The Importance of Protecting Your Files is no Joke

storageOrganizations have historically gone to great lengths to protect company files and data. Administrative department managers would spend thousands of dollars a year to develop secure storage options for their paper records, organizing and storing files in fireproof and waterproof lockable file cabinets, with enormous budgets for renting off-site space at document storage facilities to carefully protect their paper archives. The desired end result of these efforts was to protect important documents from disaster and to provide a means for employees to quickly retrieve records.

As digital storage technologies take center stage, it is shocking what little effort organizations make in ensuring that their data is available and recoverable. Very few worry about high availability access to their data onsite (utilizing a SAN instead of direct attached storage, or employing a virtualization cluster instead of a conglomerate of individual hosts). And in a 2013 survey, more than half of the organizations surveyed reported that they do not ensure daily backups of their electronic files.

In a recent review of statistics, we found that less than 25 percent of SMB organizations choose to backup their data to an offsite data center. This suggests that over 75 percent of these organizations are comfortable with the idea of permanently losing crucial data and of closing their businesses in the event of a natural disaster.

But we know that this is not the case. We realize that cost, time and denial often get in the way of doing what is best for our organizations. Oftentimes, we simply need a gentle reminder of the importance of regularly backing up our files. World Backup Day is observed on March 31 of each year, bringing attention to this administrative task that was once taken very seriously.

We tend to convince ourselves that a catastrophic event or a significant loss of data is not going to happen to us. But these things happen to all of us at one time or another. Information technology advisors must consistently remind their clients of the importance of data availability and recoverability, asking the probing questions and encouraging clients to ask of themselves those same questions. How much data are you willing to lose (RPO)? How long are you willing to be down (RTO)? Are you content with losing data in the event of a building or company-wide disaster?

World Backup Day is our annual reminder of the significance of protecting essential data. But don’t wait for a catastrophic event to remind you that faithfully backing up your data and protecting your files is as critical to your organization as it was when we once treated paper files with kid gloves and stored them in durable filing cabinets. By the time disaster strikes, it will be too late.

 

The Arts Have a Direct Impact on Economic Development

by Tom Hastings

gcac finalWhen we think about economic development, the first thing that often comes to mind is the efforts made to create and the retain jobs and talent in a community. Measures to improve education and training, as well as government intervention to reduce property taxes and stimulate economic growth, are regularly employed as means to advance economic development. As important, however, is the advancement of the arts in communities, including Columbus, which has proven to be a prevailing factor in economic development. Overwhelming evidence suggests that communities who invest in the arts are promoting economic growth for their citizens.

The Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC) advocates for the advancement of the arts and culture in the Columbus, Ohio region. As the importance of sustained job growth becomes more apparent, so does the need for efforts to cultivate a flourishing arts community. The GCAC provides mounting evidence that the arts impact our community in a number of different ways, including the attraction and retention of talent and increased tourism and convention business. The impact to economic development is profound: the Columbus region realizes $226 million in economic activity and 8,500 jobs as a result of the arts.

Economic development can’t be measured merely in short-term dollars and cents. Genuine, sustained economic development is achieved over a period of time, and the arts are an important part of that effort. While local and federal government programs may stimulate development, organizations like the GCAC are what make the community attractive to the talent we’re trying to retain and attract that will help Columbus prosper. Our community will benefit the most – economically and culturally – from the ongoing sponsorship of the arts by local business leaders and individuals. thinkCSC is proud to support the efforts of the Greater Columbus Arts Council.

trends

5 Tech Trends Every Business Should Consider in 2014

trendsMost businesses are still in the process of evaluating how IT will fit into their strategic plan this year. As we work with clients to develop strategies that provide cost-effective, efficient solutions, we have recognized a number of tech trends that will impact most commercial, government and educational institutions.

Today’s tech trends are often tomorrow’s best practices, so knowing how to embrace these trends and take advantage of the leverage they provide is essential to the continued success of your business. Investing in these technologies can often free your organization from monotonous obligations, allowing you to focus on growth, knowing that security and productivity are under control.

Here are five tech trends every organization should be implementing:

Voice Communications:  VoIP vs. Hosted PBX

There are fundamental differences between VoIP and Hosted PBX phone solutions. Yes, both VoIP and Hosted PBX offer mass customization, cost savings, global distribution, centralized messaging, customized caller-ID and the ability to connect virtual offices – unlike conventional phone systems. However, some phone providers market VoIP as a SIP trunk to a client’s existing digital phone system. This is NOT a VOIP phone system. Although the client is leveraging the internet for voice communications, they are still dependent on the limitations of their digital phone system. Furthermore, an “on-premise” VOIP phone system, that uses traditional phone lines or even SIP, is not a Hosted PBX. A Hosted PBX solution has no need for an “on-premise” VoIP phone system. With a hosted PBX solution, your phone system is 100% in the cloud, which allows for greater flexibility and customization versus an “on-premise” VoIP solution.

Secure and FAST Data Storage

Storage is a critical component of your IT infrastructure, and the newest storage technologies offer benefits that every organization can leverage from: power, density and incredible speed. thinkCSC offers Nimble Storage solutions that not only offer a more cost-effective way to achieve these benefits but also provide an unparalleled level of security, as well as rapid backup and recovery for your data.

BYOD

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a trend no business can ignore, and those who do often run the risk of data and security breaches. BYOD already exists in one form or another for most businesses, so developing protocols to ensure safety, confidentiality and best practices is paramount.

Cloud Computing

Cloud adoption has moved beyond that of a mere trend and into common practice, but a planned approach to cloud computing is necessary. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work, but the benefits of cloud computing can improve security, productivity and efficiency.

Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing (EFSS)

EFSS is a powerful way to foster collaboration and improve efficiency, but it presents a number of challenges to businesses. While it’s tempting to use content solutions like DropBox for file sharing, the risk to your business in doing so is often too high, since you have no control over changes to the documents and no ability to recover lost documents.

SyncedTool not only makes it possible to collaborate efficiently, with multiple users being able to access the same document at the same time, but also offers comprehensive security solutions, including:

  • The ability to remotely wipe an employee’s device if needed, to protect your data
  • The ability to control who has access to which documents as well as the ability to restrict levels of access
  • The ability to rapidly remove access to files once an employee leaves the company
  • Secure, local hosting of your documents and files, making backup and recovery a non-issue

SyncedTool is a more robust system that gives you the power of efficient, cost-effective collaboration without the security and productivity risk of consumer-based document sharing tools like DropBox.

These tech trends are powerful tools worth considering for your organization. If you’re interested in learning more, contact us.

New Storage Technologies Take Center Stage

thinkCSC-NimbleFrom filing cabinets to wireless hard drives, file or data storage has always been a key consideration for any organization. Adequate, reliable storage is a critical means of protecting your data and that of your customers. As well, your choice of data storage directly impacts server and application performance, making storage a critical component of your IT infrastructure.

The storage industry is in the midst of its largest transition in more than 20 years. Solid state storage (also referred to as flash storage) is becoming standard in most new laptops and tablets. Established storage companies are racing to integrate flash storage into their legacy devices, and new storage companies are emerging with new designs for flash. These new storage technologies introduce staggering benefits: power, density and incredible speed improvements

thinkCSC has recently partnered with one of the most successful pioneering storage companies: Nimble Storage. Nimble has developed a unique way of optimizing the best of both disk and flash storage options into a simple, easy-to-use storage solution, creating a “Hybrid Storage” technology that we believe will provide a significant advantage to our clients.

Nimble vs. Traditional Storage: Performance

  • Nimble’s file system provides 50 times more performance than the traditional disk equivalent.
  • Hybrid storage offers speeds that rival flash performance but at disk prices.

Nimble vs. Traditional Storage: Simplicity

  • Nimble Storage setup takes less than an hour, and storage management is a breeze. We can add more storage in just a few minutes.
  • With Nimble’s cloud-based InfoSight, our storage array is monitored by Nimble support in real-time.
  • Using the InfoSight portal, we are able to track usage and performance data over time, providing you with much more transparency and information than with traditional storage methods.

Nimble vs. Traditional Storage: Data Protection and Security

  • Nimble offers near-instant data protection and data recovery with its built-in snapshots. Snapping data every 15 minutes with several months of retention gives us a very simple, yet complete protection strategy with very little space utilization. In the event of data loss, entire volumes or individual files can be recovered.
  • Since snapshots and replication are included for free, we can easily add an offsite array for offsite date retention and disaster recovery.
  • Nimble’s snaps require less space and provide extended retention capabilities without impacting performance, thereby offering a huge improvement over traditional storage technology.

If you’re interested in seeing how Nimble can save your business time and money while providing better data security and protection, contact our team today for a demo.

Security Alert: Xerox WorkCentre

We have received several reports from clients who are receiving suspicious emails from Xerox WorkCentre, whether or not they actually use the device.

If you receive a message with “Scanned Image from a Xerox WorkCentre” as a subject and a zip file as an attachment, DO NOT OPEN IT FOR ANY REASON.

As a general practice, no company or device (copier, fax machine, scanner) will ever send you a zip file. You may receive zip files from individuals, but companies and services will not typically send zip files; always proceed with caution.

The Service Desk is always available to answer questions if someone is unsure of a file or attachment. Please contact us if you have opened the email or receive suspicious emails in the future.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Support Remote Workforce without Sacrificing Productivity

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile there may be a number of technical and administrative hurdles preventing you from getting work done, during this time of year, inclement weather and a variety of holiday disruptions make doing so even more difficult.

thinkCSC offers a variety of solutions to help you foster productivity during the holidays while allowing employees to work from home. And we can help you protect your data at the same time.

Not only will you be able to minimize security risks, fostering a remote workforce can reduce risk of personal injury due to hazardous commutes and can keep your team members happy through the holidays. All of this can be realized without sacrificing your business. The goals of implementing a successful remote workforce program should include security, ease of use and flexibility.

Improve Security with Controlled Access

When you allow staff to work from home, one of the biggest concerns you’ll have to address is information security. From ensuring your secure data doesn’t land in the wrong hands to keeping relevant data with the appropriate employees, SyncedTool is a cloud-based solution that allows you to control who can access what files. This tool even provides a remote wipe option in case an employee opts to take a permanent vacation.

Make Working Off-Site Simple and Seamless with Remote Desktop and VoIP

When an employee logs in from home, regardless of the device they are using, it should be a seamless experience. The employee should be able to have exactly the same data set at home as they would at work. A remote desktop allows your employee to have access to everything he or she would have at the office, without the company’s security being compromised. VoIP allows any customer to call your employee’s extension and have it ring through to their cell phone wherever they are.

Improving Worker Flexibility Is Good for Business

Bob Schulz, a professor at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, co-authored a book on the benefits of what Canadians refer to as teleworking. “It makes a lot of sense for not only corporate productivity but also reducing emissions, reducing accidents and also improving productivity. It really is difficult from an analytical perspective to see why companies aren’t encouraging more telework,” explains Schulz. Ensuring business as usual during the winter months can be one of the most pressing issues this time of year for any organization; however, allowing your employees to work from home and providing the means to ensure the successful launch of a remote workforce is a viable answer to this often bitter-cold challenge. And freeing your employees from the chains of a cubicle can improve productivity, loyalty and service.

When implementing a flexible work arrangement, whether this includes your whole staff or a single employee, the most important factors to address are the security of your data and the seamlessness of the experience. thinkCSC’s cloud solutions, including SyncedTool and Remote Desktopas well as VoIP, will help you develop flexible work policies that offer measurable benefit to the company without the risk to your data or your employees.

Security Alert: VoIP Users Targeted in Email Message Attack

thinkCSC is urging all VoIP users to take precautions when receiving voicemail to email services, as thinkCSC has identified a new security risk targeting VoIP users. The attack sends a voicemail to email with a .zip or .exe attachment that, when opened, can infect the user’s system and network.

The voicemail to email message will look like it comes from your messaging system but will be from an unknown number. thinkCSC urges VoIP users to proceed with caution when receiving a message from an unknown number. Do not open any .zip or .exe files. Legitimate voicemail to email message formats are .wav or ,mp3 files; if you receive any other type of file, you should assume it is a fake voicemail to email message.

These harmful messages are typically from numbers using non-existent area codes. A listing of all U.S. and Canadian area codes can be found here.

What To Do If You Have Received a Fake Voicemail to Email Message on Your VoIP Service:

  • Do not open any message that is not in .wav or .mp3 format
  • If you receive a message with a .exe or .zip file attached, DO NOT open it
  • If you believe your system has already been compromised, or if you have already opened the file, contact thinkCSC right away.

If you have any questions or believe you have been a target of this threat, please contact our team at your earliest convenience.

Ohio: A Great State to Do Business

by Tom Hastings

OhioOhio has once again been represented as one of the best states to do business, according to Site Selection magazine, and is now ranked as the fourth best state in 2013. Corporate site selector surveys account for 50 percent of the ranking; the remaining percentage is based on criteria that includes competitiveness rank, qualified projects and firms’ state tax burden. Columbus has also been recognized by Forbes as one of the best cities for tech jobs and one of the best cities for working mothers. Ohio was even named the best state for banking in 2012 by Money Rates.

That’s quite a résumé. But why is Ohio such a great state in which to do business?

As a business owner and long-time resident of the state, I believe a combination of factors make Ohio a great state for business development. Not only do the state and city leaders work tirelessly to create opportunity, support businesses and encourage our talented graduates to stay in Ohio after they graduate, but there is a singular focus on innovation in Ohio.

Ohio is the home of two of the world’s greatest innovators, Orville and Wilbur Wright, who owned and operated a bicycle repair shop in Dayton while they endeavored to build a flying machine. And since their time, Ohio has continued to emphasize technology, innovation and smart growth. In a PR Newswire article, the Ohio Business Development Coalition and former Governor Ted Strickland cite a number of advances in education, technology and the state tax structure that account for Ohio’s successful business climate.

Businesses enjoy other advantages in Ohio. The state is centrally located, having access to the greater percentage of the U.S. population; given the abundance academic institutions, the state touts a large talent pool from which to draw; the aforementioned business-friendly tax environment gives businesses a distinct advantage; and the community offers a great deal of support. And did I mention that the quality of life in Ohio is phenomenal?

Whether you are just beginning to build your business or have already established a successful business in Ohio, you already know the truth: Ohio is a good place for business.

Security Alert: Do Not Open .TIFF Files from Unrecognized Sources

Zero-Day attacks targeting Windows users has been detected by Microsoft and is already affecting people in Asia an the Middle East. It is expected to spread to the U.S. and Europe very quickly. This vulnerability enters your system when you open a .TIFF file and allows the attacker (potentially on a remotely hosted computer) to gain administrative access to your system and network.

It is imperative that you refrain from opening any questionable .TIFF file, as the messages are often constructed to make the user believe they are coming from a trusted choice.

While Microsoft is working to develop a patch to protect users, at this time, current antivirus and firewall solutions are unable to prevent infection. Most vulnerable are Microsoft Office users who are running Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008. Microsoft Office 2003 through Office 2010 are impacted in this zero-day attack.

If you have any questions or believe you have been a target of this threat, please contact our team at your earliest convenience.

Security Alert – Installing OS X Mavericks

We are receiving a number of reports from clients that the latest OS X Mavericks updates are creating major compatibility, hardware driver, file sharing and printing compatibility issues, as well as other problems. We recommend that you refrain from installing OS X Mavericks until you check with us in order to avoid downtime. Apple is providing OS X Mavericks under the normal updates section with no cost associated with the update.

Because of the issues we’re seeing, we believe the wisest approach is to contact our tech team first and make sure you will not experience any of the compatibility issues being reported. If you have already run the update and you’re experiencing problems, please let us know. If you have any questions or need assistance with your OS X Mavericks update, please contact our team at your earliest convenience.