A recent independent study has found that 9 out of 10 Scottish based businesses, mainly in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen have adopted cloud technologies in a piecemeal fashion. Without a centralized strategy for cloud adoption, organizations are subject to “cloud sprawl,” which drives up costs and can lead to issues with compliance and security. This is mostly because their Glasgow or Edinburgh IT Support company have no experience of cloud strategy.
If parts of your organization are contracting for cloud services independently of each other, then you probably aren’t achieving the volume discounting that you could with, for example, the reserved instances or SaaS seats offered by some cloud vendors. You may be wasting money on instances that go unused after their initial purpose has ended. And both demonstrating compliance and enforcing security policies are made more complex by redundant or shadow cloud services.
To address these challenges, CIOs should turn their attention to developing and implementing a centralized cloud strategy and use it as the foundation for governing the use of cloud services across the business and IT organization. This cloud strategy should first be informed by business strategy, yet the IT operations team should have an active voice in formulating it, because a cloud strategy done poorly can drive complexity that will reduce agility and increase costs.
How to implement a clear cloud strategy
Want to help your CIO develop a cloud strategy that meets business priorities without making operations miserable? Consider these five steps for clarifying and unifying your cloud strategy.
- Enable continuous delivery of custom code
Digital business transformation can present an existential threat to many businesses. Retailers shuttering brick-and-mortar stores is perhaps the most visible example. But nearly every business is looking to compete via digital services that help them interact better with customers or drive down costs.
Those digital services require constantly evolving software to keep up with competitors, which drives requirements for agile development and DevOps practices. DevOps requires continuous delivery of changes to code, which demands the immediate availability of infrastructure for deployment, for which infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and containers are ideally suited.
That makes continuous delivery of prime importance to the cloud strategy. When evaluating the key pillars that best enable the organization to implement continuous delivery, you should consider topics such as:
- Single- or multi-source IaaS vendors for deployments
- Infrastructure as code
- Container strategy
- Cloud disaster recovery
- Prioritize cloud migrations
For off-the-shelf applications, there is a question of whether to move them to the cloud or retain them in the organization’s own data center.
This is most commonly a cost-reduction effort, but not every application is going to cost less simply by running it in the cloud. Elasticity is the real key to cost savings. That means that applications with highly variable usage (often called “bursty” apps) should be prioritized for migration to the cloud. Otherwise, you are paying for on-prem resources you suddenly don’t need, or you’re scrambling to grow your VM capacity or provide another means of infrastructure expansion.
And there are considerations for app migrations beyond cost savings, such as:
- Are there workloads that should be off limits for cloud migration?
- Is there sufficient network bandwidth at branch offices that need access?
- Is the app eligible for serverless computing?
- Does the application need the agility that the cloud offers?
- What is the impact of running a workload remotely on interdependent apps?
These should be tested with pilot programs before migrating full-scale. And if you need help, there are cloud service brokerages (CSBs) and automated migration tools that can reduce the guesswork.
- Consider SaaS for non-revenue-generating apps
While infrastructure in the cloud may be a priority, many organizations have already adopted SaaS, a choice driven by business selection. It’s likely the business will still look for IT support for SaaS, so it needs to be brought under one governance umbrella.
Yet, beyond the business penchant for shadow file-sharing, SaaS is an area to consider as an alternative delivery method for applications that are noncore to revenue generation. Email, service desk, CRM, and payroll are common to most businesses, but there are SaaS options for just about any software today. By outsourcing noncore apps, IT can focus on what makes the business competitive.
The downside is that, over three or four years, licensing for SaaS apps is more expensive. The total cost of ownership depends on other factors, such as server costs, hosting fees, and operations salaries, though. And don’t underestimate the value of cleaning up a messy environment by getting rid of it entirely.
- Deal with legacy applications
If your legacy apps aren’t getting the job done, then the decision to shift to a cloud solution is made easier. But chances are that the reason legacy apps—those running on mainframes or even those Windows XP apps that have been in the news due to ransomware—are still in your environment is that they just work. The benefit of replacing those apps isn’t worth the cost.
Except that it’s getting more difficult to find talent to manage these apps. And there is a real security threat that can affect their availability.
Enter the age of modernization. There is now software that will allow you to deploy existing COBOL applications to new platforms, including IaaS. And moving applications from physical or virtual servers to the cloud can also be automated today. Automating these migrations is critical to testing the approach and minimizing downtime and data loss during cutover, while reducing the cost of the migration in terms of operations time to an acceptable level weighed against the benefit gained.
- Govern the overall strategy
There isn’t much point in having a strategy without a means of governing it. Without governance, the strategy is prone to become little more than ink on dead trees in plastic binders.
The cloud is not just a technology but an operating model. Have you adjusted your provisioning and management processes to allow for a hybrid approach? Does operations have a way of understanding the configurations of workloads, including who owns them, where they are running, and how are they updated?
From a policy perspective, the security team must be involved in understanding what the cloud vendor is responsible for and what policy controls must be managed internally, both for risk and compliance purposes. Typically, identity and access controls, at a minimum, will need to be enforced by your organization. Centralizing all cloud access can simplify this, but even more simple for users and operations is being able to use the same access method across all of the organization’s apps.
Finally, cloud vendor lock-in is a challenge to consider in selection of a vendor. Can you get to your data if the relationship sours or if a better offering emerges in the future?
Avoid piecemeal cloud adoption
Allowing piecemeal and random cloud adoption isn’t a sustainable plan from the perspective of cost, security, or operational health. A clear cloud strategy, aligned to business strategy, is critical to realizing all the benefits of the cloud. Riverbank Solar offer a FREE IT AUDIT which will show how the cloud can work with you. Call us today on 0141 474 1995 or arrange your FREE IT AUDIT.
Everyday many businesses in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and all over Scotland fall victim to cyberattacks. Criminals have figured out cunning ways to gain access to usernames and passwords. However, when two-factor authentication is one way to make it harder for hackers to gain access to business IT networks.
What is Two-Factor Authentication?
Two-factor authentication, also known as 2FA, is a security method that makes it necessary for users to verify their identity. 2FA uses two authentication factors to verify a user. This is a method that can make it more challenging for a cybercriminal to gain access to resources and networks through the use of stolen credentials and more.
Two-factor authentication is another layer of security, which is combined with other security methods such as single-factor authentication (SFA). 2FA requires a user to provide a password, along with another factor to identify themselves. The second factor may be a security token or a biometric factor (fingerprint or facial scan, for instance).
Two-factor authentication can be used on networks, devices, for online accounts, and more. Without the second factor, hackers have a difficult time accessing a user’s accounts, and more. 2FA works against phishing, social engineering, brute-force attacks and more.
What are Authentication Factors?
Factors are nothing more than small bits of information that a user needs to authenticate their identity. There are several factors that can be used including:
Knowledge factor: requests specific information that only the user will know. The most common type of knowledge factor is the password. Other types of knowledge factors include a PIN (personal identification number) or a shared secret.
Inherence factor (also called a biometric factor): these are used to verify the identity of a user through physical attributes that only belong to that user. The personal attributes are mapped, such as a fingerprint or the user face. When the user tries to sign into an account or service, a device will need to authenticate the user’s fingerprint or face. Other inherence factors include voice recognition, behavioural biometrics, gait/speech patterns, and keystroke dynamics.
Possession factor: this is something that is known only to the user; the most common is an ID card, security token, cellphone, mobile device, or smartphone app which are used to authenticate the user.
Location factor: this form of authentication verifies the identity of a user by their geographic location, IP address, or even GPS (based on the person’s mobile phone or another device). For instance, if a person’s identity is set in one country, and then someone from another country tries to login, the location factor would use one of these methods to identify the user. The second person, located in the wrong country/IP address, would not be allowed to access the account or network.
Time factor: verifies the identity of a user on the basis time of access. For this type of authentication, the user may have a set time when they’re allowed to access a network, and they’re not allowed access outside of this set period. If a hacker tries to gain access outside of this set time, they will be locked out because they’re unable to verify their identity.
The most commonly used types of 2FA are the knowledge, inherence and possession factors. These and the other factors can also be used by networks that use multi-factor authentication (MFA), which uses two or more credentials to verify identity.
How Does Two-Factor Authentication Work?
While some people may find this process somewhat of a hassle, it is simple to use and requires 2 steps to authenticate the user’s identity. It works like this:
1). The user tries to sign into a website or application.
2). The user then receives a message they must input their username and password. After this, the site will then use this information to identify the user.
3). If the site doesn’t require a password, then it will create a unique security key. When the user applies the key, the site works to verify the key.
4). Next, the site will notify the user they will need to use the second login method. The second method may use the possession factor, where the user has to prove their identity through something only they will have. This could be an ID card, smartphone, security token, for example.
5). The user will then enter a single-use code that was created in the last step.
6). When the site authenticates the user, they are then granted access.
In actual use, these steps go quickly once users become used to the 2FA method.
Is Two-Factor Authentication Secure?
Yes, this is a secure method that adds another layer of security for logins and access to accounts, services, and more. However, some 2FA methods may have a weak point, which can be vulnerability used by a cybercriminal.
For instance, there are have been cases where hardware tokens were hacked, allowing hackers to gain entry to business networks. In other cases, the account recovery process can be overcome if a hacker resets the user’s password, which bypasses the 2FA process, and emails a temporary password to their own email account. The information to reset the password is then used by the hacker to gain access to the legitimate user’s account.
Two-factor authentication that relies can SMS be also be hacked, giving the cybercrook access to networks and against. Hackers have developed tools that can intercept, phish or spoof SMS messages with 2FA information. In fact, NIST (The National Institute of Standards and Technology) has advised against the use of 2FA for this very reason.
For this reason, more companies are turning to MFA (Multi Factor Authentication) to improve security. The most common form of MFA uses is three-factor authentication (3FA). This method may use a physical token, a password and biometric data (fingerprint or voice print), or combinations of other authentication methods to verify user identity.
Passwords are still necessary but are no longer provide the best security for online or network access. As hackers’ methods evolve, it’s necessary to increase security through the use of 2FA or MFA to ensure user access is authenticated to keep networks, resources, and devices more secure from cyberthreats.
If you want to find out more about how Riverbank Solar can help your business in Glasgow, Edinburgh and all through Scotland can help you implement 2-factor authentication call us on 0141 474 1995 or arrange a FREE IT Audit
When you need to find the right company to deliver IT Support and Network Support to cover your office in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen or anywhere else in Scotland you need to choose one which can offer 24/7 service. Unlike any other IT Support provider in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen or Scotland, Riverbank Solar offer true 24/7 support to all customers at no additional cost to our standard fee.
Whilst not all businesses appear to be open 24 hours, there is an increasing demand for round the clock IT support to allow for flexible working and international customers. There is nothing worse than needing a carefully crafted PowerPoint presentation recovered from accidental deletion at 10PM on a Sunday evening for a 7AM meeting on Monday morning!
If you’re not sure whether your business needs round-the-clock IT support, then we’ve put together five helpful questions that should help you decide that Riverbank Solar are the most cost effective IT Support provider in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and all over Scotland.
- Do you operate in a highly pressured and time-sensitive industry?
In some industries, time really is of the essence. In industries such as law and accountancy, minutes lost translate to billable hours lost. In private equity firms, deals often run late in the night – and any system downtime could hamper a deal closing.
In short, if your employees’ time is a highly-commoditised asset to your company or any downtime could result in loss of business or hamper your reputation, then 24-hour IT support is a must-have, not a nice-to-have.
- Do you offer flexible and agile working?
Many companies now operate flexible and agile working practices such as BYOD and remote working to enhance productivity, cut unnecessary overheads and improve service standards, or they are looking to do so in in imminent future.
In the same way your business would not dream of employees waiting until the next day to resolve any IT issues during normal nine-to-five office hours – or with many businesses, any longer than an hour – if you wish to realise the benefits of flexible and agile working then 24-hour support is essential. The same applies if your employees often work long hours in the office.
- Do your customers or clients access your IT systems?
To innovate and improve service, many organisations offer an external portal log in to enable clients/customers to track or even collaborate on documents. If this applies to your organisation, consider the business fall-outs of what would happen if your IT systems were not fully supported 24/7.
- Is your industry regulated?
In some organisations, such as law firms or private equity firms, a business continuity plan is not just good practice, but is required by the regulatory body – and this extends to IT failures. If you operate in a regulated industry, check what the requirements are in respect of continuity of service, and whether you can objectively justify the decisions you have made in respect of your IT support.
- Is a less supportive service worth the calculated risk?
The points raised in the questions above cover just some of the situations when business costs may indicate you require 24-hour IT support. However, there are plenty of others – from lost business opportunities, to reputational damage and more. When considering the level of IT support you need, make sure you consider the cost differential (it may not be that significant) against all the possible consequences that IT downtime may have on your business. Then calculate whether your business can afford that risk.
To find out how Riverbank Solar can assist Support your IT and Network needs in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness or the rest of Scotland contact us for a FREE no obligation IT Audit or call 0141 474 1995
Many businesses in Glasgow, Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland are not making the most of their Office 365 subscription causing wasted time and costs using other applications and services. Riverbank Solar offer IT support to business all over Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and the rest of Scotland and are at the forefront of supporting Office 365 and helping your business get the most out of it.
Here are out 5 top tips that will enhance your office 365 experience and make sure you get the most out of it
- Make a creative presentation using Sway
is a presentation creation tool. While PowerPoint does the job, Sway allows you to generate a more creative presentation in a super efficient way. It’s integrated with Bing, YouTube, Twitter, OneDrive…the list goes on. This means that both image and video integration and insertion into presentations is that much easier. Say goodbye to boring and bland and hello to grand!
- Take advantage of anywhere/anytime access
In today’s age, it seem like everyone is constantly rushing to get somewhere. Luckily, with Office 365 mobile application rollouts, work on the go is now possible (and even convenient). These mobile apps are available to download for your Android, iPhone, iPad, tablet, etc. However, it’s important to note that the option to download some apps is dependent upon your subscription. Certain apps are only accessible for personal users, and the same goes for business users. Once you have downloaded the app, all you need is an internet connection, and you are free to use your mobile apps.
- Sign the dotted line
It’s official: DocuSign and Microsoft have teamed up to make signing documents online easier than ever. This feature is available for all Office 365 users, as long as you configure DocuSign with your Office 365 account. Once the configuration is complete, you can simply select the correct signature and add it to all the necessary places. Finally, no more nightmarish “draw your own” signatures!
- Save your doc anywhere
Having access to your files is easier than ever now since Office 2016 is fully capable of syncing with OneDrive and SharePoint. The process of saving them to the cloud is very straightforward. All you need to do is click ‘Save’ as you normally would, and there will be an option to upload to OneDrive and SharePoint. You can then decide where you want your document to be uploaded to, and voila! Your document is accessible from virtually anywhere. On the flipside, if your file originated in the cloud, you also have the option to download it to your desktop. Talk about convenient.
- Use shareable links
We’re accustomed to attaching files to emails, which can become cumbersome. Office 365 has an improved option. Once you have files uploaded to your account, they are saved in Microsoft’s cloud. Each document is assigned its own unique URL, which can be used for sharing. The sharing process is fairly simple:
Clicking ‘Share+’ will pop up the list of shareable links that you can choose from.
You can assign collaborators certain roles/privileges to edit or view the document attached to the link.
You can even share with people outside of your company as long as you choose the ‘No sign-in required’ option.
Once you become acquainted with this, you’ll find that it’s effortless in comparison to the mundane search-and-attach process we are accustomed to. Happy sharing!
And there you have it. With just a few simple configurations and experimentation with new features, you can set yourself up for a fulfilling Office 365 experience.
If your business in based in Glasgow, Edinburgh or anywhere else in Scotland and would like to check you are getting the most of your office 365 subscription then contact us for a FREE IT AUDIT or call 0141 474 1995
For all businesses in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and the rest of Scotland Cybersecurity is no longer workable with a “tick in the box” approach. Apart from IT Support Riverbank Solar provide proactive Cybersecurity consultancy to help determine and mitigate risk.
A SME business in the hotel business, for example will not have the same risk appetite as a bank or credit card company.
The old excuses of having “no top secret data” does not cut it anymore with strict GDPR laws. Now all systems hold sensitive data that is accessible from anywhere.
These are our top tips to improve your companies Cybersecurity:
Tip: Ensure that regular anti-malware/antivirus scans and backups are scheduled. Most of the big vendors perform automatic updates, ensure that settings are configured.
Tip: Always keep business-critical assets and important servers in a separate network segment with restricted access.
Principle of Least Privilege
Tip: Start with separate accounts for privileged users. For example, James, who is a database administrator, should have one corporate account (for routine tasks such as email, intranet, timesheets, etc) and one production account (for privileged tasks as part of his role) with different password policy restrictions.
Secure Internet Access
Tip: Remove unrestricted internet access from servers with exceptions to services needing internet access.
Tip: Start with password managers, enforce strict password policies and add a list of blocked passwords to active directory.
Tip: The majority of the service providers offer two-factor authentication. If this is not an option, look for alternatives such as passwordless authentication or two-factor authentication modules such as Duo, Authy, Okta, etc.
Tip: Add security benchmarks as an extension to your IT team’s OS build checklist. Ensure that sign-off from the security point of contact is a mandatory part of the process before any build is released into the production environment.
Secure and Regular Backups
Tip: Irrespective of the backup solution you opt for – don’t forget to test the backup restore.
Tip: In case of a solution, ensure that it’s simple, quick to use and helps users who are the least tech-savvy. If you are using Office 365, add this button “Enable the Report Message add-in” to Outlook clients that helps users report messages with a single click.
Secure Wireless Networks
Tip: We have observed with several organisations, backend infrastructure is shared for guest networks. Ensure that it is a totally separate internet route offering no connectivity with the corporate environment. A captive portal is an efficient way of user management (with approvals) ensuring security and usability aspects remain balanced.
Riverbank Solar can help you with this and many more. To get started contact us for a FREE AUDIT
In October, Microsoft will make a new step in sending some of the old apps and even a Windows version to the unsupported list. Riverbank Solar know this will impact many SME organisations in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Scotland.
What is the Windows end-support list? According to Microsoft’s end-support document, the most important software that will go on the unsupported list will be Windows 10, version 1709 (Enterprise, Education, IoT Enterprise). Windows 10 versions 1803 (Enterprise, Education, IoT Enterprise), 1809 (Home, Pro, Pro Education, Pro for Workstation, IoT Core) or Windows Server version 1809 (Datacenter Core, Standard Core), they will expire on November 10th.
You must also start the upgrade process if if you have Windows 10, version 1903 (Enterprise, Home, Pro, Pro Education, Pro for Workstations, IoT Enterprise) or Windows Server, version 1903 (Datacenter, Standard) because they will be retired on December 8th.
What is the software end-support list for October 13th? Regarding Microsoft software, the list is a lot longer, and all the tools listed below will be retired on October 13th.
Dynamics GP 2010
Excel Mobile 2010
Exchange Server 2010 (all editions)
FAST Search Server 2010 (all editions)
Groove Server 2010
Office 2010 (all editions)
Search Server 2010
System Center Data Protection Manager 2010
System Center Essentials 2010
Visio 2010 (all editions)
Windows Embedded Standard 7
Office 2016 for Mac (all editions)
Excel 2016 for Mac
Outlook 2016 for Mac
PowerPoint 2016 for Mac
Word 2016 for Mac
If you are using any of these OS versions or software Riverbank Solar can help you upgrade to newer version to ensure the latest security updates installed. We offer 24/7 IT Support to businesses in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Scotland.
Are you prepared to upgrade to the next versions? Riverbank Solar can identify what needs to be upgraded and design a plan to help you. It all starts with a FREE IT Audit. Call us tocay on 0141 474 1996 or contact us to find out how we can help.