Moving to the Cloud

Moving to the Cloud

The concept of cloud computing has been around since the 1960s, when computer bureaus would allow companies to rent time on a mainframe, rather than have to buy one themselves, but the term cloud computing only originated recently: during the early 2000s. Since then, cloud computing has only gained popularity as organizations realized that the technology offered a vast number of services for a low charge. According to Gartner, global spending on cloud services will reach $260 billion this year (up from $219.6 billion).

 

What is Cloud Computing?

 

Cloud computing is an internet-based service that allows individuals to access services that were traditionally only available via download online.  For example, Google Docs allows users to create and edit documents online, share these documents with collaborators so they can see adjustments in real-time, and access documents from any computer instead of just the computer the document was created on. This is only one example of cloud computing, and the technology is available for a variety of on-demand computing services, from applications to storage, typically on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Cloud computing allows companies to rent access to services that previously would have required them to own their own computing infrastructure or data centers from a cloud service provider. This technology offers many benefits to companies, particularly in terms of scalability.

 

Benefit of Cloud Computing

 

Cloud computing offers organizations a number of advantages, from increasing efficiency to minimizing capital expenditure. Here are the top three reasons why you should consider taking your organization to the cloud:

Flexibility

Cloud computing is ideal for the remote workforce, offering a level of flexibility that traditional IT infrastructure cannot. Not only does the pay-as-you-go nature of the cloud make it ideal for businesses to scale capacity up or down as needed, it makes it easy for teams to collaborate from anywhere at any time. 

Time

According to Salesforce data, 51% of employees have found that emerging technologies like cloud computing save both time and effort once integrated. Not only does this create streamlined content for improved collaboration, it means that your employees can access data at times most convenient for them.

Saving

Cloud computing technologies allow businesses to avoid the high costs of hardware. With subscription-based models that make it easy to pay for what your organization needs, cloud computing providers make setting up and managing an IT infrastructure easy and affordable. 

 

Risks of Cloud Computing

 

While there are significant advantages to moving your organization onto the cloud, it is important to understand the risks associated with cloud computing to fully protect your organization against cyber threats. 

Cloud environments experience the same threats as traditional data centers; however, unlike traditional data centers, organizations that operate in the cloud accept some of the responsibility for mitigating the risks associated with software vulnerabilities. For instance, organizations need to perform monitoring and analysis of information about applications, services, data, and users.

Is your organization considering the switch to cloud computing? Learn more about the services and technology PGH Networks can provide. Reach out to us today: contact us today.

The Focus of the New 2021 Workplace

The Focus of the New 2021 Workplace

Workplace Trends

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven many changes in our society, especially within the workplace. As social distancing and quarantine restrictions were implemented at the start of 2020, organizations across the globe had to focus both on the health and safety of their employees and on continuing their operations. As a result, many businesses have begun to reconsider how digital technologies could streamline their operations.

 

Managing Change in the Workplace

A recent poll by Gartner showed that 41% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 versus 30% before the pandemic. 

As many organizations shift to remote work operations, businesses must be prepared to not only explore the critical competencies their employees will need to collaborate digitally, and also they will also need to adjust their technologies to accommodate the remote experience.

 

Areas of Focus

Three major areas of focus are: Network Performance Monitoring, Scalable Network Technologies, and Remote Work Security.

 

Network Performance Monitoring

Network Performance Monitoring is a solution that allows computer networks to identify slow or failing components before they cause problems. For instance, with Network Performance Monitoring, you can monitor network performance between office sites, data centers, clouds and applications in real time to identify:

  • Crashed, frozen, or overloaded servers
  • Failed switches
  • Failing routers
  • And other troublesome components that can potentially cause an outage or network failure.

A Network Monitoring tool will constantly monitor your network’s health and reliability by tracking your network’s parameters and searching for trends. This can be done by comparing data transmission rates, such as uptime/downtime rates, error rates, response times, and user-time percentages to thresholds set in advance. Once the levels reach the threshold, the Network Monitoring tool will trigger an alarm and initiate the network fault management process. 

Monitoring and analyzing this data can help businesses obtain valuable information about the network’s users, from peak usage time to traffic patterns and allow IT departments to better optimize support across different operating areas.

 

Scalable Network Technologies

Scalability allows the system or network to grow and accommodate growth. From a business perspective, scalability is what allows websites to accommodate increasing numbers of customers (i.e website visitors) without crashing, but it’s also more than that. 

Scalable Network Technologies also include IT network solutions such as hardware and applications, data security, and the increased demand that both hardware and software are likely to see with company growth. To stimulate growth in the most efficient and least expensive way, businesses should be prepared to accommodate growth in all of these areas.

It is essential to plan for scalability as this will allow businesses to avoid unnecessary costs and keep business IT flowing smoothly.

 

Remote Work Security

As companies offer more remote work opportunities they must also prepare to face unique security challenges while managing a mobile workforce. Security challenges can arise every time there’s a shift in environment and companies should be prepared to respond accordingly to prevent unauthorized network access and guarantee data security. 

From establishing a cyber security policy to implementing two-factor authentication (2FA) to installing firewalls, antivirus and anti-malware software business leaders should be prepared to handle whatever new vulnerabilities a remote workforce may unveil. 

To ensure your network is secure, consider outsourcing your IT services to ensure the highest level of data security and achieve business success with your remote workforce. To learn more about the services and technology PGH Networks can provide, contact us today.

How to Think Outside the [Virtual] Box & Grow Your Business with Technology

How to Think Outside the [Virtual] Box & Grow Your Business with Technology

While every business’s ultimate goal is growth, many business owners struggle to identify the most cost-effective, feasible strategy to accomplish this goal. This is where digital technologies come in handy. 

Many of today’s businesses utilize technology to improve their operational processes; in fact more than 80% of business owners agree that technology creates financial opportunities for their business. Technology helps business owners improve scale, streamline efficiency, reduce operational costs, and diminish production times. 

 

BEST TECH TOOLS FOR SMALL BUSINESS

 

Digital technologies are valuable tools to help drive business growth and accomplish strategic objectives. There are plenty of online tools available that can automate business-critical tasks, such as paying bills or scheduling employees for shifts. Other digital technologies can help businesses more efficiently manage time, such as calendar or scheduling platforms that manage meetings and calls. Most importantly, there are technologies that can monitor and protect network safety, guarding businesses against system failures and cyberthreats. 

 

EXPANDED TECHNOLOGIES

 

Many different elements contribute to business growth; therefore, businesses should consider multiple technologies to help them minimize operational costs and maximize revenue. 

Cloud-based applications are ideal for businesses looking to improve productivity and efficiency for a low cost, especially because these technologies carry a lower cost up-front and can be utilized across a range of different devices. 

Similarly, digital technologies that improve data security can help protect critical assets from cyberthreats and system failures, empower mobile employees, modernize IT infrastructure and streamline compliance.

Finally, business owners can consider augmenting their performance through artificial intelligence technologies. 

 

CLOUD COMPUTING

 

Over the past few years, the cloud has transformed business technology, improving operations, enabling flexible workplaces, and decreasing infrastructure costs. Cloud computing can be integrated into many business operations, from managing infrastructure to remote work and beyond. Moreover, with cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, businesses can scale their cloud usage easily depending on the resources they need.   

 

DATA SECURITY

 

Cybersecurity is so much more than a way to mitigate cyber risk—it is also a crucial digital tool that can accelerate business growth. At the most basic level, data security technology can protect businesses from digital disruption by protecting critical assets, but the technology can also enable higher levels of productivity while geographically expanding your workforce— which is essential for innovation and growth. By vetting mobile users, deploying digital certificates to these users, and implementing the right mobile security technologies, tools and policies, cybersecurity technology can promote business growth. 

 

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TECHNOLOGY

 

Artificial intelligence (AI) has embedded itself in almost every industry and for good reason: they provide invaluable support by automating processes, analyzing data to generate insights, and even engaging with clients. From automated chat-bots that provide 24/7 customer support to Microsoft Power, which enables businesses to automate repetitive tasks and build multi step workflows, AI is an essential investment for businesses looking to increase their productivity, efficiency, and profit.

Digital technology is evolving every day, which is why outsourcing IT is a best practice for most businesses. Outsourcing frees up time and resources to allow business owners to focus on achieving business goals and will likely reduce cost in the long term. To learn more about the services and technology PGH Networks can provide, reach out to us today: contact us today.

SURPRISE BONUS EPISODE! Lunchbox Leaders: The Business Impact of Cybersecurity in the Age of COVID Recap

SURPRISE BONUS EPISODE! Lunchbox Leaders: The Business Impact of Cybersecurity in the Age of COVID Recap

During the surprise bonus episode of our webinar series, The Lunchbox Leaders, we heard from Brian Dykstra, the President and CEO of Atlantic Data Forensics, a cybersecurity company specializing in investigations, computer forensics, incident response, network and wireless security testing, and information security. 

As an expert in the reactive side of network security, Brian shared what happens AFTER the discovery of ransomware or a security breach. 

“Turns out, bad things do happen,” Brian shared. “In fact, the most bad things are going to happen in your company from 8:00pm on a Friday evening to 8:00am on a Monday morning—that’s the hacker’s favorite time to strike because they know people aren’t paying attention since it’s the weekend. Long weekends are also prime attack time.”  

Brian emphasized the importance of treating network security as a process, not as a product. For instance, many companies make the mistake of adopting cloud-based services and assuming that the host platform will maintain their network security for them. However, while these platforms provide the tools for network security it is up to the business to monitor and utilize them to ensure network security. Network security is a matter of vigilance and consistent monitoring rather than an “end product” your business can purchase.

Based upon the Incident Response support to hundreds of organizations in a wide variety of industries, small and large, Brian shared three easy ways to ensure network security:

  • Good perimeter control. Make sure your firewall is actually doing it’s job. Do not simply log what is rejected by the firewall, have someone periodically review the dashboard. In addition, remember that cloud-based computing platforms should have firewalls in place as well.
  • 2-factor authentication (2FA) & multi-factor authentication (MFA). At a minimum, apply 2FA to Administrator accounts and ensure that your logs actually show you who logged in and from where.
  • Antivirus/Anti-malware. Antivirus and anti-malware should be installed on everything to fully protect your organization. This includes: laptops & desktops, servers, email, firewalls, and the Cloud. Remember not to skip Macs—these devices are vulnerable to viruses too. 

We were so glad to host Brian in our final installment of the Lunchbox Leaders series. Our vision has been to help educate our community on how organizations and individuals can protect themselves in today’s cybersecurity threat landscape. We hope you found this episode, and our series of webinars, insightful!

Remember the team at PGH Networks can help you develop a strategic and layered approach to your network’s security and protect you from cyber attacks. Want to learn more: contact us today

In case you missed our surprise episode (or would like to rewatch it), you can find the full recording online

The ‘as a Service’ (aaS) Business Model

as a Service (aaS)

Now more than ever, business owners big and small are seeking ways to better manage their data processing requirements. While in the past this search has involved a hefty price tag for “bigger, newer, faster” hardware and software, the most recent trend in IT spend has been moving towards “as a Service” (aaS) offerings.

 

What Is aaS?

 

“As a Service,” or aaS offerings, are commonly utilized options for any business using cloud application services. Together with cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) provided a foundation for aaS offerings to flourish, and the continued emergence of service-based models is inevitable. By using the internet to deliver applications instead of a downloaded software, aaS applications run directly through a client’s web browser, allowing aaS providers to meet the needs of their clients more affordably than other downloaded or installed computer technologies. 

There are many forms of aaS offerings, including Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Ransomware as a Service (RaaS), and Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS).

 

Software as a Service (SaaS) 

 

Software as a Service, or SaaS, allows a third-party provider to host applications and make them available to customers through the Internet. In other words, the provider gives network-based access to a single copy of an application. The application’s source code remains the same for all customers, and when new functionalities are developed, they are available to each client. Customers’ data for each model may be stored locally, in the cloud, or in both, depending on the SLA, or service level agreement.

There are many forms of SaaS offerings available on the market today and many of them address fundamental business operations. For example, Salesforce provides an SaaS solution for customer relationship management (CRM) while applications like ADP and Oracle provide SaaS solutions for human resources management (HRM).

 

Platform as a Service (PaaS) 

 

PaaS, or Platform as a Service, provides tools for the development and deployment of applications and services. For instance, a PaaS customer would have the ability to build, test, deploy, manage, and update their own applications. A significant advantage of PaaS is that developers who are building software and applications will not need to start from scratch and write extensive code. Instead, the PaaS offering provides the foundational infrastructure, including middleware, development tools and business intelligence services, allowing the client to focus on the creative side of app development instead of managing software updates or security patches.  

A popular example of a PaaS platform is Microsoft Azure, which allows clients to build, test, deploy, and manage applications and services through Microsoft’s data centers.

 

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) 

 

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) allows clients, usually enterprises, to rent or lease servers for storage, networking, or virtualization purposes. Users of IaaS services are able to run any operating system or applications on the rented servers, but avoid paying the fees associated with installation and maintenance for on-premise IT infrastructure. 

A notable IaaS provider is Amazon Web Services (AWS), which provides a massive global cloud infrastructure that serves thousands of businesses in over 190 countries.  

 

Ransomware as a Service (RaaS)

 

Unlike other types of aaS offerings, Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) is an infrastructure offering used by criminals on the Dark Web to attack IT systems. However, RaaS offerings function much like other aaS offerings. The enterprise or user takes advantage of cloud-based services, like the capability to attack and implant hackers into the victim’s machine to hold their data hostage. 

One RaaS provider that has gained notoriety recently is the Satan RaaS Platform, which provides users the ability to launch custom ransomware attacks at a wide scale.

 

Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

 

DRaaS, or Disaster Recovery as a Service, is a model that allows organizations to back up data and IT infrastructure in a third party environment. Users of DRaaS are able to regain access to their stored information and functionality after a disaster—whether a natural disaster, an equipment failure, or a cyberattack. DRaaS means that organizations themselves are not responsible for owning or managing disaster recovery. Instead, these tasks fall to the DRaaS provider.  

As a DRaaS solutions provider, the team at PGH Networks partners with Veeam, a company that develops backup, disaster recovery, and intelligent data management software for virtual, physical and multi-cloud infrastructures. Through this partnership, PGH Networks is able to provide a flexible DRaaS platform for companies of all different sizes.

Lunchbox Leaders: Artificial Intelligence Recap

Lunchbox Leaders: Artificial Intelligence Recap

During the fourth episode of our webinar series, The Lunchbox Leaders, we heard from Ben Verschaeren of Melbourne, Australia, a Global Solutions Engineer with Sophos— an international cybersecurity company based in the United Kingdom. 

Ben shared that there’s been a rapid shift in technology over the last 5 years with an explosion in data science and artificial intelligence (AI). Sophos in particular has utilized AI to shift away from reacting to threats and instead makes security predictions with incredibly high accuracy. Ben also shared how AI can assist across all layers of defenses by providing both accurate predictions and detections of malicious behavior. 

“Our Sophos lab alone sees about half a million unique malware files every day,” Ben shared. “Using things like AI, we’re enhancing our labs. One of the ways we’re able to enhance detection capabilities is by applying algorithms that will tell us what looks different. What’s something that’s probably malicious, but looks different? And maybe that’s where an analyst should set focus to.  We’re not actually using AI just to deter malicious or benign determination, but rather to funnel the right information to people so maybe we can find that next group out there that’s been hiding in the shadows and not been detected yet. There are so many different applications for it. I would never look at AI as competing with a human. I would look at AI as complementing or enhancing human capabilities.”  

The efficiency that AI is bringing to all different industries is really the value-driver. It’s changing the way we do things. “Data is what drives AI/neural networks now,” Ben stated. With such huge volumes of data, AI is a game-changer in terms of handling the information available to us and identifying patterns that allow us to predict and prevent cybersecurity threats. 

However, Ben cautioned that organizations searching for an AI cybersecurity solution should certainly question and query the AI-provider to determine exactly what capabilities their AI product has, rather than just purchasing the product based solely on the “AI” buzzword. Be cautious and ask specific questions to understand how the tool is protecting your organization. 

We were so glad to host Ben in our fourth installment of the Lunchbox Leaders series. Our vision has been to help educate our community on how organizations and individuals can protect themselves in today’s cybersecurity threat landscape. We hope you found this episode, and our series of webinars, insightful!

Remember the team at PGH Networks can help you develop a strategic and layered approach to your network’s security and protect you from cyber-attacks. Want to learn more: contact us today

In case you missed our fourth and final episode (or would like to rewatch it), you can find the full recording online