Do you worry about your Company IT security?

Computer Security Switch Shows Laptop Internet SafetyCT Business Solutions (N Mcr) are a specialist IT Company based in Bury. We are constantly striving to enhance the security options available. So if you WORRY about any of the following questions, get in touch to discuss how CT can give you peace of mind over your Company IT network.

  1. How can I protect my network against external threats?
  2. How can I stop spyware and adware infecting PC’s?
  3. How can I monitor what is being accessed online?
  4. How can I restrict access to specific websites, and / or website categories?
  5. How can I restrict Facebook access to general staff, but allow it for the marketing and sales people?
  6. How can I set what is allowed on the desktop PC’s to be different to what can be accessed via a mobile phone?
  7. How do I protect laptops when being used out of the office?

All of the above are questions that should be being asked of your network.  We all use software, antivirus and malware removal, but these solutions only stop infections from spreading as they are removed as soon as they are seen.  What if it’s a new virus that’s never been seen?

Monitoring and restricting internet activity helps to avoid this, and helps with compliance of your Internet usage policy ~ enforcing a strong policy can also affect staff morale.  Recent studies have shown that a company with a more flexible internet usage policy has better staff retention rates.  Just because one device is restricted doesn’t mean that everything has to be. By using Cloud based security you can reduce the amount of harmful material from ever reaching your network and servers, without setting over the top internet usage policies. But everything in your network remains protected. If you have laptops in your company that are used outside of the building, then our new cloud security product will continue to protect them ~ no matter where in the world they are.

ALL THIS CAN BE AVALIABLE FOR AS LITTLE AS £3.25* per user per month.

*Initial 6 month trial price – increases to £4.50 per user per month.

Call Eric or Darren on ~ 0161 798 4336

Is Microsoft Office 365 Right for My Office?

office 365While Microsoft launched the cloud version of their popular applications and productivity products in June of 2011, most small businesses are still trying to figure out what this product means for their company.  Should they continue to pay for and use the premise based software as they have always done, or should they move to the subscription based cloud offering?  Unfortunately, the answer to that is not any clearer today than it was in 2011 and requires research and guidance.

There are many potential benefits to moving your small business to Microsoft Office 365, but there are many challenges to consider.  Each business needs to assess how the benefits and challenges will affect their needs, goals and work culture.

THE GOOD NEWS

Microsoft Office 365 may be the next generation of the business applications you have relied on for years, but offers benefits for todays’ more flexible and mobile work environment.  For example:

Security and Reliability – The biggest concern for businesses using the cloud is the feeling of losing control of your business critical data.  The Microsoft cloud-based products offer the highest level of security and boast of a 99.99% “financially guaranteed” uptime.  Also, your data is already on the cloud and therefore is automatically backed up.

Scalability – Unlike the premise based office products that you have bought in the past, Office 365 allows you to grow, or shrink, your investment in Office applications as your business requires. 

Mobility – As more employees work offsite, the majority of O365 plans allow users the ability to access their Office applications and data from their mobile devices through mobile apps for Windows phone, iOS and Android. 

Desktop Productivity – Each Office 365 subscription provides you with a fully installed version of the Office applications on all of your devices.  One subscription allows you to install Office on 5 devices, giving you a consistent experience across all of your technology.

Multiple Package Options – Currently there are three packages available for business that range from £3.10 per month per user to £7.80 per month per user.  This allows you to select the most appropriate solution and benefits for your business, but also each individual user in your office.  You can mix and match plans to truly fit your needs and budget.

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THE CHALLENGES

Privacy – All of your organizations private data will be housed on Microsoft’s servers, and for legal reasons, data housed outside of your organisation may not be an option. 

Subscription – Depending on the size of your organization, having more recurring fees may not be the goal to upgrading. If you recently upgraded or the current version of Microsoft is meeting your organisation’s needs, migrating at this time may not be in your best interest. For a complete break down on price to plans for Microsoft Office 365, click here.

Software Limitations – Hosted applications like SharePoint Online and Exchange do not have the ability to allow the same capacity limits that on-premise counterparts provide. A specific example is the recipient rate limitations, or the number of recipients inside or outside of your organisation that can receive an email in the span of a day. Subscription sizes vary and range from 1,500 to 10,000 users. Other software limitations include mailbox size and site collection quotas, make sure you aren’t going against limitations when deciding to upgrade is very important.

Network and Internet Access – If your internet or network goes down, you cannot access your data.  Microsoft does not control how you access the internet so they cannot be held accountable if there is an outage with your Internet Service Provider.

Soft Costs – The most obvious cost is the necessary subscriptions you would select for your business, but you also need to consider the costs of properly migrating your data, setting up of accounts and training on the new solution. 

WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Before moving your business to Microsoft Office 365, make sure you weigh all of the pros and cons against your organizations needs and goals.  The reality is that Microsoft Office 365 will at some point be your only option for accessing the Office applications you have come to rely on.  Today, the decision is still up to you.  For assistance with deciding if Microsoft Office 365 is a good fit for your business, consult with the technology experts at CT Business Solutions  today for a free site survey!    T. 0161 413 9390.

 

Small Business Technology: 7 Deadly Signs You Should Never Ignore?

Computer generated 3D photo rendering. 

Have you ever ignored a sign that something is wrong with your PC?   Go on admit it. You won’t be alone! Generally small businesses will ignore a blatant sign of a ‘something’s not quite right’. From finding a workaround stop gap because they’re just too busy to deal with it immediately.

Whilst we understand a busy office needs to keep ticking over, by ignoring the issue it really is just putting off the inevitable. At which point it could be much more severe, and have costly or even devastating effects for your business.

CT Business Solutions are always in favour of a pro-active IT management system. So here’s a few pointers to watch for that may indicate that your technology may be in need of our professional attention:-

  • Regular pop up messages that are being ignored.  

 

    • This often includes critical things like renewing your security software or installing important updates for their operating system or applications.
    • One or more systems are running unusually slow.
    • This can be a sign of hardware starting to fail or software corruption.
  • System regularly locks up and forces a reboot for no apparent reason. 

 

    • You may have a hard drive on the brink of complete failure and the potential for loss of important data if not addressed immediately.
    • The systems are aging and there is no plan to refresh the hardware.
    • If one or more systems are three years or older, it is likely time to start planning to buy new equipment and move to a newer, more secure, operating system.
  • An application is not working properly.  

 

    • When a business application is not working like it should, you are likely losing productivity and are risking the loss of critical information.
  • One or more of the systems are making noises.  

 

    • Like any electronic device, computers need to be properly maintained and regularly cleaned. Any unusual noise should be looked at right away and can be as simple as a dirty fan or as critical as a failing hard drive.
  • If the systems just seem to be “quirky” or you are regularly trying to figure out how to work around some problem, there may be an underlying issue occurring.

 

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Your technology should be helping your business to grow and be successful. It should never get in the way of you and your staff’s ability to be productive and efficient.

Computers and software are likely one of the most expensive and important assets in your office. Your business cannot run without them. It is critical that you make sure that they are properly maintained and that problems are addressed quickly by a professional.

If any of the above sound like your business then call our team at CT Business Solutions ~ 0161 798 4336. We will give you professional, unbiased advice on your best course of action.

 

Just remember, even small issues can be a sign of a much bigger problem, so don’t put it off!

Very best regards

Eric Arnott

Should you Store your Data in the Cloud?

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We rarely think about how our documents are stored until something happens. We all have a set of folders that we’ve created, where we organise ourselves, make things easy to find! Well maybe not everyone but the majority.

The documents and photos we save are stored on the PC internal drive. Unless you email them to yourself, copy to an external hard drive / USB or play savvy and save them in the cloud.

Cloud is a physical, tangible thing. We’ve had people look up to the skies when we mention cloud! Yes really. The cloud is just tech-speak for a network of connected servers that are based in vast storage facilities around the world. Off-site, backed-up and accessible from any computer anywhere in the world ~ via your secure login, and provided you have an internet connection. The security behind these ‘cloud’ storage facilities are managed by people such as Google, Apple, or SoonR, amongst many.

When you save files to the cloud, they can be accessed from a computer connected to that cloud’s network. The cloud isn’t just a few servers, but a network of many servers typically stored in a spaceship-sized warehouse—or several hundred spaceship-sized warehouses.

Why are people concerned with cloud security?

hand shows cloud computing, laptop in front of virtual cloud.

Well it’s physically out of your hands. Your business and your personal information is stored and secured by a third party. For the most part you have no idea where your data is secured, which could thousands of miles away!

“Whether data is being sent automatically (think apps that sync to the cloud) or driven by users uploading photos to social media, the end result is that it’s all there somewhere being logged and stored,” says Jérôme Segura, Senior Security Researcher at Malwarebytes. And that somewhere is a place that’s not in your direct control.

Risks of cloud storage

Cloud security is tight, but it’s not infallible. Cybercriminals can get into those files, whether by guessing security questions or bypassing passwords. That’s what happened in The Great iCloud Hack of 2014, where nude pictures of celebrities were accessed and published online.

The bigger risk with cloud storage is privacy. Even if data isn’t stolen or published, it can still be viewed. Governments can legally request information stored in the cloud, and it’s up to the cloud services provider to deny access. Tens of thousands of requests for user data are sent to Google, Microsoft, and other businesses each year by government agencies. A large percentage of the time, these companies hand over at least some kind of data, even if it’s not the content in full. “Some people argue that they have nothing to hide, that they’re not doing anything wrong, and couldn’t care less if their private information is accessed, especially if it helps in the effort to track down terrorists,” says Segura. “While there is no doubt that ready access to data is an invaluable asset for intelligence agencies, it is really important to remember that each individual has a fundamental right to privacy.”

Benefits of cloud storage

On the flip side, the data you save to the cloud is far more secure than it is on your own hard drive. Cloud servers are housed in warehouses offsite and away from most employees, and they are heavily guarded. In addition, the data in those servers is encrypted, which makes hacking it a laborious, if not formidable, task for criminals. Whereas a malware infection on your home computer could expose all of your personal data to cybercrooks, and even leave your files vulnerable to ransomware threats. In fact, we recommend backing up your files to a cloud service as a hedge against ransomware. Another benefit to storing data on the cloud is cost effectiveness and ease-of-access. You can store tons of data, often for free, using the cloud. Measure that against the number of external hard drives and USBs you’d have to purchase, and the difficulty accessing data once you’ve stored to multiple other devices, and you can see why cloud storage has become a popular option for businesses and consumers alike.

Final verdict Yes, your data is relatively safe in the cloud—likely much more so than on your own hard drive. In addition, files are easy to access and maintain. However, cloud services ultimately put your data in the hands of other people. If you’re not particularly concerned about privacy, then no big whoop. But if you have sensitive data you’d like keep from prying eyes…probably best to store in a hard drive that remains disconnected from your home computer. If you’re ready to store data on the cloud, we suggest you use a cloud service with multi-factor authentication and encryption. In addition, follow these best practices to help keep your data on the cloud secure:

Use hardcore passwords: Long and randomized passwords should be used for data stored on the cloud. Don’t use the same password twice.

Back up files in different cloud accounts: Don’t put all your important data in one place.

Practice smart browsing: If you’re accessing the cloud on a public computer, remember to log out and never save password info.

To learn more about cloud storage options contact your team at CT Business Solutions (N Mcr) ~ 061 798 4336

Credit – Malwarebytes Blog – By Wendy Zamora

Windows 10– Should You Upgrade Now?

windows 10 logoOn 29th July 2015 Microsoft released the greatly anticipated ‘Windows 10’ operating system! The goal ~ to have more than 2 million devices using Windows 10 within two years. So far Windows 10 has been installed on over 200 million devices! A proactive and aggressive marketing initiative, that offered free upgrades on all eligible devices using Windows 7 or higher, was the driving force behind this.

If you own or manage a business that is currently running Windows 7, the decision to upgrade to Windows 10 isn’t so straight forward. You will need to consider whether your industry specific software, printers, copiers, accounting systems, etc. are going to be compatible with this new operating system. As with all operating system upgrades, other necessary components aren’t always so quick to transition. You will want to work with your technology professional to create an upgrade plan that makes sense for your current and future technology needs. Get in contact with us to discuss how to make sure you get it right.

Points to note :

  1. The free upgrade is still available if you are using an eligible device. Whilst Microsoft has put together a very good product with the Windows 10 upgrade, it’s not perfect!
  2. The free upgrade finishes on 29th July 2016. So there isn’t long to make the ‘free’ leap now.
  3. If you are upgrading your personal devices, you can do so without worry. If you don’t like it you are able to move back to your original system.
  4. If you are still unsure and asking “Is this the right upgrade for me?” then get in contact with us. The short answer is, it depends.
  5. If you are a business, you should always take the time to consult with your technology professional before making any significant changes to your businesses most important asset- its technology. CT Business Solutions (N Mcr) offer a free site survey for businesses that will help you better understand where your technology is today, and can work with you to make a plan for your technology needs in the months and years to come.
  6. The first updates for Windows 10 came in November 2015 but a few more updates are still needed before the majority of the reported issues are addressed. What does this mean for you specifically?

stethoscope on a laptop

Are You Using an Old Operating System or Software?

If you have a device that is currently using an operating system that was released before Windows 7, like Windows XP or Vista, you will have to pay for the upgrade. However, if you are still using a device with one of these older operating systems you need to consider an immediate upgrade to at least Windows 7, as your system is likely no longer secure as these are no longer supported by Microsoft and are liable to virus attacks!

Are You Currently Using Windows 7?

In 2014, most users on Windows XP or older operating systems upgraded to Windows 7 (or Windows 8 if you were not afraid of the terrible reviews). Windows 7 was, and continues to be, one of the best operating systems developed by Microsoft. Generally, those using Windows 7 on their personal devices now will find that learning Windows 10 will be relatively intuitive.

Still not sure? Happy the way things are? Don’t do it

While the upgrade to Windows 10 will only be free until this summer, there is not necessarily a need to rush to upgrade your system. Microsoft intends to keep Windows 7 on extended support until at least 14th January 2020, so there is no requirement that you change anything at this time. If you are perfectly happy with your system today, then you can wait to move to the new operating system when you naturally upgrade your hardware. However, if you are really excited to use things like Microsoft Edge and Cortana and you are not concerned about the compatibility of your software or peripherals, there isn’t much of a risk to the upgrade and should take advantage of the free offer.

Are You Currently Using Windows 8 or 8.1?

For users that are currently on Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, the new Windows 10 could not come fast enough. One of the main focuses of Windows 10 was to address the many complaints that were lodged about the many downfalls of Windows 8. However, there are still issues that you need to consider.

If you are considering upgrading your PC or laptop from Windows 8, you will likely be thrilled with the changes and again should take advantage of the free offer. If you are a business that is considering upgrading from Windows 8, you will want to consult with a technology professional about the impact this type of change will have your business as we discussed for the Windows 7 users.

Like most things, what works for one does not necessarily work for all.   Whilst the ‘free’ upgrade is coming to an end the decision invariably should be the right one for you and your business.

Get in touch with the team at CT Business Solutions for further advice.

Very best regards

Eric Arnott

Director

Is Your Biggest Security Threat Your Password?

Today, passwords seem to rule our lives. Every website you visit to manage your finances, pay your bills, purchase products, or access your medical records all demand passwords that are complex and very difficult to remember. Of course we should be thankful as these requirements are designed to keep our finances, information and identities’ safe and secure. Managing the ever growing list of letter combinations, symbols, and numbers is becoming overwhelming. Read more

Badlock: a chance to close the stable door before the horse bolts

Badlock

 

 

As the Grand National weekend draws to a close, who expected to be drawing analogies between national hunt racing and IT managed services along the lines of planning, preparation and making sure your team is ready to overcome the hurdles and arrive successfully at the finishing post.

However we now find that we are bracing ourselves in anticipation of a new cyber threat Badlock.  We are in the unusual position of being aware both of a vulnerability and of the fix becoming available on the same day – Tuesday 12th April. Read more

The Backbone of your IT Infrastructure

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Why you need Hosted Exchange ~ Email

‘The benefits of ‘Hosted Exchange’

As our need to work anywhere and everywhere changes it has become increasingly necessary for businesses to work across multiple devices from many locations ~ all synchronised and all in real-time. Cloud services offer this service and many businesses now fully utilise it. But what about your emails? Have you moved into the 21st century, or are you still emailing in the good-old-fashioned-POP3-way? Things are changing. Email solutions are changing. You need to change with them.Email Button For Emailing Or Internet Communication

Would we be right in saying that every single business uses email? We think so, but let us know if you don’t. As a business we really can’t survive without it. Emailing is now the number one primary communication tool for businesses.

Have you stopped to think how productive your email system is? If you are still using the traditional POP3 email connection then you are missing out on a myriad of productivity boosting features that ‘Hosted Exchange’ can offer. Such as:-

  1. Real-time and secure access from any computer.
  2. Backup of your emails, tasks, calendars and contacts. If your PC crashes, or you lose your mobile, none of your Outlook data is lost.
  3. Automatic syncing of email, calendar and contacts between outlook and your mobile device.
  4. Manage and access to your emails, contacts, calendar from anywhere (even remote locations) ~ securely, via the web or a mobile device.
  5. Full functionality of group scheduling and meeting requests.
  6. Share calendars with contacts and team members.
  7. Secure outlook connection.
  8. Powerful spam filtering.
  9. Automatic out of office notifications.
  10. Message recall functionality.

Hosted exchange will give you peace of mind, knowing that your data is secure, backed-up and available (guaranteed 99.9% uptime).

Basically hosted exchange is a computer server that stores your email, calendar, address book and files them centrally, making everything available across multiple devices 24/7. Used through Outlook at your basic email interface.

If you haven’t changed to ‘hosted exchange’ give the team at CTS Manchester a call to discuss further. Tel : 0161 798 4336.

Cyber Attacks ~ A Real Threat!

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Cyber-attacks are becoming more prevalent. It isn’t just the larger companies who are now constantly under threat from attack. Every business that uses the internet is a target. As larger businesses become more security aware and increase their in-house cyber-security, the more the attackers turn to smaller businesses who they consider an ‘easy target’.

Tip: Ensure your staff are cyber aware!   Research tells us that it is generally your staff who are the biggest cyber security threat. It is important to invest in staff awareness training.

Note: 50% of the worst breaches are caused by inadvertent human error

Note: The experts say open Wi-Fi networks prove ‘child’s play’ for cyber-criminals.

CT Business Solutions (N Mcr) are a Cyber Essentials Accredited Implementer, allowing us to prepare businesses to proactively manage cyber threats and reduce the risk of attack.

You can never be totally safe, but most online attacks can be prevented or identified with basic security practices for your organisation, people, network, applications and systems. These security practices are as important as locking your doors or putting your cash in a safe. You can manage your online security in the same way you would protect any other aspect of your business. This is becoming a business necessity.

Basic steps you can take immediately.

  1. Ensure your anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-malware are up-to-date. Free products do not offer the level of security you need, always use a reputable product that offers proactive security patching and updates.
  2. Install Firewalls or similar at the boundary of your network.
  3. Have extensive off premises backups, i.e. a cloud solution.

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    Cyber-Security with CT Business Solutions (N Mcr)

  4. Beware of phishing, vishing and smishing scams.
  5. Make your staff aware that Banks / HMRC would never ask you to confirm any confidential information over email or phone.
  6. Advise your staff NOT to open any email attachments that they are not expecting. CT Business Solutions offer a “forward to us for clearance service” to all our clients on our managed proactive service plan.
  7. Implement a strong password policy. Include capitals, numbers and symbols. Do not use the same password for multiple sites.
  8. Ensure that all staff are fully trained and knowledgeable on the importance of cyber security. Staff training is severely under-utilised, and yet lack of training is is the biggest cause of data-breaches.
  9. Ensure that your customers and suppliers are following essential cyber security rules. It is quite feasible that they could pass viruses to you unknowingly.

No one is infallible, but there is no excuse for not putting in place security measures that will make it extremely difficult for a cyber-attack to take place. As the level of techniques used by cyber-criminals to infiltrate companies IT infrastructure grows, it has never been more important to protect yourself and your company’s business data.

Your IT more often than not is the backbone of your company. Would you survive as a business without it? Would you survive as a business if someone stole or held your business data to ransom?

CT Business Solutions (N Mcr) offer an inspection service and are able to implement techniques to drastically reduce your risk of a cyber-breach. Get in touch to discuss options available to you. Tel : 0161 798 4336