Archive for April 2019

What is the Best Way to Backup?

What is the best way to Backup?

“That will never happen to me”. We get through our lives telling ourselves the worst won’t happen to us, but we have seen the impact when customers call us in after losing their important data – such as photos and documents. So, what’s the best way to backup?

Approaches to Backup

There are several off-the-shelf backup options you can use. Let’s consider the pros and cons of the most popular ones.

USB Thumb Drives

Also known as “flash drives,” “pen drives,” or “memory sticks,” these thumb-sized devices are compact and portable. But, they have size limitations compared to hard drives. Also, the mobility makes them easy to lose (which can actually set the disaster scenario in motion).

Additionally, a USB thumb drive is robust when not plugged in, but more vulnerable when attached. If someone inadvertently snaps the drive or employs too much force, they can put the data on that backup at risk. Also, as with all electronic devices, they can sometimes fail.

The cheap ones also tend to be slow, which can make backing up sluggish.

USB Hard Drives

Portable hard drives increase the data storage available, often at a decent price. They are designed to be compact and mobile. You can prioritize durability, processing speed, storage volumes and more.

Hard drives are less likely to get damaged than a thumb drive. If knocked or jostled, the cables are flexible. Still, a hard drive can also be prone to physical failure. Selecting an external solid state drive (SSD) can help since it has no moving parts. Information is stored instead in microchips.

Cloud Storage

Backing up to the cloud stores data on an external, secure server. If thieves take your computers and USB backup, you can still access your data on the cloud. Cloud storage providers build in redundancy (multiple copies) to ensure your backup remains safe.

Most cloud storage services back up to secure centres with thousands of servers storing data. They’ll have their own server backups too, just in case they’re the ones hit by a disaster. The providers also encrypt data during transit to further ensure compliance and security.

Migrating to a third-party cloud storage service also cuts the clutter at your home or office. You can count on expert help to ensure security and compliance, plus, you can cut operational costs by offloading in-house storage or external hard drive expenses.

What’s the Best Answer?

Don’t think disaster won’t strike. Research has found data loss and downtime are most often caused by:

• Hardware failures (45% of total unplanned downtime)
• Loss of power (35%)
• Software failure (34%)
• Data corruption (24%)
• External security breaches (23%)
• Accidental user error (20%).

We recommend the 3-2-1 backup strategy. This means having 3 copies of your data. Two (2) of these would be located on different devices (e.g. on your computer and on a backup drive). The other remaining backup copy (1) would be secured offsite, in the cloud.

Want to secure your data for the worst? Give us a call on 01455 209505.

Protecting Your Customers and Your Business Too

Protecting your Customers Information

Security and privacy are at the very top of priorities when considering business IT. Major data leaks are in mainstream news on a near-daily basis and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of customers are impacted every time they happen. The goal should be to make sure our businesses are kept out of danger.

Major institutions, such as multi-national banks and credit card companies, are expected to handle your data well. Unfortunately, less secured businesses require access to our data too.

Even just booking into a hotel often requires you to leave personal details. These few pieces of information are often more than enough to steal your identity, start a line of credit, and access many of your vital services. You can often only hope your chosen hotel handles your information as well as your bank does.

Securing Your Business with Smarter Thinking

There is no way to change how your favourite hotel service operates, but you can affect your own business to improve its security for your customers.

You don’t need the manpower or funding of a major banking chain to handle data securely. With simple tweaks and powerful changes, you can minimize the chances of your business suffering a data breach big enough close your doors for good.

By stepping up IT security to meet modern threats, you can help to limit your liability, put customer’s minds at ease and give your firm a competitive advantage.

Limit Your Data Collection

The single most important thing to consider when securing your business is how much data do you really need to hold anyway? Carefully consider the value of every piece of personal information you collect in any given transaction. Do you have a use for everything you ask for?

Emails, addresses, and contact numbers are useful for receipts and marketing, but additional data many firms collect is often useless and wasteful. Each piece of unnecessary data you hold represents additional value to hackers and thieves. While you may be unable to use your own stored data, hackers will find great value in gathering more personal information. This increases your liability without adding any extra value.

Clearly, the recent GDPR regulations also apply, so it isn’t just good practice to run through the details that you keep.

Consider Your Access Requirements

Think carefully about who has access to information within your business and precisely why they need to access it. Often security problems begin when employees have blanket privileges to access everything within the firm.

Access restrictions should be specific to the company structure. Employees should be limited to only what is strictly required for their role. Managers, for example, are likely to need systems that their junior staff cannot access.

Physical access restrictions are critical too. Unattended computers and mobile devices should require a password or identity verification to log on – preferably without other people knowing the password or leaving the password on a post-it note!

Treating Data with Care

The way you treat your data in day-to-day business reflects the impact hackers or IT disaster will have on your business when it is lost. Do you know where your backups are, and when they were last tested?

Firms often first know they are in trouble when they realize all their data is stored on a business laptop or device that could be easily lost or stolen. Some firms maintain backups on USB drives or shuttle a portable hard drive between home and work.

Protecting your customers and your business is all about the smart application of IT knowledge in a cost-effective and efficient way.

We can help you to protect the most valuable assets your business owns – data. Call us on 01455 209505.

OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?

OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?

Are you prompting Siri, Google, or Alexa? When you talk a home assistant, you join a growing number of smart homes.

Smart home assistants search online, start phone calls, order groceries, play music, turn lights on. All with a single spoken command.

Research into how people use Google or Alexa demonstrates the core features. Listening to music ranked first. Checking weather and asking for general information rounded out the top three. Setting timers and reminders, asking for the news or jokes (perhaps to make up for the news?) are also common.

Yet, the question remains, just how safe are these virtual assistants? After all, having a smart speaker in your home means there is always an open microphone in your house.

Smart Speaker and Home Assistant Safety Concerns

The convenience of the speaker demands that it always be on, ready and waiting for you to say “Hey Siri” or “OK Google.” Once triggered the device records the command, sends the data to servers for processing, and figures out its response.

Smart speaker users can log in to view the history of queries on their accounts. This prompts some concerns that these mega-companies will use the information for financial gain. For example, those talking about an overseas holiday might start seeing related ads on their computers.

Someone hacking into the home assistant to gain access to your personal information is another concern. Those who set smart speakers as a hub for many devices also create more points of vulnerability.

It’s difficult to anticipate all the ways the assistant could prove to be too good a listener. In one case, a voice assistant recorded a private conversation and sent it to the couple’s contacts list.

Steps to Stay Secure with a Smart Speaker

That candid conversation aside, few big privacy issues or personal data breaches have been reported – so far. Nevertheless, if taking advantage of Alexa, Siri, or Google helper, keep these strategies in mind.

1. Clear your history. Don’t leave everything you’ve ever asked it stored on the company server. The assistant will relearn your commands quickly.
2. Connect with caution. It’s great to be able to turn on the TV and dim the lights without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Be wary of connecting security or surveillance devices to your home assistant.
3. Mute the microphone. Yes, it undermines your ability to call from the closet “OK, Google, what’s the weather like today?” But, turning off the mic when it’s not in use stops recording without you knowing about it. Yes, the microphone may still be powered up, but you can expressly mute it.
4. Secure your network. Home assistants do their work by connecting to the Internet using your network. Ensure they are accessing a password protected network. They should use devices (e.g. routers) changed from default password settings – unfortunately, most people just use that default setting and it leaves your network open to outsiders with the knowledge to be able to get into it.
With a little effort you can gain convenience without worry.

Want more questions answered about setting up a smart speaker to be safe and reliable? We’re here to help. Give us a call on 01455 209505.