Fringe defence: identifying devices and protecting your business…

Cyber

With the rise of the Internet of Things, businesses are now exposed more than ever before to the threats of cyber attacks and online fraud. How can you ensure you minimise the risks posed by unsolicited fringe devices and keep your company protected? When it comes to IT equipment, fringe devices aren’t always the first things on the radar when it comes to potential security breaches. However, the hazards they pose lie in both company policy and the potential for unsolicited devices to connect to your online network. Fringe devices can range from employees’ mobile devices to memory sticks and tablets to printers. But no matter what they are used for, all fringe devices are susceptible to security breaches and identifying them is key when it comes to maintaining robust defences.

Identifying the risks

A combination of automatic discovery and a manual survey should help you to pinpoint all your fringe devices. Those already connected to the network can be picked up by most security software, which can perform some degree of automatic scanning to flag them. This should not be relied on for picking up all devices however, as some may have firewalls that would stop such software from communicating with them. In order to ensure that you pin down all devices, cross reference the results of a scan with a manual survey and the automatic discovery results. Wired products are easier to identify as you can trace the cables back to where they physically connect to.

Building your defences

A double defence of technology and policy is needed to ensure your devices are protected. In terms of technology, multiple levels of security hardware and software should be used to close any gaps and make sure there are no single points of failure. Strict processes as to what fringe devices are used for, and have access to, should be adopted and will help to bolster your defences. Isolating fringe devices onto their own network can provide an easy-to-manage configuration. By doing this you can control the devices’ access to corporate resources and a separate network also ensures they do not interfere with, or infect, core resources if they are compromised. Lock down workstations, network ports and other entry points into the network will also ensure the risk of attack or infection is minimised. Ultimately, keeping your security policies up to date, carrying out regular testing and governing the usage of devices are key to maintaining your protection systems.

Prevention is better than cure

Protecting your company from untrusted and unmanaged fringe devices starts with policy – one that is robust, regularly updated and adhered to. Each device should have its own strict user policy, particularly employee-owned devices as these are completely uncontrolled by the business. A clear protocol for updating is key and should be put in place to ensure devices have the latest software and firmware protecting them against possible exploitation and attack. Always ask yourself if a device needs access to the network. If the answer is “no” then they should not be allowed to connect to it. In the case of those that are, identify and define what they are needed for and document this – that way the correct programmes and tools can be used to defend the network, while ensuring users have the flexibility and access they need for the business to function.

 

Jason Fry

Jason Fry

Jason Fry is Managing Director and cyber security expert at PAV i.t. services, which has been delivering IT support solutions to businesses of all sizes across the UK since 1988.

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Tags: Gadgets & Devices, Security, Technology

How to Strengthen Data Recovery

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The digital era has taken our ability to create, store and use data to unprecedented levels. This growth has taken the importance of data protection to truly global levels.

In parallel, the need for new laws on data handling has escalated, a reality embodied in the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which comes into being in May 2018.

Designed to strengthen data privacy and protection for all EU citizens, the regulations will have profound implications for all firms that deal with the information of individuals living within EU borders. As such, GDPR stands to tighten the digital health of businesses not just within Europe, but around the world and across all industries.

Data recovery is inherently important to the EU’s new data laws, so firms should be making every effort to achieve compliance as the start point for the landmark regulations approaches. Below we take a closer look at how executives can address data recovery procedures.

Establish needs and risks

As the integrity of a firm’s data security acts as a performance benchmark against competitors, it is essential that bosses consider what would happen in a worst-case scenario. How would the business stand up to disaster, and what contingencies are in place to aid recovery?

Businesses of all sizes are susceptible to electrical, hardware and software failures that can ultimately impact the bottom line. Administrators should calculate the maximum amount of downtime that can be sustained before a situation becomes critical to company operations. These calculations should form the basis of a revised data recovery policy that defines how and where crucial resources will be allocated.

System recovery procedure

An effective data recovery policy should be informed by an assessment of the critical levels of your specific data and systems. Basic recovery should back up a whole system, allowing the operating system, application software and data to be recovered in one pass.

Backing up the disk online enables backup frequency to increase, suiting firms with more dynamic data fluctuations. Real-time protection then needs to blend with a tiered recovery architecture to allow more agility on critical systems, saving money and shoring up data protection needs in the long-term.

Continuous Data Protection (CPD) is another method used to completely recover a system which enables a very fast backup across a LAN to a local onsite storage facility and to an offsite location at the same time. 

 

Dell

Dell

Dell empowers countries, communities, customers and people everywhere to use technology to realize their dreams. Customers trust us to deliver technology solutions that help them do and achieve more, whether they’re at home, work, school or anywhere in their world. Learn more about our story, purpose and people behind our customer-centric approach.

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Tags: Business, Digital Transformation

Key Considerations When Choosing a Database Management System

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When an IT department becomes fluent in unifying multiple data sources and dealing with a myriad of required updates, the natural progression is to upgrade to a database management system (DBMS).

A DBMS is a group of programmes that allow users to store, develop and withdraw data from a database as and when needed. Choosing and implementing the right system can be a tricky process, as it will involve coordinating procedures across departments.

Executed correctly, businesses stand to unify their database in a way that maximises speed, accuracy and accessibility. Below are some of the key elements that should inform decision making to get the initiative started on the right foot.

Usability

Bosses should prioritise user-friendliness, reaching out for a system that will be helpful from the point of view of all relevant staff members and departments. Database developers, marketing teams and IT administrators are just a few of the groups that will need access, so consider usability and levels of permission accordingly.

Drag-and-drop execution is enabled through many systems and promotes intelligent working processes, but the system operates to make sure it suits all parties concerned. This aspect will be relevant to how easily respective groups can visually analyse and display results for data queries.

Data protection

The security of your data will always be a key concern, and database management implementation is no exception. Sensitive information will need to be handled in a way that adheres totally to existing regulations, so as to uphold the strongest safeguards against theft or loss.

Physical risks, such as flood or fire, are just as potentially disastrous as the danger posed by nefarious online activity, while human error can be equally damaging. Whichever system is put in place needs to prioritise data security.

Optimised functionality

Of course, it is fundamental that business requirements can be satisfied by the modules featured in the data analysis software. Key elements or modules of functionality may include; extract and filter data; segmentation and modelling; automation; prediction strategy; campaign planning, and ROI management.

Leading IT companies provide comprehensive support packages and consistent upgrading to allow you to have complete confidence in the software you choose.

 

Dell

Dell

Dell empowers countries, communities, customers and people everywhere to use technology to realize their dreams. Customers trust us to deliver technology solutions that help them do and achieve more, whether they’re at home, work, school or anywhere in their world. Learn more about our story, purpose and people behind our customer-centric approach.

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Tags: Business, Digital Transformation

How important is IT innovation for the enterprise?

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Innovative companies are ones that can manage people and technology

Nearly every corporation likes to claim to be innovative but such opinions can be deceptive.  Ask most people if they’re good drivers, the overwhelming majority will say they are – yet half an hour spent at the side of a busy road would soon show a disparity between belief and reality. You could say the same about businesses: which ones are really going places and which ones are heading for a crash?

What is innovation?

How then do you define an innovative company? Is it one that spends a good deal of money on expensive IT systems taking on board all the latest gadgets? Is it one that has employed expensive consultants redesigning its corporate identity to emphasis its inventiveness – or is it one that is using its IT infrastructure to support its own employees to drive change. Technology on its own isn’t enough; there are the employee skills and the underlying ecosystem to take into account.

The health industry is a prime example of how this can work. Medical teams can take on board the latest technologies to match their specialist skills, creating greater care for patients. Technologies that were once thought part of science fiction, are already with us: doctors can use software to find suitable donor organs: patients can be contacted instantly, while remote sensors keep tabs on their vital data.

350-x-250-pxThe need for teamwork

Enterprises generally don’t have life and death riding on their every decision but the same processes can be in place: there’s the same need for teamwork, the same requirement to know that technology is not technology for technology’s sake but is working to an end.

Speaking at Dell’s Innovation Day, James Stikeleather, chief innovation officer at Dell noted that innovation is the ability to take that knowledge and convert it back into capital, by creating a value proposition from it. “We don’t see innovation as necessarily a new technology, but rather new technologies and knowledge made manifest into a value proposition for the customer,” he added.

So, if it’s not the acquisition of new technologies for their own sake that makes the difference, there’s the speed of connection, both physical in the sense of broadband accessibility but also in the way that customers and partners can be engaged in a timely manner. Companies can obtain new instant feedback on new products and services these days, either through websites or through social media and that sort of interaction propels innovation.

Coming together

There is also the multitude of technologies available. Organisations are no longer tied by the limitations of their data centres. The arrival of cloud has changed the nature of computing power and storage by offering far more scalability, breaking some of the physical inhibitors faced by enterprises, while the near universality of mobile broadband and improved telephony has removed geographic constraints. At the same time, greater analytic processes enable organisations to delve deeper into customer data and make business critical predictions.

Everything is about the right combination: companies can acquire information from a variety of sources and use it more effectively: it’s not just about data, it’s about speed too. And, there’s a higher level of security to support it all.

All of these are tools that organisations can draw on but it’s the integration of all of them together that provides the cutting edge. Every company likes to think of itself as innovative but not all have that mix of technology, expertise and infrastructure in place that makes a real difference.

 

Max Cooter

Max Cooter

Max is a freelance journalist who has covered a wide variety of IT subjects. He was the founder editor of Cloud Pro, one of the first dedicated cloud publications. He also founded and edited IDG’s Techworld and prior to that was editor of Network Week. As a freelancer, he has contributed to IDG Direct, SC Magazine, Computer Weekly, Computer Reseller News, Internet magazine, PC Business World and many others. He has also spoken at many conferences and has been a commentator for the BBC, ITN and computer TV channel CNBC.

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Tags: Business, Entrepreneurship

Why the IIoT is the key to saving UK manufacturing

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The UK’s manufacturing sector contributes 11% of the nation’s GDP and employs somewhere in the region of 2.6 million people. With recent reports suggesting that the sector may have been undervalued by around £50 billion, it’s clear that the industry is a huge part of our economy. So it is a cause for concern that, with the exception of some individual businesses, the sector as a whole has been contracting in recent years, despite a stable output from these first few months of 2016. Those of us working in the industry obviously want to see a turnaround in these negative statistics, but we’re not going to see any change by waiting around for it to happen to us.

Without the innovation and implementation of new technology to make our manufacturing processes more efficient, the sector will stagnate. Some people could even argue that the sector has already been stagnating for a few years, but even if this is true, it is not too late for those of us within the industry to make a difference.

The changes that need to be made concern not only improvements to products, but to processes. Yes, inventing something new and exciting is good – as a recent article on this site points out, the UK has a history of world-changing innovations – but while such an invention may improve things for the business or person responsible for it, it is unlikely to improve things for the sector as a whole. Meaningful changes to the national manufacturing sector can only be made if there is a widespread, national effort to honestly evaluate our businesses’ manufacturing processes and make improvements where we can. If multiple companies across the UK strive for newer, more efficient manufacturing processes, the manufacturing sector could finally be in a position to grow again.

Thankfully, the key to this particular puzzle might already exist. The Internet of Things, or, more precisely for our sector, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has been talked about for a few years as the next stage in our development. There are already a few articles on this site talking about the IIoT’s emergence, and there are several news stories from recent days and weeks discussing the latest movements of big, international countries towards a fully integrated manufacturing process. But what is the IIoT? And is it relevant to smaller, UK based businesses?

The IIoT is the connection of the machines in your manufacturing process to the internet. This is a significant step to take because it means that data can be gathered from those machines and used to make your processes more efficient. This data could range from something as simple as the regulation of heating In your factory to save money on energy bills through to analysis of individual machines to let you know if they’re not functioning at their peak. With this data, you would have the power to make sure that you are never spending more money than you need to, and that the potential of the resources that you already have is being maximised.

The IIoT represents a fantastic opportunity for UK SMEs. Yes, it requires some investment of time and money, but as the technology required becomes ever more accessible, the scale of the investment on your end will lessen. In return for your investment, you will get a more efficient manufacturing process that will improve your bottom line.

Remember, this is not something to leave to your product developers and engineers, this is something that needs to be implemented as a strategy within your business. If you’re an SME based in the UK, then you’re in a great position to tap into a highly-skilled, university-educated work force who will be able to take your IIoT vision and turn it into a reality, ensuring that you get the maximum return on your investment.

If the UK manufacturing industry is going to grow, we can’t focus on simply safeguarding what exists, we need to innovate and improve to keep making our products and processes better. With the emergence of the IIoT, we have the tools to make our factories and processes more efficient, and investment in this area can only improve things for our businesses and for the sector as a whole.

 

Patrick Tonks

Patrick Tonks

Patrick Tonks is Creative Director at Great Bean Bags, the UK’s largest bean bags online retailer. Great Bean Bags have been supplying homes, businesses and events with their bean bags since 1992. All their bean bags are 100% British, manufactured in-house at their bean bag factory in Nottingham.

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Tags: Industries, Manufacturing

Brexit – is your company ready for all eventualities?

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Britain’s manufacturing sector is officially at its lowest point in three years. Financial services company Markit reported that the speed at which the manufacturing sector is declining means the industry is now contracting at a rate of 1 per cent a quarter and is set to drag the UK economy as a whole down in 2016 [1].

This stark news has led many commentators to question the cause of this decline, and many are suggesting that heightened business uncertainty around the upcoming EU Referendum and the ongoing question of Brexit, may have greatly contributed. Analysts from the Centre for European Reform think-tank have stated that Britain’s trade with the rest of the EU is 55% greater than it would have been had the UK not entered the EU [2], indicating that a possible departure is likely to have a negative effect and be causing uncertainty in UK manufacturers. Experts think that this uncertainty may have also affected investment plans with many being delayed until after the June 23rd vote, when more informed and assured decisions can be made

If the vote for Brexit does go through there is no doubt that there will be disruption for many UK manufacturers. An exit from the EU may mean that manufacturers will have to revise their current systems and policies to abide to a different set of regulations, as they may no longer be following EU specified ones. Supply chains may be greatly impacted as many UK companies have suppliers and customers in the EU and Brexit is likely to result in additional levels of complexity for delivery.  It is expected that VAT and duties would be significantly altered. New trading arrangements are likely to replace the existing free trade arrangement with the EU that the UK currently enjoys.  Britain may need to negotiate new trade agreements with the EU and in the meantime UK border agencies would potentially charge import duties and also collect VAT on those imports.

A potential Brexit is just one macro factor that most UK companies are having to address within an environment of manufacturing uncertainty. In addition, globalisation is impacting many companies presenting both opportunities and threats to manufacturers. Martin Hill, VP of Marketing International at Epicor Software, commented, “Whilst contemplating the impact of Brexit on UK manufacturing, perhaps business leaders should be pausing to think globally and take advantage of the more sophisticated systems now available to assist in growth further afield than Europe.  With ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems designed for global expansion that support both local and global requirements, this form of expansion is far more realistic than may have previously been thought and can open the door to companies who would like to take their business global.”

However, globalisation can also be seen as a double-edged sword, this form of growth can be a threat as well. The world is becoming ever more connected with customers being able to choose from a global marketplace rather than one being dictated by geographic location. This opens up the possibility for companies to be undercut by cheaper competitors or going up against businesses with wider product ranges.

Fundamentally, whether companies are responding to the impact of current uncertainties for their business, coping with a possible exit from the EU or considering growth further afield, the common factor that all manufacturers will need are systems that they can fall back on to provide certainty during growth and transition. An ERP system that is robust, responsive and flexible could be a vital asset.  Modern ERP systems have advanced enough configurability to ensure they are able to respond usefully to all changes within the supply chain. They will be able to cope with the impact of more detailed administrative infrastructures that may be required and provide the data analysis to maintain your company’s market share and maintain your plans for continued growth, whether it is with a European or international focus.


[1] http://www.ft.com/fastft/2016/05/03/uk-manufacturing-suffers-shock-blow/?ft_site=falcon&desktop=true

[2] http://moneyweek.com/will-brexit-hurt-trade/

 

Andy Archer

Andy Archer

Andy Archer joined Epicor Software in 2016 and brings with him over 18 years’ experience from various roles in the enterprise software sector with 10 of those in the manufacturing industry. Andy is responsible for the manufacturing software sales for Epicor in the UK and Ireland, comprising of the company’s full range of solutions, including Epicor ERP, Epicor BisTrack, Epicor Tropos (process manufacturing), and Epicor Mattec MES sales teams. Andy has a wealth of executive level expertise in managing global software operations including marketing and sales execution, product design and development, project delivery and customer support. Prior to joining Epicor, Andy was Senior Vice President and General Manager at GuestLogix EMEA from 2013 to 2016. Prior to this he was responsible for leading the Pricing and Revenue Management business unit of JDA Software for seven years. Andy has also held senior leadership roles at Manugistics, Talus and SSA. Andy has a degree in Materials Science from Nottingham University. His hobbies include golf and travelling.

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Tags: Industries, Manufacturing

Best practice for IT managers in a crisis

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Crises happen, that’s inevitable. What matters is how you deal with a crisis when it happens.

When there is a crisis in IT, maybe a major security breach, or some kind of systems failure, the IT manager becomes the focus of the business and may find himself or herself on the receiving end of other people’s frustration.

The key lies in preparation.

Make a strategic plan

And to start, ensure what to do in the event of a crisis is put in writing. A technology road map is a document which combines an audit of existing technology with a plan clearly laying out how IT will be applied to meet the IT strategic plan. It should include procedures on how to respond to a crisis.

But whatever procedures you put in place, make sure all relevant personnel are familiar with these procedures. Companies apply fire drills; they may want to practice how they respond to a crisis.

Know who to contact

The crisis plan may involve a chain of contact, detailing who will contact who, for example and various responsibilities, detailing who is responsible for what.

Put back-up in place

It’s important to have IT redundancy and linked with that back-up.

A data centre for example, needs to have spare servers and storage in the event of failure and back-up power in the event of a power cut.

But also, ensure regular data back-ups, and that it is secure. In this way, if the IT system is subjected to say a denial of service attack – DDoS – or if your data is corrupted in some way, the back-up can at least enable you to rewind, and reset.

Data backup will also be essential in the event of a systems breakdown.

Prepare in advance!

By preparing in advance and trying to rehearse what to do in the event of a crisis, the situation can be managed more smoothly.

Even so, no amount of planning can prepare for all eventualities. This is why establishing communication channels is so important. The IT manager needs to keep cool in such circumstances, not shout, panic, or ever resort to rudeness.

But the IT manager can also play a role in ensuring that the company can respond to a broader crisis, maybe a problem with a product.  The IT manager can confirm that IT is appropriately geared to cope with a crisis. By making use of the cloud, IT can ramp up processing and storage capacity to meet extra demand, for example. The IT manager can guarantee smooth communication channels, for example ensuring it is easy to update websites with messages explaining how the company concerned is responding to a crisis. Or, it can ensure technologies for communication via social media or emails to customers.

By preparation and attempting to think through all possible crisis scenarios, the IT manager can maintain minimal disruption, even when the potential for damage when IT is unprepared is huge.

 

Dell

Dell

Dell empowers countries, communities, customers and people everywhere to use technology to realize their dreams. Customers trust us to deliver technology solutions that help them do and achieve more, whether they’re at home, work, school or anywhere in their world. Learn more about our story, purpose and people behind our customer-centric approach.

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Tags: Business, IT Transformation

Choosing the Best Disaster Recovery as a Service for your Business

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Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) comprises a range of processes run by a vendor to enable an organisation to iterate and implement a disaster recovery plan.

If bosses don’t have to worry about facing an IT disaster on an everyday basis, safeguards should still be in place in case the worst should happen. Having a reliable disaster recovery service could be a life-saver for your business, but it’s important that you choose the right one.

Solutions chosen will ultimately depend upon a firm’s recovery point objective (RPO), recovery time objective (RTO) and what can be done to minimise the time from disaster striking to reaching the RTO.

Disaster is, of course, a relative term; websites that do not require regular updating will be far more resilient to major disruption than a huge company for which downtime of any length can translate into catastrophic sums of money being lost.

Below we consider some key points bosses should bear in mind before choosing the provider that’s best for business.

Why you need DRaaS

DRaaS can be hugely useful for small- and medium-sized businesses that may lack the technical and practical ability to provision, configure and test-run an effective disaster recovery plan. Relying on an external provider also means firms can cut out having to invest and maintain their own disaster recovery systems.

When cloud-based, the disaster recovery avoids the need for in-house IT teams. This can be a financially attractive option too – the large part of providers will charge a flat fee for operation, monitoring and testing, while the greatest charges will fall when a major service is provided.

How to choose the best provider

Vendors of DRaaS typically offer a one-stop-shop solution, some of which may be designed to pair with Microsoft Exchange or SQL Server. Others can offer thorough cloud-based data centre and server restoration.

The larger the provider, the more resources clients are likely to get at their disposal in the DRaaS package, so it makes sense to find a solution with a globally recognised IT name.

Of fundamental importance is knowing that the DRaaS provider will be able to keep your organisation running as normal. This might sound an obvious point, but not all providers will cover all disaster eventualities while maintaining full operational capacity to all services.

DRaaS covers a huge range of potential services, so ensure that you know what you’re buying and what will be involved in contracts before taking the important decisions.


 

 

Dell

Dell

Dell empowers countries, communities, customers and people everywhere to use technology to realize their dreams. Customers trust us to deliver technology solutions that help them do and achieve more, whether they’re at home, work, school or anywhere in their world. Learn more about our story, purpose and people behind our customer-centric approach.

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Tags: Business, Digital Transformation

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