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Postcard

Email (is still) Like a Postcard

Postcard
With all of the advancement in email servers, services, and cloud solutions, fundamentally, email is still like a postcard.

When you mail a postcard, the postal service will make its best attempt to get it delivered in a reasonable period of time.  While most postcards make it, occasionally a few get lost in the mail.

And while your message from vacation, your short message to a friend, or a quick thank you makes its travels, everybody that touches the postcard along the way can read it. Not that everybody, or even anybody will, but they can.

For the type of messages we send on postcards, we do not really care about privacy. Our email messages, however, often contain personal, sensitive, or corporate data that we want or need to keep private.

It is relatively easy for hackers to capture corporate data from emails as it travels across the public Internet. It is also easy for the staff at your MSP or IT service firm to read or intercept messages.

Yes, when we deploy Google Apps and other services, we put technology in place such as policy-based TLS encryption that helps mitigate risks and forced SLL encryption.  Many on-premise email servers have these features active as well.

But for many businesses, this is not enough. Government and industry regulatory requirements, including HIPAA, PCI, and PII, affect nearly every business with employees, that accepts credit cards, or keeps a customer file. Financial firms and publicly traded firms also face regulatory requirements from the SEC, FINRA, and Sarbanes/Oxley.

To meet increasing demands for data privacy and protection, you need message level encryption for at least those employees that deal with sensitive or protected information. If your solution is difficult to use, or inconvenient for recipients, employees will look to circumvent the system or opt not to encrypt messages, customers and partners will complain, and your business will suffer.

When looking at email encryption solutions, evaluate solutions that require little or no user involvement, make it easy for recipients to read encrypted messages, and work well on mobile devices. The good news, is that these solutions are affordable and can be deployed based on need.


For more information, contact us about selecting the right email encryption solution for you and your business.


 

Windows 2003 End of Life: You DO Have Options

NoWindows
On July 14, 2015, Microsoft officially halts support for Windows Server 2003 and will no longer provide security updates or other patches.

While Microsoft wants and expects you to jump forward to Windows Server 2012, this is not your only option.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein 

Upgrading from Windows Server 2003 to 2012 R2 is more than just upgrading your operating system, it is a wholesale replacement of your infrastructure. Industry insiders call it a “fork lift upgrade”, as you need new server hardware, your new edition of Windows Server, and new Client Access Licenses (CALs) — all of which must be 64-bit. And with the new OS version, you will need to upgrade or replace anti-virus, backup/recovery, and other software and systems tied to old environment.

And for what? A new version file server that gives you the same capabilities as your current file server. Granted, Windows 2012 has new capabilities, but if you needed or wanted them, you would have already made the move.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  ― Henry Ford

You DO Have Options

We are the first to acknowledge that cloud-based solutions are the right choice for every business in every situation. Cloud computing, however, has matured to the point that you should always give it serious consideration.

Imagine an environment for your employees where:

  • Email is fast, efficient, and reliable; protected from spam; and easily accessible from phones and tablets
  • Users can manage their calendars and appointments on their computers, phones, and laptops, and can share calendars with project teams
  • Files are stored in a central, secure location, but are securely accessible from desktops, laptops, phones, and tablets with out burdensome and slow VPN or remote desktop tools
  • Data is protected by multiple daily backups
  • User can share files and work together without endless streams of emails and attachments
  • Users can communicate and share ideas within documents, via text, by voice, or by video conferencing with screen sharing — for no additional cost
  • Legacy desktop and server applications are accessible through a web browser
  • Desktops, laptops, phones, and tablets are protected from viruses and malware with a known-risk database up to 500 times greater than your current anti-virus solution
  • Users can work on laptops costing less than $400 that if lost, damaged, or stolen, will not allow access to your sensitive data

If a some (or all) of these sound interesting to you, if you want your team to work more productively, or if you simply want to grow your business instead of your business’ IT, let us know.

Maybe the cloud is right for you.

Other Reasons to use Drive for Work

apps_for_work_256-colorWhen most of our clients compare Google Apps for Work with Drive for Work, they focus on the two most visible differences:

  • Drive for Work gives you unlimited Drive storage, instead of the 30GB per user for Gmail and Drive in Google Apps for Work.
  • Drive for Work includes Google Apps Vault for email (and, in the future, document) archiving and e-discovery services.

While these differences are enough for many companies to step up to Drive for Work, some of the less visible differences may prove more valuable in the long term.

Expanded Reporting

Google Apps for Work offers a limited number of audit and admin reports that cover basic statistics about user accounts and activities.  Drive for Work, already has an extended suite of admin and audit reports, giving you greater visibility into how various services are being used, including configurable audit reports for Drive.

Expanded APIs

Most companies will never program to the Google Apps Application Program Interfaces (APIs). Third party administration, security, and productivity applications, however, rely on these APIs to access and manage data in Google Apps. With Google’s commitment to expand the API suite for Drive for Work, third party applications, including BetterCloud, CloudLock, Backupify and others, will offer additional features and services with Drive for Work than they can with Apps for Work. As a customer, you get a more robust computing environment.

Granted, these additional capabilities alone may not, today, warrant the additional cost of Drive for Work. Yet, these features are indicative of a trend for broader features and investment in Drive for Work. If you need or want archiving and/or additional storage and are considering a la carte upgrades, consider the strategic impact of expanded reporting and APIs. They may just tip the scales in favor of Drive for Work.

 

For Students, 1:1 is not about devices, 1:1 is about teacher/student connection

When most schools talk about 1:1 programs, the focus immediately turns to the device or devices. We tend to direct schools to focus on educational outcomes, curricula integration, and other goals and objectives that will lead to the best device decisions and program structure. Maybe, however, we are all missing the point.

1 to 1 programs are really about teacher/student connection and interaction.

We know by informally surveying teachers when we speak at conferences, that Google Apps for Education, its collaboration tools, and Classroom enable teachers to provided 2 to 3 times more individual feedback in about 1/2 the time.

What we may be missing is that the platform can enable a broader teacher/student connection that goes beyond academics.

This video from the EDU team at Google shows us how.

Chrome Extensions, from Google, for the Google Apps User

ChromeWebStore_thumb
We are often asked which Chrome extensions we like and recommend for use with Google Apps. While extensions often relate to third party applications and services, here are several extensions from Google we install for most implementations:

  • Application Launcher for Drive
  • Chrome Remote Desktop
  • Docs PDF/PowerPoint Viewer
  • Google Calendar Checker (for some)
  • Google Docs
  • Google Docs Viewer
  • Google Keep (if the user uses Keep)
  • Google+ Notifications
  • Hangouts
  • Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides
  • Save to Google Drive
  • Send from Gmail

These can be added by users or configured and pushed out using the Chrome Management service within the Google Apps Admin Console.


If you want assistance managing chrome extensions and other applications through the admin console, please contact our Service Team.


 

 

 

5 Ways Google Apps Will Help Your Business

 

Not just an email service, Google Apps is a business platform that enables efficiency and productivity by giving your team better communication and collaboration tools.

In less than 12 minutes, Cumulus Global’s CEO Allen Falcon identifies 5 ways that Google Apps will help your business.

1) Improved Communications

2) Collaboration — More and Better

3) Secure Access — from anywhere at anytime

4) Business Continuity

5) Lower Operating Costs — instead of CapEx + OpEx 

The video is a recording of Allen’s Standing Room Only seminar at the Central Mass Business Expo in September 2014.  Click Here to view the recording and contact us for more information and a free assessment of your business’ cloud potential.


 

 

Security Alert: Protect Your Google Apps Account from Being Hacked

Data Protection
Over the past 4 to 6 weeks, we have seen an alarming increase in the number of Google Apps accounts that have been “hacked” across both our business and education customers.

Google Apps security is NOT the issue.  ALL of the hacked accounts are due to compromised user identities.

In every case we have encountered, the users have used their Google Apps email address and password with another service that has had a breach, or has had malware on their computer that provided username and password keystrokes to the hackers.

In both types of incidents, hackers then log in as the user and cause mayhem.

We strongly recommend the following actions:

1) Educate your users that they are not to use their Google Apps password for any other account not explicitly authorized. Users should also not use their Google Apps email address as the username for personal accounts with other services.

2) Check Your Systems for malware and make sure your endpoint protection is up to the task. If not, we recommend Webroot Endpoint Protection and Web Security Services (the link is to our edu site, but the service is available to business and government customers as well).

3)  Implement Two-Factor Authentication (2FA).  In business environments, users should be using 2FA to secure their accounts.  Implementation can be involved if you have other services linked to Google Apps, as you will need to generate service-specific passwords.

In education environments, 2FA is not practical for all users, as students and many faculty members may not have mobile devices available to access the Authenticator.  For schools, we recommend any user with partial or full administrative privileges have 2FA active.


Activating 2FA is covered by our support agreements.

For customers and others without support agreements, mention this blog post and we will discount our hourly support fee by 10%; W

We will discount Webroot deployment fees by 50%.  

Both offers expire on December 31, 2014.

Please contact our Service Desk for 2FA assistance; contact Sales regarding Webroot.

 

3 IT Shifts for Small Business: Cloud

Shifter
The nature of computing and how it’s used by business is changing – rapidly.  You have heard the buzzwords … mobile, social, cloud, big data, analytics, and others.  You probably have thought about your own business and thought the these changes are just for the enterprise.

Three major shifts in technology, however, can and will impact your organization:  Data; Cloud; and Mobile-Social.

Shift 2: Cloud

Not everything labeled “cloud” is actually “cloud computing”.  For our purposes, that’s okay.  Whether meeting the strict definition of cloud computing or a hosted service, the cloud is transformational.

Virtualization, one of the underlying mechanisms of building cloud services, is the entry point for most businesses doing it themselves.  Virtualization, however, is only the baseline.

The real power of the cloud is that IT and business processes transform into digital services.

Filing an auto insurance claim, for example, used to be a time-consuming process with paper forms, phone calls, visits to repair shops, and meeting with adjusters.  Today, filing a claim is digital service available to the policy holder by mobile app that instantly puts the information in the hands of the broker, adjuster, and back-office.

Cloud technology has the power to transform business models. Small businesses are less limited by geography than any other time in human history. Scalable, affordable resources empower companies to experiment and development without prohibitive capital investment. The pace of innovation accelerates and time to market drops.

While some small businesses may deliver cloud-based solutions to customers, for your business, the impact on the customer may be indirect. Better relationship management and systems enhance the way we sell. Better support systems scale with our customer base, enable self-help, and improve communications. Even simple abilities, like secure calendar sharing, make it easier for your customers to make appointments to speak with you and your team.

The cloud makes it easier for us to select specific applications and services. And we can integrate these applications and services into a single computing ecosystem without huge investments in middleware, custom programming, and infrastructure.

Where you start with the cloud depends on how you want your business to evolve. We recommend beginning with a platform that enables communications and collaborations, and can serve as the integration point for CRM, ERP, and other applications, as well as line of business systems.

Beware of Marketplace Apps on the Move


Last week, Google announced that the Google Apps Marketplace was open for business to all Google Apps users, not just administrators.

While this move opens up a wide range of personal productivity applications to Google Apps users, it is not without risks.

  • Your users can now commit you to paid apps and services that you may not want as part of your environment.
  • Apps may require permissions to data in your Google Apps environment that needs to be, or you want to be, private and secure.
  • Not all apps are from well-known vendors.

As we have written in the past, third party apps can present a risk to your data and your business.  And while Bring-Your-Own-App (BYOA) can be beneficial to staff efficiency and effectiveness, Google Apps administrators should careful and should understand the security health of the domain.

As such, consider turning off marketplace access to all users.  (Customers with a support plan: Ask us and we will do this for you).

We also recommend that you consider a Google Apps Security Health Check (special offer through Sept 30th) to ensure that Marketplace, mobile, and other third party apps are not already posing a risk.


If your current Google Apps reseller is not providing guidance on best practices, security and other important issues, contact us.  We would love to have you join us as a client. 

 

 

 

The Google Apps / Gmail Breach That Isn’t

Health Check News over the past few days that hackers have posted almost 5 million email addresses and passwords on an online forum has caught the media’s attention in large part because about 4.7 million of the addresses appear to be gmail accounts.

This is NOT, however, a breach of Gmail or Google Apps.  

The information appears to be from other sites and sources for which users provide their email address as their login.  In fact, several people that have found their address on the list report that the information is not their login information for Gmail or Google Apps.  As reported by Mashable, your risk is low.

Given it is not a Google Apps or Gmail breach, are you at risk?

Maybe!  Google has already analyzed the list and found some users that may be using their Google account password for other sites.  Google has notified these users and is forcing them to change their passwords. For the bigger picture:

If you use the same username/email address and password for all of your services, and one service is breached, then you are at risk of hackers gaining access to some or all of your services.

If a service is breached and you have granted the service access to your Google Apps environment, your data may be at risk.

Recommended Actions

Step One:  It is not easy, but avoid using the same password for multiple services, sites, or accounts.  And don’t write passwords down to remember them.

Step Two:  Be careful when and how you allow services to connect with one another.  For example, LinkedIn needs your gmail.com password if you are going to import contacts. While this may be safe to do, other services may not be as trustworthy.

Step Three:  Read and understand security permissions when you install apps on your mobile devices.  Many apps recognize and request access to other apps and services already on your phone.  Human nature is to say “grant” or “allow” without reading or fully understanding the implications, risks, or the trustworthiness of the app’s creators.


Note for Businesses, Governments, and Schools running Google Apps: Users installing 3rd party apps, particularly on cell phones, may be granting access to data stored in Google Apps.  To see if you have a risk, we offer a Google Apps Security Health Check that will document access rights and evaluate your level or risk, if any.  

Click Here for Information