Category Archives: Security

IT Disaster Recovery For SMEs

IT Disaster Recovery For SMEs

IT Disaster Recovery For SMEs

According to credible estimates, an hour of outage may cost a medium sized company $70,000. Yes, that is accumulated losses when IT systems go offline. What’s interesting to note here is that in contrast to the popular belief that natural disasters constitute the primary reason for IT system failure, a recent study finds hardware failure to be the leading cause, by a big margin, of IT disasters and the losses, both financial and loss in credibility, which small and medium sized businesses have to incur. However, if SMEs take the right precautions, much of the loss can be quickly remedied, even if it occurs.

I do not need to argue about the importance of prompt recovery from IT disasters. Even if your business can burn through $70,000/hour of losses, the loss in customer confidence, especially for consumer facing enterprises may not be repaired, ever. A study by HP and Score also reveals that 1/4th of medium sized businesses go broke as a result of a major disaster. It shows the ROI for investing your time and money in contingency planning and executing dry runs to ensure your plan works.

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Among the four major types of disasters – Hardware failure, natural disasters, human error and software failure, only natural disasters are something which are not in human control, everything else, including human error can be tamed, if not controlled. The key however is to be prepared for extreme situations and make your plans based on disaster predictive studies available out there.

Unless your organization is unique, it’s very much likely that you have one SAN (Storage Area Network) or NAS (Network Attached Storage) which is being utilized across your organization. In order to keep storage simple and scalable, organizations tend to neglect the doomsday scenario which may trigger due to a slight failure of their SAN. On top of it, all data, including virtualized storage relies on this one big SAN. Now imagine this SAN failing for any reason – there are plenty. Since the whole IT environment is connected to the SAN, the whole IT infrastructure comes to a halt, all because of SAN failure. This is not a hypothetical scenario which I’m creating to drive my point home, rather, it’s one of the major causes of hardware failures which result in IT disasters. Let’s look at some of the measures organizations may take to mitigate risks. First comes redundancy but even with layers of redundancy, if your SAN is not diversified (separate systems and not one big unit), there are good chances those added layers of redundant storage will fall like a house of cards when disaster strikes. Next comes ensuring a standard data backup policy is made and followed to the letter and spirit. However, surveys suggest that it normally take tens of hours to recovery from SAN failure with tape and disk backups. Some studies draw an even starker picture by claiming that tape backups often fail.

Cloud backup seems to be an emerging trend, primarily driven by the idea to ‘physically’ diversify your storage network. Organizations which deeply embrace Cloud completely let go of any internal SAN and rely on the Cloud. This may not be a wise move considering that Cloud may also fail (remember the Amazon EC2 failure which brought down mega internet services like Reddit etc?). Using Cloud backup is a credible plan to recover from any storage related IT failures. Diversifying your Cloud backup pool only further strengthens your IT and mitigates failure risks.

No matter how strong your IT systems are, they’re prone to failure. This may happen because of your system administrator accidentally wiping out server file system or a hurricane sweeping through your data center. Preparation is the key.   Read The Full Quorum: Disaster Recovery Report 2013

By Salman Ul Haq

Data Encryption For Education

Data Encryption For Education

Data Encryption For Education

Schools, colleges and universities are facing data security issues on a regular basis and the nature of their IT systems present unique challenges. Balancing diverse information with required security control is complicated when the IT infrastructure is decentralized and difficult to maeducation-data-cloudnage. Adding to these challenges is a diverse user population and the increased use of multiple devices and platforms.

In this eBook, you’ll discover the basics of data encryption; how it addresses the unique data security challenges facing educational institutions, and key points to consider when building the business case for data encryption. You’ll also learn about some common “data encryption myths” and the risks they pose.

In a world with an increasing dependence on technology, the rapid user adoption of multiple devices as a way to conduct business productively has quickly become a reality for organizations. The notion of sitting behind a desk with a desktop computer has given way to laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other devices, whether they’re owned by the individual or provided by the organization.

The protection of sensitive information such as student and parent information, financial records, loans, employment records, and other important documents is paramount for educational institutions. For post secondary institutions, where information also includes research and large amounts of intellectual property, data security becomes even more critical.

The key challenges prompting educational institutions to consider data protection solutions are the need to:

  • Protect sensitive data and personal identifiable information (PII) on multiple platforms and devices
  • Employ flexible and centralized administration for a user base that changes from term-toterm
  • Enable secure sharing of data with other institutions, research partners and other stakeholders

PROTECTING SENSITIVE DATA ACROSS MULTIPLE PLATFORMS

Today, a myriad of options exist for accessing and sharing information in schools. Laptops, tablets, shared workstations in classrooms and labs, USB keys and personal mobile devices all provide ways for students and staff to access and share learning materials and in many cases, sensitive information.

We’ve come to expect the seamless use of a variety of devices to access content, and just like corporate organizations, many schools are embracing the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend and implementing policies that encourage their use.

Why? The use of personal mobile devices can:

  • Increase productivity in staff, faculty and students
  • Provide flexible access to learning materials, like e-textbooks and apps, resulting in a more favorable learning environment
  • Reduce IT costs because the devices are not purchased through the school

Even for those who aren’t proactively implementing a BYOD program, the proliferation of devices is so widespread that campus’ IT departments need to evolve to handle the growth.  The challenge facing educators is how to develop an effective strategy to manage these disparate devices so that “Bring your own Device”, doesn’t turn into “Bring your own Disaster.”

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Is A Private Cloud Really A Cloud?

Is a Private Cloud Really a Cloud?

We essentially have two implementation models for cloud computing: the Public cloud, what people call the real cloud, and the Private cloud, which is an implementation of the same elements and infrastructure of a Public cloud on a private level. There are a lot of arguments to be made here but let’s take things at face value. The words private and public are already biased, and private clouds were actually made because people wanted to be more secure with their data.

If you think that it will take more time and effort for the Public Cloud market to mature, meaning that Private Clouds are a better option for large companies. You are dead wrong. If you focus on the business benefits that the Cloud offers, you would certainly believe that Public Clouds are better for business and that there is little to absolutely no solid business reason to even consider a Private Cloud, much less build one.

To truly understand the limitations of the Private Cloud model, we must take the business perspective. What are the business benefits of migrating to the Cloud?

  • Cloud lowers expenses. The cloud will shift this particular IT expense from capital to operational expense. This means that instead of investing in hardware, software, installation and personnel, you can pay as you go for what you need and use as an operational expense. This is not the case for Private Clouds where you need to invest on the infrastructure which might increase capital expenditure altogether.
  • Cloud increases utilization while dealing with usage spikes, giving the illusion of infinite resources. The Cloud is designed to distribute resources across many users, so unless you want to setup a data center that will only be fully utilized once a month or every time an indecent picture of a celebrity is leaked, then a Private Cloud is not for you. Private Clouds are rarely fully utilized unless the company is particularly large and most or all of its divisions use this Cloud thoroughly. You might end up using only $10,000 worth of service per month from your $1 million data center, a huge waste of resources. With a Public Cloud, you can set the service to automatically scale depending on usage, so if it spikes, resources are allocated in an instant to cope with it. It’s elastic, limitless. But compare that to Private Clouds where you have an exact limit, now what happens when all of a sudden, every single computer and mobile device starts accessing the Private Cloud and it might not be able to cope because it has no links to other clouds where it may borrow resources.
  • The Cloud deals in economies of scale. Large Cloud Computing providers are able to sell their services inexpensively because they are serving so many clients that the user-base actually already pays for everything, and so they can operate at razor-thin margins. But your Private Cloud does not have that luxury; you are paying for everything, even the resources that go unused.

Some of us have another term for the Private Cloud: traditional data center. We are not in the data center business, so there is no reason for us to build one, not in terms of economy, not in terms of technical, and certainly not in terms of security.

By Abdul Salam

Cloud Infographic: BYOD Security And Policies

Cloud Infographic: BYOD Security And Policies

Cloud Infographic: BYOD Security and Policies

AccelOps Cloud Security Survey Report surveyed some 176 IT security personnel and they ranked BYOD as the top source for fear of incurring data loss and having the need for heightened data control. This is the traditional topic or cloud worriers and opponents of cloud computing which only helps in propagating the myth that cloud computing in not secure. ISC2’s January research shows that explicitly linked cloud computing to the creation of personal device policies. But the take away from the research is that companies who support BYOD have happier employees while also needing to increase their cloud security knowledge and skills. The same research survey shows that 78% of the participants consider BYOD as a “somewhat or very significant risk”.  Read More

BYOD Policy Implementation Guide

We have included an excellent research paper that provides Three simple steps to legally secure and manage employee-owned devices within a corporate environment. Download To Review

BYOD-infographic

Infographic Source: Marion Structure Technologies

Yet Another Vendor Specific Certification, AWS Rolls Out New Certification Program

Yet Another Vendor Specific Certification, AWS Rolls Out New Certification Program

Yet Another Vendor Specific Certification, AWS Rolls Out New Certification Program

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The lack of specific standards to govern cloud computing, along with security concerns is often one of the reasons cited by those that put it aside in favor of traditional enterprise and datacenter applications. But industry leaders in cloud computing are starting to fill this void with different certification levels intended for specific positions within the cloud infrastructure, albeit for their own specific flavors of cloud computing. Cloud adaption rates are increasing every year because most companies out there make use of a cloud service in one way or another. This is yet another badge that employees can pin on their resumes and use to coerce present and future employers to part with larger sums of cash.

Amazon Web Services announced their new Global Certification Program which will designate individuals who exhibit skills, knowledge and proficiency with AWS systems and technology. The program is intended for the three primary roles associated with the delivery of cloud-based solutions: the Developer, SysOps Administrator and Solutions Architect. There are three proficiency levels: Associate, Professional and Master. The Master level, according to my pop culture knowledge, would probably require the examinee to defeat someone of Master level first before being recognized as one.

Certification is awarded to successful exam passers and will allow them to display the AWS Certified logo on their business cards. The exams are given through Kryterion testing centers which are present in more than 100 countries with 750 testing locations worldwide. The very first offered certification will be for the Architect labeled as “AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Level.” Certification for the Administrator and Developer is said to follow later in the year.

So for those people who prefer to use AWS for your work, you probably want to work with companies that use it too. So it goes without saying that this certification is essential for your career.

By Abdul Salam

Top 5 HIPAA Security Risks As Providers Migrate To The Cloud

Top 5 HIPAA Security Risks As Providers Migrate To The Cloud

Top 5 HIPAA Security Risks

The HIPAA and HITECH Acts made a huge splash in the healthcare industry as organizations were forced to adapt new safeguards for protected health information, especially in regards to electronic medical records (EMRs). As hospitals migrate to electronic patient health information (ePHI), they must maintain compliance whether they use in-house servers or cloud hosting solutions.

With organizations required to report breaches affecting 500 or more patients since the final compliance date of 2006, there’s been some time to collect data. Based on the official breach reports from 2009 to mid-April 2013, here are the top 5 security risks for healthcare IT professionals as they make the switch to EMRs:

1) Theft of Laptops or Portable Devicestype-of-HIPAA_breach (1)

Despite the focus on ePHI, firewalls, encryption and other methods of thwarting e-thieves, by far the most likely breach to occur is the simple theft of equipment itself, and the easiest and most valuable item for a thief to steal is a laptop computer or smart phone. 44% of all breaches are from laptops, and 51% of all breaches are theft.

That’s not a reason to abandon the use of mobile computers by doctors and other healthcare professionals; in fact, laptop thieves are probably only interested in wiping the hard drive and selling the stolen item as fast as possible. But it does mean hospitals and practices should keep a close eye on their mobile equipment through user logins, inventoried devices, and, if possible, software that allows a stolen laptop to be located.

2) Paper Files

Another surprising piece of data reveals that paper breaches are more common than any electronic breach with the exception of laptops; nearly a quarter of all breaches are paper related. Paper breaches are most likely to occur from unauthorized access, loss, or a combination. The best solution to paper problems? Migrating to an EMR system where it is easier to keep an eye on who is accessing information and where files are more difficult to misplace.

3) Unauthorized Access/Disclosure from Devices or Paper Files

Unsurprisingly, after paper files, mobile devices, laptops and computers come next. These breaches can come anywhere, from a doctor telling a non-related individual about a patient case to an unauthorized individual reading a hallway terminal. This should be a major concern for managers because it really comes down to hiring and training good people.

Instilling the importance of patient privacy in staff is necessary to curb unauthorized access. Proper protocols for computer use (think logging off public terminals) and the placement of mobile computing devices away from prying eyes can both reduce the amount of breaches. Electronic security methods can help stop

unauthorized access, whether that means frequent changing of user passwords or the latest encryption and firewalls.

4) Loss of Paper Files or Devices

Perhaps the most difficult breach source to defend against, loss makes up 11% of all compromised PHI. Whether it’s paper files or mobile devices (it is difficult to lose an entire computer or network server), sometimes things just seem to disappear. However, some of the methods mentioned above could reduce loss, such as tracking all organization-owned devices and, of course, employee training.

5) Hacking/IT Incidents

Finally, we reach the dreaded scourge of healthcare IT: hacking and IT breaches. They just barely make the top 5 sources (if we discount “combination”), with this category representing only 6.3% of all breaches. Hacking or IT incidents can occur to computers, mobile devices or network servers, and the best way to defend against them is proper digital security.

The single biggest step an organization can take in maintaining HIPAA compliance and the integrity of ePHI is creating a step-by-step plan for the handling of patient information and training staff thoroughly on its usage. Working with a HIPAA compliant infrastructure provider can help IT departments create a confident strategy. Every bad egg can’t be eliminated—there will always be somebody who is willing to share information they shouldn’t  as well as people making honest mistakes—but with proper planning and modern technology, breaches can be minimized, reducing the risk to healthcare providers throughout the country.

By Joe Kozlowicz

Green House Data delivers high-availability cloud hosting and colocation services with 24/7 live service. Our SSAE 16 Type II and HIPAA compliant data centers are 40% more efficient than the competition and powered by 100% renewable energy. For more information visit www.greenhousedata.com

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – Provides Tremendous Boost In Employee Satisfaction

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – Provides Tremendous Boost In Employee Satisfaction

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Unless one has been living under a rock or has been magically transported from the middle ages, one might have noticed the burgeoning trend in mobile devices. The technology has reached a point where what many would consider science fiction a decade ago, would now be considered commonplace. By the middle of this year, there might be more smartphones and tablets in circulation than there are PCs in the world. At this time we are already starting to see changes to how people and companies do their daily work, and it looks like the world is preparing for another change, specifically the time of the “Cube People” might be coming to an end, and the “Mobile Nomads” will be taking over.

The number of organizations embracing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and work anywhere or work shifting programs are increasing. Work flexibility is one of the key elements required in order to recruit real talent and reduce employee attrition. How BYOD and work shifting correlates with employee attrition is simply this; attrition is mainly associated to workplace proximity and people generally choose their work based on commute time and convenience, so staying at home to work or somewhere else other than the office is a tremendous boost in satisfaction. With this convenience, organizations are reporting an average of 25% reduction in employee attrition simply because BYOD and work shifting are able to bring more employee satisfaction compared to any other motivational strategies that companies have traditionally implemented.

Because of this “work anywhere with your own device” trend, there is an increasing demand for proper mobile management systems and practices as well as better collaboration systems that will cater to this new scattered workforce. Meetings will never go away, and employees still do need to talk to their peers and superiors, but how to do this remotely, efficiently, and conveniently should be the new center of attention for enterprises and in particular, software and hardware developers. There should be an increased focus on mobile device management strategies that can easily scale to modern demands, which offer robust security without the hassle of manually configuring each device. However, recent setbacks show that some companies and executives are not ready for telecommuting offerings as some skepticism has emerged since Yahoo.com has removed work-from home policies.

The BYOD trend is also putting new masks on old fears, particularly that of data loss. In this article by Thor Olavsrud – posted within the Mobile Enterprise 360 community, Thor has compiled various best practices for implementing BYOD and even cites solutions to make this possible. The bottom line is that in order to improve security and data protection, organizations should be focusing on the data and not the mobile device itself. There is virtually no full-proof solution for keeping a device from getting lost or stolen, but data is truly different as it can be secured in the right environment. One particularly good way is to implement a virtual environment within the device where the employee can work and access all relevant data, but no data is ever actually saved within the device, both applications and data are cloud based, with the device simply serving as a portal.

Now according to Paul Kapustka in his article Mobile Security: User experience is key to success. This security is only as good as long as it’s used prudently. People will always look for alternatives even to security as long as they feel that it performs exceptionally well and is within their tastes.

However, we have to be careful that the solution we apply should not be too restrictive, or else nobody would use it. For more articles regarding mobile management please visit The Mobile Enterprise360 Community”

By Abdul Salam

This post is brought to you by the Mobile Enterprise 360 Community and Citrix

Simple And Useful Cloud Computing Security Tips

Simple And Useful Cloud Computing Security Tips

Simple And Useful Cloud Computing Security Tips

Data Breach Comic

In the modern world of big data, cloud computing is becoming a greater part of both the business world and our personal lives. While cloud computing provides us with convenient access to data from many locations, it had also introduced new security issues that were not present back when all of our data existed on our own personal hard drives. How can you be sure that your personal or business information is safe? Here are a few useful cloud computing security tips.

First of all, it is important to remember that when it comes to cloud computing, your data is only as a safe as your weakest password. Everyone who has access to the cloud needs to be trained on how to make their password as secure as possible. When it comes to the primary server access, the fewer who know the password, the better. Make the password difficult to guess, and change it on a regular basis to ensure security.

Authentication is becoming more and more common in the Internet world. Often times to check a credit card balance you need to provide an additional piece of information. Having a security question or two on each person with access can give you a second line of defense against would be hackers. It’s one thing to get someone’s password, but to know the make and model of their first car or the name of the city they were born means personal knowledge. Not having the security question always be a person’s mother’s maiden name, like in the past, means a criminal doesn’t know what personal info they need to acquire to hack an account.

Your next line of defense is data encryption. Even if someone manages to get through a password and answer a personal question, they still won’t have any useful data. This will make users more confident in your cloud security and give you greater peace of mind. A firewall will shore things up even further.

Logs are important in case there is a breach in security. Knowing every IP and MAC address that have been in and out of the cloud can help authorities to track criminals down later. Finally, you want to be sure that data is backed up so that there is no catastrophic loss in case of a server problem.

With all of these fail safes in place, you can rest a lot easier performing your cloud computing. The proper security lets you just focus on the convenience.

By Sam

CloudTweaks Comics
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