5 Ways Cloud Computing Is Transforming IT Services For Education

The benefits of cloud computing for the public sector are well documented in terms of increased efficiency and decreased costs. From providing distance learning to adults to keeping primary school learning materials up-to-date, there’s no denying the benefits of cloud computing for the public sector.

The Challenges Providing IT Services for Education

One of the biggest challenges faced by education facilities when investing in IT services for education is cost, followed by flexibility. The cloud solves both of these problems by offering a cost-effective and customisable experience, allowing each institution to only take on as much as they need. Here are just some of the ways cloud computing is transforming IT services for education for all ages.

Cutting Costs For Textbooks

Textbooks are often one of the biggest expenses for university students, and frequent updates mean that second-hand books aren’t always an option for thrifty-minded students. Cloud-based textbooks solve this problem by offering a cheaper alternative to the doorstop tomes freshers are expected to buy every year. Students can purchase the ebook version of the textbook for a fraction of the cost, or universities can purchase a license for core texts and make them available to all students via a centralised cloud account. Secondary and high school teachers no longer need to worry about children ripping pages or drawing in their textbooks, meaning they don’t have to budget to replace dog-eared texts every few years.

Providing Custom Experiences

One of the problems with many IT services for education is that institutions will use 10% of the functionality while paying for 100% of the product. With cloud-based services, schools can take a pick n mix approach to their software and subscriptions. This allows for greater flexibility and money saving opportunities. Different teachers might have different needs and preferences, which means each one can customise their IT provisions to their unique teaching style.

Eliminating Out-Of-Date Content

When resources are digitised, updates are often included as standard, which means no more trying to teach something from an outdated textbook. This can be critical when it comes to curriculum updates, as students won’t be left catching up before exams, or learning from hastily photocopied sheets from the sample textbook.

Increased Collaboration

We’ve all seen the images on Facebook: a teacher holds a sign asking people to share the picture and comment with their location in order to teach their class just how far an image can spread in a short space of time. While greater connectivity can be a bad thing for safety, there are also countless benefits for cloud collaboration. Students in different classrooms can have access to the exact same materials and work on projects together, without the need for costly infrastructure. A budget £100 tablet can access the same materials as a deluxe £1000 laptop. Collaborative learning can happen between countries or with the classroom across the hall.

Levelling the Playing Field

For students from poorer backgrounds, accessing quality learning resources can be a struggle. The cloud effectively levels the playing field by making learning accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Socio-economic factors are eliminated from the classroom and teachers can focus on teaching, while students can focus on learning. Cloud technology

 

BCN accelerates its public service offerings with G-Cloud 9 approval

BCN Group, the Manchester-based Digital and Cloud Service Provider has been notified by the Crown Commercial Service that it has been successful in becoming a service provider for Cloud Hosting, Cloud Software and Cloud Support for G-Cloud 9.

This latest Government award enables BCN’s increasingly popular cloud-based service offerings to be available to the UK’s public sector organisations, ensuring a compelling blend of commercial best value, flexibility and world class service. The nine newly approved services cover Application Hosting, Email Filtering, Office 365 subscription and migration, Unified Communications as a service, Windows and Linux Server, Backup as a Service, Disaster Recovery as a Service and Specialist Cloud Services.

‘We are delighted to be recognised again as a provider of cloud services’ said Stewart Dalziel, Sales Director at BCN. ‘Achieving a place on G-Cloud 9 is a recognition of our established track record and on-going work with the public sector along with our commitment to customer service excellence.  We are genuinely excited by the opportunity this presents and we are fully committed to supporting the Government’s Digital Workplace Strategy.’

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Why Ransomware loves your secret shame

The very high profile exposure of the WannaCry ransomware exploit has once again shone a light on this ever-expanding business problem. And whilst such an event is nothing to smile about, in some respects, it’s important that it has happened in such a public way. According to IBM Security, Ransomeware-infected emails expanded 6000% in 2016 compared to the year before, with no sign of slowing this year. To make matters worse, 70% of the victims interviewed paid up.

As an organisation that advises businesses on a wide range of IT security matters, we know that only a small proportion of customers are proactively doing something to mitigate this terrible phenomenon. It’s a common theme to find that those freely wanting to do something about it, have very recently fallen victim themselves!

And therein lies one of the biggest challenges … real-world awareness.  Too many organisations prefer to remain in denial that ransomware is as widespread as it is until it’s too late. It is no exaggeration to state that not one client who has been through this issue is comfortable with their name being associated with it to help prompt or educate others to take preventative action.

We couldn’t agree more with all the helpful advice that is freely available regarding updating software, hardware and security appliances. However, as sensible as this is, it is no substitute for getting professional and impartial advice from a security expert.

Advice, although often free, can result in an unplanned but necessary business purchase. But is that such a bad thing? Surely keeping your business secure and productive is more important?  If only our clients could tell you their stories… But we respect that they won’t, as the brand is everything.

So, what will it take before you seek professional security advice?

 

Heading Stateside for Business? Store Your Data In The Cloud Before Takeoff

Anyone who regularly travels to the United States will be familiar with the stringent border control. Unfortunately for regular travellers, this is only set to get worse thanks to new vetting processes that came into play in the wake of Trump’s controversial travel ban. In addition to banning passengers from keeping any electronic device bigger than a Kindle in the cabin, new digital checks are taking place at border control. In some instances, passengers are being asked to hand over passwords for their phones, laptops, email and social media accounts. For business travellers, this presents a problematic situation.

If you regularly travel with a work laptop or phone, chances are your company has a fairly strict policy about keeping the data you carry with you safe. Anyone familiar with Computer Security 101 knows that handing over your password to anyone in any situation is a big no-no. Even if there is nothing incriminating on your devices, by handing over your passwords, you are also giving border control access to the people you communicate with. This can lead to a breakdown of trust between companies and clients.

From a legal perspective, there isn’t much you can do in terms of standing your ground if you aren’t a US citizen. While US citizens have a right to enter the country, visitors are required to prove to border control that they should be let in. This means complying with their requests, which can include handing over passwords. If you refuse, it could be seen as an attempt to conceal something, and the border agent has the right to refuse entry.

So, what’s a person to do to protect their privacy? The most obvious choice is to travel light and leave your devices at home, but this isn’t going to be an option for most business travellers. The best way for business travellers to protect their privacy is to transfer any and all data to a secure cloud storage account and then clean up the devices before travel. There’s a legal grey area around what is and isn’t on your person while you travel. If your files are safe on the cloud, there’s no obvious way for border control to know where to look.

If you do have to hand over passwords, this information can be saved for up to 75 years, so the first thing you do when you clear airport security is to change your passwords. Alternatively, you could change your passwords to something highly secure and unmemorable before leaving. If you don’t have a password manager on your phone, it will be an extra barrier to preventing border control from accessing your data. However, this can be seen as a subversive measure that could raise further suspicion.

For the foreseeable future, anyone travelling to the United States should be prepared for enhanced checks, so a little more preparation might be needed before takeoff to protect sensitive information.

Why Humans Are Still The Weakest Link In IT Security

Another week, another data leak threatening businesses. This time, Mexican fast food eatery Chipotle were the ones under the spotlight for “unauthorised activity” on their payment processing system. Although not much is known about the breach at this point, Chipotle has assured customers that they will be in touch in due course if there is cause for concern.

The risk of hacks is one that plagues any large company, and while IT security companies encourage companies to always stay one step ahead of the latest scam, the threat never seems to subside. In reality, the biggest threat to a company’s security comes from inside their own ranks. We’re not suggesting that all of your employees are trying to leak sensitive data, rather than human error is more likely to blame for your security breach.

While companies can do everything possible to keep on top of the latest security threats, more should be done to train staff to identify potentially problematic scenarios. Humans are all too often the weakest link in the security chain, opening attachments containing malware, or accessing sensitive information over an unsecured public network, for example.

One of the fundamentals of successful IT security systems is that it is user-friendly. Unfortunately, users can more often than not accidentally or intentionally circumvent the very systems put in place to protect them. When the simple act of opening an email attachment can lead to a £150,000 fine for stolen customer files, it’s not difficult to imagine how anyone within a company could be at risk, whether they are trained in IT security or not.

The advent of the mobile worker has only compounded this problem further. While companies could once treat their physical office like a fortress and protect all of the computers on their internal network, we’re now seeing more workers taking their tech outside the four walls of their workplace.

In an always-on, always-connected world, it’s easy to forget that accessing your work email from your phone in a coffee shop could allow sensitive data to get into the hands of the wrong people. In 2012, an unencrypted laptop containing the personal data of at least 10,000 employees and contractors was stolen from a car. And the victim of this theft was none other than NASA, which might offer some relief to any worker who has accidentally infected their workstation with ransomware.

Hackers are always working tirelessly to gain access to sensitive information such as credit card information or personally identifiable information (PII). While criminals might not always manage to do much damage with the information they obtain, the news of a security breach is often enough to do damage to the company that suffered the hack. It’s a PR manager’s nightmare to have to draft a statement apologising to customers for accidentally handing over sensitive information to those with nefarious intentions.

In order to mitigate the risks of human error, companies should regularly review their security provisions. Attention should be paid to any mobile devices that are used by employees, and companies should also consider secure cloud storage solutions to prevent sensitive information from being stored directly on a mobile device.

If you’d like to discuss your company’s cloud computing requirements, get in touch with our friendly team today!