Share and Collaborate with Your Team Using Office 365

If you are Small or Medium size businesses and have busy field employees that travel and will need a secured access to their files and at the same time collaborate with his Team, here’s a good read for you. I have been given an opportunity to publish this Article in the http://blogs.msdn.com site.

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/mvpawardprogram/archive/2014/12/22/share-and-collaborate-with-office-365-and-your-team.aspx

 

Why Upgrade to the Latest Technology

Convincing the financial decision makers (i.e. Owners, CFO, etc.) for either Small or Medium Businesses from your organization to invest on upgrading your outdated network infrastructure into a cutting-edge technology can be challenging. If your company is running a few outdated hardware and software, it is time to make a decision to improve and secure your current network setup. The beginning of the entire process can be costly, frustrating and wearing but it will all play well at the end with a favorable outcome. Planning a strategic and operational concept will be a good start. Reviewing your current IT approach, and recommending new technology opportunities are also important. Educating employees on the latest technology is significant for businesses for its success.

Why upgrade

  • Modern equipment and latest software

Try not to wait too long on the upgrades, you will be missing out on a lot of hardware and software upgrades, some get decommissioned and replaced with better features so that you can get the most of it. It can be a financially burden for your company but less nuisance at the end of each day.

  • Dependability

Obsolete products may cut off technical support, updates and features; therefore outdated hardware and software that will require support will be in jeopardy and there might be a possible downtime in case of a hardware or software issue/failure which will cost some loss for your business. It is important that your computers are running 24/7 with a limited downtime.

  • Modern network infrastructure

Review your current network infrastructure if it has assurance to protect critical information and systems. Learn about best practices for eliminating application downtime and data loss with the newer technology applied in your organization. Outdated hardware will slow-down your work, modern technology will give more stability.

  • Time-sensitive projects

Converting old file format (using a 3rd party utility converter) to a new file format can be time-consuming. If a project is time-sensitive, every single minute counts and that your work will be done on time.

  • Smarter Users/Employees

Moving from an older to newer technology will be difficult to a few employees that are not technically savvy as they’ll have a hard time adapting to the new change. Make them aware that lack of modern technology knowledge is not a good representation for the company that they work for. I have personally dealt with these type of Users and guiding them to understand/learn about the new technology was very difficult for me. I’ve given them plenty of time to learn and at the same time a lot of patience involved while educating them on the current technology.

  • Secured network

If you have outdated software and hardware that provides security protection, your network can be vulnerable to unauthorized activities that can access your network. Security Vendors (Hardware and Software) can cut-off support on outdated technology as well as updates and patches. There might be a significant potential for compromising corporate data and loss may occur. This can be prevented by implementing the highest encryption which the newer technology has and it’s worth every penny that will protect your investments. Cleaning out infected computers may take hours or days and may results to downtime.

  • Enhanced backup system

Worry about your backup system? If you have an old backup system, consider replacing or upgrading this as well. There are a lot of reasonable cloud solutions or hardware devices that are available nowadays in case of any hardware failure caused by any disasters.

A few concerns and suggestions that I have compiled and might be worrisome to some businesses, as I have dealt with different IT projects for Small and Medium Businesses on upgrading the company’s technology devices/hardware and software.

  • Do you have an IT budget?

IT budget is one of the primary concerns for businesses as to why they have to keep on delaying upgrading to the modern technology. The technology implementor will have to come up with a great sales pitch to convince the financial decision maker on a possible technology upgrade. Start off with compiling statistics of the number of employees that are in urgent needs for the upgrades. Find out how many employees that are not the priority for now, this will help your company set aside a fair amount of IT budget. Present a simple IT Proposal to the Owners/Management and make it precise. Inform them that there are a variety of financing options available from different Vendors on new software, hardware and affordable payments – just what you need.

  • Would you need a complete upgrade – hardware/software?

Try not to wait too long on the upgrades, you will be missing out on a lot of hardware and software upgrades, some get decommissioned and replaced with better features so that you can get the most of it. It can be financially burden for your company but it will save a lot of headaches at the end of each day.

  • Worry about the incompatibility issues?

Gathering the data on obsolete products – i.e. hardware and software can be time-consuming. Plan ahead the preparations that will include training and setting up your test lab if needed. If you run into any software compatibility issues, give yourself plenty of time to come up with a resolution.

  • How to deal with non-tech savvy Users?

Make the transition easier for the conservative Users. It will be hard for them to adapt to the new changes. Show them how the new technology will benefit them and the business – from a very time-consuming to a user-friendly day-to-day work routine.

My final thoughts

Consider at least every three years to make the most out of your money spent on technology upgrades. Within three years there will be substantial improvements and you’ll have plenty of time to set up new goals, IT budgets and that Users will be ready for something new to learn and be knowledgeable with the modern technology. As time flies, the benefits of the upgrade will be worthwhile, this will reduce the complexity and simplify your business operations. Modernized technology will make your business successful.

 

Unprotected Mobile Devices and Mobile Theft Epidemic

It is astonishing to know how many people do not password-protect their mobile devices for both business and personal use. There are more than 40% of mobile device users that are not using any passwords or security applications. If your mobile device is lost or stolen and it’s not password protected, your accounts and personal information is 100% accessible.  I wonder if users realize how vulnerable they are if their mobile devices  (Smart Phones or Tablets) are stolen or misplaced.  Cyber criminals are looking for weaknesses especially on Android platforms. My device is a Windows 8 business mobile phone pre-loaded with Microsoft Office, Banking, Public and Work Email Accounts, Cloud Storage (SkyDrive), Banking, Credit Card and Payment Apps requiring a log on. The thought of this information getting into the wrong hands is bothersome and the impact would be devastating.

Mobile theft is a growing issue that also affects businesses and consumers equally. Cell-phone theft in major cities (i.e. San Francisco, New York) has become a national crime epidemic. It will only take a few minutes for someone to steal all sensitive data stored in your mobile device which will be unfortunate and upsetting. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or it is now referred to Bring Your Own Disaster or/and Bring Your Own Apps Smartphones and Tablets are growing, make sure that security protocols are enforced to protect corporate data on all devices. Please read my BYOD Article here for best practices.

 

To prevent potentially embarrassing information falling into the wrong hands, don’t keep private information stored directly on your personal or business phone but store private information, photos or documents remotely or via cloud. Sometimes, storing data via cloud is neither viable option but it is convenient to most of us. It is still a good practice to store files locally and have them on hand in the event you can’t connect to the cloud for any reasons. If that’s the case, the precautionary step you might want to consider is enabling a password lock. Every mobile OS has a password lock feature such as iOS, BlackBerry OS, Windows, Android platforms that will allow you to set a PIN password or a more complex alphanumeric pass-code for the lock screen.

Best Practices to Protect/Secure Your Mobile Devices and Control Theft Epidemic:

  • Password protect all your mobile devices and do not use easy to remember passwords.
  • Never use the “remember me” function on your apps or mobile web browser, and make sure to log out of your accounts.
  • Do not share your PIN/Passwords with anyone, even with a family or close friends.
  • Reading online resources to keep you educated on the latest techniques/means to protect your mobile device is vital.
  • Implement best practices to protect corporate networks and allow consumers to download music, store digital files, bank, shop, surf and search safely.

 

Securing Mobile Devices on Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

With a myriad of mobile devices being used on a variety of new platforms (Android, Windows 8, iOS 6, etc.) – IT Professionals are beginning to raise concerns on how to manage and secure these devices. With more of the device processing occurring outside the company, these concerns are critical. What if an employee handed their company phone to another employee? In today’s environment, this second employee could take advantage of the situation and use the phone for non-approved activities. This could create significant employment issues for the first employee. On another level, there’s the potential threat from mobile malware that’s becoming more prevalent.

owndevice

Some businesses are seeing Employees bringing their own Droids, iPhones, iPads, and other Tablets to work and using them for personal and business purposes. While this may generate the perception that it’s e great for productivity, the invasion of personal smartphones and tablets in the workplace can cause a significant risk to your organization’s security. Without having a proper strategy you could be at risk.

When employees are given carte blanche on the corporate network with their mobile devices (installing Apps and use of Cloud storage), there is a significant potential for corporate data loss. Any time a phone is lost, stolen, or even simply sold or exchanged, the potential for compromising of data may occur. This can be prevented by implementing encryption, password restriction, and remote wipe and lock thru a Mail Server.

byod1

It’s vital for IT Professional to secure access to corporate data. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or personal and corporate use can be managed by using third-party software (listed below) to secure data in your wireless phone and company. Investing in a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution that controls which devices can access specific applications on your network is a smart decision. By taking precautionary steps, files are secured with the highest encryption for file sharing.

On July 10, 2013, I was given an opportunity to attend an IT Security Seminar and have met some of these top MDM Vendors.

AirWatch
BoxTone
Eset Mobile Security
Exitor
FancyFon
McAfee Enterprise Mobility Management
Mobile Active Defense
Symantec Mobile Management
Trend Micro Mobile Security

Why secure BYOD’s? It’s not the devices that are causing lots of the problems. The challenge is employees wanting to use their own device for both personal and professional business. This creates a host of security issues, as mentioned earlier, and the reason to implement controls and security measures.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Basic Internet and Network Security

How certain are you that no untrustworthy individuals or unauthorized activities can access your network? Are your network files safe? Do you have some security protection (software and hardware) to keep your vital documents safe in your computer? How important is it for you to guard all your Credit Card, Bank Account and other critical information stored in your computer?  Is your network secured with the highest encryption? Did you know that your network can be vulnerable from any unseen threats?

The Do’s:

1.  If you can afford to buy a Security Device (in addition to your router’s security features) like Sonicwall which is designed for small to large business use, it’s worth every penny and will protect your investments.  Sonicwall Appliance has advanced Content filtering  that will block unwanted ports, programs and sites,  fully configurable and advanced firewall or application firewall.  In addition, IPS protection, anti-virus, anti-spyware and mac address spoofing are great features of the Sonicwall Device.

Otherwise you may also block unwanted sites and ports from your router settings. The images that you will see in this Article are coming from a DLink Router. If you are using a different router other than D-Link,  the settings will have similar features.

 
 
 

2.   Protect your computer by using an Anti-Virus/Anti-Spyware Software and make sure that the update is set to automatic update.  There are a few free software that you may try such as Microsoft Security Essentials, Avast, AVG Free or check on line for a lot more options. Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware are also Free and both an excellent Anti Malware and Anti Spyware protection.  Comodo and PCTools Firewall Plus are both great and Free Firewall software protection. If you want a paid solution I would recommend Eset Smart Security 5.

3.   Use  web browsing protection,  you may try programs like WOT (Web of Trust) and Browser Defender. Also,  you may try Rapport for preventing phishing, connections to fake websites and to protect your passwords.

4.  Use an adblocker program to block intrusive ads which can contain malicious scripts such as clickjacks or trojans containing a viral payload.  There are free programs that you may try such as Simple Adblock IE or Adblock plus for Firefox.

5.   If you do not use a third party firewall,  make sure that your computer’s built-in firewall and Windows Updates are enabled and verify that your computer stays current with all Windows Updates and Patches. You may enable both features from Control Panel\System and Security.

 

6.   Use WPA2 Network Security for your wireless network, if you are using a wired network and don’t have any broadband connections, there’s no need to worry about securing your network. Both WEP and WPA have been hacked, if you have an old wireless router that doesn’t support WPA2, you should consider replacing it since routers now have become very affordable.

 
 
 
7.  Enable Guest Zone in your router if your router supports this feature. You will be creating a separate SSID for your Guests and it is safer this way.
 
 
 
 
 8.  Install Secunia (PSI) – Having vulnerable and outdated programs installed in your computer is not a good practice.  Secunia helps keep track of these programs such as End of Life, Insecure and Patched programs.
 
 

9.   Encrypt your Files or/and Drives.  Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 7 Ultimate, and  all editions of Windows Server 2008 R2 comes with Bitlocker . You may access Bitlocker from Control Panel\System and Security\BitLocker Drive Encryption.

 
 
10.   Password protect your files.  Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Outlook) has a built-in tool to password protect each document and worksheet. How much information do you have stored in your Outlook, important emails, calendar, tasks, etc.  I have my own Article on how to password protect Outlook. http://www.techsupportforum.com/3599-how-to-password-protect-outlook-pst/
 
11.   Use complex passwords for routers and website authentication.  It’s a good practice to mix letters, numbers and symbols by using both uppercase and lowercase for letters.

The Don’ts:

1.     Don’t use simple passwords for your router’s Login or websites such as 1234 or 4321, 9999 or peoples names or date of birth.  Don’t use the router’s default Password,  this needs to be changed  immediately when you first setup your router.

2.     Avoid using the most dangerous keyword searching. http://us.mcafee.com/en-us/local/docs/most_dangerous_searchterm_us.pdf

3.      Avoid opening up email attachment from anyone that you don’t know. Do not open any .exe files. Be careful with scam and phishing email, it is best to delete any emails that look suspicious.
 
4.     Don’t disable the security features on your security devices or software.

5.     Don’t use the autocomplete feature in your web browser, this will remember your passwords entered.  It is convenient,  but security wise it’s not safe.

6.      Avoid using any P2P programs such as utorrent, Frostwire , Bittorrent etc…

7.      Do not enable DMZ Host in your Router, this will bypass the port-forwarding,  therefore it is very risky and be cautious and know the security risks in case that you have no option but enable this feature.

8.     Do not enable Remote Management in your Router; this can be easily enabled if  you need it.

 
 
  9.   Do not disable the password protection in your Cell Phone. Cell phones must be password protected because they can easily be stolen, lost or misplaced.  If you have a Microsoft Outlook synching on your phone, imagine all the critical information stored in your cell phones. If this is a business cell phone, inform your IT Dept right away because there’s a way to remotely wipe out all the data in your phone.
 

Now that you have read all the Do’s and Dont’s of Basic Internet and Security, and are aware of all the security threats and facts, it is best to practice all of the security measures.

Please take some time to read the documentation that came with your security device and Internet security software.

If you are in a network environment that utilizes the internet all day long or for a longer period of time, make sure that your router has some very strong security features, replace it and buy a new one if it’s too old. Something that you might want to consider doing is purchasing an additional security protection like Sonicwall Security hardware appliance especially if you are a business owner, rest assured that your network will be protected and not vulnerable to outside threats.

***A special ‘Thanks’ to Paul Campbell for his guidance and contribution  in completing this Article.***