8 Ways to boost your network’s security

Every business network handles a range of sensitive data from financial records to intellectual property to personally identifiable information. To protect your organization from the rising tide of cyberthreats, it’s imperative that you take every reasonable step to ensure nothing bad gets in and no confidential records leave through unsecured channels.

#1. Manage risk

There will always be risks, no matter how robust your network security. One of the main jobs of any network security team is to bring this risk down to an acceptable level, one that may be managed and mitigated without getting in the way of innovation and productivity. Administrators must keep full visibility into their digital assets with a centralized web-enabled platform.

#2. Layer your security

If your network infrastructure has a single point of failure, then it’s just a matter of time before it falls victim to a breach. In much the same way that medieval castles had moats, walls and guards to protect them, your network also needs multiple layers of security. This includes an enforced security policy, firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention, and endpoint protection.

#3. Tighten up access controls

Many data breaches occur at the hands of mismanaged access controls. While your apps and data need to be consistently accessible to those who use them for work, it’s always a good idea to follow the principle of least privilege. In other words, nobody should have access to anything they don’t absolutely need to do their jobs. Enabling multifactor authentication, whereby login access is secured with passwords and another authentication method (e.g. temporary security codes sent to the user’s phone), is also a must.

#4. Implement endpoint controls

No matter how robust your overall network security, a single vulnerable endpoint can bring it all crashing down. Endpoints refer to any device connected to the network, including mobile phones and employee-owned devices. Administrators must track every endpoint on the network and grant and revoke access rights as needed. They also need anti-malware software to scan for and remove any harmful programs lying dormant within company devices.

#5. Migrate to the cloud

Looking after hundreds or even thousands of endpoints is hard work, especially when sensitive data potentially resides on every device connected to the network. For this reason, it’s best to avoid storing confidential data on any devices other than a centralized server or, better still, in the cloud where it can be managed and secured as a single connected environment.

#6. Prepare for the worst

You always need to prepare for the worst-case scenario, no matter how thorough your network security protocols might be. New threats come and go, and it’s impossible to protect against every eventuality. That’s why a backup and disaster recovery plan is an integral part of your wider security and compliance strategy.

#7. Train your team

Most data leaks and breaches occur because of human error. This isn’t helped by the fact that many of us have developed poor security habits. Every member of your team is a potential target, which is why security is everyone’s responsibility. An ongoing training program with a top-down approach will create a culture of accountability and security.

#8. Deploy patch management

Software developers regularly release security updates for any products they still support. You should never defer these updates, since doing so may leave the system, and consequently the entire network, vulnerable. If any software or hardware device is nearing the end of its support life cycle, you should retire it as soon as possible.

NetWize helps businesses drive real results and reduce risk with modern technology solutions you can depend on. Call us today to deploy a robust cybersecurity framework that keeps the bad guys at bay.

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Why you need a backup and disaster recovery plan

Your company relies on its documents and applications to keep customers happy and to stay in business. Imagine what would happen if you suddenly lost access to all of it. If you’re lucky, your business may be able to come out unscathed, but the reality is many businesses affected by a major disaster close their doors for good.

To mitigate the financial losses caused by unforeseen events, many companies take out cyber insurance policies. However, no insurance policy is going to help you recover from reputational damage or retrieve the critical data you’ve lost. That’s why you also need a documented backup and disaster recovery plan.

#1. Natural disasters

Storms, floods, and fires can all cause irreparable damage to your digital assets by destroying hardware and backup media alike. Unlike many other incidents, a natural disaster might also render your primary workplace inoperable. That’s why backup and disaster recovery planning isn’t just about data; it also needs to incorporate people and processes.

With cloud backups, employees should be able to resume working from home or from a secondary location using their own devices with little-to-no disruption.

#2. Human errors

Many disasters start with human error, whether that’s succumbing to a phishing scam, accidentally deleting an important document, or even failing to turn a computer off properly. Just flipping the wrong switch can lead to a significant loss that could easily have been avoided.

Training programs can help reduce human error and, most importantly, susceptibility to cyberattacks. You can also mitigate employee-induced disasters by tightening access controls and automating your backup routines.

#3. Cyberattacks

Cyberattacks can strike at any time, and small businesses are a favorite target among hackers. Data breaches are especially severe since they can cause serious damage to your reputation, which is one of the most valuable things any business has. Another common threat is ransomware, which can render your data as good as lost.

Every business must take a multilayered approach to protecting its digital assets, and backup and disaster recovery is one of those layers. If data is lost or stolen to a cyberattack, disaster recovery is often your last line of defense.

#4. Hardware failures

Hardware failures can lead to extended periods of downtime. While most hardware can either be fixed or replaced fairly quickly, any accompanying data loss is a lot harder to mitigate if you don’t have a recent backup. Often far worse than losing the value of the hardware is losing the data stored on it.

Businesses can better protect their data by reducing their reliance on hardware. With cloud technology, they can build a software-defined computing architecture that’s kept safe across multiple locations, with redundant systems kicking in whenever the primary fails.

#5. Compliance

Businesses need to comply with a growing number of regulations, many of which include strict availability standards. In other words, if you lose your data to a disaster, you could also end up paying a fine if you haven’t made every reasonable step to protect it. For example, HIPAA gives organizations five days to respond to requests for information, while SOX requires CEOs to report financial results each quarter and year-end. To ensure your data stays available through any eventuality, a robust backup and disaster recovery plan is, indirectly at least, a compliance necessity.

NetWize prepares companies for catastrophe with a comprehensive data backup and disaster recovery plan. We’ll help you implement the solutions and even maintain your backups, so you always have access to your most critical assets. Call us today to ensure your business can survive the worst.

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Making IT Budgets Strategic

I believe we’d agree the business landscape has changed. The evolution of border-less interactions, secure, remote workers and client driven security and compliance puts immense pressure on the executive staff to identify and execute against their goals. The achievement of those business goals relate proportionately to the executive’s understanding of their organization’s current technology capabilities, business strategy and the overall competitive landscape.

Often times this becomes a three-legged stool. If the organization’s strategy is to grow (organically or through acquisition), there must be a very high understanding of how they define their competitive landscape. Once that has been identified, the executives map their business model (strategy, infrastructure, execution) to delivering against that stated goal. Interestingly, most organizations overlook the relationship between the technology they use internally to secure their organization and its’ responsibility to supporting those future objectives.

The ability of the CIO to deliver technology against the businesses’ objectives has never been higher due to the emergence of cloud and next-gen technologies, IoT and edge devices, business insights and technical analytics. Through these technologies, CIO’s are able to collect data, both technical and competitive, thus providing the organization with multiple internal and external, actionable scenarios. One scenario might be: an agile infrastructure provides a reallocation of costs from a CapEx to an OpEx model thereby potentially freeing up additional funds to invest in growth strategies. The CIO maps the internal investment (CapEx to OpEx strategy and execution) to the external investment (newly available funds allocated to acquiring additional, outside resources) to achieve the objective. In order to achieve this symbiotic relationship between IT and Business strategies, a redefining of traditional IT budgets is required.

IT budgets have been the bane of most organizations. They are generally viewed as only a cost center and therefore one of the first items to be pressured during the budgeting cycle. Year-over-year flat, support-based IT budgets aren’t satisfactory in times of evolution. Since traditional budgets have focused almost exclusively on maintenance, refresh, support of the current infrastructure along with FTE’s to deliver, there isn’t much room for the delivery of value towards achieving business goals or business unit strategies. The national average for IT budget spend as a percentage of revenue is between 3-4% (Deloitte, IDC, Gartner research), and yet most organizations will admit IT is underfunded as an internal organization. What if the funding categories of an IT budget were defined to better align with the organization’s business strategies?

From an IT perspective, there are three distinct activities that occur within an organization: support of the current infrastructure, design and implementation of solutions that support incremental business changes and delivering on business innovation. If IT budgets evolved to include a percent allocation of the above items against the overall budget, then the CIO has effectively addressed how to optimize current operations, deliver insights to business units and prepare for the execution of business strategies.

An example of this could be: Organization Revenue: $25 M, IT Budget: 3.5% ($875k). Through annual strategic business planning sessions, the short- and long-term goals of the organization are identified, and the CIO determines the allocation of the IT budget to be:

  • 57%: Support of Current Infrastructure ($498,750)
  • 26%: Incremental Business Change ($227,500)
  • 17%: Business Innovation ($148,750)

In this example, the CIO is presenting to the executive staff an understanding of the goals and how the investments will support the objectives. The internal “support” investment ensures the organization is utilizing the tools and infrastructure to secure it’s current and future operations. “Incremental Business Change and Business Innovations” investments attempt to clearly align tactical enhancements to the organization (departmental and company-wide) to achieve those strategy-based goals. Too many times the lack of foresight and planning leads to an inability to define an IT Budget as strategic but is extremely important given the change and speed of the market.

Hopefully, clarity has been brought to defining the business value of the CIO as they are driving the convergence of Business and IT strategies / objectives. This powerful, business aware CIO is now helping to delineate the “what the organization wants to achieve”, and “how those investments” will drive the execution. When an organization appreciates the value of documenting a 3-5 year plan, their IT budgets become strategic and a huge competitive advantage.

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