May 25 2011

Do you have a business continuity plan in place? 07:53 am

If you ever needed a reason to look at your business continuity strategies just look at the wonky weather, storms and fires that have destroyed businesses and lifes of Albertans in Slave Lake.  Combine this with flooding in Manitoba and deadly twisters that have destroyed towns in Missouri and Oklahoma. Having a plan to protect your business is essential.

Your business must have a robust business continuity strategy now.

If you run a small or medium-sized business and don’t have a disaster recovery plan already, get one now.  We are sure you are hearing this message from many technology firms in the Grande Prairie area.  Disaster recovery and planning is a hot topic within the IT community.  pcit has made it a cornerstone of our offering to provide business continuity services for quite some time.  This focus on making sure your business information is safe, secure and accessible at all times truly makes us unique.

Disasters are everyday news these days.  Floods in the Midwest, fires striking and wiping out entire communities and earthquakes crippling entire economies are opening the eyes of the once “it won’t happen to me” business owners.  Every business must have a plan to deal with events that may have a negative impact on their business.

A recent study by security giant Symantec has revealed some pretty scary facts for small businesses, and the failure to act now could land them in serious trouble. Among those surveyed, nearly half of the businesses have no security or disaster preparedness plan in place. Owing to outages and service interruptions caused by a faulty or nonexistent disaster-preparedness plan, a small and medium-sized business could lose an average amount of $12,500 a day!

Proving the fact that small and medium-sized businesses are taking security too lightly, the study by Symantec has also revealed that of those 50% without a security or disaster preparedness plan (1288 SMBs from around the world were surveyed), 36 per cent had intentions of getting a plan in the future while the remaining 14% did not even have disaster recovery plans on their agenda. The study has also found that most SMBs act only when it is too late resulting in lost revenue not only for them but for their clients as well. 552 clients of small and medium-sized businesses were surveyed, and more than half of them responded that they have had to switch providers in the past because of their service being unreliable and irresponsible.

So, for the sake of yourself AND for the sake of your clients, get going now. Devise a disaster recovery plan in order to ensure that your operations are smooth and efficient and to improve your response to your clients. Don’t wait for a specific time in the future, and don’t wait for something utterly horrible to happen. After all, it is better to be safe than to be sorry.

Talk to us today; we can help you.

May 12 2011

Security Breaches In The Cloud Equals Risk 08:45 am

Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Best Buy, Sony and many more Fortune 500 customers have all had significant outages or security breaches related to their cloud services in the last 6 months.

US online banking is so insecure that a website maps out the locations across the country where organizations have lost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars from fraudulent activity.  Online fraud and theft is happening at such an alarming rate the site has difficulty trying to keep up.

Many of the users affected have been Small to Medium sized organizations.  These are the very organizations who are expected to benefit the most from cloud services according to most industry analysts.  Yet these are typically the organizations who can least afford a huge risk exposure that many cloud technologies represent.

Two ways that any organization can protect themselves are to look at the following aspects of their operations.

Is there more than anti-virus software and a firewall in place as protection.

Antivirus software is very helpful in removing or blocking infections AFTER they occur or get past the initial defense layers.  Since malware has to get past the initial layers of defense 1st this is not an ideal strategy.  It can be compared to only catching thieves after they break into the property.  Deterrents to keep thieves out in the first place is generally a preferred strategy.

A typical firewall or router that blocks some ports and allows others such as internet traffic unlimited access into the company network are a very weak threat deterrent.  Comparing a regular firewall to physical security it could be said that a regular router is like having a locking door knob and a picket fence around the property.  This may work on the quiet streets of Grande Prairie but the internet can not be likened to a quiet street.  It is not uncommon for a small 3-15 person offices in Grande Prairie to have hackers from overseas try over 100x in a single night to get into the company network.  Why they would want access is anyone’s guess but if there is private data behind the firewall we would recommend better security measures be taken.

The second method has more of an overall impact on data security. We’ll look at the second method in more detail in a future post.

April 6 2011

pcit Customer Cloud Adoption 200% Greater than Global Average 08:00 pm

Nearly 40 percent of global SMBs will pay for one or more cloud computing services within the next three years, a Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT) survey revealed in late March.  This global average is far behind pcit’s customer base where 100% of our customer’s use cloud services.

According to Microsoft’s SMB Cloud Adoption Study 2011, which polled more than 3,000 SMBs with 250 or fewer employees in 16 countries, including the U.S., 39 percent will leverage at least one cloud service within three years. That percentage coincides with other market estimations that predicts the SMB market will be the fastest growing segment for cloud adoption in coming years.

The 39 percent of SMBs expected to utilize cloud services is an increase over the 29 percent that currently use at least one cloud computing offering, Microsoft’s research found. Additionally, Microsoft found that the number of cloud services that SMBs will pay for will nearly double in many countries over the next three years. Comparing these results to pcit’s customer base where 100% currently use 2 cloud services or more suggests we are remaining competitive in the IT solution provider marketplace.

Overall, Microsoft’s survey found that the SMBs that move to the cloud will use an average of 3.3 services each, up from less than two services today. And the larger the business is on the SMB spectrum, the more it will pay for cloud services. Microsoft said that 56 percent of companies with between 51 and 250 employees will pay for an average of 3.7 cloud services within three years.

Not every service or every server belongs in the cloud however.  This is especially true in the Peace Region where limited internet bandwidth is a very real design consideration.  In communities like High Level, redundant internet connections or alternative internet service providers are not possible.  Even Microsoft, who publically is very cloud focused, recognizes that not every application belongs in a cloud-based date centre.  They estimate that 43 percent of workloads will become paid cloud services, yet 28 percent will remain on-premise while 29 percent will be free or bundled with other services.

“Cloud adoption will be gradual, and SMBs will continue to operate in a hybrid model with an increasing blend between off-premises and traditional on-premises infrastructure, for the foreseeable future,” Marco Limena, Microsoft vice president in its Worldwide Communications Sector, said in a statement.

The increased interested in the cloud from SMBs is due to new opportunities for organizations to leverage services in the cloud, like e-mail, collaboration, data storage and back-up.  Navigating the volume of solutions entering the marketplace hasn’t made IT simpler in our opinion.  Our view of cloud-based solutions is that IT begins to become more complex on many fronts.  Managing security, functionality and best in class solutions requires planning, expertise and the ability to recognize how technology solutions can become business solutions with a tangible Return on Investment.


February 11 2011

Top Ten Ways to Safeguard Your Laptop from Theft 07:30 am

Dave Chappelle from CRN Canada covered a timely story from Brigadoon Software, makers of PC Phone Home and Mc Phone Home tools to prevent computer theft.  Their ten ways to prevent your laptop from being stolen is a good reminder on the importance of ensuring your computer equipment is safeguarded.

Some of the tips may appear to be common sense. However, there are many laptops stolen from hotels, restaurants and even from the back of oilfield worker vehicles and trucks.

  1. Record the make, model and serial number of your laptop and store it in a safe place for later identification.
  2. Engrave your name and telephone number on to or inside the case of your laptop.
  3. Never leave your laptop unattended/unsecured anywhere.
  4. Carry your laptop in a nondescript carrying case when moving about.
  5. Never leave your laptop in plain sight in your vehicle. Secure it in the trunk or take it with you.
  6. Never check your laptop as luggage when traveling. Keep it with you.
  7. Never put your laptop on a conveyor belt at any security checkpoint until it’s your turn to pass through. Never let it out of your sight.
  8. Encrypt all proprietary data. Use strong encryption. DON’T encrypt the entire hard drive. Let the computer boot into a guest account to allow tracking software to send its location message.
  9. Be extra vigilant in restaurants, libraries, rest rooms and when using public phones.
  10. Install tracking software on your laptop to find it anywhere in the world. Don’t be a victim like people who ignore these tips and have their laptops stolen.

Speak with your Grande Prairie IT Support specialists at PCIT to aid in ensuring all your IT equipment is properly cared for.  We cover the Peace Region, give us a call today at 866.933.PCIT.

December 29 2010

Are you up-to-date with your software licenses? 08:09 am

Business throughout the Peace Region find keeping track of their software licenses confusing and in most cases, not that high of a priority.  PCIT has experienced the odd small business  who is far behind in purchasing their software licenses.  We also have seen the odd business who refuses to pay for the right to use software but most are up-to-date or just slightly behind.  Microsoft and other software firms take licensing seriously.

If software and computer asset management was fun, everyone would be doing it. Managing inventories or counting stock on shelves is not that exciting. Neither is keeping track of your computer systems, software licenses and any other asset found on your computer network.

We all know that it is important, especially tracking software compliances; but it never makes it to the top of the priority list. Software compliance rapidly becomes important when your business is threatened with a software audit. It happens to organizations large and small.

Why is it so important to make sure your IT assets are managed?

Many businesses across Canada over spend on software. They may have too many Windows licenses, or they may have the wrong type of licensing. Microsoft is one company that offers many licensing types to meet the needs of the organization. Depending on your budget, needs and size, Microsoft may have a better licensing model available.

Before investing in new software or that specialized business application, having an up to date hardware inventory will let you know if you have the right systems to run the application. When Windows Small Business Server 2008 was released, many small businesses were not aware of the need for new 64-bit server hardware, adding extra expenses to their server project.

Your Grande Prairie Computer Support team can help with making sure your software licenses are in order and you have an up to date hardware inventory. In most occasions when you come on board as a client and subscribe to our managed IT services plans, an audit and inventory are automatically done in most cases.

If we can help, don’t hesitate to contact us.