Cybersecurity: Are Passwords Your Vulnerability?

Cybersecurity strategies need to take into account vulnerable areas, such as employee passwords.Don’t let employee negligence be the source of a data breach. Cybersecurity has never been more important, yet too few companies are doing what they should to protect themselves in areas that can be easily remedied with a few important steps.

According to a study by password management firm Keeper Security, 81 percent of data breaches are due to weak passwords, or passwords that were stolen or still set to default. The same study found that almost 60 percent of people use the same password for everything. What can you do to ensure your employees are practicing safe password procedures?

Cybersecurity attacks continue to become more targeted and severe, carrying heavy consequences for victims. Despite the threat, a study by the Ponemon Institute shows that instead of becoming more prepared, many companies are doing less.

The Ponemon survey found that 61 percent of respondents had reported a cyberattack, which is a six percent increase over the year prior. Almost 54 percent reported that their data had been breached, which is up from 50 percent a year earlier. A ransomware attack became a reality for 52 percent of respondents, and more than half of those said they got hit more than once.

What steps can you take to protect against a cyberattack?

·       Gain more visibility into employee password practices

·       Don’t use the same passwords for accessing multiple accounts

·       Don’t share passwords

·       Use strong passwords that are not easily compromised

·       Develop a password policy and enforce it

·       Implement a control policy regarding BYOD (bring your own device)

·       Train security staff more frequently

·       Update antivirus software and encryption software

The costs associated with stolen records are severe; enough to sink some companies, particularly when you consider the average cost of a data breach is around $1 million-plus. The ongoing lack of preparation and neglect of developing more robust password policies puts many companies at great risk, which is why it’s important to take proactive steps to remediate weaknesses.

At Focal Solutions, we’ve developed a number of processes that make telecom easy. Our team is committed to the success of your business, and that includes making sure you’re secure with robust cybersecurity solutions. We have a mission to develop long-term advocacy for our clients and know industry best practices. Contact us today to learn more.

The Model for a Successful Enterprise Today Includes Embracing the Cloud

Enterprises gain agility and the ability to scale up and down with an investment in the cloud.Enterprises of the 20th century were accustomed to housing their infrastructure onsite, managing all aspects of IT and navigating changes in the market gradually. As cloud solutions become more widespread, it will help level the playing field and allow smaller, more agile companies to edge out bigger, lumbering enterprises.

CIOs are seeing the benefits of paying a subscription fee rather than investing in a big hardware spend. The frequent updates and advances in software applications mean that cloud solutions make sense for enterprises that want to stay competitive both in efficiency and in the customer experience.

Scalability is leveling the playing field. It used to be that only the biggest enterprises could enjoy the advantages of the best software, but subscriptions make it easy for small- and mid-size companies to access the same tools large enterprises are using. For any size business, subscriptions make a team more agile, able to scale up or down based on changes in the marketplace.

Enterprises — the finance department, in particular — love the subscription model of cloud options because the investment can be categorized as an operational expense, rather than a capital investment. The ability to scale up or down also lowers the fixed costs of the enterprise and makes it easier to adjust spending to accommodate demand.

Everything as a Service (XaaS) is now an option. While Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) have been in use for a long time, the growing service industry is also allowing for the growth of other service areas, including security management and managed services. The XaaS mindset is dominating conversations about digital transformation as executives weigh the benefits of housing more of their IT management with service providers.

The service economy has plenty of room for growth. The market is just entering a shift from “procure and maintain” to a full-service economy. Enterprises are embarking on plans to embrace XaaS models of completing business processes, but there is a lot of opportunity for service providers to capture growth in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Big Data analytics.

The shift to the service economy is evident across a variety of industries. Examples like car-sharing or pay-by-the-hour jet rental can be compared with companies in the financial arena sharing data management services.

If you’d like to capture new opportunities in the service economy, Focal Solutionscan help you. When you choose Focal Solutions as your trusted telecom partner, you are choosing to extend the range and value of your own IT team. Contact us today to learn more.

VoIP Offers Important Back-Office Advantages for IT Team

VoIP offers back-office benefits for your IT team, such as streamlined cable plant design and easy scalability.Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has been available for the past 20 years, but it remains somewhat misunderstood. It’s often sold as a set of features that serve the front office and help management meet their cost-saving and efficiency objectives. What’s not stressed is the positive impact that VoIP can have on the back-office processes of the IT team.

The team that installs, supports, and maintains the information systems in the enterprise usually has surprisingly little involvement in telecommunications decisions. The push for a new system often comes from line-of-business managers. Fortunately, many of the benefits that result in a decision to move to VoIP are those impacting IT:

Design advantages: When an enterprise moves into a new facility, one of the first considerations that needs to be addressed by the IT team is the cable plant design. VoIP provides the potential for cost savings in this area because it allows for one line to run to the phone and then a jack in the VoIP phone provides a connection for the computer. This step eliminates half the drops required for the cable plant.

VoIP also offers easy scalability. Adding a new phone to the existing VoIP switch is as simple as plugging it into the network, then completing a quick initialization process. The phone is then ready for use. The addition of new phones can be completed easily by a technician with minimal training and perform multiple additions in a short time period.

Portability advantages: Remote access provides a way to extend the desktop. When VoIP was new, remote access was more difficult to offer, and IT teams spent a lot of time supporting remote users and troubleshooting problems. In most cases, bandwidth is no longer a problem, and current technology allows remote workers to travel with a laptop and a headset. They can conduct business as if they were on-site at a desk in the office.

Remote access and other monitoring tools significantly reduce the amount of time that IT spends helping remote workers manage their communications connectivity.

Promoting advanced technology: Integrating phones and voicemail was one of the first advantages offered by VoIP. Now technology allows for the easy transfer of voicemail to email and text. Hardware costs and conflicts between phone systems and email servers used to create a barrier to this function, but that’s no longer the case. Now IT managers can use these types of advances to promote the adoption of new technology.

The Focal Solutions team is committed to your business’s success in all areas of telecom deployment. Contact us about your goals for your telecom system and we will help you identify the right solution to meet your objectives. 

Preparing for Ransomware: Reliable Data Backup Is Key

While human error is part of the reason for ransomware attacks, securing data offsite negates vulnerabilities.Ransomware is taking center stage as a number of companies across industries are hit with digital attacks. WannaCry ransomware made headlines when it targeted PCs at banks and healthcare facilities; NotPetya, a malware that is an adaptation of ransomware, made similar headlines when it hit businesses in Europe hard. What can you do to ensure your data won’t be held hostage?

What we know about ransomware right now is that it looks a lot like a PC infection. Its “goal” is to go through your drives and encode all the data that it can, leaving you unable to gain access to critical records until you pay the attacker their ransom.

Business administrators pay large amounts of money to recover their data, in some cases $40,000 or more. The fight against these attacks seems fruitless as the attackers alter their models, always coming up with new ways to sneak into systems and latch on to important data.

As of last year, almost 30 percent of private ventures were involved in a ransomware attack, according to research from IBM. Nearly 60 percent of medium-sized businesses had experienced similar extortion. Security specialists can’t keep up with all the different strains of attacks, which means companies are simply moving to a mindset of paying the ransom as part of their business strategy.

The key to staying safe is to have a reliable data backup. It is imperative that your IT system is not outdated. Furthermore, employees need to be trained on how to use digital systems in a secure way that doesn’t compromise systems. According to Acronis, a data protection company, an inside person ineptly ushers in an attack on a company approximately 30 percent of the time.

New advancements in backup technology allow companies small and large to improve rather than replace their current backup methods. For instance, replication and snapshots have been determined to be a smart part of the strategy against ransomware. Replication involves making periodic copies of your data from one server and putting it on another server.

At Focal Solutions, we take ransomware attacks extremely seriously. We are an advocate for our clients, and we always focus on client satisfaction, and that involves staying prepared and ready for any malicious attack. As telecommunications industry insiders, let us help you get connected with the solutions that make the most sense for your company to keep you safe from attacks. Contact us today to hear the rest of the story.

 

How Do Mobile Users Drive VoIP Decisions in the Corporate World?

Mobile users are driving VoIP decisions in the corporate world.How hard is it to find a group of adults, ready to sit down to a meal, with no mobile devices in sight? The addictive element of a mobile device usually involves an app and can lead to less-than-collaborative human interactions. Voice over IP (VoIP) may or may not be involved, but connectivity is certainly a must.

This can happen when business professionals are in the same room, on the go, or simply trying to make a connection. The demand for instant access when on the move stems not just from a change in consumer behavior, but from a desire to be in the field where it’s easier to connect with the customer. It’s a must in today’s market and it’s driving the demand for mobile. When VoIP is involved, the capabilities reach a whole new level.

In fact, the demand for and use of mobile devices has significantly influenced VoIP and unified communications (UC) in the last few years. Mobile apps for both continue to mature, driving tighter and more seamless integration, ease of use, security, and significant convenience as users easily align their device of choice with the technology needed to accomplish their goals. To that end, the demand for cloud-based solutions continues to grow as such assimilation allows for deep integration and support with VoIP and UC.

Likewise, mobile apps and the desire for better accessibility continue to drive the choice of phone systems within the corporate environment. If a company needs nothing more than the ability to communicate via VoIP, then any VoIP system can easily handle the need. If employees are also using their mobile devices to connect to the VoIP system, the demand changes according to what these employees need. Given that they are generally field-based, including support or sales professionals, the demand may include video conferencing, web conferencing, text messaging, presence, instant messaging, email transcription, admin tasks, screen sharing, and calendar integration.

So how des this affect the way in which VoIP solutions are selected? The employees that use mobile devices for business typically aren’t in the office. They rely on their communications in the field. They also need seamless integration of mobile devices to ensure full phone extensions and access to remote applications at any time. Finally, mobile device policy dictates the use of such devices for business and personal cases.

If you’re ready to embrace these opportunities but you’re not sure where to start, look to Focal Solutions. It’s our job to help our clients evaluate their options, available solutions, and the type of VoIP that fits their needs. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you.

Security in the Age of the Mobile Workforce

The mobile workforce presents unique security concerns for IT. How can enterprises protect their data?The mobile workforce is a boon for enterprises. No longer constrained by geographical concerns when hiring, corporations are able to attract the best talent and offer them a high level of flexibility and the ability to collaborate with their peers across the globe.

Remote access allows employees to work from wherever they are, and field employees can access all the data and resources they need on their mobile devices. In addition, companies save on travel expenses as their employees enjoy the ability to hold virtual meetings in which collaborative software makes it easy to brainstorm and discuss a project.

Increasing Cloud Migration 

The rise of the mobile workforce wouldn’t be possible without the increasing adoption of cloud technology. These two growth areas are intertwined and present a complex security landscape for IT. Here are a few of the concerns on the minds of CIOs trying to protect their systems and data:

  • Providing a secure and reliable data connection for the mobile workforce
  • The complexity of bring your own device (BYOD) culture
  • Supporting technology for a global team, including syncing time differences and facing infrastructure challenges and language barriers

Security in the Cloud

With so much data flying around the mobile workforce, data centers, and the cloud, there’s a lot of opportunity for security breaches, which can be costly in terms of disaster recovery and from a public relations perspective. Every CIO faces concerns when they consider allowing all of their data to move outside the relative safety of carefully-constructed corporate firewalls.

The good news is that the cloud can be as safe as any corporate environment with the right security tools in place. In addition, disaster recovery tends to be much less costly than it is in an on-premise system. The flooding of a data center in a river valley, for instance, won’t cause an interruption in business processes because the data is stored in the cloud.

Putting out Fires

Many CIOs, confronted by the complexity of security in the age of the mobile workforce, are turning to managed services for a variety of areas, including mobile security. In a changing landscape in which cloud and mobile technology are significantly disrupting the IT industry, CIOs are realizing the value of outsourcing some aspects of security management. It frees them to focus on strategy and innovation, rather than putting out security fires.

The mobile workforce adds a new layer of security concern to an already complicated cloud environment. Talk to your clients about outsourcing their security, with Focal Solutions as your partner. Contact us today to discuss the new challenges in mobile security.

 

The CIO of Today Is in Charge of Transformation

CIOIt is the job of most CIOs today to make improvements toward virtualizing their data centers. The majority of CIOs are looking closer at deploying more cloud-based solutions, including those that will help protect their data, keeping it safe from cyberattacks.

IT Infrastructure
Of the many tasks at hand that are intended to help make an organization competitive and profitable, making sure your network is able to protect IT infrastructure is key. It is also critical to increase the ability of your infrastructure to function on a mobile level as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes an increasingly all-encompassing movement.

Automation
In many cases, the way networks are being examined in the corporate environment is evolving from being manual and labor intensive to functioning with more automation and consideration of the future needs of the organization. The network has to be able to keep up with the speed at which the IoT runs. An intent-based system with automation is the direction CIOs are progressively moving towards.

The problem that the average CIO has is that most networks are only made to automate what is known rather than adapt to all the unknowns that can occur on an average day (large companies will average 300-plus cybersecurity issues per week). The goal of software-defined networking (SDN) is to solve this issue, yet according to an analyst at TechTarget, less than 10 percent of enterprises have deployed such solutions.

The Future of SDN
Part of the initial problem with SDN for some CIOs involved the stumbles in the very beginning of its deployment, which led to skepticism among leaders. However, with its growing pains behind it, the benefits and value provided by implementing SDN will be a key factor for many companies in the years to come. Most networks moving forward will have the benefit of deploying security processes through a commodity processor or x86 server instead of acquiring, deploying, and managing numerous physical appliances.

At Focal Solutions, we make telecom easy with a team that is committed to the success of our clients. From cloud-based solutions to hybrid solutions and data recovery processes, we’ve got you covered. Give us a call today to talk more about your data center needs.

 

What You Need to Know for SD-WAN Testing

SD-WANAs companies begin hearing about software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) and contemplate deploying the approach in their environments, there are numerous questions that arise surrounding testing. Every SD-WAN provider lists a variety of features, and it’s important to test those features before making a final decision or attempting to implement.

Here are the areas you should test when running your proof of concept (POC):

Path selection: One of the reasons you’re likely to be considering SD-WAN is its ability to split traffic between dedicated links (which cost more) and low-cost internet virtual private networks (VPNs). It’s not easy for SD-WAN to distinguish between mission-critical and less important traffic, but doing so is important for you in terms of cost savings. Each vendor features its own algorithms for making these determinations, so make sure the provider you’re considering has the capability to support the path selection needs of your company.

Scalability: What will your SD-WAN needs be as your company grows? Do you plan to employ a hub-and-spoke model or will your network be full mesh? Full mesh networks require a different level of complexity when it comes to network support, so make sure your SD-WAN is prepared to grow with you.

Failover: SD-WAN is a good choice because it offers failover capabilities in the event of a link outage. What’s more challenging is determining a true link outage from a momentary pause (which happens frequently) or a high level of packet drops. Your testing should include link outage failover response as well as determination of how a particular SD-WAN handles heavy congestion, momentary outages, and a variety of packet loss rates.

Application performance: Testing application performance is important, particularly if you’re counting on SD-WAN to provide application acceleration. You need to test under real-world conditions to experience how the network will affect the end user’s experience. Acceleration improvement rests heavily on network conditions, latency, jitter, and loss, so take time to test whether your applications will experience acceleration with an SD-WAN solution.

Usability: The POC of your choice for SD-WAN should include heavy usability testing. Practice the activities you conduct on a daily basis to see how responsive and user-friendly it is for you. Try adding and removing users, installing new SD-WAN locations, changing application parameters and reconfiguring nodes for existing locations.

The surge in interest for SD-WAN means there are many providers offering similar services. Before you make a decision, take time to thoroughly test your final candidates. Whether you’re just getting started or are nearing the testing phase, give Focal Solutions a call. We can help you navigate the sometimes confusing world of SD-WAN and guide you to a decision that supports your company and its growth.

Staying Safe When Utilizing Cloud Storage

CloudWhen it comes to data storage, many enterprises are finding better accessibility and cost savings in the cloud compared to on-site servers. If you have yet to make that move, it’s likely one of your chief concerns is the safety of your data. If so, you’re not alone.

Safety and security are the top talking points for those who haven’t embraced cloud-based solutions. However, large cloud providers are extremely vigilant when it comes to security. The resources available to large providers far exceed what even medium-sized organizations are able to produce on their own, making cloud options even more secure than keeping things in-house.

One area that still remains a challenge with security is that encrypted storage isn’t 100% impervious to attack, especially if drive-based encryption is used, and there is evidence that automatic encryption practices can be vulnerable to attack. Encrypting a server with a custom key set is the way around this issue. What other ways can you protect your data?

Protect Against Damage and Deletion
If you’ve taken every step to fully encrypt your data, it’s still vulnerable to damage or deletion if hardware failure occurs. Bad software and malicious operators can also make your data vulnerable.

If you move data to an area where it can’t be compromised, you will ensure your data is more secure. Protect data from exposure through frequent backups and by making offline copies.

Be Diligent About Management
Make sure you’re partnering with a data center that doesn’t have chaotic data management practices. They should be experts at managing partial datasets and trash. Critical files should never be allowed in low-security areas, and they should practice a metadata-driven approach that offers greater control.

Be Careful of Your Insiders
Did you know the majority of data losses have been at the hand of an insider? These are people whom you’re trusting with your data. Protect yourself by using multi-factor authentication. This may seem like too much of a time investment, but it’s not as much as the time lost in the wake of a data breach.

Human error is also a cause of data loss. Know the common mistakes and develop a strategy for when they occur in order to remain proactive rather than reactive.

At Focal Solutions, we invest in our clients by offering comprehensive solutions. For cloud services, our clients have confidence in our data center solutions and disaster recovery strategies. Contact us today and find out how seriously we take the safety of your data.

The Move from Centralized WAN Design

WANThe design for wide area network (WAN) is currently adapting to new requirements for networks, so the typical hub-and-spoke configuration is making way for other alternatives. There are many factors driving a change in WAN design, but two have had the most impact:

  1. The migration to cloud software for applications and data storage
  2. Software as a Service (SaaS), cloud-based apps, and managed services all require a WAN configuration that reduces latency and improves speed and performance

With the need for quicker connections and better performance, there are currently three main designs for WAN:

  • Centralized internet access (in this case, firewalls, authentication, and other security features are in the single WAN access point)
  • Decentralized internet access (this is known as “every site for itself”)
  • Regionalized internet access

Overall, the trend is moving away from a centralized design, except in those cases where a company is geographically localized and is primarily using on-site software solutions.

The Implications of a Decentralized WAN Design

While it’s easy to understand the desire for a direct connection to the internet for branches to increase speed and efficiency and improve business processes, a decentralized WAN design presents other challenges for IT teams. Managing security and firewalls is more difficult and expensive when there are multiple entry points for accessing the internet.

A centralized WAN design has some benefits when it comes to security, including the requirement for all traffic to back-haul to your centralized network before going out to the internet.

Regionalization

Many enterprises are adopting what’s called regionalized internet access, in which they gain some of the benefits of centralized and decentralized designs. In this model, there are generally two variations used: hub routers in colocation sites or virtual hub routers in the cloud.

One benefit of using hub routers in the colocation sites is that end users appreciate a fast connection to the internet with an inexpensive price tag. The alternative is simply the virtual equivalent of this system, with virtual hub routers in the cloud. There are a few challenges for this method, including limitations in performance, the ability to access inter-cloud provider connections, and potential fees for egress traffic from cloud providers.

With a regional connection, you still have some of the latency that comes with a centralized WAN design, but it’s spread out between multiple locations. As a result, speed is not as big of a problem and performance is reliable.

As comprehensive consultants, Focal Solutions works with you through every step of your technology plan, from choosing a network configuration to determining which applications are best hosted in the cloud. We’ll make sure speed and performance never suffer while reducing your overall IT costs. Give us a call to talk more.