Category: Network & IT Support

The BYOD Scenario

The BYOD Scenario

BYOD - Bring Your Own DeviceBYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is a movement that has gained great speed within the last four years. With employees that sync accounts from PC to tablet to cell phone, information and data is readily available at any given moment.
Our goal here is to educate you on the potential security issues & risks. If BYOD is right for you, you will want to make sure it is done securely to avoid the most common disasters.

BYOD Disasters & Traps

  1. Out of Compliance
    When employees access data on personal devices, businesses have no guarantee that the devices are compliant with the company’s data & privacy policies or mandated HIPAA regulations.
    Failure to comply with federal regulations can result in consequences from expensive fines to criminal penalties.
  2. From Your Network to Their Cloud
    Having an employee with their own device means the potential for access to individual cloud services such as OneDrive or Dropbox.
    Employees can easily snap photos or copy confidential data into their personal cloud for access away from your network without IT even being aware.
  3. Rogue Apps & Security
    Speaking of personal clouds, having a device on the network with access to personal cloud services, also means that without the proper security policies in place, your network can be threatened with viruses and ransomware in the form of rogue files. The more access these devices have to your network, the more damage the infection can cause.
  4. The Productivity Problem
    When BYOD began gaining popularity in 2012, it promised to make your employees happier and more productive. Staff could choose from a number of apps and tools to accomplish their work, using tools that they are more comfortable with. It wasn’t long after that companies began finding their employees on social media during work hours or worse, playing games or streaming movies.
  5. Lost or Stolen Devices
    Having a device lost or stolen can be a costly mistake. Employees are naturally more free when it comes to using a personal device versus a company-owned device. Regardless, having a device with critical company data, including customer information, lost or stolen from a restaurant or your car’s back seat can cost you heavy fines or the loss of a valued customer.

Adopting the BYOD Policy

If you decide that BYOD is for you, it is best to adopt a company-wide policy that will protect both you and your employees. Specify what devices are permitted and who is responsible for servicing the devices for maintenance. Also clearly state who owns what apps and data, and what apps will or will not be allowed.

Place proper security within your network to protect yourself from malware and viruses. If your business is held to government standards due to HIPAA-compliancy or other federal regulations, make sure that your employees are included in this as well.

Lastly, develop an exit strategy. When an employee leaves your company, what will happen to the data on that device? Are you simply relying on changing passwords?

There are many other questions that you may have, so always feel free to contact a professional to discuss your options and responsibilities. The suggestions here are merely the tip of the iceberg to make you aware of the details involved when incorporating BYOD into your network.

Data Backups & Recovery; What to Look For

Data Backups & Recovery; What to Look For

Local, On-site, Off-site, Cloud-based, Business Continuity….These are all terms for various types of data backups. And if you search online for data backups, the list becomes long and arduous. So how do you determine what is best for your business?

Local & On-site Data Backups

This is exactly what it sounds like.  Your data is being backed up at your location, possibly on your server as a Windows backup, on a magnetic tape, or on an external drive.  This is typically a more affordable method, internet is not required, and will give you immediate access to your data from your location. However, it does have its downfalls.  On the chance that disaster occurs at your location, your data could be inaccessible from a remote location or even worse, destroyed.

Off-site, Cloud-based Data Backups

This method of backup does require internet as your data is stored away from your location.  This can be seen as both a fault and an advantage.  Unlike local backups, if disaster was to occur at your location, you can rest assured that your data will be safe from fires and floods.  You also have the ability to gain access to your data from remote locations.  For some customers, this ability alone is a deciding factor. The disadvantage of course is cost.  Typically off-site backups are more expensive than on-site and are usually subscription based.

So What is Business Continuity?

Business Continuity is the relative “new kid on the block”.  The focus here is not on recovering data after a disaster, but continuing to access it during a disaster.  This method can be virtualized quickly both on and off-site, allowing your business to keep functioning and saving you costs by eliminating the normal down-time.

Again, the disadvantage might be seen as higher costs, but if you weigh it against the advantages, it may be worth considering for your business.

What Method is Best?

That really depends on your business.  Disasters are something we do not like to think about.  For us at CMS, it is always on our mind, especially with hurricane season less than a month away and the recent flooding in Texas.  It reminds us that things can go wrong, and it’s not always a natural disaster.  Ransomware has grown exponentially in the past few years, and with your network files encrypted, a secure backup may be the only thing to protect your business and your investment.

Find someone you trust, give us a call at CMS.  We will help you look at your data and determine your needs.  From there, we can assist you in finding the method to work best within your budget and still accomplish your goals.  If you would like a little more information on Business Continuity, you can visit our website to read more.

**For all our readers along the coast, June 1 begins Hurricane Season.  Visit http://www.texasprepares.org/ to get ready.
Protecting Your Network from Ransomware

Protecting Your Network from Ransomware

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is malware that holds the victim’s data ransom by preventing access to the computer by locking the desktop or by encrypting the user’s files where they cannot be read. The malware then displays a ransom note, possibly pretending to be from federal or local law enforcement of some sort.

The ransom note may even claim that the computer was used to look at illegal websites, videos, or images and will try to frighten the victim into paying up by threatening to bring them to court.

As we quickly approach 2016, researchers at Fox IT have successfully identified the “Big 3” Ransomware families, whose members have generated huge income in 2015:

  • CryptoWall
  • CTB-Locker
  • TorrentLocker

What are the Basic traits of Ransomware?

Although each ransomware variant is unique, they still work in similar ways. There are generic traits seen with these behaviors.

File-system behavior

Most ransomware will place payment instruction files in the directory of the files that it’s going to encrypt. These files are usually in the form of a text, image and/or URL. It may even include a popup window notifying the user that his files are being held ransom and require a ransom.

Network behavior

Ransomware will encrypt files on drives that are network mapped on the computer as a side effect. This can affect an entire business that relies on network shares for their data, potentially spreading from one computer, to the server, to all other computers that access that server. Having a proper backup solution in place may be the only solution to protecting your data.
As we find encrypted files on a network share, we can use that to determine which user was initially infected with the ransomware by checking the creator of the instruction files on the share. This tells us which computer to disconnect from the network. The goal is to disconnect the infected user as quickly as possible from the network to prevent any further damage.

So where did the Ransomware come from?

One method for installing ransomware is through certain websites. These may be malicious websites, set up by criminals for the sole purpose of infecting website visitors, or they may be legitimate websites that have been compromised by infected advertisements or links by the criminals and used to spread malware.
Another way ransomware can install on your computer is through the opening of email attachments in SPAM or infected emails. These malicious emails may have what looks like regular files attached, but once you open them, your computer is at risk of becoming infected with malware. You may not even see it happening.

Ransomware on Mobil Devices

Ransomware for mobile devices is becoming more common and now have the ability to lock your smartphone or tablet or even encrypt the files stored on these devices. Criminals have learned that we are more dependent upon our phones and tablets than ever before. In some instances, they are more frequently used than our computers, explaining the increase in “mobile malware”.

Follow these tips to stay protected from ransomware.

  • Make sure you have a quality, antivirus program installed on your network, and that it continues to be updated on a regular basis. This also includes installing a reputable security app on your phone and tablets.
  • Keep the operating system and all software on your computers & servers up-to-date by installing the latest security patches and updates.
  • Consider adding a mail-filtering service that not only protects your email from SPAM, but also adds manageability and virus protection. Some services, such as MailWatch from CMS, will continue to spool your email when your connectivity is down, protecting you from lost emails.
  • Avoid downloading software or mobile apps not necessary to your work and only download from trusted sources.
  • Most importantly, Backup! For your network, have a data backup solution in place that protects your critical data on your network so that if anything does happen, you have an untainted backup source to retrieve from and restore to your network. And don’t forget to back up your mobile device to a reliable cloud source that you can retrieve from and restore.
Who’s Looking Out for Your Network?

Who’s Looking Out for Your Network?

Today I want to talk about the importance of using a consistent IT services provider.  Every business out there relies on some type of technology to make their business run, whether it is your phone system or your computer network.

At CMS, we work with a variety of customers both large and small.  Some customers employ their own IT personnel and simply rely on us as a provider of equipment and backup support, while others depend on us fully for managed services, using us as their “offsite IT department“.  Regardless of your size and budget, having a local IT company that you consistently work with is important, and here is why.

Knowledge of your Network!

Working each time with the same company, they will learn your network.  They will be better educated on the layout and design of your network, the applications that your employees use and the security policies in place.  If you’re not using the same business to resolve your issues, each problem will cost you in additional time to pay for a learning curve.

 Elimination of Network Problems Before They Occur

Because there is a familiarity with your business and your network, your IT provider can help you eliminate problems before they occur.  They are more capable of seeing a device with declining performance if they are always the ones to work with it.  And as we know, fixing a problem is much quicker at the beginning than it is in the end, which can reduce your down time.

The Trust Relationship

Finally, it all comes down to trust.  Your IT provider should understand the nature of your business and only have your best interest at heart.  Your goal is to run your business as efficiently and effectively as possible, and your IT company should be up to the challenge to make that happen.

Sometimes, it may seem like it is salespeople just trying to make a sell, and we understand that getting your network up to standard can be expensive at first. However, we can say that customers who trust us and make the investment are more productive and suffer less downtime.

We encourage you to find a local IT provider in your area that you trust, check out their reputation with other customers, and build a relationship that will strengthen your business.  If you are in the Southeast Texas area and are looking for someone, visit with us and ask us questions.  We are always happy to meet new faces.

VoIP Solutions for Business

VoIP Solutions for Business

What is VoIP and Why do I Need It?

TCP/IP is an amazing technology that allows for the convergence of data, voice and video on the same network.  What this means to you is that your path for growth is wide open.  For years your business has relied on TCP/IP to deliver data to your users.  This would be documents stored on your network file server, printing, email, internet browsing and more.  Now you are considering a Voice-over IP (VoIP) solution.  Congratulations!  This opens a whole new world of opportunities for you and your business.

In today’s business environment it’s extremely important to maintain your competitive edge.  A Voice-over IP solution will make your company more efficient, improve communication among employees and customers and with advanced technologies from companies like Cisco, it will lower your total cost of ownership across your technology platform.  CMS IP Technologies has been delivering VOIP solutions for 10 years.  You can get more information on solutions from the CMS website – www.cmsiptech.com.

The Future is Today!

TCP/IP and VoIP technology is enabling small businesses to take the next step – Video.  The convergence of these technologies can eliminate travel for remote employees by using video conferencing.  Communicate with your clients face to face without leaving your office.  It’s here, it’s real and it’s affordable.

Everyone has used traditional telephone systems and cell phones.  As long as this technology has been around, how many times have you experienced a bad or static connection on a traditional land line?  How many times have you experienced a bad connection on your cell phone?  Over the years technology has matured but it’s still not perfect.  We have been using telephones for well over 100 years and we still experience issues.   VOIP technology is no different.  It’s a mature, stable technology that very soon we will all take for granted.  However there are times when it’s not perfect just like your cell phone, and your phone at your house or on your desk.  But even if it’s not perfect, they make our business lives easier.  We can get more done in a shorter time, we can talk to more people than we could without them – we are more efficient!

There are certain key ingredients to a quality VOIP solution:

  •  A sound, stable network infrastructure with quality equipment.
  •  A stable, mature VOIP telephony system such as Cisco or NEC.
  •  A stable broadband service such as an AT&T T-1.
  •  A thoroughly prepared plan by qualified, experienced engineers from a reputable company such as CMS IP Technologies to design and implement.

Don’t get left behind!

Businesses all around you are taking the next step and taking advantage of this technology.   It’s up to you to decide if it’s time for you to improve your communication, increase your competitive edge and lower your total cost of ownership.  If and when that time comes, remember the key ingredients and do it right.