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Cloud Computing For Your Business

If you'd like to help improve this page, please contact support@savvysme.com.au  I  “…Back in 2012 Business Insider reported that 51% of the people they surveyed believed that ‘bad weather’ affected cloud computing…”  WHAT IS CLOUD COMPUTING?  Let’s get back to basics and discuss what modern cloud computing is and what it can do for business. First of all, it is not a literal cloud in the sky. This may sound silly, but back in 2012 Business Insider reported that 51% of the people they surveyed believed that ‘bad weather’ affected cloud computing. I’d like to think that if the same survey was conducted today the outcome would be very different. Many of you may be reading this thinking, “Great, I have no idea what cloud computing is and I have never used it before.” In reality, you are probably already using cloud computing in your everyday life and don’t even know it. If you use a smart phone, you will be using ‘the cloud’ every day. Smart phone companies switched to cloud computing around 4 years ago, allowing users to back up contacts, photos, messaging and more in the cloud. Today these modern conveniences are taken for granted and the idea of not backing up your data is ridiculous. It is not just your smart phone that is connecting you to the cloud. If you are currently operating Gmail or use DropBox, these are also a cloud services. They hold your email, files and data online. If you’ve just binge-watched your latest television obsession on Netflix then you are connected to the cloud. Yes, you read it right, Netflix functions with the help of the cloud. With these realisations it is easy to assume the cloud is some sort of top secret technology enigma. However, the cloud is not as mysterious as you may think. Just because you cannot see it does not mean it is not a physical entity. Cloud computing refers to a network of servers located in thousands of data centres around the world. Some of the largest data centres reside on plots up to 1 million square foot! Now that’s a lot of data. Data centres are owned and operated by a number of different organisations, some of the big players include Apple, Microsoft and Google. Users then sign up to a cloud plan and pay for these companies to store, manage and maintain their files in these data centres. To put this into context, Gmail stores your emails in a data centre to ensure that you are able to access them anywhere, at any time. When you login to your inbox the internet connects you to the particular server, within this data centre, that is hosting your emails. Your emails appear and you can proceed with using your inbox as normal. So instead of accessing your data from a server in the same room as you, you are accessing the data via the internet from a server likely to be located somewhere in your country. All of this happens effortlessly. This is why it can be hard to recognise that certain every day practises rely on cloud services. Today, the cloud is so much more than just file storage. Cloud applications now allow for the use of common programs across multiple devices, providing you have access to the internet. Gone are the days where you need to install software in order to access programs such as the Microsoft or Adobe suites. Now, all you need to do is sign up to a plan and login. You will then receive access to familiar applications online and all of your work in progress. The cloud in a business setting works the same way as smart phone storage but on a much larger scale. It is all about connectivity, security, productivity and scalability. Imagine it like a huge online filing cabinet containing all of your important business files and documents. By combining file and data storage with the use of cloud applications, cloud services have the potential to increase productivity and streamline business practises. Cloud computing for business gives you the ability to work on-the-go across multiple devices, with the help of easier communication methods and better collaboration options. The cloud is a platform that allows for you to access your data online – anytime, anywhere and from any device! The cloud isn’t magic. It’s business. It is a simple metaphor for online data and applications. "The cloud" may be a nebulous term (pun intended), but now, it is an everyday part of our lives. Full Article: What Is Cloud Computing         KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CLOUD AND DESKTOP Mobility - With cloud solutions, you aren't tied to any one computer or hard drive. Cost Structure - Subscription based payments vs. large once-off upfront payment. Upgrades, backups and maintenance - You don’t need to worry a thing. Your software provider takes care of this for you.  Sources: Online Cloud Account Software Options for Small Businesses    WHY BUSINESSES ARE AFRAID TO GO CLOUD "Everything must be in the cloud" Depending on the business, a complete move to the cloud is not always the solution. It is important to evaluate each area of your business and identify what is working and what is not working. If certain areas of your business seem to be slowing in productivity and efficiently then a shift of these low performing features to the cloud may be the best option. "Cloud migration costs a fortune" Cloud migration can cost as little $99 per user, depending on what areas of your business you decided to move to the cloud. Cloud computing is all about the long term benefits. Once the move is made, your business has reduced its need for hardware and software maintenance, saving money in the process.  Long term findings have highlighted that 82 percent of businesses reveal they are actually saving money thanks to a cloud move. "The cloud is not as secure as other methods" Security is the number one priority of cloud storage and computing, especially with recent conversation surrounding cyber security becoming an increasingly more prominent talking point in 2016. In the case of many cloud hosting providers, the data that you store is completely controlled by you and your business. Business cloud users will know where the data is and who is accessing it at all times.  "Migrating into the cloud is more hassle than it is worth" Depending on the organisation some cleansing and architectural issue management may be required before making the move, particularly if you are currently working on very old servers.The short-term inconvenience should not outweigh the long-term benefits of greater efficiency, cost effectiveness and ultimately a business that is future-proofed no matter what changes the market brings. "Cloud technology is still in its early stages of development" A recent ISACA study revealed that cloud computing is fast approaching maturity. Within the next four years you can expect to see constant innovation at an ever increasing pace and continued refinement which will ensure cloud computing meets the needs of every size and type of business. Full Article: Top 5 myths of moving your business to "The Cloud"    WHEN SHOULD YOUR BUSINESS MOVE TO CLOUD SOLUTIONS ​ "The landscape we have is very different now. People demand to have access to data anytime, anywhere. Mobile is changing the way business and people interact. Data is exponentially growing. And there's security threats everywhere. To enable you to do your job better today, you've to be able to get instant access to information, right? And so that's why moving to the cloud becomes more of a mandate unless you accept that your competitors will outperform you." Macel Legaspi, Hewlett Packard Enterprise You find it difficult to control and maintain your on-site hardware You hate the hassle, the cost and the time-consuming nature of renewing your office software Your business is experiencing rapid growth You want to improve your B2B communication You are constantly on the go and find it difficult to collaborate with colleagues Full Article: 5 Signs your Business is ready for a Cloud Solution     BENEFITS OF CLOUD OVER DESKTOP BASED SOLUTIONS  Accessibility – You and your team are able to work on your business anywhere, anytime. Teams have full visibility on their collaborations and are updated in real time, minimising miscommunication and meeting time and making operations more efficient.  Continuous system improvement - You don't have to worry about wasting time maintaining the system, allowing yourself and your team to focus on your core business. Fast Implementation - In most cases, you can sign up and start using immediately.  Flexibility - Operational agility is the top driver for cloud adoption. Cloud-based services are ideal for businesses with fluctuating demands. Scaling up and scaling down cloud capacity is quick and simple. This allows businesses to only pay for what they use and adapt to changing needs quickly.   Security - You don't have to worry about spilling water on your laptop anymore. Everything is safe and sound in the cloud so you are free to spill as much water as you like. Sources:  Cloud Accounting Is The New Norm What Cloud Computing Tools Can Do For Your Business    CONS FOR CLOUD Cost of subscriptions - With these services you will normally be charged a subscription “per entity”. This means if you have five companies you are paying for each entity that is online using the cloud package. Using in-house systems on the other hand, you pay for the software (and if you wanted, support), and this allows you to use it on multiple entities. Cost of changing circumstances - You choose a cloud service based on what it provides you today but let’s consider the longer-term ramifications. Two easy examples: You sell the business or close down. Whilst you no longer want the service you do however need to retain access to all that information for five years. What are your options – continue to pay for the service for another five years? Or, print all the information out; Add an extra angle to this. Say that every hard copy invoice you have paid you destroyed because you attached a scanned copy to the cloud database. Do you pay for another five years membership? Or, do you open every invoice within the system and save it to another location (a very long and time consuming task). Sources: Online Cloud Accounting Software For Business    THE FIRST STEPS TOWARDS CLOUD COMPUTING Before looking outside of your business to the different vendors and solutions, first analyse your operations today. Where are your challenges and inefficiencies? Calculate the costs of running your organisation's applications, both from a financial and time resource point of view. Once you have a clear view of your business' shortcomings, look into the various alternative cloud solutions and what the costs of migration are, if there are any. At the end of the day, you need to weigh the costs and benefits to your bottom line. Solutions, whether cloud or desktop, are to allow for you and your team to maximise resources and grow the business as efficiently as possible.   Cloud Solutions Snapshot Accounting SAASU Xero Collaboration SharePoint BaseCamp Asana Communication Skype CRM Salesforce Worketc Customer Support Desk.com Zen Desk Documents Box Dropbox Office365 GoogleDrive Email Marketing Mailchimp Notes OneNote Evernote Server Amazon Rackspace ​ Experts    PER HENRIKSEN CloudVikings is an exciting new company that has a clear vision of becoming the default “one-stop-shop” Cloud Services Provider in Australia. CloudVikings removes all current Cloud adoption hurdles and offers customers a single point of entry into the benefits of Cloud-based computing for their business. We have teamed with leading Cloud Services Providers (including Microsoft and Google) to provide a holistic and customer-centric solution.     GAVIN KEANE I am a cloud computing expert and Managing Director of Cloud Made Simple. My team and I aim to make cloud migration a simple and cost effective choice for Australian SMEs. A competitor at heart, I work hard to give my clients winning cloud solution packages for their business. While the field of technology and online services is ever changing, I have enjoyed learning an developing my skills in the technology solutions industry over the past 15 years.       ANDREW TUCKER Serial Entrepreneur with 20 years of building successful annuity based IT professional services businesses. His goal has always been for these businesses to deliver unmatched service levels, customer value and trust. He has started, run and sold a number of successful businesses. These business range from 80 to 2000 staff with turnovers of $10mil to $400mil. Most recently Andrew has got involved with ITonCloud, a Cloud and Hosted Desktop provider. ITonCloud is proudly Australian.         Businesses Who Can Help You    Events Amazon Web Services User Group  The Amazon Web Services User Group (Australia) is a group dedicated to cloud services provided by Amazon. Because we are specific to Amazon Web Services (AWS), we can go deep into some of the technical services provided by AWS and get some really great insights into how their services work. If you want to put your application in the cloud and have already chosen AWS, or if you already have applications in the AWS cloud, then this is a great group to get helpful insights and advice from other group members. Next Event: Wed 30 March (click here for details) IoT Slam® 2016 Second International Internet of Things Conference The aim is to accelerate the adoption of IoT by bringing together leading practitioners and authorities, to share their experiences and best practices in developing, launching and operating IoT devices, networks and applications and to discuss solutions to critical challenges. Next Event: 28 April (Virtual Event) (click here for details) Salesforce World Tour  See what you can achieve with the world’s number one customer engagement solution. You’ll also hear from industry thought-leaders and inspiring Salesforce customers on how they’re attracting more customers today – and what they think will be the key to innovation tomorrow. Next Event: Tues 12 April (click here for details)   MORE Q&A What are the main differences between cloud and desktop accounting software? Should I have my own server or make use of cloud computing?  What are the best options for hosting data files?  MORE ARTICLES Comparison of Virtual Server and Dedicated Server Why is Xero Dramatically Changing the Bookkeeping World of Small Businesses  

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Comparison of Virtual Server and Dedicated Server

A few years seem like a long time in the IT industry. It may seem like ages ago when nearly every company owned the computer hardware it used, but the fact is that cloud computing has not been around for such a long time. More companies are adopting cloud computing with passing time. Server Hosting Major Methods There are four major methods that companies can use for their IT requirements, namely: • Having personal dedicated hardware • Renting dedicated server hardware that a managed-services provider owns • Virtual server hosting in the cloud • A hybrid systemPersonal Dedicated Hardware It requires a significant amount of capital to own all the necessary pieces of hardware, whether they are housed within the company or at a data center managed by a partner. Other costs associated with this model include software licensing, personnel, ongoing management, data center fees and environmental support.  In spite of these costs, owning dedicated hardware is an ideal choice for companies that want complete control of their systems.Dedicated Hardware Owned by a Provider Using dedicated server hardware that a partner owns significantly reduces operating expenses and overhead because a company will not need the capital required to purchase hardware. The licensing arrangements get simpler, and there is the possibility of benefiting from lower licensing costs. However, the processes required for quoting and approval take significant time, which affects scalability. Companies also pay for all relevant pieces of hardware, including the ones they do not use. Incomplete utilization of dedicated server equipment results in business inefficiencies. Hosting Virtual Servers in the Cloud Since companies only pay for what they use in the cloud environment, this method removes inefficiencies associated with the above method. Service Level Agreement usually guarantees 99.9 percent uptime, and the licensing agreements allow for fast and easy updates. The use of virtual servers speeds up disaster recovery, and the process gets cheaper. This method also enhances transparency because companies can calculate cost-per-use more accurately.  Cloud computing is a flexible and cost effective solution. However, companies only stand to get its benefits when they select the right service providers. The providers must be professional and reliable because the relationship between them and their clients will either make or break businesses.  Companies should choose virtual server providers with a track record of providing efficient cloud services, including strategic planning, support and any relevant advice. This is what will enable companies to leverage the power of cloud computing. Hybrid Systems Some companies prefer the hybrid model because it allows them to take advantage of their own assets and those owned by providers of cloud services. This allows them to enjoy a more flexible and cost-effective IT system. Companies still make full use of the facilities they already own and only use the cloud to handle specific workloads.  Server Comparison No single choice will suit all companies all the time. However, making the choice between cloud-based solutions and using dedicated hardware is not as simple as it may appear. The people making the decision must have an in-depth knowledge of the technical requirements of a company based on its strategic direction and business needs. You will need to take into account the features that each option offers and then perform a comparison based on the pros and cons of each. However, some general principles will help in reaching the right decision.  A dedicated server comparison should take into account the fact that the companies most suited to this option should not expect to have significant hardware and software upgrades and have sufficient IT personnel. They must also be ready to incur significant capital investment from time to time. Companies that are sure of maximizing the use of their hardware and have a stable IT base that rarely changes can use rented gear.  On the other hand, if you are part of a dynamic company that regularly tries new applications and wants scalability, then you will be better off undertaking a virtual server comparison, in order to ascertain which cloud or hybrid systems you are best suited to.

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Cyber Security - Is Orwell’s Vision Coming True?

I recently watched the newest revelations about the NSA from the ABC Four Corners (www,abc.net.au/4corners).  Living and working in Australia has made me realise that at present we have a lot more freedom than most countries in the world, including the USA—or at least, we used to. The problem is that technology is eroding that freedom to a level where Orwell’s vision of the future is becoming a reality. Big Brother is definitely here. Private information is routinely made public, to an extent that advertisers now have the ability to warp others' perception through search engines, global marketing and laser-guided advertising.  How much personal information are we going to allow to be exposed and recorded before we say, enough is enough?  This is one case where I wholeheartedly believe the civil libertarians are correct in their assessment of the direction of government eavesdropping, and it needs to be stopped. How long will it be before a US government department steals information, a process, a patent and releases it to an American company under the guise of "national security"?  Come to that, has it actually happened already? With all of the recent revelations about the NSA, Australian government and multi-national companies listening to everything we do and say, you would think that an Australian ISP or technical company would have thought to offer a solution.  They could offer privacy to companies, organizations and small businesses by delivering a secure email system and cloud storage, or a full secure solution including internet connection. The word “secure” is not referring to the protection that would need to be in place for the data.  Information in transit and at rest would have to be protected with encryption, in a point-to-point enclosed environment.  But that's not enough.  We are talking about no-cosy-up agreements with government departments or technology and marketing companies concerning access to that information.  With such an agreement in place, no data could be accessed by investigative authorities and government departments without a signed warrant from a judge or from the individual.  No fishing expeditions, only targeted and legal searches. Would this create a problem for law enforcement?  In reality, it would create a huge problem at first.  But it would also mean that they would have to use other resources and capabilities to build a case against an individual or business.  This in turn would make the investigative process much more secure, robust and succinct.  When law enforcement has the ability to capture and filter all information, they have it relatively easy.  What's to stop them changing the criteria so that even small and innocuous laws can now be enforced?  Making information harder to access would force government and police departments to focus on more serious violations of the law. We have some brilliant technical companies combined with outstanding technical expertise available in this country.  So why doesn't one of them create a secure system of online communication and data storage like the one I'm proposing?  One of the problems in Australia is that most companies are followers; they have limited focus on innovation and leading from the front.  They should rethink this.  An easy-to-use, secure system with all of the facilities and capabilities located in Australia would be a benefit to all Australians.

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Cyber Security for Healthcare Practice From A-Z

Cyber Security is a major concern and a necessity for all businesses, regardless of their industry. The healthcare sector is not an exception and the threats that the cyber attacks carry for healthcare practice managers are huge. Find out everything about cyber attacks and how you can prevent their negative effects on your practice. There’s lots of talk at the moment about cyber attacks but what are they, what risks does your healthcare practice face, and what should you do about it? What is a cyber attack? Cyber attacks are varied and come in a range of forms, however, some of the most common are: Ransomware – hacking into your systems and encrypting data then demanding a ransom in return for unlocking it Malware – applications that are (usually unwittingly) downloaded onto your system, which then sit and collect data such as passwords and login details Social engineering – can come in different forms, but basically involves using emails that look to be from a legitimate source to obtain people’s login details, personal information or fraudulent access to systems (e.g. they are designed to look like an email from a government department requesting you follow a link or an email purporting to be from a Director or manager in your organisation requesting a payment to a different bank account) Denial of Service – essentially shutting down of your website or systems Threats against third party providers (such as cloud providers) to gain access to the systems and data of their customers Attacks against Internet of Things (which is essentially our other devices connected to internet such as smartphones and watches) Current State of Affairs Earlier this year, the Australian Cyber Security Centre released their report detailing the cyber threat to Australia as well as emerging trends/threats. 6 key points to come out of the ASCS 2017 Threat Report are as follows: The frequency, scale, sophistication and severity of incidents are increasing Many incidents are preventable with relatively basic cyber security measures However increasingly trusted third parties, such as service providers, are being targeted ‐ some cyber criminals are very advanced evidenced by attacks resulting in IT security providers being compromised Development of ‘ransomware as a service’ (where ransomware programmes and services can be purchased on the darknet) means criminals no longer need the technical ability to run a campaign, they can just buy it Credential‐harvesting malware (e.g. that steals your login details) is an increasing threat and includes software that intercepts text messages to bypass two‐factor authentication Use of social engineering is also on the increase through both broad and specifically targeted campaigns Healthcare: What makes you a target? The substantial amount of both personal identifiers as well as the sensitive nature of the data: Personal identifiers (i.e. name, address, DoB, contact details) are a precious commodity due to their use in identity fraud. The targeting of personal identifiers can either be done by criminals hoping to use the info themselves or by criminals who on‐sell the information on the darknet The sensitive nature of the data increases the risk of extortion due to the potential for reputational damage, if data is damaged or stolen What are the risks? Financial Such as costs of: regaining access to your systems, paying for IT and forensic specialists to establish how the attack happened and what can be done to prevent a recurrence, paying for specialists if there is a ransom or extortion negotiation, restoring records, notifying breach to anyone potentially affected ‐ Of course, effective 22 February 2018 any data breach is notifiable under Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Act 2017 (NDB scheme). This means any individual whose data may have been compromised needs to be individually notified. For a healthcare practice this is potentially an enormous task both in costs and time, given the amount of records retained. Personal/Social Such as: Distress caused to your staff by the potential breach, Distress caused to patients by the potential for their medical information to be disseminated (including through threats of extortion), Distress caused to patients by the potential for identity theft, Loss of trust and damage to the reputation of your practice. Regulatory Such as fines and penalties related to Privacy breaches. Physical Such as costs of upgrading hardware and software to prevent future attacks. What can you do? Two main strategies that work hand‐in‐hand: Make it hard for an attacker to be successful Just as with home security, we can use different strategies such as having deadlocks on the doors or key locks on our windows, which will deter burglars looking for an easy target. But we also know that if a highly skilled burglar wants to get in badly enough, they’ll find a way. It is just the same with cyber security. The WannaCry cyber attack that had such a huge impact on Europe mid 2017 was a mass targeted attack that used a very simple flaw, i.e. people not updating their Windows software to the newest version, so anyone who hadn’t updated was hit, whilst anyone who had updated was unscathed. These are the types of attacks that are easily preventable. The Australian Signals Directorate has The Essential Eight strategies that they recommend everyone use to avoid these types of attacks. Some of these essential eight may require assistance from your IT specialists to implement (and understand!) but all are relatively easy and cost‐effective. Use insurance to mitigate the impact of an attack if it happens The average cost of a cyber crime attack to an Australian business in 2014 was $276,3235 so whilst preventing an attack is important, ensuring you have the funds to mitigate the effects of a successful attack is equally important. There are numerous providers of cyber insurance in Australia and at this stage premiums are relatively inexpensive for the level of cover provided. Most insurers cover all of the financial and regulatory costs described above, as well as PR and crisis containment costs to minimise the impacts of reputational damage. Summary The types, frequency and severity of cyber attacks against Australian businesses are increasing dramatically, but there are some simple and cost‐effective strategies you can use to minimise your risk. Nonetheless, a successful attack can cause hundreds of dollars of damage financially, cause substantial distress to staff and patients, and long‐term damage to the reputation of your practice. As a result, cyber insurance is becoming an essential tool for all businesses in mitigating the impact of a successful attack. Are you implementing any cyber security strategies in your healthcare practice? Is it effective?

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Cybercrime: I Love Being Paranoid!

In today’s world, cybercrime and cyber-criminals are all around.  In most cases they are just a click of the mouse away.    The original geek that we associate with high-level computer skills has fast been replaced with cunning, aggressive and persistent criminal types.  Yes, the geeks are still out there, but in most cases there is a criminal mastermind employing them to do their geeky things.  In the criminal underground, a well-educated and skilled computer person can earn five to ten times what their corporate counterparts are earning.  In some cases they don't even know they are involved in a criminal enterprise.    The cybercrime world has better operational security than most top-secret government departments.  There are a number of reasons for this: The operations that they work on are separated into need-to-know areas; this allows separate programs to work together without knowing each other's business. A minimum number of people know the whole project; they are the trusted people within the organisation. No one in the organisation wants to go to jail, so they all protect each other. Once you’re in, you’re in for good.   If all else fails, there's a penalty for screwing up; talk to the wrong people, and the public could find your body somewhere. Put that next to the consequences of letting a government secret out, and there is no real comparison! Cybercrime is widespread because it pays.  Why are these operations so successful?  A large number of cybercrime attacks all come down to human nature.    In addition to the geeks writing the malware and software code, these crime organisations have additional people who are looking at human nature.   There are psychologists who look at what we do and how we do it and then develop ways to use human nature against us.  We humans are a naturally curious bunch, and individually we are brilliant—but considered as a group, there are sheep with more smarts. How do they trick you?  Well, have you ever opened an email from someone you were not quite sure about?  Or innocently clicked on a link on a website?  In both cases, did your anti-virus software react?  (You do have an anti-virus, right?)  These may seem like harmless mistakes.  That shows just how clever the bad guys can be at accessing your computer. I have harped on about paranoia and common sense as two of your best protections.  I will continue to harp on about it.  It's not paranoia if, in fact, they are after you.  Wherever we go on the internet, it is a dark, insecure and dangerous place.  It may look pretty—all that wonderful information, all those glossy pictures, all that free stuff.  The internet does have a pretty side, but it also has a seedy and scary side.  The bad guys are out there, not very far from where you are and what you are doing. It just takes a little slip, like putting your personal information or your credit card details into an unsecured website (always look for the lock).  That little slip is just the start.  The criminals are very good at breaking down your resistance.  They look for the easiest way to get your information, and normally that is through you not being suspicious of what they are doing. One mistake, and your computer, phone or tablet is no longer yours—this is as true today as it ever was, perhaps more so.  You see, technology can only protect you when it is done right.  In most cases it is not done right.  That little configuration flaw, that badly written piece of code, that innocent comment on a web site.  It all comes down to common sense.   Does it look right?   Do I TRUST the site or the person?  If so, why?  Have I confirmed that I CAN trust this person or site? So be paranoid: in other words, use common sense.  Hopefully the Darwinian part of nature will kick in and you'll survive the internet without losing your money, reputation or identity.

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Dabbling in Cyber Security: Not the Best Approach

Cyber security is a problem that small and medium businesses and not-for-profit organisations consider of little consequence.  The prevailing attitude of "it won’t happen to me" always comes to the fore when cyber security comes up in discussion.  I am not going to get on my high horse about that—not this time, anyway.   Dabbling in cyber security is another common response.  By dabbling I mean not understanding the ramifications of that little change on the firewall, or having only one level of data backup or using Google to make changes to your systems without testing them before deploying it to the production network. Dabbling in cyber security is like learning to fly:  You can take lessons, and in a few months, you can fly a small plane—similar to driving a car, except it goes up and down.  With additional training you can get your all-weather license and away you go.  The learning curve isn't too steep because the internal workings of a small plane and what's in the cockpit are relatively minimal.  There are not many dials, switches, buttons or levers to pull and push to make the thing fly.   Now let’s take you out of that little plane and put you in the cockpit of a jumbo jet.  The number of dials, switches, levers and the like have increased 100-fold.    We are no longer talking small-scale.  Despite your training, you'd be ludicrously unprepared. This is what happens when an under-informed person tries to take charge of cyber security.  Protecting your business from a cyber-attack through a directed hack, script kiddies or an insider does not involve just a few levers and switches.  It is a combination of technical know-how, regulatory compliance, business and cyber resilience, and both internal and external management expertise.  All these components have to work together to create a protective envelope around your business. The whole cyber security protection process is similar to flying a jumbo jet.  You don't want to discover how much you don't know when you're 10,000 meters in the air. I have a friend who is a financial adviser.  His clients come to him to invest, so that when they retire, their nest egg will be substantial.  He will often give a presentation to a new client, only to be told, "I want to discuss it with my friend”—or brother, father, mother, son or daughter.  These third parties have no understanding of the financial world, but the client will invest more weight in their advice than the advice of a professional. I know we all do it.  We all have friends whom we bounce ideas and questions off.  You discuss health issues even though they're not doctors, you discuss building options even though they're not builders, and you discuss bathroom problems even though they're not plumbers.  The difference is that most of us know the doctors, builders and plumbers are the professionals, and we don't really expect untrained amateurs to know their jobs. But when it comes to computers, the average Googler has a false sense of mastery.  Everyday people have little understanding of how complex the Internet, computers (desktop, laptop, phone or tablet) and the storage of electronic data can be.  The difference between knowing computers and being an expert is huge.   An expert can assess the situation, rectify it and walk away long before someone who "knows computers" has worked out that they have a problem.  You will PAY for that expertise, but I would rather pay for one hour of a professional's time than nine hours from an amateur, especially when it comes to my business. When it comes to protecting your business from cyber crime, get someone in who actually understands the problems.  Don’t just dabble!

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Data protection: A game changer for businesses

Individuals and businesses of all sizes are witnessing an explosion in the volume of data they hold. Whether it is the result of the Internet, email, or increasingly heavy and media-rich application software, there is a massive growth in the volume of data all around. Data is increasingly being recognized as one of the real assets of a company, and losing this data would cause severe damage to any organization. From a global perspective, the statistics are very interesting: IDC estimates that by 2020, business transactions on the internet which includes B2B and B2C will reach 450 billion per day. Walmart handles more than 1 million customer transactions every hour, which is imported into several databases estimated to contain more than 2.5 Petabytes of data. Every minute: Facebook users share nearly 2.5 million pieces of content. Twitter users tweet nearly 300,000 times. Instagram users post nearly 220,000 new photos. YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video content. Apple users download nearly 50,000 apps. Email users send over 200 million messages. Amazon generates over $80,000 in online sales. Data loss can be very costly, particularly for organizations in the small and medium business (SMB) market where the difference between survival and closure can rest on the ability to recover from a disaster. At the very least, critical data loss will have a financial impact on companies of all sizes. A disruption of key primary or support operations can cause a crisis for any business. All computer data is at risk from threat or damage. Even with the most reliable equipment and the most secure operating environment, there is always the possibility of something going wrong. A commonly held misconception among individuals is that file sync is equal to backup. You buy a new laptop and do a file sync. That does not mean you have backed up your data. Data backup is about having a complete copy of the data. File syncing and computer backup are two very different features. Sync allows you to sync the same files between multiple computers, syncing mirrors a folder on one computer on another. Backup on the other hand takes a copy of the file and uploads it to an external hard disc or the cloud for safe keeping. You can get your files back at any time if you accidentally delete or lose a file by downloading from the Control Panel or restoring via the desktop application There should be a 3-2-1 rule when all data should have three backups in two different media and one additional location. The additional location in the case of SMBs could be the cloud as they already have one backup on premise. Need for data protection There are two kinds of people in the world: those who have lost critical data, and those who will. In other words, if you use technology long enough and neglect to back up your data, you’re guaranteed to have at least one extremely bad day. Whether it’s theft, loss, fire, flood, corruption, or some form of malware, a single incident can destroy the lion’s share of your family photos, personal documents, address books, years-in-the-making music library, and more. The solution, of course, is to back up everything. With ever-increasing amounts of data to be stored, real threats of data loss, and increasing government legislation, data protection has become a high priority. It is not just large and enterprise corporations that must protect their data. Even SMBs need to evolve a data protection strategy that is commensurate with their needs and budget. Having a data backup plan is akin to having a insurance policy. You need it for any eventuality. According to PCWorld magazine, few years ago, the terms “disaster recovery” and “data protection” were synonymous with large budgets and an army of IT personnel to manage the process. Cost is relative, though. Paying a monthly or annual fee for an online backup service seems more expensive than just burning a DVD at face value, but it's all worth it when the office is destroyed by an accident or natural calamity and the DVDs are scratched and cracked in half, and you can just set up a new computer somewhere else and restore your data from the Web. Today’s business environment of low cost disks, robust software, and high-performance tape drives enables companies of all sizes to proactively protect themselves from data loss and its threats to the business. Backup imperative for SMBs For many small businesses, though, their backup and storage strategy hasn't caught up with their more pervasive use of computers. This could be due to confusion about the various storage options, or a failure to understand that the old paradigm of the occasional batch backup is no longer adequate. Storing your backup copies on premise provides for fast recovery. However, having only one copy of backup on premise does bear the risk of being damaged in case of any eventuality. The cloud offers a perfect location for the additional backup for these businesses. Further, growing acceptance of the bring your own device (BYOD) trend and increasing maturity of cloud services has opened the door for businesses to store data online. Businesses & individuals need to make their data protection requirements a part of the strategic plan for IT.  Backup and Disaster Recovery planning, implementation, and regular recovery testing are essential to the survival of the business. The ideal solution will provide an integrated suite of products that deliver unified control, management, and reporting for your entire environment regardless of the size of your organization, the number of data types, the number and types of operating system platforms and applications.

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Do you need a 'cloud' makeover?

As a virtual assistant I could not operate without the cloud. However at a recent local networking function I was surprised to learn just how many business owners seem to be operating as it was five years ago. Cloud computing is undoubtedly changing the way small businesses operate by increasing productivity, reducing operating costs and allowing any size business to compete on a much bigger scale than ever before and yet, it appears not all SMEs are leveraging the technology. Here are 5 clear signs that you need a virtual makeover – and fast! 1. The only place you can check your emails or documents is in the office The biggest change you can make today for your business is getting hosted or cloud based email and document storage. From as little as $5 per month programs like Google Apps for Business will allow you to securely sync your email/calendar/documents across multiple devices such as your phone, office computer and iPad .  So no matter where you or your staff might be, as long as you have an internet connection, you can access the information you need to run your business.  Whitsundays anyone? 2. Keeping customer records anywhere other than a CRM Having your customer records sitting in a filing cabinet is losing you money. Using a cloud based CRM program will open up a world of opportunities for communicating, marketing and selling to both new and existing customers.  These types of systems are affordable and designed to increase the productivity of your staff and give a clear indication of your sales pipeline, or lack therefore. Popular programs include Zoho, Salesforce, and Capsule. 3. Keeping your accounts in Excel Don’t get me wrong, Excel was a great program for record keeping in the 90’s. These days though, there are many cloud based accounting programs like Xero that for a small monthly fee will save you time, frustration and money. Programs like this will save thousands on accountant fees and help you to improve your cashflow through real time reporting.  Imagine reconciling your monthly bank statement in minutes, not hours.  Time to say goodbye to the shoebox full of receipts sitting under your desk and embrace cloud based accounting packages. 4. A paper diary still sits in your handbag/briefcase I know, it is like a security blanket that is hard to let go off, but it’s time to cut the cord. Using electronic calendars and to do lists will ensure you stay on top of things anywhere, anytime and means that you will never forget another important business meeting, the kids bake sale at school or your sister’s birthday.   It also means that your staff can also keep across your appointments and movements – oh the efficiency! 5. You still regularly buy ink cartridges and have a fax machine in your office Working virtually can basically make your office truly paperless.  Just about anything can be done online now including getting your faxes, diminishing the need for ‘hard copies’ saving you space and money on paper, inks, stationary and postage. So whether you have one or all of these elements in your office – now is the time get on the cloud and start reaping the benefits!

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