Posts

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.

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.

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!

Huge “Heartbleed” security bug affects much of internet

The “Heartbleed” security bug in software used by millions of web servers could have exposed anyone visiting sites they hosted to spying and eavesdropping, say researchers.

The bug is in a software library used in servers, operating systems and email and instant messaging systems and reportedly affects nearly two-thirds of all websites, including Yahoo Mail, OKCupid, WeTransfer, and others.

It takes advantage of a vulnerability in OpenSSL, an open-source protocol used to encrypt vast portions of the web. It allows cybercrooks to steal encryption keys, usernames and passwords, financial data and other sensitive data they have no right to.

Called OpenSSL the software is supposed to protect sensitive data as it travels back and forth.

It is not clear how widespread exploitation of the bug has been because attacks leave no trace.

“If you need strong anonymity or privacy on the internet, you might want to stay away from the internet entirely for the next few days while things settle,” said a blog entry about the bug published by the Tor Project which produces software that helps people avoid scrutiny of their browsing habits.

Read more

VMware appoints Enterprise Industry Veterans & Chief Technology Officer to strengthen End-User Computing Business

BlueCoffee Networks’ virtualization and cloud infrastructure partner, VMware, have announced the addition of three enterprise industry veterans to the End-User Computing leadership team.

Bob Schultz has been appointed chief strategy lead, and will assist with the overall business, product and alliance strategy for the group. Sumit Dhawan has been appointed head of the desktop business, and will lead product development, product management, strategy and delivery for enterprise and personal desktop products. Longtime VMware veteran Kit Colbert has been appointed chief technology officer (CTO) of End-User Computing, and will help drive product and technology strategy for its product portfolio.

“As we accelerate VMware’s End-User Computing strategy and business, Bob, Sumit and Kit are seasoned executives who bring valuable experience and tremendous leadership to our existing team of talented individuals,” said Sanjay Poonen, executive vice president and general manager, End-User Computing, VMware. “VMware’s customer-focused innovation has led to a dynamic End-User Computing product portfolio. These three individuals will join the core leadership team to enable customers to get the best products on the market and innovation for years to come.” Read more

Vmware has also announced the appointment of Ben Fathi to the role of chief technology officer. Fathi most recently served as senior vice president, R&D, at VMware and has been with the company since 2012. Fathi brings experience managing large global teams and delivering innovation, with a focus on customer needs and product quality. Read more

About VMware
VMware is the leader in virtualization and cloud infrastructure solutions that enable businesses to thrive in the Cloud Era. Customers rely on VMware to help them transform the way they build, deliver and consume Information Technology resources in a manner that is evolutionary and based on their specific needs. With 2012 revenues of $4.61 billion, VMware has more than 500,000 customers and 55,000 partners.  The company is headquartered in Silicon Valley with offices throughout the world and can be found online at www.vmware.com.

About BlueCoffee Networks
BlueCoffee Networks is a dynamic, fresh thinking, independent 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.

Industry News: VMware Leads Industry in Support for the Mobile Workforce with New Capabilities Across Its End-User Computing Portfolio

VMware, the global leader in virtualization and cloud infrastructure, has introduced new product offerings and capabilities across its end-user computing product portfolio to broaden support for the mobile workforce at VMworld® 2013 Europe.

Focussing on lowering cost, simplifying management and enhancing performance to help organizations and the industry advance workforce mobility, VMware is the only company that offers customers an end-to-end virtualization solution for the mobile and social cloud era.

“The innovations we are introducing around cost, management and performance of our products make a compelling case to companies searching for a modern approach to supporting their mobile workforces,” said Sanjay Poonen, executive vice president and general manager, End-User Computing, VMware. “We believe customers get the best technology, practical innovations, superior customer support and the most value from VMware compared to our competitors.”

VMware Horizon TMSuite is an integrated platform that supports the mobile workforce by connecting end-users to their data, applications and desktops using any device whilst maintaining IT security and control. It brings together Horizon View TM, Horizon Mirage TM and Horizon Workspace TM to create a single, unified solution designed to transform technology silos into centralized IT services that can be easily provisioned, managed and delivered to end-users.

Click here to read more.