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11 Ways to Secure Your Business's Wireless Network
20/03/2017

Wireless networks are both convenient and flexible, however if they are not properly secured they can make your company more vulnerable to outside threats. Here are eleven ways to lock down your business's wireless network. 

Wireless networks are popular in small and midsized businesses because they are easy to set up and convenient to use. However, if a wireless network is not properly secured hackers within range can access it and infiltrate your network.

Here are eleven ways you can lock down your business's wireless network and keep hackers at bay:

1. Use a Strong Password for Your Wireless Router's Administrator Account

Many wireless routers ship with a default password for the administrator account. It is important that you change the default password to a strong one that is at least eight characters long. The password should include uppercase and lowercase letters as well as numbers (but not in a predictable pattern). When possible, you should also include special characters, such as percent signs and asterisks.

2. Change Your Wireless Router's SSID

A wireless network's name is called a service set identifier (SSID). Many vendors ship their wireless routers with the same default SSID. Keeping the default SSID might signal to a hacker that your wireless network is not properly configured and vulnerable to attack, you should change your network's SSID to a unique name.

3. Make Sure Your Wireless Router's Firewall Is Enabled

Most wireless routers have built-in firewalls, however sometimes they ship with the firewall turned off. Whilst checking the firewall settings it is a good time to also check your other security settings on your router. Your IT service provider can help you determine whether your firewall is properly configured.

4. Use WPA2 for Wireless Communications

Every wireless router offers encryption. Encryption scrambles your data and makes it unreadable, except by the recipient. Three common encryption protocols are Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), and Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2). Using WPA2 is best as it employs the hardest-to-crack encryption algorithm. If you have an older router that does not support WPA2, you can use WPA. Do not use WEP as it is outdated and easily hacked.

5. Disable WPS If You Are Using a Consumer-Grade Wireless Router

It is not uncommon for businesses to use consumer-grade wireless routers. These routers often include Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), which provides a user-friendly front-end for encryption protocols such as WPA2. With WPS, users can connect a device to a wireless network by simply pushing a button or entering a personal identification number. Hackers can exploit a vulnerability in WPS to gain access to wireless networks, if your wireless router supports WPS disable it.

6. Disable Your Wireless Router's Remote Management Feature

Many wireless routers have a feature that lets you manage them from a remote location. Unfortunately, it often leaves routers susceptible to attacks and for this reason you should disable remote management if you do not need to use this feature.

7. Make Sure Wi-Fi Sense's Network-Sharing Functionality Is Disabled on Windows 10 Devices

Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile include a feature called Wi-Fi Sense. Besides helping users find open Wi-Fi hotspots this feature lets them share their Wi-Fi networks without sharing those networks' passwords. Users can share their Wi-Fi networks with their contacts from Facebook, Skype, and Outlook.com, however Users cannot specify individuals within a group (e.g. within Facebook) — the network is shared with all the contacts in that group.

Although the contacts can only use the network to get online, you might not want your employees sharing your business's wireless network. If that is the case you need to make sure Wi-Fi Sense's network-sharing functionality is disabled on your Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile devices.

8. Consider Using MAC Address Filtering

Each device that is able to connect to a Wi-Fi network has a unique ID called a Media Access Control (MAC) address. You can configure your wireless router to check the MAC addresses of devices trying to connect to it, allowing connections only from the devices it recognises. Admittedly, it takes time and effort to enter the MAC addresses of all the devices allowed to access your wireless network, but your network will be more secure.

9. Keep the Wireless Router's Firmware Updated

Every wireless router has firmware. Firmware is software that gives the device its functionality. Like any other type of software firmware sometimes has bugs or security vulnerabilities. When you keep your wireless router's firmware updated, known bugs and vulnerabilities are fixed making your router more secure.

10. Log Out of the Wireless Router's User Interface

Most wireless routers have a browser-based user interface used to configure router settings. If you leave this interface open and someone gets access to your computer your router is vulnerable, so best practice is to always log out when you are finished configuration.

11. Protect the Computers That Access Your Wireless Network

Despite your best efforts hackers may still infiltrate your wireless network. For this reason you need to use security software (anti-virus/anti-malware) on all the computers that access your wireless network. In addition, you need to keep those computers' operating systems and applications updated so that known bugs and security vulnerabilities are patched.


Cloud Hosting vs File Servers: A Pros and Cons Analysis
08/03/2017

Does cloud hosting provide bigger benefits to your company data than file servers? Find out in our comprehensive analysis. 

With cloud computing well into the mainstream and steadily replacing roles currently filled by traditional server architecture, it's time to ask the big question: can cloud hosting replace traditional file servers for storing and sharing files between employees in your organisation? Serving, sharing, and storing files was probably the very reason many small and midsize companies built out their intranet infrastructure in the first place, and may still be the only reason that many companies have a server in their office or are renting server space. And as the workforce became more mobile, these servers took on the additional duties of sharing your internal files with employees on the road or working from home, even though they may not have always been designed for those functions.

Cloud hosting, on the other hand, was born from a networked world with sharing, collaboration, and mobility being key considerations from the very beginning. Despite only being a relatively recent technological innovation, cloud computing has leveraged these strengths to quickly start eating away at the share of file hosting and file sharing duties of traditional server setups. Still, many companies are still hesitant to trust their files and security entirely to a third party where they may share space and resources with other companies, or entrust their proprietary data to some nebulous "cloud". So which is better for your needs? What are the pros and cons of legacy file sharing servers compared to the newcomer cloud storage?

Traditional File Servers: Pros and Cons

File servers have been the mainstays and workhorses of the business world practically since business networking has been a term. There are a significant number of pros to keeping your files on an internal (or externally managed) server that you control. The biggest pro is ownership. While you may not own a rented server, if you are on shared hosting for example, you still control all of the contents of the server without doubt, and a hosting company cannot simply pull the plug on you, erase your data, or otherwise compromise the integrity of your data. This is even more so if you actually host your own file server on–premises or in a colocation space.

Another advantage of maintaining your own file server is the ability to configure it as much as you want, within certain limits (depending on your server type–self–hosted, shared, or dedicated). This gives you options about how you want files served, how credentials will be assigned, where people will be able to access files from, etc. This gives you flexibility and allows you to set things up in a way that is unique and specialised for your organisation.

The major downside of having a traditional file server for sharing is the inflexibility and difficulty in maintaining such a server. Whether you host the server on–premises, have a shared hosting account, or a dedicated or co–located server, it is difficult to scale up and down as demand rises and falls. In fact, it's impossible to do so dynamically in real time. That means during slow periods, you may be paying for way more server than you need, while during especially busy periods you may find that you are running out of bandwidth, RAM, or storage space. On top of that, unless you use a managed server, you will also have to be responsible for your own security and maintenance.

Cloud Storage: Pros and Cons

Cloud storage has pros that are the exact opposite of traditional servers. In order to utilise public cloud servers for storage and file sharing, you will be giving up a large portion of control in exchange for smooth operations. Public cloud storage allows you to not have to worry about buying server space, maintaining security, provisioning file space, or any of the other tasks that owning a server usually entails. The cloud storage provider will be responsible for security, for determining how access is granted, and where people can access the server from. You also gain flexibility. Many cloud storage services allow you to ramp services up and down to keep up with real–time demand. In fact, some will even do the automatic provisioning for you.

Downsides of a cloud storage and sharing solution are the loss of control that such a solution entails. You also have to worry about the cloud storage provider becoming a victim of cybercrime attacks. While most cloud service providers are much more security savvy than most small business IT teams, they are also much more likely to be seen as targets by hackers and other malicious elements.

Ultimately, each solution to the problem of file sharing and storage has its own pros and cons. Which works best for your business largely depends on your needs and your capabilities: a file server for companies with an IT budget to spend but a need for privacy, extra security, or their own special server build, or cloud storage for companies that don't mind giving up a large measure of control in exchange for costs savings in IT management and technology.

What Is Downtime Really Costing Your Business?
28/02/2017

Knowing the costs associated with downtime can help you prioritise IT spending within your technology budget. Learn how to calculate both the direct and indirect costs resulting from downtime. 

When preparing your technology budget, it is useful to know the costs associated with downtime. This information can help you prioritise IT expenditures so that critical systems and operations receive the funding needed to keep them running efficiently. Knowing the downtime costs can also motivate you to create business continuity and disaster recovery plans if you have not created them yet.

There are many ways to calculate the direct and indirect costs incurred from downtime. The calculations presented here are basic ones that you can easily customise for your business.

Calculating the Direct Costs of Downtime

The direct costs of downtime are the expenses you can easily quantify and attribute to a specific downtime event. They include the:

- Cost of lost employee productivity: This expense captures how much money was lost because employees could not work during the downtime event. It can be calculated using the equation: Cost of lost employee productivity = (Average hourly wage for the employees affected) x (Number of employees affected) x (Number of hours of downtime)

 - Cost of employee recovery: This figure represents the amount of money spent to catch up on work once the IT component has been restored. Besides the basic employee wage, you need to include any additional expenses, such as overtime pay. The basic equation is: Cost of employee recovery = (Average hourly wage for the employees affected) x (Number of employees affected) x (Number of hours spent catching up)

 - Cost of IT recovery: This expense depicts how much money was spent to get the IT component working again. It should only account for the time spent by the in-house IT staff or IT service provider to fix the problem. It should not include the cost of any replacement hardware or software. For example, if in-house IT staff fixed the problem, you can use the equation: Cost of IT recovery = (Average hourly wage of in-house IT staff) x (Number of IT staff working on the problem) x (Hours required to fix the IT component)

Calculating the Indirect Costs of Downtime

The indirect costs associated with downtime are not easily quantifiable. They are usually calculated by using a figure that represents the amount of revenue lost from a downtime event. The equation to determine this figure is: Revenue lost = (Annual revenue/8,760 hours per year) x (Number of hours of downtime)

After you calculate the amount of lost revenue, you can determine the indirect costs. Two common calculations are:

- Projected loss of revenue due to lost customers: This expense represents how much money was likely lost due to customers leaving because of the downtime event. One metric you can use is the average rate of repeat sales. You can calculate it with the following equation: Projected loss of revenue due to lost customers = (Revenue lost) x (Average rate of repeat sales)

- Projected loss of revenue due to damaged reputation: This figure estimates how much money was lost due to potential customers being scared away because of the downtime event. One metric you can use to calculate it is the percentage of sales from referrals (e.g., referrals through social media and shopping comparison sites). The equation is: Projected loss of revenue due to damaged reputation = (Revenue lost) x (Percentage of sales from referrals)

Using the Calculations

Using the direct and indirect cost calculations, you can determine the total cost of downtime. This is helpful if you want to know the cost of an actual downtime event or when you want to see the impact a hypothetical downtime event might have on your business. The total cost of downtime is derived by adding together all the direct and indirect downtime costs you feel are applicable to your business. For example, if you want to include all the direct and indirect costs mentioned previously, the equation is: Total cost of downtime = (Cost of lost employee productivity) + (Cost of employee recovery) + (Cost of IT recovery) + (Projected loss of revenue due to lost customers) + (Projected loss of revenue due to damaged reputation)

For budgeting purposes, it helps to look at the downtime costs incurred when individual applications, services, or IT components are unavailable. For example, you might calculate the direct and indirect costs (or just the direct costs for simplicity) of downtime separately for:

- Each critical business application (programs used by large numbers of employees as part of their primary job functions or programs that are crucial in day-to-day operations, such as billing software)

- Each important technology application or service (programs and services that employees use to help them perform their jobs, such as email software)

- Each component in the IT infrastructure (servers, computers, networks, and communications capabilities)

That way, you can determine which applications, services, and IT components are most critical to your business. With this information, you can budget the funds needed to keep them running at peak efficiency.

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