Take a Page from the Boy Scouts: Be Prepared

17 Merit Badges on BandoleerThere are a lot of factors that go into making a successful business, but the number-one factor is having the ability to remain open and operational despite any disruptions. Keeping your business operational so that you can serve your customers – providing that business continuity – would be simple if not for the what-ifs. And it’s because of the what-ifs that the Boy Scout’s motto, Be Prepared, will serve you well.

  • What if there is an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, or other natural disaster that either destroys your building or makes it impossible for you to work from that location?
  • What if a fire consumes your building, or a flood or water leak makes it unusable for a time?
  • What if a vandal breaks into your building and destroys your equipment?
  • What if, despite your best efforts to prevent such a scenario, an employee opens an unknown email attachment and delivers a virus to your entire network?

Can You Navigate Potential Disruptions?

Your customers can’t afford to care about those catastrophes that may affect your business; if they can’t still be served, they are likely to find somewhere else to go. And being prepared doesn’t just mean readying your business for the big disasters; you may experience the minor inconvenience of a single-day power outage that occurs when a road worker accidentally cuts through a buried utility line. For your organization to succeed despite the “what-ifs,” you need to have a business continuity plan.

  • If your building is destroyed or inaccessible, do you have a location from which you can work and handle customer needs?
  • If your equipment is damaged or infected with a virus, do you have your information backed up offsite that you can access from anywhere?
  • If your network goes down, can your employees continue working by accessing your offsite backup?
  • If the phone lines go down, do you have a plan in place to still receive calls from customers?

Disaster Recovery: Rebuilding After a Crisis

Your business continuity plan is designed to keep you operational in the moments during and after an unplanned disruption has occurred. It may include protocols, such as everyone works from home, or key personnel meet at an alternate worksite to keep the business operational during a disruption. But that can only work if a part of your business continuity plan includes disaster recovery.

Disaster recovery is the rebuilding of your network, system, data, and infrastructure after the disruption is over – and it ensures that you have the data you need to remain operational in the short term. Disaster recovery planning should include:

  • Automated backups of critical files to an offsite location
  • Access to offsite information from any location
  • The ability to work from virtual machines on an alternate server
  • File- and image-based backups
  • System monitoring
  • A team of expert engineers at your disposal to help you recover when the worst happens

Be Prepared

Don’t wait for a catastrophic event to remind you of the importance of being able to continue serving your customers. Having a plan for remaining operational, that includes backing up your data and protecting your files, is critical to plan for before disruptions occur. By the time disaster strikes, it will be too late. Ask thinkCSC to help you develop a disaster recovery plan that keeps your business running in the most difficult situations. Contact us to learn how.

 

thinkCSC cloud

Cloud Security Needs to Be a Priority Focus

file000638981230It’s inevitable that more and more operations are shifting to the cloud for data storage and network security. It’s efficient, cost-effective, and makes it much easier to employ a mobile workforce. But if you don’t know where your data is being stored or who owns it, your shift to the cloud can be fraught with risks.

Ensuring Cloud Security

The best way to ensure cloud security is to know where your data is and who has access to it. And in choosing a cloud service provider, the following factors should be considered:

  • Access to your data. Your cloud service provider should have adequate network availability to ensure you have access to your data in the cloud regardless of when or how often you need it. While not truly a security issue, if you can’t access your data, it’s no different than a denial of service, a cyber-attack, or a data breach.
  • Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR): Your cloud service provider should make backup and disaster recovery processes their highest priority. As a business leader, you need to have confidence in knowing that your business operations will continue even if there is a disaster – either at your location or at the location of your cloud services provider. Protecting your data is a full-time job.
  • Complete transparency. The cloud services provider with whom you choose to work should become a partner in your business continuity, working diligently with you to ensure your IT goals are met and taking the time to understand your specific needs, security requirements, and constraints.
  • Proactive security. Your cloud service provider should offer aggressive, proactive security by providing enterprise threat detection, which screens potential threats before they become a risk to your business by blocking malicious connections, blocking threats by malicious domains, and detecting and blocking threats from any compromised device.

thinkCSC has not only invested in owning its own cloud but has developed partnerships to enhance security and services that ensure our clients:

  • Avoid revenue losses from downtime
  • Enjoy the ability to predictably plan business development with an OPEX approach to IT
  • Enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing their proprietary information remains private, secure, and in the U.S.
  • Are compliant with regulatory, industry, and corporate requirements

Every business has data in the cloud. To ensure your cloud security, contact us today.

 

it health

How Is Your IT Health?

We’re almost half-way through 2015 already, and as quickly as time is going, it’s important that businesses take the pulse of their IT health. We’re here to help, but in some cases, you’ll need to act soon.

Windows Server 2003 Support Ends July 14, 2015

Windows Server 2003 has moved to the top of the endangered species list. Better performance and security is within her grasp. The application-moving process required to upgrade your server from to Windows Server 2012 is a time-consuming and delicate process requiring careful planning. Read more.

Take Control of the Human Element

There are many risks you can control when it comes to protecting your data and your business, but the biggest risk is one that can be very difficult to control: people. Phishing scams, in particular, play on the fears and insecurities of your staff, making them inadvertently reveal information that puts your whole organization at risk. We can help you reduce the chances it will happen in your office. Read more.

School’s Out for Summer: Time to Take the Pulse on Your EdTech

thinkCSC partners with K-16 schools to assist in developing cost-effective EdTech strategies. From helping schools purchase hardware and software at discounted rates to providing better-than-OEM warranties that ease the pain of managing tech in schools, thinkCSC is a proud partner in education, helping you embrace EdTech safely and cost-effectively. Read more.

It’s Not Too Late to Save Your Business Money and Make Costs More Predictable

Managed IT services, while not a new trend, will take center stage for even more companies because the need to maintain state-of-the-art equipment and have access to offline backup and disaster recovery will be too great to ignore and too costly for every non-IT business to do well. Shifting from a capital expenditure model for IT to an OPEX model will also be a priority for businesses striving to remain globally competitive. Managed IT services accomplishes that. Read more.

How Is Your IT Health?

IT is becoming more integral to every area of business operations. From file storage to physical security, IT plays a role in making sure your business remains not only operational, but competitive, efficient, and prepared for rapidly changing customer demands. Yet if your approach to IT is chaotic or reactive – waiting until something goes wrong and then reacting in a haphazard manner to try and repair any damage – it’s time to improve your IT health. Read more.

thinkCSC is dedicated to creating customized, comprehensive, and cost-effective services that result not only in better efficiency and security but the peace of mind you need to focus on your business operations. We believe every organization should have access to top-level technical support and expertise from a partner dedicated to helping you achieve your objectives.Contact thinkCSC to learn more.

Join Us in Sandusky for a Google EdTech Event

iTIP-Ohio-Logo-150On May 14 and 15 at Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, the Instructional Technology Integration Partnership of Ohio (ITIP Ohio) is hosting an edtech summit featuring Google for Education. With sessions such as “Google Classroom 101” and “Preparing Chrome Books for Online Testing,” school administrators will have the opportunity to learn how to make the most of the technology that is becoming commonplace in every school.

thinkCSC will be on hand at this Google edtech event both to improve your knowledge and understanding of Google classrooms as well as to help school administrators learn how to manage their tech requirements cost effectively. With our expertise in infrastructure and security requirements, we can help you make the most of your Google classroom. thinkCSC partners with K-12 schools to assist in developing cost-effective edtech strategies. From helping schools purchase hardware and software at discounted rates to providing better-than-OEM warranties that ease the pain of managing tech in schools, thinkCSC is a proud Ohio education partner.

We are excited to have the opportunity to connect with school administrators and educators to discuss the enormous opportunity that exists in delivering edtech in a comprehensive, secure, and budget-friendly manner. If you plan on attending ITIP Ohio Summit in Sandusky, please be sure to stop by and see us. To learn more about what we can do to help your school embrace edtech safely and cost effectively, contact us.

We are looking forward to being a part of this event and hope to see you there.

Learn more about the ITIP Ohio Summit, and register now to attend.

 

Social Networking And Cyber Security Concept

Phishing Takes Advantage of Your Weakest Security Link

phishing2Phishing is one of the most insidious data security threats to an individual and a business, taking advantage of your weakest security link: people. Phishing is the attempt to obtain personal and business security information by pretending to be a legitimate email communication from a trusted source.

Here’s a recent example of just such a communication that came in to our lead network engineer, Henry:

From: Apple Global Service Exchange <gsx_reply@apple.com>
Date: March 16, 2015 at 6:15:16 PM EDT
To: Undisclosed recipients:;
Subject: Your GSX account need update.

phishing

On the surface, the email looks legitimate and might immediately cause alarm to the recipient. But were you to click on “check your account,” the link would not take you to Apple; instead, it would take you to laflores.net, a website that looks like an exact replica of the Apple sign-in page. Had Henry fallen for the email and entered his information, laflores.net would have his Apple ID, access to whatever account information he had stored there, and possibly enough information to do real harm.

This is an example of a classic phishing attempt. From fake GSX requests to warnings from your bank that your account has been compromised, thereby encouraging you to log in and change your password, every individual who is duped into responding to one of these messages is putting personal and company information at harm.

How Can Your Business Protect Itself from Phishing?

The most important step you can take to protect yourself from phishing, or any cyber-attack, is to have the best network security and enterprise threat detection available. But as you can see from the email that Henry received, phishing emails are still going to reach your employees, so the other effort business leaders must make to protect themselves is to train employees to recognize and reject these emails.

Anti-Phishing Guide

Cybercriminals are insidious and will prey on fear. While emails are most common, pop-up messages warning you that something is wrong will also be used to create enough fear to get someone to click on the links. Some cybercriminals will even phone you to perpetrate the scam.

Teach your employees to watch for these indications of email phishing:

  • The email may not address you personally or refer to your specific user name.
  • The link will look legitimate on the surface but the url will go somewhere other than the company marketed. Hover over the link (without clicking) to see the actual URL. The link may even be very similar to the actual company URL, so be cautious. Rather than click the link, open a new browser and manually type in the actual link of the website in question if you need to check your account status.
  • Many phishing emails will contain syntax or grammar errors. They may have spelling mistakes. If you look closely at the sample above, you’ll see the grammar is off and there are punctuation errors. A professional organization would not send something like this.
  • The email may have a threatening overtone, making it seem that urgent action is required to protect your account.
  • Cybercriminals may even call, pretending to represent the company in question, then ask you for personal information in order to access your account. Most legitimate companies will not make outgoing calls to solicit this information. Hang up and call back to the company’s legitimate support number to verify.

Humans are easy targets because our emotions can be manipulated. A level of skepticism is required in order to keep your personal and business security intact. When in doubt:

  • Don’t click a link
  • Don’t open a file
  • Don’t provide personal information
  • Don’t download anything from unknown sources

Feel free to use this guide with your employees. If you are concerned about your business network security, contact thinkCSC to learn more. 

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thinkCSC Leadership Series: Columbus Is an Intelligent Place to Do Business

by Tom Hastings

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I’ve mentioned before how strongly I feel that Ohio is a great place to do business, so it’s really no surprise that – for the third consecutive year –  Columbus has been named as one of the “Top7 Intelligent Communities of 2015” by the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF). The ICF recognized Columbus for its efforts on several fronts, including:

  • Having the “highest concentration of Fortune 1000 companies in America”
  • The excellent research facilities of Ohio State University (OSU) and Battelle
  • The city’s efforts to tackle the challenges of a higher-than-average low-income population
  • The city’s investment in advanced broadband access
  • The regional economic partnership between Columbus and Dublin (a former Top7 Intelligent Community)

The ICF also recognized the efforts of the Central Ohio Compact in their efforts to make higher education more affordable and accessible, as well as Rev1Ventures (formerly: TechColumbus) for its efforts in fostering business startups. Mayor Coleman was applauded for his efforts to revitalize East Franklinton. All of these efforts have had measurable payoffs, and Columbus has seen a decade of growth in skilled manufacturing.

The selection of the Top7 Intelligent Cities is a 10-month process that begins with nominations of cities around the world. Those nominations are narrowed down to 21 finalist cities, and to reach the top seven cities, those finalists provide detailed data that is analyzed and scored by an independent research firm.

This year’s theme was “The Revolutionary Community.” I find this to be an apt description of Columbus, and one all business leaders can take direction from. We must be flexible, forward-thinking, and willing to embrace the way technology will impact our future growth and economy. Columbus was recognized for “programs aimed at increasing collaboration among government, education, business and institutions.” Increased collaboration and an effort to improve the entire community (not just the bottom line) is something every business leader should add to his or her agenda. In the end, we all benefit from the effort to be better together.

Columbus is now in the running to be named the 2015 Intelligent Community of the Year. The announcement will be made in June at the Intelligent Community Forum’s Annual Summit in Toronto.

Watch the video and learn more about the Top7 Intelligent Communities.

EdTech Takes Center Stage

OETCThe thinkCSC team attends the Ohio Educational Technology Conference (OETC) every year, and we’ve been witness to the explosion in EdTech that has occurred over the last decade. A computer class was once something students took for 30 minutes a day as a way to become familiar with new technology; today’s students come into school knowing and using more types of technology than any previous generation. This is changing the way education is delivered, and schools often find it difficult to keep up.

The future of education is exciting, because technology does hold the key to transforming how students learn. Rather than sitting through a boring social studies lecture, jotting down facts about myriad countries, students can go online and collaborate on projects with students in another countries. Teachers from different schools can collaborate on assignments and projects as well, and as teachers begin to embrace the value of technology, they are finding easier ways to meet all of the added requirements of documentation and testing that would otherwise be burdensome. Even parents are benefitting from the EdTech revolution, enjoying more transparency, from access to information about their children’s’ progress to easier access of school information.

For school administrators, however, each change in technology is accompanied by the stress of determining how to best implement the technology while still working under budget constraints, still keeping students safe, and still keeping data secure. It can be time consuming and troublesome for schools to troubleshoot and maintain equipment, manage warranties, or even to manage backup and recovery solutions that keep the school operational.

thinkCSC partners with K-16 schools to assist in developing cost-effective EdTech strategies. From helping schools purchase hardware and software at discounted rates to providing better-than-OEM warranties that ease the pain of managing tech in schools, thinkCSC is a proud partner in education. If you will be attending #OETC15, please be sure to stop by and see us at Booth 542. To learn more about what we can do to help your school embrace EdTech safely and cost-effectively, contact us.

Crystal Ball

IT Trends – 2015 Edition

Crystal BallLast year we predicted several IT trends that are, for the most part today, standard operating procedures for most businesses. From VoIP to secure collaboration using Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing, the big focus last year was the shift away from legacy processes and applications, with the gradual adoption of access-anywhere, work-anywhere work tools that didn’t compromise security.

This year we predict nearly every operational focus trending in IT will have something to do with security. IT security is the trend of 2015.

In fact, the biggest trend of 2015 will be the acknowledgement that no business is secure. No business – from the one-man work-at-home freelancer to the largest international corporation – is immune from incident. If you use technology and access the internet, whether from a smartphone or through applications on a bank of servers, you are a potential target for malware, cyber-attacks, viruses, natural disasters, and other business-disrupting issues.

Managed IT

Managed IT services, while not a new trend, will take center stage for even more companies because the need to maintain state-of-the-art equipment and have access to offline backup and disaster recovery will be too great to ignore and too costly for every non-IT business to do well. Shifting from a capital expenditure model for IT to an OPEX model will also be a priority for businesses striving to remain globally competitive. Managed IT services accomplishes that.

BDR Goes Mainstream

When disaster strikes, business leaders recognize the need for remaining operational. Backup and disaster recovery services provide a cost-effective business continuity solution that reduces downtime and allows you to keep serving customers from anywhere.

Enterprise Threat Detection

Rather than waiting for hackers and malware to highlight security gaps, then developing security patches in response to protect businesses, you can make your approach to security more aggressive. Enterprise threat detection offers proactive security that uses predictive analytics to stay ahead of the next attack. This will become a necessity for businesses of all size.

The most competitive businesses are the ones preparing for possibilities and designing their infrastructure in such a way that they can remain flexible, proactive, and competitive. Managed IT and BDR are not new concepts, but they are trending in 2015 as adoption becomes ubiquitous.

Discover how thinkCSC can help your business. Learn more.

Windows Server 2003 Nears End of Life

windows server 2003If you thought it was tough to adapt to the extinction of Windows XP, you’ll find yourself mired in a tar pit if you don’t soon take action to upgrade your Windows Server 2003 operating system. If your business is utilizing Windows Server 2003, begin your countdown now: Support for Windows Server 2003 will end July 2015, and businesses that hope to escape issues associated with bottlenecks, security, and third-party applications need to upgrade now.

Don’t Let Your Business Be Affected

Even though Windows Server 2003 has a short amount of life left in it, the third-party applications you use are going to create issues sooner than later – and may already be affecting your processing speed and uptime. Newer applications use larger amounts of paged-pool and non-paged-pool memory, something Windows Server 2003 simply wasn’t built to handle. This will cause your server to slow or stop running, requiring a reboot. Slowed and down systems are costly – and in the long run are more costly than upgrading to the recommended Windows Server 2012.

Don’t Let Windows Server 2003 End of Life Herald Your Doomsday

July 14, 2015 may seem far enough away to keep you from sensing any imminent doom, but the application-moving process required to upgrade your server from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012 is a time-consuming and delicate process requiring:

  • Application inventory
  • Analysis of which applications are using which servers
  • Careful planning of server migration and application updates

With proper planning, your migration from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012 can be a relatively painless process. The thinkCSC team is here to handle all of the heavy lifting for you. Failure to migrate in a timely manner will result in security issues, reduced functionality, issues with applications on which your teams rely, and increased downtime.

Take Action Now

Windows Server 2003 has moved to the top of the endangered species list. Better performance and security is within your grasp. We recommend upgrading to Windows Server 2012 as soon as possible to ensure ongoing security and stability. If you’re not sure where to start, thinkCSC can facilitate the migration of your Windows Server 2003. Contact us today for more information.