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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.

Millennials are Top IT Security Risk for Businesses

 

Millennials are a generation defined by technology. After all, this is the first generation to grow up surrounded by technology. Despite this, it’s the older generations who are savvier when it comes to internet security. According to research by FirstData, millennials are less concerned with cybersecurity than older generations. The biggest problems faced are with reusing the same password and with over sharing sensitive information on social media and over email.

 

Older generations might be more concerned with their individual computers and devices being infected, which is why they are cautious about internet usage and sharing information. However, younger generations don’t share these concerns. Although device-level security might be sufficient, there is always the worry that third-party sites could be compromised. If a user has the same password for every platform, then this could present a serious problem.

 

According to the research, 82% of millennials reuse the same password across websites and apps and 42% will only change their password if they are forced to. The main reason cited for this reluctance to change passwords is that they are simply too difficult to remember. For company owners, this presents a unique challenge when it comes to policing their company password policy.

 

When it comes to oversharing on social networks, millennials are less concerned about the risks associated with this. Only 43% of millennials are concerned about transmitting private information over social media sites, compared to 63% of boomers. Even something as small as sharing your date of birth on social media can allow fraudsters to piece together your identity and open credit cards in your name.

 

For companies, this presents a unique challenge, as millennial workers might use the same password for their work email as they would for their social media accounts. Although there is a lot of attention to cybersecurity threats such as ransomware, millennials aren’t as concerned about the risks associated with identity theft. While social networks might be secure, many people allow third-party apps to access their information without a second thought, and this is where more education is needed. Although millennials may be very savvy when it comes to technology, there are clearly gaps in awareness where security is concerned.

5 Reasons Tech Startups Should Invest in IT Support

The image of the modern tech entrepreneur is someone who can miraculously manage everything at once. Although startups might feel that they have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and manage everything in-house, there are a lot of benefits to be enjoyed when it comes to outsourcing critical tasks. IT support is one area where tech startups, in particular, can benefit from outsourcing their needs. Here are 5 reasons tech startups should consider outsourcing their IT support…

Reduce Costs

Running a successful startup is all about making sound financial decisions. While many startups may subscribe to the agile mindset, they are often guilty of making bulky and costly mistakes. Hiring an in-house IT department is one such costly mistake. Managing your IT in-house means hiring an entire team, not to mention the added costs of servers, software and hardware. By outsourcing this to a third party company, the startup is able to take an agile approach to growth as the IT support they need can grow with them.

Leverage Expertise

It can be tempting to try to operate as a jack of all trades, but there comes a time when it pays to refer to the experts. Although there is a lot of satisfaction to be gained from managing everything in-house, leveraging the expertise of an IT support company can help to keep the focus on the task at hand: building your startup.

Improve Customer Retention

In the early days of managing a customer-facing startup, public perception is everything. If you’re out of action for half a day because you decided to manage your IT in-house and can’t access your CRM database for a few hours, this will likely leave your customers with a bad impression. By outsourcing your IT, you can rest assured that someone else will be keeping an eye on things, so you can move your attention to more important matters.

Increased Security

Small businesses and startups are particularly vulnerable to hacks and ransomware. By outsourcing your IT services, you can rest assured that someone in the know is monitoring your IT systems for anything out of the ordinary. This could range from unusual attachments in emails to brute force attacks on your network.

Scalability

The best IT support companies will provide scalable services that grow with your business. If you have to tighten your belt one month, you should be able to reduce costs, whereas if you are going through a period of rapid expansion, your IT provider should be able to keep up. Leveraging the scalability of outsourcing your IT is one of the best reasons to consider hosted cloud services for your tech startup.

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.

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.’

Ends.

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.

How Cloud Computing Can Solve Your Business Problems

 

Cloud computing can be an organisation’s best and most reliable resource when it comes to solving business challenges.

Key challenges facing businesses today – including expensive IT, mobility restrictions, and limited growth capacity – can all be solved by migrating to cloud computing and an increased reliance on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) programs.

Problem 1: Expensive IT Costs

Solution: Organisations must accommodate increasing demand for new IT capabilities and services, however economic uncertainty and rising costs of materials can cause a roadblock along the way.  Cloud computing presents an economic advantage by providing IT solutions at a lower cost and increased access to data from virtually any device.

Problem 2: Mobility Restrictions

Solution: Mobility is an increasing IT challenge, and nothing tackles this challenge more completely than cloud computing. Businesses are eager for increased mobility of business applications on smartphones, which rely on timely updates only available from cloud-based software management. Cloud-based providers solve the challenge of mobility by providing service updates almost immediately, which bring enormous productivity gains.

Problem 3: Limited Growth Capacity

Solution: Although business growth is the primary goal and motivation of all businesses, it quickly presents a challenge of being able to support the extra amount of data that new growth brings. The cloud can hold an unprecedented amount of data and cloud technology can be continuously scaled up or down to fit a company’s changing needs.

Problem 4: Lack of Inter-organisation data sharing & collaborations

Solution: Lack of cross- organisation data sharing can lead to misinformed decision making. Cloud computing resolves this by facilitating faster, easier and more extensive data sharing between departments and offices within your business. The also aids collaboration within the organisations.

 

About BCN Group
BCN Group is an IT Service and solutions provider based in Cheshire with a client base covering Cheshire, Manchester, Stockport and throughout the UK.

Our key focus areas are: virtualisationstoragehosted solutionsdisaster recoverybusiness continuityIT consultancy network support services. Follow us on twitter: @bcn_group

 

 

The shift towards the Cloud is well underway…

 According to Paul Roberts, Citrix enterprise mobility senior product specialist, the shift towards cloud computing and mobility are indelibly linked, with the shift towards the cloud already well underway – and the goal of mobility to get apps and data to people and devices.

“There’s a few businesses that are actually in the cloud, but most organisations are still based on traditional client/server applications. But there’s a shift happening,” said Roberts, who was speaking at the recent Computing Enterprise Mobility Summit.

Even banking groups are now looking upon the IT hardware that they need to support vast swathes of their business as a hindrance, he added, which they would rather offloaded to Amazon, Rackspace, Microsoft or other providers of cloud computing services – in particular, for non-core activities such as storing marketing and other materials.

Read more

To find how the cloud can benefit your business, contact us on 0845 095 7000.

About BlueCoffee Networks

BlueCoffee Networks is a dynamic, fresh thinking, independent IT solutions provider covering Manchester, Stockport, Cheshire and the UK. Our key focus areas are virtualisation, storage, disaster recovery, business continuity,consultancy and support services. BlueCoffee Networks have strategic alliances with many of the big known and trusted manufactures such as VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, HP, Cisco, Hitachi and many more.

Why small & midsize business success could lie up in the clouds

As well as enabling a low-cost, efficient virtual company structure, cloud services offer a new way of working.

The facts are simple. Prior to the internet, you would purchase software, usually with a licence, and install and run it on your computers. Under the cloud model, the software is run online by a third-party provider, and you access it through your internet browser. You never install anything on your own computer, and you never actually ‘own’ any software: rather than buying a product, you’re renting a service.

To understand why cloud computing is such a game-changer, we need to look in more depth at the reasons why the cloud (also known as ‘Software as a Service’ or SaaS) is so different, and how it creates business-friendly benefits.

Make IT our problem

First off, there’s just no technology for you to worry about. When you sign up, you get to use the software without worrying about installing it, maintaining it, downloading updates or keeping it secure. You also won’t need a server or any of the other additional IT investment that larger suites of software used to require. All that is taken care of by your service provider.

Predictable and economical – a business-friendly financial model

The greatest benefit of the cloud, however, is financial. With cloud services, there is no upfront cost. You’ll pay a low, predictable, flat-rate monthly fee per user for the software that you use; and that means that you can scale up or down as your business needs demand. When you take on more staff, you can switch on new licenses immediately, and similarly turn off the tap if you scale down.

Unlike installed software, you will also always have access to the latest version. When a new version of a service is released, it is instantly made available to all subscribers, giving you access to tools which will keep your business at peak competitiveness.

Running software online also brings with it some inherent benefits:

  • Work from anywhere: software which was installed on a computer only ran on that computer. Today’s business owners work from home and airport lounges as well as the office; and with the cloud, you will not only always have access to your software, you can also log in and simply pick up where you left off.
  • Collaborate with colleagues, clients and suppliers: you can share access to your cloud workspaces. That means you can work on documents, proposals, presentations etc. with other people, and expand the boundaries of your office to clients, too.
  • Cut the risk of crisis and speed up disaster recovery: one of the key economies of scale involved in cloud computing is that a good cloud provider will have better security and resilience than you can ever hope to afford. They will store your data safely and securely. If your office was broken into (or, more likely, you leave your laptop on a train), your data is still safe and immediately accessible online from another machine.

The security question

Solid providers will explain their security methodologies and commitment to you. Microsoft’s Office 365, for example, has a Trust Center here, with documents which clearly outline their promise. Your provider should also give you an SLA, or ‘Service Level Agreement’ which commits to delivering, for example, a guaranteed level of ‘uptime’ (i.e. ensuring that their service will be available for e.g. 99.9% of the time).

Plus, the range of cloud delivered software is now as broad as anything you might buy in a shop. The Office 365 package includes email, calendars, conferencing, website building tools and access to the Microsoft Office desktop tools used by millions of businesses worldwide. Other services will keep your computers secure, manage projects, help you stay in touch with your customers, and indeed anything else you can think of – including plenty designed for specific business sectors. Few businesses today can escape technology completely, and few should want to – it’s a key driver of commercial competitiveness. But the cloud can make unlocking that competitiveness simple, flexible and free of upfront expense.

About BCN Group

BCN Group is a dynamic, fresh thinking, independent IT solutions provider covering Manchester, Stockport, Cheshire and the UK. Our key focus areas are virtualisation, storage, disaster recovery, business continuity,consultancy and support services. We have strategic alliances with many of the big known and trusted manufactures such as VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, HP, and many more.

Should you be interested in learning more about Cloud Computing and how it can benefit your business, call us on 0345 095 7000 or email sales@bcn.co.uk.