GCInfotech is your total business IT solutions resource for Cloud Computing

Everybody’s talking about “the cloud.” But what does it all mean?

Cloud computing is nothing new. But boy does everyone love a new and exciting buzzword. The key, really, is knowing if sending your data into the cloud is a sound business decision for you. GCInfotech can help you avoid the pitfalls and find the clearest path to the cloud, while weighing the risk vs. reward and the value vs. cost of moving your vital business processes into a cloud-based, hosted environment.

So, what is the cloud anyway? It’s really nothing more than third party management of your data, allowing for easy access from any portal or device that’s connected to the internet. Sounds simple enough, but this in and of itself doesn’t necessarily mean you should make the leap into a cloud-based system.

Ask yourself a few questions first:

Do you have a good way to protect and back up your data regardless of where and when you access it?

Do you have sufficient bandwidth to access the cloud efficiently?

Are your emails kept confidential?

Will the cloud provider stick around if you have a financial meltdown?

Do you have ballooning technical infrastructure costs that you’d like to address?

What are the benefits?

1. Reduced space. Physical hardware can take up a lot of space. Take for example your servers. If you virtualize these, you can probably fit all of them onto one or two units. This will reduce the space your hardware takes up, freeing up extra storage capacity or possibly another desk.

2. Reduced overhead. Having hardware and servers in an office can be expensive to maintain. Cloud computing will often reduce overhead costs and save you money.

3. Quicker backup and recovery.  This means that your vital data is always backed up and protected. Beyond that, the backups ‘are in the cloud’, meaning that if there is a disaster, you can recover lost data quickly and easily.

4. Longer hardware replacement cycles. Virtualized solutions and platforms often require lower computing resources because they are hosted on the provider’s servers. This means that you won’t have to replace existing tech hardware.

5. The cloud is scalable. If your company is growing, you will eventually have to add new systems. In an already cramped office this means finding the space for hardware or servers needed to support your growth, not to mention investing in systems that are compatible with existing hardware. Virtualization is highly scalable, and can grow with your company, often without the need for extra services.

We assure you, the cloud is nothing new and nothing to feel overwhelmed about, but there are indeed a variety of links in the chain of services that can often lead to a cloud-based solution that’s just plain cloudy.

Let GCInfotech help  you clear the fog and find a solution that makes sense for you and your business.

GCInfotech is your total business IT solutions resource for your Mobile Workforce

How important is smart device security?

Convenience is at the forefront of our lives. For businesses, this means a rapidly evolving security landscape that’s leaving many companies, and their IT departments, overwhelmed and scrambling. Smartphones and tablets and other embedded devices like printers and scanners utilize ingenious technology and provide significant benefit to how we do business, but they call into question the very serious issue of usability versus security.

Recent polls of management level employees suggest that upwards of 50% of them don’t know how their organizations identify compromised devices on their network. Additionally, polls of IT professionals show that data security threats at the office frequently go unmanaged due to insufficient resources or in some cases a lack of awareness that a situation even exists. Device manufacturers tend to focus on usability and place little emphasis on built-in software protections, contributing to data and network vulnerabilities. The challenge for device engineers is compressing large and slow software into a tiny space, which makes creating operating systems and software to run on these devices extremely difficult. Decisions invariably must be made regarding what features to include– if richness of features is forsaken for security measures, then how useful is the device in the first place?

Many of us may not even realize which office devices can pose a significant security threat. Here’s a list of culprits and the backend attacks they are susceptible to:

  • Printers – Remote reconfiguration or access to previously printed documents
  • Timeclocks – Access to employee information and payroll
  • Photocopiers – Retrieve documents over the web
  • Scanners – Remote operation or access to hard drive of previously scanned documents
  • Telephone Systems – Eavesdropping
  • Webcams – Hijack and enable without the owner’s knowledge

Best practice begins with two essential steps– first, a comprehensive IT policy that integrates and safeguards all office equipment, including those often forgotten about embedded devices; and second, an employee education program that’s clear, concise and tailored to your company. GCInfotech can assist you with a security evaluation of your office equipment as well as help you devise an employee education plan that’s appropriate for today’s security landscape.

GCInfotech is your total business IT solutions resource for your Mobile Workforce

Every year in the US alone over 100 million cell phones are retired, disposed and/or replaced. It’s estimated that Americans swap cell phones every 18 months on average, tossing their old cell phones into a drawer or worse yet, into the waste stream. Aside from the imminent risk of identity theft or private information going public, cell phones contain many hazardous materials that if improperly disposed can be harmful to the environment.

Consider two environmentally responsible and humanitarian alternatives for cell phone disposal: recycle or donate. The EPA claims that for every million cell phones recycled, we can recover 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium. If not recycle, then donate to one of the numerous organizations that exist for refurbishment and redistribution that offer a potential second life before disposal (see below for a list of donation programs). For years, GCInfotech accepted old phones and made donations on behalf of its clients to organizations such as Cell Phones for Soldiers.

It’s extremely important to take proper precautions to wipe your phone of data and restore it to its factory settings before recycling or donating. Manually deleting text messages, call records and contact lists isn’t nearly enough to combat unauthorized use or protect your personal information once the phone is gone. Wiping it clean of all data may be harder than you think.

Here are details for how to do it:

  1. Remove SIM card
  2. Remove memory card
  3. Perform a master reset, often referred to in the phone’s settings as “Factory data reset” or “Wipe Handheld” (Check the phone’s manual or the internet for specific instructions regarding your phone’s make and model. The reset process is not the same for all phones.)
  4. Check with your carrier to make sure your account has been terminated. If not, others may still be able to use the device, and on your dollar. If you’re maintaining the same account, activating a new device and deactivating the old one, check your bill carefully to determine that the old device is not somehow still using that account.

Contact GCInfotech today if you have any questions about what to do with your old cell phones, or if you have any other technology concerns that we may help you with.

Cell Phone Donation Programs:

American Cellular Donation Organization Cell Phones for Soldiers
Charitable Recycling Program CollectiveGood
Donate a Phone Call to Protect Good Deed Foundation
Recellular Inc. Recycle for Breast Cancer
RMS Communications Group, Inc. Wireless Foundation
Earth911 Sprint Project Connect
Verizon Wireless HopeLine AT&T Wireless
GCInfotech is your total business IT solutions resource for Cloud Computing

Is your memory in the clouds?

The “cloud” is a business metaphor representing the internet, which more and more people are leveraging to store and manage their data and applications. Incorporating your business into the cloud, aptly dubbed “cloud computing,” allows you to conduct your affairs over virtual servers without using a byte of your own processing power. This notion took the business world by storm in 2007, and has rapidly expanded as more companies begin to offer a variety of cloud computing solutions to help your business.

Analysts still debate its definition, though essentially it’s described as the ability to use data and software over the internet instead of on your computer’s hard drive. Using the internet to house documents and data eliminates the need to invest up-front in costly infrastructure and hire someone to implement and maintain it. This makes computing significantly less expensive at inception, especially for smaller companies that may just have a few computers. Instead, these operational costs are spread out over time, and over a large pool of customers/companies.  That way, each customer uses just the portion of “cloud” resources that they need.

Obviously technology plays a major role in most businesses, even if your business isn’t technology. So by focusing more of your efforts on getting your product to market instead of spending resources on the sustainability of your technology infrastructure makes sense.Beware, though, of issues that directly affect your bottom line. Aside from security and control, what are the most cost effective ways to do business in the cloud, or how do you keep data in sync, and how do you manage relationships between applications in your office that point to data in the cloud? As your company grows, do you want to continue to pay a margin on resources from the cloud service companies, or can you implement your particular systems’ infrastructure more cheaply than the cloud service companies charge for it? Furthermore, will the cloud service companies continue to share the declining cost of hardware with their customers? There are many factors that must be considered.

At the onset, behemoth companies like Google and Amazon helped give shape to the cloud computing concept, but today there are over a 100 legitimate vendors out there with their heads in the clouds. Solutions continue to evolve, and more vendors are joining the bandwagon. Maybe it’s time to discuss with your IT consultant whether or not cloud computing is right for your business before you spend money on additional or new infrastructure.

GCInfotech is your total business IT solutions resource for your Mobile Workforce

How Smart is your Smartphone?

The smartphone continues to revolutionize the business world as new and innovative phones flood the market and slick apps make it easier to do business around the clock, from anywhere. From a profitability and productivity standpoint, the business enhancing affects are unquestionable. But with this rapid progression in smartphone technology come new mobile security challenges that not only CIOs and IT staff need to think about, but also small business owners and managers. Smart phones can be open portals to sensitive personal information and your corporate network making it absolutely crucial to understand the mobile security risks and how to maintain the integrity of your data.

GCInfotech’s Cory Visi adds, “Like laptops, smartphones are an extension of your corporation’s network not only containing sensitive or confidential data, but through VPN capabilities it can allow direct connectivity to the heart of your company’s business. It is imperative for the network administrator to view smartphones the same as employee laptops, and to apply the same (if not greater) precautions and access levels restricting access to the corporate network.”

36% of business network attacks originate from end-user devices, and according to the 2010 Data Breach study
28% of attacks occur through the various social networks that employees enjoy on their smartphones

Monitoring these types of activities and deploying a mobile device use policy will go a long way in securing sensitive company data that travels between the company network and employee smartphones. With volume of apps available, and with the rate at which they enter the market, it’s understandable that not all apps are vetted before they’re available for download. This is a huge source of vulnerability and an increasingly inviting platform for malicious criminal activity that can have devastating effects on your business. Policy should define and restrict which smartphones may be used on a corporate network.  If the phone does not support features such as password protection, or remote-wipe (ability to remotely erase the phone if lost) for example, it should not be allowed to access company data.

If you already have one or plan to deploy a business smartphone to your workforce, give some thought to the following:

  • Education. Make your employees aware of how their smartphone interacts with your network.
  • Create and strictly enforce a use policy, and ensure that security apps are included in said policy.
  • Understand that not all smartphones operate on the same platform. Phone software packages have holes and no carrier is immune to malware and viruses. Learn about the various vulnerabilities and safeguards of the smartphone options you’re considering.
  • Require employees to sync their phones regularly, keeping sensitive data off of their phones.
  • Maintain a corporate firewall and regularly monitor all server activity.
  • Limit employee permissions to only what they need to get their job done.
  • Have authentication protocols in place for accessing corporate networks.
  • Keep malware definitions up to date and running on all security software.

GCInfotech will help you maintain the integrity of your corporate network and mission-critical data. If you have any questions or concerns regarding how to develop a strategy for mobile phone security in your company, give us a call.