IT Solutions: 3 You Need

Business Continuity & Protection

With continued, rapid change and evolution of the cloud services and capabilities, we hear that we “need” many things. The reality, however, is that many of the “solutions” being hyped are not really needed. Therefore, we will cover three IT solutions that you do need.

1 Resilience

Basic protections against malware, ransomware, phishing, and other cyber attacks are no longer enough. Businesses are not pressing for better cybersecurity from suppliers. Cyber insurance carriers are looking for more cybersecurity capabilities to better manage their risks.

We expect most small and midsize businesses to be asked about, or required to deploy, more advanced cybersecurity services and solutions. Fortunately, these can be provided affordably and effectively to smaller businesses.

2 Continuity

It is not enough to be able to recover files from backup in the event of a disaster, system failure, or cyberattack. Your business needs to be able to return to operations (RTO) quickly, even if your operations are degraded. The ability to fully recover and return to normal operations (RTNO) is also a new priority.

If your customers are other businesses, you are part of a supply chain. Your customers are under pressure to ensure and demonstrate that their supply chains are secure and reliable. This means your customers want you to demonstrate that you are protected and, if a cyberattack happens, that you can recover quickly. Your business disruption is theirs as well. Your customers want and need assurances.

Continuity solutions for small and midsize businesses are effective and can be cost-effective when properly planned and executed. These can range from system images that run in the cloud in an emergency to using remote desktop/virtual desktop services.

3 Secure BYOD

A few years ago, “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) was just an experimental strategy. With hybrid and remote work now a part of our norm, BYOD can be an effective means to provide budget-friendly IT services to your team. The challenge is that employee devices being used for company work need to be managed and secured as if they are company-owned.

Employees need to allow you to install security tools, such as endpoint protection and remote management agents, as well as backup/recovery and continuity tools. This can be a difficult task, as employees worry about the privacy of their information on their personal devices.

Securing BYOD can be a mix of policies, procedures, technology, and compensation. Secure BYOD can also be attained by separating the device from the business apps and data. Remote Desktop/Virtual Desktop Infrastructure solutions allow any device to access and use a secure and private environment –  network, systems, applications, and data – without commingling personal and business apps and data.

What to Do:

The first step is to assess your current business resilience and continuity capabilities. Completing our free Rapid Security Assessment will provide a quick review along with recommendations specific to your business and needs.

Next, please contact us or schedule time with one of our Cloud Advisors. Without obligation, we are happy to discuss your business’s operational IT needs and how you may increase your capabilities and save money.

Finally, stay tuned, as our next blog post will cover three IT Solutions you can do without.

About the Author

Allen Falcon is the co-founder and CEO of Cumulus Global.  Allen co-founded Cumulus Global in 2006 to offer small businesses enterprise-grade email security and compliance using emerging cloud solutions. He has led the company’s growth into a managed cloud service provider with over 1,000 customers throughout North America. Starting his first business at age 12, Allen is a serial entrepreneur. He has launched strategic IT consulting, software, and service companies. An advocate for small and midsize businesses, Allen served on the board of the former Smaller Business Association of New England, local economic development committees, and industry advisory boards.

Protect Yourself from Personal Devices

(Published 4/12/20 – Get our Sample Policy)

For many businesses, employees are working from home for the first time. Given the rush to change how our businesses operate, many of those employees will be using home computers or personal devices.  While enabling companies to continue operating, doing so can place your business, data, customers, and employees at risk.

If you do not already have a policy in place, we have published a sample policy covering employee use of personal computers and devices. The policy, intended to augment your existing company policies (such as appropriate use), covers Company and Employee responsibilities.  Since you may need to install software and utilities on the device to ensure compatibility, secure access to your systems, and compliance with your data privacy and protection requirements, the policy strives to create a balance that ensure employees will not lose personal data or use of the device for personal reasons.

You can access the Sample Policy here, free of charge. Please review the policy with your HR and IT resources and modify it as necessary for your business.

As noted in the policy, you should expect to provision current versions of software and the necessary data protection tools. For example:

  • Most Office 365 licenses allow you to install the desktop software on up to 5 computers and 5 tablets/smartphones for each user.  These rights mean that you can provide employees with the same software on their home computers as they use in the office. Doing so improves productivity.
  • Employees may have antivirus protection software installed, which may or may not be current or sufficient for your needs.  You may want, or need to layer on advanced threat endpoint protection software that will not interfere with existing tools, such as Webroot.
  • Employees likely do not have dns/web protection services installed.  As the computer is used for personal activities, adding web protections can prevent web-based malware from impacting your data and business.

Please contact us for a complimentary Cloud Advisor session.  Without obligation, we can discuss your needs, discuss how to best protect your data/business, and recommend affordable solutions to consider.

Buy, Lease, DaaS, or BYOD?: Which Option is Right for Your Business

Leasing vs Buying Business EquipmentAs we noted in our last blog post, Moving Cloud Gets Real, small and midsize businesses like yours are reaching the tipping point where cloud solutions outweigh those running on-site. When this happens, you need to decide if/when you move your remaining on-premise systems to cloud infrastructure. As you do, you face the question about what to do with your end user devices, and more specifically, if leasing vs buying business equipment makes more sense.

Leasing vs Buying Business Equipment

Not Just a Desktop Computer Anymore

End user devices are no longer limited to the desktop/laptop purchased by the company. Most of your employees are regularly using personal smartphones, tablets, and other devices to conduct business — your business.

Four Options for Devices

When deciding on leasing vs buying business equipment and what devices your team will use, you have four options:

2. Buy

Purchase devices and provide them to employees, creating a company asset. Buy also includes finance leasing with the “$1 buyout” that gives you ownership of the device at the end of the lease.

2. Lease

Use a lease to pay for only the fair market value of the devices, returning and refreshing them with new models at the end of the lease.


Allow users to buy and use the device they choose.  They own the device, but use it for work, exclusively or non-exclusively.

4. Device-as-a-Service (DaaS)

Device-as-a-Service, or DaaS, is similar to a lease in that you pay monthly per device. DaaS differs from a lease in that you can, within guidelines, adjust the number of devices up or down, swap out devices for newer models, and replace damaged devices without penalties during the term of the contract. Many DaaS services include malware protection, support, and other services in the monthly fee.

Unless you are buying your staff all of the devices, they use, you already have some mix of “buy” and “bring your own device” (“BYOD”). For many businesses past the cloud tipping point, DaaS and BYOD become the best solutions. DaaS and BYOD let you equip your team with the tools that empower their productivity while maintaining cost controls.

Regardless of Weather You’re Buying or Leasing Business Equipment, You Own the Data

Whether you own your users’ devices or not, you own the data and are responsible for security and privacy.  You need to ensure you have policies and systems in place to secure, manage, and protect your company’s data. This means installing mobile device management and data protection and security tools on devices used for business, even if they are owned by an employee. Failure to do so leaves your exposed to data loss and breaches, and the civil and criminal penalties that can result.

Fortunately, policies need to be complex or difficult to enact. Providing data protection to mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, and — yes — laptops) has benefits for your employees as well. The key is to ensure that your policies and the support technologies are aligned.

Reach Out for a Consultation About Leasing vs Buying Business Equipment

Now is the time to discuss your device strategy and how you are, or will, protect user devices and the company data on those devices. Contact us for a free Cloud Advisor session to discuss options, opportunities, and managed cloud services.


Tech in the Classroom: Cool or School?

Attending the Massachusetts Computer Using Educators (MassCUE) conference this week is a great experience.  While we are excited to help some of the most innovative teachers and administrators learn more about using Google Apps and Chromebooks in the classroom, we are just as pleased to learn from them.

Schools are struggling to develop comprehensive plans for classroom computing.  Carts, one-to-one programs, and “bring your own device” (BYOD) programs are all in the mix. Beyond the technology selection, schools must address budget limitations and ensure fair access to solutions across the economic boundaries of students and families.

The “Cool” Factor

Add to the challenge: community pressure to use a “cool” technology.  School boards, administrators, and parents in many districts want to see new, cool technologies even if those technologies do not best meet the needs of the students or the educational program.

The most common example we have heard has been pressure to use iPads.  We agree, iPads are very cool.  With a wide array of apps, iPads bring the web, books, and video to life in a dynamic way.  They are lightweight, portable, and easy to use.

Easy to use, that is, until you need create content.  For all it’s strengths, iPads are not an efficient device for writing and editing.  Without a keyboard and with limited software options, iPads are not designed for serious data entry.  Typing a five paragraph essay or a term paper is not really feasible.  Educators and administrators discuss the difficulty in managing sync servers to get data off the devices, and that students given iPads still have a need for another device — laptop or desktop — to get their work done.

The perception, however, that iPad’s are a step forward and laptops are a step back creates pressure on schools to pick a technology that falls short of students’ needs.

Some New Options

Fortunately, schools are finding other options that may just meet the “cool” criteria. New tablets with attachable keyboards blend the touch screen, “post-PC”, experience with capabilities of a more traditional device.

Chromebooks, which lack the “touch” experience, are specifically designed to meet the challenges of web-based learning, one of the fastest growing trends in classroom computing.  They give students and teachers access to real-time and managed collaboration, video and multimedia capabilities, thousands of educational web sites and apps, and legacy applications via virtual desktop services.  Chromebooks, Chrome OS, and the Chrome OS Management Service also provide an ease of administration that can reduce administrative costs by 60% or more.  Pretty cool.

Picking a Path

The responsibility of selecting a student computing platform and program is not one to be envied.  Those making the hard decisions are making multi-year plans and committing large sums of money.  They deserve our support and the freedom to pick the best solution for the students and the school system.

Friday Thought: Is BYOD Right for Your Business?

A new trend is emerging in corporate IT that may make sense for small and mid-size businesses:  BYOD, or Bring-Your-Own-Device.  Companies with BYOD policies allow workers to pick their own smartphones, tablets, and, in some cases, laptop computers.  Most BYOD policies provide a fixed stipend for each type of device with employees free to spend more personally for a better device.

Recent articles in the New York Times and on have focused on this trend.   For large companies, BYOD policies …

  • Save money on purchases as employees often pick up part of the cost for better devices
  • Reduce demand on IT staff as BYOD employees often turn to other sources for help
  • Overcome the “my technology at home is better than at the office” syndrome

The challenge, of course, is security.  Not just access control, but virus and malware protection require standards and verification.

As more small and mid-size businesses move into the cloud, BYOD will make sense for smaller businesses as well.  Cloud computing solutions are more likely to be device independent, enabling users to pick their preferred smartphone, tablet, or laptop.  Google Apps, for example, provides native support for Android, iPhone, and Blackberry devices.

With BYOD, users pick the device or platform that works best for them, helping them be more productive.  As the recent articles note, colleges and universities have supported BYOD programs for some time with good results.  Users pick devices that best serve their needs, IT facilitates connectivity and support.

BYOD shifts some of the responsibility for support to the end user, so IT departments would be wise to ensure that end user support is available from key software and cloud solution vendors or resellers.   End users may turn to Apple for help with their iPad 2, but will need guidance from IT for issues of connectivity to applications and services.  Tier 2 support from the vendors or resellers should be a cost effective means to reduce demand for IT support.

The IT team needs to be prepared to help users navigate vendor support and, more importantly, configure devices to keep business and personal accounts separate.   And, if necessary, new SSO and identity management tools are available for smartphones and tablets.  While these tools add cost and a management layer, they can provide provide a level of security that may be appropriate whether the device is owned by the company or the employee.

Finally, a solid “usage” policy should be in place governing the use of company computing resources and how personal equipment and software may and may not be used for company business.  Having a policy in place sets guidelines and boundaries that will keep a BYOD program from getting out of hand.

With a sound set of usage policies and a reasonable stipend, BYOD can help small and mid-size businesses increase productivity.