrade or a move to cloud

To stick with 2003 is a risk obviously, but best to be aware of the facts:

  • There will be no Microsoft support in case of issues.
  • There will be no security updates or bug fixes available.
  • Security vulnerabilities will not be addressed.
  • 64bit software will not run on 2003.
  • 37 critical updates were released in 2013 for server 2003.
  • The last service pack for 2003 was released in 2007.
  • Later versions of Server are far superior in terms of features, performance and security.

There isn’t a simple answer as every situation is different, however it is the belief that the majority will find that the related cost savings of going to cloud will be tempting not to mention increased performance, scalability and flexibility that a cloud can provide. Cloud technology used to be something reserved for big companies but now with the advent of cheap and fast broadband together with lower compute costs it is accessible to all.

Cloud53 will be happy to talk this over should you be in this position. Your 2003 servers are not going to blow up on July 14th but you should be ready and aware!

2 Continue Reading →