BCN Group – ‘Best Performing Infrastructure Services Company’

BCN Group walked away with the the honour of being awarded ‘Best Performing Company’ in the infrastructure services category at the Megabuyte awards on Thursday evening.

The Megabuyte awards identify the Top 100 UK technology companies using their unique scoring methodology and focus on both mid-market and smaller, future mid-market leaders.

‘It is a great achievement to be recognised as one of the UK’s best performing technology companies for all the team at BCN’ says managing director, Simon Kelf.

‘We are very much focused on the continued growth of BCN and will relish the challenge of competing within the next tier of the Megabuyte awards as a £10m+ company next year!’

To view a full report of all the categories and winners, a softcopy of the report can be found here.

 

Processor Vulnerability – Meltdown and Spectre

As you may be aware there have been two processor vulnerabilities published. These vulnerabilities affect various vendor CPUs including Intel processors. These latest vulnerabilities are named Meltdown and Spectre.

Meltdown

Meltdown breaks the most fundamental isolation between user applications and the operating system. This attack allows a program to access the memory, and thus also the secrets, of other programs and the operating system. Luckily this currently has patches available.

Spectre

Spectre breaks the isolation between different applications. It allows an attacker to trick error-free programs, which follow best practices, into leaking their secrets. In fact, the safety checks of said best practices actually increase the attack surface and may make applications more susceptible to Spectre

Actions

BCN Group is working to secure our environments from these vulnerabilities as the providers are rolling out patches, these vendors include VMware, Microsoft, Red Hat, CentOS, FreeBSD and others. For more information on what is available from our primary vendors please visit the links below.

VMware
Microsoft

Hosted Customers

BCN Group will be arranging maintenance windows where applicable to reboot the servers to enable the patching of Microsoft and Linux operating systems. The underlying infrastructure is currently being patched and will not affect any customers.

Managed Service Customers

BCN Group will be patching your servers and will contact you to arrange a maintenance window if required.

Desktop Users

Windows computers will be patched via windows updates if it is enabled.

Additional Information

Unfortunately, this patching may have an adverse effect on the CPU usage depending on applications. This increase in usage has been reported between 5% and 30%, but this is not predictable at the moment. For desktop users, this is likely not noticeable, but for server users we recommend monitoring your workloads.

If you have any worries or questions and would like assistance please contact you account manager on 0345 095 7000.

7 takeaways from Cisco Meraki’s latest cloud wi-fi solution

 

 

Mobile connectivity has grown exponentially over the past few years, so much so that today, 71% of all mobile communications now flow over wireless (source: Wi-Fi Alliance). Whether you are working at home, or using a device at the office, mobility has become a necessary part of modern businesses.

Not surprisingly, managing such a widespread multi-site, multi-mobile entity can be daunting for even the hardiest of administrators. Enter cloud networking. Cisco Meraki have developed a cloud networking, switching, security and wireless management solution that seeks to accommodate and enhance this step change. Here we take a look at key aspects of their platform and how it can help you, your users and your organisation.

So what is it?

In short, Cisco Meraki is a powerful multi-site wireless management tool which removes the need for complex traditional onsite wireless controllers, using just a single cloud-based control interface using real-time communication protocols that enable network administrators to manage their networks from the cloud, without sacrificing control and responsiveness. Whilst this explanation may not sound very compelling, the benefits can be significant.

Always at the ready

Cisco Meraki comes with a robust management dashboard which is accessible at any time, from anywhere. Requiring only an internet connection on your preferred device, accessibility is what the Cloud Meraki Dashboard does best – even in the event of a power outage or poor weather. Using a combination of traffic rerouting and geographical data priority, the dashboard will always remain readily available to anyone who needs to use it, no matter the circumstances.

Safe and sound

Where there’s mention of wireless or the cloud, there quickly follows security concerns. And rightly so. Almost daily we hear or read about major network intrusions, compromises and computer misuse. To combat this, Cisco Meraki puts its security stance front and centre, using an out of band location and an encrypted layer to communicate to and from the management interface. Unlike most traditional wireless and switch arrangements, management traffic is also segregated from the normal network, making unsolicited and malicious intrusion all but impossible.

On a more general footing, it incorporates a variety of advanced features within its firewall solution to stop unauthorised access to your user network. Of these, the firewall allows for:

  • content filtering
  • geographical firewall rules
  • anti-virus and anti-phishing
  • intrusion prevention and intrusion detection services.

Centre stage

The Meraki Cloud Dashboard can be accessed from a wide range of popular web browsers and is also accessible on Apple and Android devices. Through this dashboard, users can identify bandwidth usage from devices or specific applications, as well as the ability to troubleshoot networking issues and test features within the system. The dashboard is simple and easy to navigate – and no other application or program is needed.

Self-sufficient

Any device accessible through the Meraki Cloud Dashboard can be automatically updated to ensure optimal performance and security from the network. Additionally, updates can be scheduled for any time to avoid disruption during periods of heavy internet usage. Should there be a failed update, any incompatible hardware is automatically rolled back to keep your network running without hassle.

Reach for the sky

There’s nothing worse than finding a quiet spot to work from your laptop or tablet, only to discover that internet access is unavailable or appallingly slow. Cisco Meraki solves this by providing enterprise-class 802.11ac access points which deliver the strongest signal strength possible, letting you work happily wherever you want. Furthermore, outdoors access points can also be added throughout the workplace, extending Wi-Fi coverage of your site/campus.

Setting an impression

We expect access to the internet – it’s a staple for much of our everyday lives – and it’s clear we’re getting more fastidious about its absence. According to Hotel Chatter, 38% of people will no longer book a hotel solely on the basis that it does not offer Wi-Fi.

With so much data moving across wireless infrastructure, businesses have few options but to utilise it. How you control, secure and manage it is the new challenge.

Benefits street

Network managers can gain some big advantages from cloud networking over the traditional solutions. Of these are:

  • Faster implementation and easier management
  • Unified view of the entire network regardless of the location of end devices
  • Rapid detection of troubled devices and easy replacement
  • Reduced costs on IT staff and training
  • Reduced costs of upgrades to network operating systems and devices
  • Anytime, anywhere network access
  • Stronger security posture and network control

To summarise, no Wi-Fi is becoming a business showstopper. It’s little surprise that 75% of people recently said that they would be grumpier without internet for a week than without coffee.

At BCN Group, we work closely with customers to ensure that their networks are managed efficiently and safely. Cisco Meraki is just one solution we apply to ensure your business can grow further and exceed expectations. If something has caught your eye, get in touch with us at info@bcn.co.uk, or visit us at www.bcn.co.uk.

9 steps to protect against Ransomware

Security Best Practices

Ransomware attacks start in two main ways. A booby-trapped email with a malicious attachment or via a compromised website; which then work their way down to your endpoints and servers. To stop these attacks, it’s critical that you have advanced protection technology in place at each stage of the attack and combine this protection with good user security practices.

Nine best security practices to apply now

Good IT security practices including regular training for employees are essential components of every single security setup. Make sure you’re following these nine best practices:

Patch early, patch often

The sooner you patch the fewer holes there are for ransomware to exploit.

Backup regularly and keep a recent backup copy off-line and off-site

Offline and off-site means ransomware can’t get to it. With recent back-ups, data loss can be minimised.

Enable file extensions

Enabling extensions makes it much easier to spot file types that wouldn’t commonly be sent to you and your users, such as JavaScript.

Open JavaScript (.JS) files in Notepad

Opening a JavaScript file in Notepad blocks it from running any malicious scripts and allows you to examine the file contents.

Don’t enable macros in document attachments received via email

A lot of infections rely on persuading you to turn macros on, so don’t do it!

Be cautious about unsolicited attachments

If you aren’t sure – don’t open it. Check with the sender if possible.

Don’t have more login power than you need

Admin rights could mean a local infection becomes a network disaster. Stay up-to-date with new security features in your business

Stay up-to-date with new security features in your business applications

For example, Office 2016 now includes a control called “Block macros from running in Office files from the internet”.

Patch early, patch often!

Staying on top of patching is so important that we’ve called it out twice. Don’t let ransomware exploit a patched vulnerability.

 

If you’d like to learn more about how to protect your business against ransomware or any other malware, phishing or cyber-threat, get in touch with us today.

Want to know why 100 million people have moved to Office 365?

Did you know that there are now more than 100 million active Office 365 users? It’s a big number and it’s growing by an estimated 2.5 million every month.

As the world’s most popular business productivity suite, Microsoft Office has finally transitioned from a clunky set of online pseudo applications launched in 2011, to the seriously dynamic cloud-based application it is today that we know as Office 365.

And while Office 365 revenue has now overtaken conventional licence sales of Office, there are still many who have not yet gotten past the poor press that the earlier versions received to see what transformative value this latest incarnation offers.

So here are 10 reasons why Office 365 will be right for you – and why your legacy software may no longer be the best option going forward.

Work on the move

No matter where you are, whether you’re on a train, at home or even dipping in and out of your email while on holiday, you can work anywhere at any time with Office 365. Long gone are the days of being glued to an office workspace – you can now put your smartphones and tablets to better use and work on the move, increasing the productivity of your business.

Predictable costs

As a subscriber service, there are no upfront purchases required. You get a flexible contract with fixed, clear monthly ‘per user’ charges where you can mix and match plans to suit your business and user needs. Budget planning is a lot simpler because of it too.

No more licensing headaches

Previously, knowing what licences you needed could be a real challenge, particularly if different applications and releases were in use. Office 365 includes all the licensing required, and everyone has access to the same software at the same time.

Security

Cloud-based storage services invariably make people think about security. Office 365 makes use of 128-bit SSL/TSL encryption which ensures that even if data is intercepted, it cannot be read. Microsoft enacts a policy known as the Security Development Lifecycle, which ensures that data is secure and safe when developing, deploying and maintaining data.

Evergreen

Office 365 will always include the latest edition of Office technology, which means you won’t have to buy another copy of Office to upgrade, as all changes will be brought to the current software. This saves businesses from having to reinvest in new versions of Office to access the latest developments in the software.

No more patches and maintenance

Office 365 also means Microsoft is taking care of keeping everything up to date and ship shape. The Service includes all of the traditional behind-the-scenes IT support within the licence, so you can free up time and resources for other projects and needs.

Always be unified

Regardless of device you happen to be using, because your email, calendar, contacts and other Office 365 apps are synchronised in the cloud, updating information on one device is automatically updated across the rest.

Reduce your hardware and energy needs

Because it’s a cloud based service, there’s no need for in-house servers. Less equipment means fewer energy requirements and ultimately less space.

Use O365 on up to 5 devices

The days of one licence for every device are well and truly behind us. Now, as you move about you can bring your Office 365 access with you, switching between desktop, mobile, tablet and so on up to 5 devices. All automatically in sync in the cloud.

Disaster Prevention

With old versions of Office, data is stored locally, which means you have to rely on your own backup procedures to ensure the safety of data. With Office 365, Microsoft provides data protection and backup in the cloud, which you can access whenever you want, wherever you are.

As with most things in life, the process of moving to Office 365 can be a mixed bag. For very small organisations it can be a simple DIY job. For slightly larger businesses, the process can be straightforward, but there may be some degree of complexity depending on your legacy set up and arrangements. However, with the right tools, approach and support, Office 365 will quickly make its place at home within your business and will help your users collaborate and operate far more effectively.

If you’re still sitting on the fence, or if you’ve decided to move forward with Office 365, we’re here to help. To learn more about us and what we do, check out our Office 365 page, or get in touch at info@bcn.co.uk.

Beyond The Four Walls: Essential Mobile Security for Businesses

The internet has revolutionised the way we do business. Securing your company used to be all about keeping things within the four walls of your office. A firewall and antivirus software could keep threats at bay and this was widely accepted as sufficient for IT security. Then the mobile device came along and turned this four-walls theory on its head. With devices coming in and out all the time, accessing sensitive emails over coffee shop WiFi networks and falling between the cracks of internet security, the issue of mobile security doesn’t come up nearly as often as it should. Every company should have a mobile security policy in place to protect sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.

Update your company mobile security policy

Every business should have a mobile policy that includes security provisions. This should outline what is and what isn’t acceptable on a company mobile device. This includes phones, tablets and laptops as they can all be taken away from the office and are therefore at higher risk. Your policy should also specify if users can access company data from their own devices.

Designate responsibility for mobile security

Things like keeping software and antivirus software up-to-date can often fall between the cracks, particularly for personal and mobile devices. Deciding who is responsible and making sure they are aware of this responsibility is essential. This can become part of the mobile security policy and should be checked frequently to ensure employees are compliant.

Switch to the cloud

The cloud provides unrivalled security for users on the go. If you want to keep your data secure, then storing all of your sensitive data on a cloud account is far safer than saving it on a mobile device. If your phone, laptop or tablet is ever stolen and you are using a cloud account you can simply revoke access and your data will remain secure.

Use data encryption

In 2012, a NASA employee’s laptop containing the details of 10,000 employees was stolen from their car. While the laptop did have password protection, it wasn’t encrypted, which meant the data was at risk. If it can happen to NASA, it can happen to you. Encrypting all devices is an essential step for mobile security but it is often overlooked as password protection is seen as sufficient.

Mobile security is an essential component of any company security plan if you want to keep your business your business. With more and more employees switching to mobile devices and working outside of the four walls of the business, it makes sense to put a mobile security plan in place to keep your data secure.

VMware Announces General Availability of Latest VMware Cloud Management Solutions

Purpose-Built Cloud Management Solutions Help Customers to Enable IT-as-a-Service

BlueCoffee Networks’ virtualization and cloud infrastructure partner, VMware, have announced the general availability of new and updated offerings to the industry’s leading portfolio of management solutions purpose-built for the cloud era – VMware vCloud Automation Center 6.0, VMware vCenter Operations Management Suite 5.8 and VMware IT Business Management Suite. In addition, VMware also announced that it has updated the automation and management capabilities of VMware vCloud Suite 5.5.

“Providing cloud management solutions that simplify and automate how IT is managed is key to helping our customers on their journey to deliver IT-as-a-Service,” said Ramin Sayar, senior vice president and general manager, Cloud Management, VMware. “With the availability of new products and enhancements across our management portfolio, customers can take advantage of the business opportunities that exist whether it’s increasing business agility, enabling cost transparency of IT services or expanding to the hybrid cloud.” read more

To find out how Vmware products can benefit your business, contact us on 0845 095 7000 or sales@bcn.co.uk.

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