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Apr
15th

Virus warning – Cryptolocker via email attachments

After writing about this in December last year, I have noticed that there has since been a rise in the number of unsolicited email that have .zip file attachments being delivered to user’s Mailboxes. This will usually purport to come from a bank, but have in the past pretended to be from courier companies, software companies, HMRC or utility companies. The one common strand in this is that there will be a zip attachment that you are encouraged to open. The hook for this is that you will be told that the zip file contains an attachment you must see – it may claim to be an invoice, delivery note or tax rebate.

These emails seem to be able to get past most anti-virus and anti-spam scanners – we have seen infections of machines protected by different brands of AV and received by different methods of email delivery.

The attached zip file actually contains a virus, and these can be very nasty ones. The worst one would seem to be a variant of the Cryptolocker. This virus will encrypt your documents and sometimes those on mapped network drives, and then demands a ransom be paid via credit card or by Bitcoin to decrypt them. There is time limit to pay within, usually 72 or 100 hours; otherwise Cryptolocker claims the files can never be decrypted. There is a good description of how the virus operates on Wikipedia.

So, how can you stop this virus getting onto your machine? As the spread of this virus can only happen if the zip attachment is opened, do not open the zip attachment.

Remember that banks, HMRC, sage and other companies never send out these types of emails. If you receive them, delete them straight away. Do not, under any circumstances, open attachments on emails that arrive unexpectedly, however good the provenance of the send may claim to be.

Also, make sure you take regular backups of your documents. Make sure you monitor the backup to ensure it works as and when it should.  Have the restore procedure tested – a backup is no good if it cannot be restored. Speak to your IT specialist if you have any reason to think you may have been infected, as speed is essential in dealing with this.

Apr
9th

Bring your own device – the security risks

Man working with modern devices

How many of your staff have personal smartphones? How many have tablet computers? Loads of them I’ll bet. How many of those employees can access their work emails from those devices? How many can access corporate information through them? Files, folders, documents?

And voila, the bring your own device trend is born. And it’s so trendy, it even has its own acronym.

BYOD.

It’s great, right? Because it means your employees are responsive outside of work hours. It means they can keep up to date on work matters while they’re out and about at meetings, conferences and other events. It boosts their productivity, increases flexibility and gives you a mobile workforce. *whispers* and you didn’t even have to fork out for the devices.

And that really is great, but what does it mean in terms of security? Allowing a whole host of devices access to your precious company data could easily result in a security breach. It could leave you open to security failures and data leaks. What if the device is lost or stolen? How many people have access to that device? Do friends and family members of your employees use those devices at home? Could they access your data? Ultimately, BYOD could actually cause big problems for you.

So what should you do?

Well you should encourage BYOD, for sure. We encourage it here at Axon, and it really does have its benefits. But take heed of a few serious security points. You’ll need a clear and well enforced BYOD policy that includes acceptable use and underlines the accountability of behaviour.

Think about including rules such as…

-       All BYOD devices must carry company-approved anti-virus software.

-       Devices must be password protected and auto locked after a period of inactivity.

-       Enforce a strong password policy (8-10 characters long, alphanumeric, upper case and lower case and changed regularly).

-       Think about using encryption to store any data that is kept on the device.

-       Use password or PIN control access to ensure only authorised users can get to company data and emails.

-       Be aware of devices with removable storage such as micro or mini SD cards that could make data theft both easy and discreet. Do you want to allow these types of devices to be used?

-       Think about where your data is centrally stored. Are you on a cloud network? How secure is the data in transit? Consider forcing all traffic through a VPN, HTTPS or another encrypted channel.

-       Consider asking users to switch off blue-tooth and Wi-Fi interfaces that could present a hacking risk.

You’ll need to monitor your policy to make sure that it’s being adhered to, but remember, these are personal devices so you’ll need to find a fair balance. Ultimately it will come down to your company culture and current security polices but a bit of common sense should help ensure that BYOD is a safe option for your business.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has published a comprehensive guide to BYOD which you can find here and it includes information on how closely you can legally monitor employees online behaviour in the employment practices code, which you can find here.

Do you encourage BYOD in your business? Let us know how it works for you….

Apr
8th

Say hello to Abi and Nicholas

Nicholas and Abi

We’re very happy to welcome Abi and Nicholas to the Axon gang. They’ve joined us this week and are making themselves right at home.

Abi is our new Administration Assistant and Nicholas will be helping out the helpdesk team as Support Assistant.

Give them a wave….

 

Apr
7th

Unable to delete files and folders in OneDrive for Business

If you are unable to delete files and/or folders in OneDrive For Business due to long file lengths or the 5000 limit, the only way to solve this at present is to delete the whole site.

This is only possible with a little bit of a “fudge” in the users OneDrive account.

Click on the cog and go to Site Settings, then delete the data in the URL bar until just the following is showing:

https://xxx.sharepoint.com/personal/xxx/_layouts/15/

Then add deleteweb.aspx at the end as per the below;

https://xxx.sharepoint.com/xxx /_layouts/15/deleteweb.aspx 

Next, go back to OneDrive For Business and this will re-build the users OneDrive back to its original format before any data was added.

Apr
2nd

Challenge Graham – an update on our charity fundraising

photo 3 - blog

We’ve been busy raising money for our chosen charity for 2014 – Macclesfield Neonatal Unit via East Cheshire NHS Trust’s ECHO Charity and to date, we’ve got £203.50 in the pot for this for this fantastic cause.

And now, our Graham is stepping it up a notch by signing up to a whole host of events throughout the year which to be honest, make me tired just reading about them.

Here goes…

On 6th April he’ll be taking part in the Manchester Marathon.
On 18th April he’ll be taking part in the Manchester 10K.
On 15th June he’ll be taking part in the Buxton Triathlon.
On 13th July he’ll be taking part in the Chatsworth Triathlon.
On 14th September he’ll be taking part in an Ironman competition in Wales.

After that, I think he’ll need a lie down.

I’m sure you’ll agree, that this is pretty impressive stuff.  So while we’re stocking up on bananas and protein bars for him, or whatever it is that athletes are fuelled by, if you’d like to sponsor Graham for these amazing challenges all in aid of Macclesfield Neonatal unit, you can follow the link here to make a donation.

Good luck Graham! And stay tuned for updates on his achievements.

Apr
2nd

Is VoIP right for your business?

woman with tin can

If you’re considering VoIP, you’ll need to be sure it’s right for your business. So what is it, and how can it benefit you?

Well, VoIP is a method of making phone calls that uses a data connection rather than a traditional telephone line. In other words, your calls are made over the internet. What VoIP does is translate voice traffic into data and sends it over your data connection in the same way that any other data is transferred.

So what’s the point in that then?

Well VoIP outdoes traditional phone lines in three main ways. Cost, flexibility and manageability.

Cost
As a general rule, your phone calls are cheaper through VoIP than they are with a traditional system. Usually, calls via VoIP – either within your network or externally to VoIP users on other networks – are free and calls to traditional networks often carry a lower call rate. Your provider will route your calls as far as is possible using the internet, meaning that many long distance calls made will most likely be cheaper than they would have been over PSTN (public switched telephone network).

Flexibility
If you’re familiar with the mobility benefits of cloud computing, then the flexibility brought by VoIP is much the same. Because basically, VoIP is cloud computing for your telecoms. If you have, or require, a mobile workforce – homeworkers, engineers or sales people out on site, workers in satellite offices or workers abroad, then VoIP is a far better solution that a traditional comms system. All you need is an IP enabled configured phone, or a headset compatible with your laptop with softphone software and a data connection and you’re away.  Think of it as plug-and-play. And no matter where in the world you plug that phone in, all calls made to your usual business line will ring out on your phone. Business as usual – and the customer knows no different.

Manageability
If your business is expanding, then VoIP is scalable and far easier to manage than a traditional system. Generally, VoIP is managed and maintained by IT companies, so no need to incur expensive telecoms engineering costs when you need to make a change to your system. Adding extensions, voice mailboxes, moving lines etc. can all be done easily by an IT engineer and usually at no additional cost.

So, is VoIP right for your business? You should certainly consider VoIP if…

-       Your business is expanding

-       Your communications costs are increasing and/or too high

-       You have a mobile workforce or could benefit from increased flexibility

You will need…

-       A business-grade internet connection

-       IP enabled handsets or softphone and headsets

The crucial thing to bear in mind, is that with VoIP, your system is only as reliable as your internet. A broadband outage would signal a telecoms outage. So you’ll need contingency plans in place such as backup failover lines or alternative premises. Or it could even just be as simple as sending everyone to work from home. The flip side of this is that VoIP actually helps form a part of your business continuity planning because if your offices become rendered out of action for whatever reason – fire or flood for example – then the continuation of your voice comms is pretty seamless and you can be back up and running in the time it takes for staff to drive home.

So is VoIP right for your business? Most businesses – SME to enterprise – do benefit. So if you think you fit the bill and could benefit from a switch to VoIP, get in touch for more information and find out exactly how VoIP could work for you.

Mar
31st

Why should I move to Microsoft Office 365?

Office365 - blog

If you’re wondering whether you should move your business over to Office 365, check out our top reasons to make the change…

1)     Access anywhere – Work from anywhere with an internet connection, at any time, and on any device. Ultimate flexibility and increased business mobility.

2)     Spread the cost – Turn your IT investment into a running cost. No capital expenditure and a predictable monthly operating expense. Plus flexible pricing to meet your requirements.

3)     Keep up-to-date – All upgrades, patches and software maintenance handled by Microsoft.

4)     Ramp it up – Fully scalable, Office 365 grows with your business. And can just as easily be scaled back if your business needs change.

5)     Communicate – Keep in touch through instant messaging, video conferencing and online meetings with Microsoft Lync.

6)     Stay safe – Enterprise-class multi-layered security with your data safely backed up in Microsoft’s cloud data centres which are geographically dispersed and fully redundant in line with ISO 27001 standards.

7)     Business continuity – Reassurance that if the worst happens and your business premises are affected by fire, flood, theft or similar, you can pick up, move to any location with an internet connection and it’s business as usual.

8)     Peace of mind – Office 365 comes with a 99.9% financially-backed service level agreement guarantee, meaning Microsoft guarantees that your data will always be available.

If you’d like to try Office 365 for yourself, take a look at our free 30 day trial or give us a call on 01625 837800.

Mar
26th

‘shared with me’ not showing shared files in Microsoft OneDrive

If you find that ‘shared with me’ is not showing shared files in OneDrive, try the following fix to show files again:

1. Log onto file sharer
2. Locate the file being shared out
3. Click on it
4. Go to the Library tab at the top of the page
5. Go to Library Settings
6. Click on Advanced Settings
7. Click on Re-index Library
8. Press OK at the bottom of the page

It could take around six hours to come back, but this should solve the problem.

Mar
25th

Should I outsource my IT, or keep it in-house?

young thoughtful female in blue shirt isolated on white

 

“Should I outsource my IT, or keep it in-house?”

Good question.

Outsourced IT certainly has its benefits. It can help you save money, it can increase productivity, it reduces risks…but that doesn’t mean outsourced IT is necessarily right for your business.

So ask yourself…

1) Do you depend on technology to run your business?
2) Is your business growing?
3) Are you a multi-sited company?
4) Are you relying upon certain staff members to look after your IT in addition to their day-to-day job roles?
5) What would you do if all of your IT stopped working?

If you answered yes to any of those questions (and certainly if you had no answer for number five), then you might want to read on…

Technology is critical for most of us these days. Most of us depend on computers, emails, and telecommunications to keep our businesses running. We don’t want IT to be a hassle. We just want it to work so that we can get on with running our businesses.

Does that ring true for you?

So how do you manage your IT?

We’re all a little guilty of expecting too much from our employees. And if you’re expecting a certain staff member to look after your IT on top of their usual workload, then you might want to ask yourself – should I outsource my IT?

Think about that person. How qualified are they? What’s their skillset? Are they competent in ALL your systems? Microsoft? Citrix? Cisco? IT security? Telephony? Connectivity? VoIP? Do they keep their IT qualifications up to date? Can they handle the workload on top of their existing role, or are you asking too much of them? Do daily IT issues hamper their productivity? What do you do when they go on holiday? What about sick leave? What if they resigned?

Even if you have a dedicated IT manager, it takes time and money to employ and train up in-house staff. Especially when you think about how fast technology is changing. If your company is growing, or you have more than one office, you might need several IT staff. And those costs will soon mount up.

Could your IT manager benefit from the support of an external IT company? Taking over the daily issues to enable your in-house IT staff to get on with bigger and more beneficial internal technical projects?

If you outsource your IT then one monthly cost will ensure that all your systems are covered. You’ll get a proactive approach, rather than a reactive one as system monitoring ensures that any problems are fixed before your business suffers. So less downtime. Outsourced IT helps you to manage risk.

Outsourcing will also help you stay current. Keeping on top of emerging technologies can be a full time job in itself, but for IT support companies this is their very essence, so they can keep you up to date, ensure your software licensing is legal and help future proof your business through developing technology (think cloud computing for example).

So should you outsource your IT? Well if your business could benefit from a reduction in risk, cost savings and a boost in productivity then the answer could be yes.

If this post has got you thinking, then you might want to check out How to choose the right IT support company for your business.

And of course, if you’re looking for an IT support company in Macclesfield, you can always give us a shout.

Mar
20th

Are you ready for cloud computing?

Cloud

As a Microsoft Cloud Accelerate Partner, we’re big advocates of cloud computing. We use it, we sing about it, we love it. We’ve been cloud computing in Macclesfield for years now. It’s perfect for us. But that doesn’t mean it’s right for everybody. So are you ready for cloud computing? Here’s a few questions to help you decide…

Does your business need more flexibility?
If you’re finding the restrictions of the 9-5 working day aren’t quite right for you anymore, then it could be time to think about cloud computing. Do you need access to your company files and emails in an evening or at weekends? Do your employees have an increased need for flexible working? Do they sometimes need to work from home? If you’re out on the road at meetings, conferences, events or travelling, can you work remotely? Do you need to? If you can already work remotely, how reliable is your existing solution?

Lots of businesses don’t have this requirement, but many can benefit from greater mobility.

With cloud, all of your company data, apps and software are hosted externally in “the cloud” (i.e. on the servers of your cloud provider) and you connect to it through a web browser. That can be from a laptop, desktop or mobile device and it can be from anywhere with an internet connection. It gives users access to the full power of your business network online, and it increases productivity. It’s slick, robust, secure and reliable and far more dependable that the clunky VPN connections of old.

Do you struggle with a capital expenditure?
Do you struggle to raise the funds for new IT hardware? Would you prefer to see your IT as a running cost, or does it work better for you to get all the spending out of the way in one go? £10 – £20,000 for a new server every five years can be crippling to some businesses.

Cloud computing can significantly reduce the cost of ownership for your IT, turning capital expenditure into a running cost because the need to purchase servers is taken away. As is the need to run those servers so your electricity bills start to look better too. Your data is on your cloud providers’ servers which are managed, maintained and updated as necessary, removing that capex spend while you pay a monthly running cost to rent space on those servers. Licensing is also handled by your service provider. So your IT now becomes a regular monthly fixed fee. Better for budgeting, and a lot less hassle.

And if your business grows and you take on 10 new starters, your cloud provider handles all the licensing, ramps up your server space (if necessary) and you’re done. And it’s just as easy to scale back down again should you need to.

Do you struggle to maintain your network infrastructure?
Technology is changing on an almost daily basis. Do you struggle to keep up? Do you know when your server warranty expires? Is all your software correctly licensed? Is your security solution up-to-date? Do you have the latest versions of your business software? Do you need the latest versions?

You may well have this all under control, but nobody would think any the less of you if you didn’t. It’s a lot to keep up with on top of running your business.

But if you move to the cloud all of this is handled by your cloud provider. You don’t need to think once, let alone twice about it. Even if you have an IT manager in-house, by ridding him or her of these, let’s face it, mundane tasks, they can focus on more business focused projects giving you a better level of service as you enable them to increase their productivity.

Do you have a business continuity plan?
Business continuity planning is an important part of any business plan. Or it should be… Do you have one? You may well do. But even if you do, cloud computing will only work to complement what you already have in place.

Think about the things that could go wrong and jeopardize your business…Fire. Flood. Theft. Equipment failure. Viruses. Now think about what would happen if all of your company data was stored in one place, in your office. It would most likely be destroyed.

You’ve probably got a backup plan in place with your company data securely backed up with backups running daily. But where is that backup? Is that in your office too? If is it, that fire has just destroyed your data AND your backup.

What cloud gives you is an instant emergency backup plan with all of your business critical data and apps stored safely on the servers of your cloud provider where the latest anti-virus software will ensure it’s kept away from the prying eyes of hackers. There, it will be maintained, kept secure, and backed up to at least one alternative location. So a fire, flood or break-in at your office wouldn’t even touch your data. And if your offices became rendered out of action, well you can work from anywhere with an internet connection so send staff home or round the corner to the local coffee shop, and it’s business as usual.

Are you well connected?
What’s your internet connection like at the office? What’s your upload speed? Download speed? Assured throughput? With cloud, you need good connectivity. In some areas, sadly this just isn’t available. Your current internet solution might be fine, or you might have the option to upgrade. But be aware that with cloud computing, connectivity is king and without it, cloud is about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

How strict is your data protection policy?
Does your company have to adhere to specific data protection laws? If you’re in the legal or medical sector for example, you may fall under data protection laws that require your customers information to remain in the UK at all times. So if you go cloud, check where your data will be, where it’s backed up to and where it will failover to. Chose a local cloud computing supplier and you’ll probably have no concerns, but be aware for example that Microsoft’s cloud solution – Office 365 – will store your data in a datacentre in Dublin and back it up to Europe and America. Not generally a problem for most of us, but keep it in mind, depending on your industry sector.

So cloud computing brings lots of important benefits. Cost efficiency, mobility and security to name but a few. That doesn’t mean it’s right for us all, but it’s certainly changed our business for the better and hopefully this post has given you a few things to think about.

If there are any questions that this post hasn’t answered, give us a call or drop us a line – 01625 837800 or hello@axon-it.com. We love to talk cloud :)

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