Running Apps In The Cloud (SaaS) vs. Locally On Your Own Equipment

We all love having complete control over the technology we use in business, but there “does” come a time when stepping back and letting others do what they do best so you can concentrate on doing what you do best just makes sense!

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© Dmitry – Fotolia

When a small business first starts out most owners are wanting to conserve cash so they will often follow a similar pattern and want to do as many things themselves as they can.

They might want to run their own email server onsite for their company email so an IT provider would put in a server running Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) or some other email server running on a PC or Server …

They might also want to run some sort of accounting package so they’ll load up something like QuickBooks or Simply Accounting on a PC or network it on a server in the office …

They might also want to run a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool of some sort so they’ll go out and get a piece of software for that as well as load it on a server or PC onsite …

… and so on … and so on … and so on …

Pretty soon you have a set up in place where you have a number of different applications as well as all their data running on hardware at your place of business and now you have to make sure it’s all backed up and managed.

You’ve also got to make sure that you have expertise available onsite or readily available to administer these applications and ensure software is updated and they are operating with peak performance!

What if there was possibly a better way?

When it comes to running a successful business one could very easily make a case that you want to “reduce” the number of variables you need to manage rather than “increase” them … True?

If you make the best fishing rods on the planet it would be best if you could just concentrate on making fishing rods and that’s it … True?

Let’s take a look at a few core technology items that many people run themselves as well as some options for moving those items to the cloud and offloading the operation of those items …

E-Mail

There are a number of options out there today, and we actually covered this topic in depth in another article entitled Am I Safe To Move My E-Mail To The Cloud? 

Google has their Google Apps For Business which provides robust enterprise class email services for business

There are a number of Hosted Microsoft Exchange providers out there as well such as Sherweb, Intermedia, Microsoft Hosted Exchange Online and I’m sure there are lots of others as well. If hosted Microsoft Exchange is something you’d like to consider other … we’ve written an articles about things to look when picking a hosted Exchange provider entitled How Do I Pick A Great Hosted Exchange E-Mail Service Provider?

The main thing is that there are a ton of options out there that will allow you to simply connect and use!

CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

In short, CRM is a way to keep track of all your customers, partners, sales leads, notes…etc…etc

Popular apps for this kind of function used to be installed versions of apps like Maximizer, GoldMine, ACT and others. The apps get installed on a desktop somewhere in the office, or a server, and then it’s shared out with other staff.

All of the above mentioned vendors have both installed versions “AND” cloud based versions now so that you no longer need to run it yourself. I’d encourage you to check them out

You also have players in the industry like SalesForce.com and Microsoft Dynamics which offer very robust cloud based CRM functionality as well.

Accounting

People are used to using packages like QuickBooks or Simply Account (SAGE) in Canada that are loaded on a PC or Server and possibly shared out with others in the office.

Both of these vendors also offer cloud versions of their software that you interact with using a simple web browser.

If you “are” considering a switch to an online version, do check with your accountant as to timing as usually a year end is the best time to make a switch.

Summary

This is obviously a very in depth topic. The sole focus of this article is simply to get you thinking about the fact that there “are” options out there to consider so go check em out!

I’d really love to hear your opinion! If you have any questions or comments please reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll forward to hearing from you! 

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, or others on this site, why not use one of the share buttons at the top of this, or any other article on this site, and share a link with your tribe… I’d appreciate it!

Should I Run Regular Backups?

One would think the answer to this should be pretty obvious but it’s key to understand the whole process from start to finish!

© z_amir - Fotolia

© z_amir – Fotolia

There are a number of key questions that need to be answered in order to fully answer the question …

  1. Could your business survive if you had a complete loss of your data?
  2. How often does you data change and/or get updated?
  3. In a worst case scenario how far might you need to go back to restore your data?

Let’s deal with each question separately …

Could your business survive if you had a complete loss of your data?

I don’t know a single business on the planet that could survive if they had a total loss of their data and no relevant backup to retreat to.

This one point alone should be reason enough to have a regular backup scenario in place, but it also leads us to the next very important point in this discussion …

How often does you data change and/or get updated?

In the previous point I mentioned not having a “relevant” backup to retreat to. If you have a business where data is constantly changing what good is it if you indeed have a full backup but it’s a month old. The data you use in your business may change at a much different pace than other business, so when picking a backup strategy you need to take this into account.

You may decide that if you had a complete failure and had to go back to data from 2 weeks ago that would be just fine … that’s perfectly fine then … but at least think about it and be honest with yourself in your assessment.

In a worst case scenario how far might you need to go back to restore your data?

You might decide, in the end, that you want to do daily backups because your data changes frequently and that’s perfect! The next question you need to decide is that, from a historical perspective, how far back at anyone time would you want to be able to go back and perform restores of your company data?

Would you want to be able to go back only 1 month?? 2 months? 6 months? Think of it as a big rolling timeline where, as times marches on, the oldest falls off the timeline and is gone with newer data taking it’s place. You have to decide how big a “bubble” you’d want to have at any one given time and use that to decide what kind of backup strategy to have.

Summary

There really is no scenario I can see where a business “wouldn’t” need a regular backup strategy of some sort. All that’s left to decide is exactly “what kind” of strategy to have. The best time to decide these things is “NOW” from a position of strength as opposed to thinking about it after the fact when disaster strikes and it’s too late!

I’ve also covered this topic in a couple of other articles on my site … Is Your Data Safe And Could You Recover?  -and- It’s Late On Friday, Do You Know Where Your Data Is? so I’d encourage you to check out those articles as well!

I’d really love to hear your opinion! If you have any questions or comments please reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll forward to hearing from you! 

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, or others on this site, why not use one of the share buttons at the top of this, or any other article on this site, and share a link with your tribe… I’d appreciate it!

How Much E-Mail History Should I Keep?

I know that I certainly give my clients the gears about keeping too much email history but in some cases it’s justified!

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© Artur Marciniec – Fotolia

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding on what your own personal policy or what your corporate policy should be.

  1. E-Mail Client Limitations
  2. Industry Regulatory Requirements
  3. E-Mail Provider Storage Limits
  4. E-Mail Access Method
  5. Personal Preference

E-Mail Client Limitations

I am mostly thinking about Windows here and Microsoft Outlook specifically. If you use Microsoft Outlook in a Windows environment then your email is stored in what’s called a PST file (a file with a .PST file extension … e.g. outlook.pst). All your email and email folders, calendar, contact and task items are all stored in a single PST file.

Earlier versions of MS Outlook had a 2.0GB file size limit on them meaning that, although it wouldn’t suddenly implode, if you pushed the size of the PST to sizes larger than 2.0 GB you ran the risk of the file corrupting and thus potentially losing data.

In doing some research online for the writing of this article I did learn that in later versions of Outlook this 2.0 GB limit is no longer the case, but really massive PST files produce performance issues and are not recommended.

This all being said to say that when considering how much email history to keep you’ll want to keep this in mind.

Industry Regulatory Requirements

Depending on the particular industry you work in you might be required to keep a certain number of years worth of email history for forensic reasons.

Check with your IT administrator to see if there’s anything particular you need to do on your end as it might also be covered on the back-end of your system where archives are created. If this is the case then you can likely keep your email volume lean and mean!

E-Mail Provider Storage Limits

If you use IMAP as a method for accessing your email then your ability to keep history is really only limited by the capacity of your email service provider. G-Mail for instance allows you to keep 15 GB on their free gmail.com email addresses and on their paid Google Apps accounts they start at 30 GB of storage and go up from there! Yahoo allows up to 1 TB (Terabyte) of storage for their free yahoo.com email addresses … According to this article outlook.com doesn’t put any limit on the size of your email storage.

As you can see it all depends on who’s actually providing the e-mail service for you …

E-Mail Access Method

If you use simple POP3 for accessing your email then you have to consider E-mail Client Limitations, as mentioned above, but you also need to consider disk space on the PC or Laptop that you are accessing from. If you are using IMAP to access your email then you may choose to use a web interface to get your email in which case you would just limited by the amount of space at your provider -or- you may choose a traditional email client in which case you’d just be limited by disk space on your PC/Laptop or possibly by the email client software you use (see E-Mail Client Limitations above)

Personal Preference

If you are strictly a personal user then it’s pretty much whatever you like. Some people adopt a method of “Once I’ve dealt with it I never want to see it again” and they delete everything. Others are hoarders and keep “EVERYTHING” including even the SPAM they receive. You need to decide for your self what works best for you.

Summary

Ask lots of questions of the IT Administrator at your place of work if you are not sure what you should do or if you have a strictly personal account ask questions of your email provider and what their best practices might be.

I’d really love to hear your opinion! If you have any questions or comments please reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll forward to hearing from you! 

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, or others on this site, why not use one of the share buttons at the top of this, or any other article on this site, and share a link with your tribe… I’d appreciate it!

Choosing An Online File Sharing And Storage Service

People love having their data available and accessible from a multitude of different platforms, so online file storage and sharing might make sense for you in certain circumstances!

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© ottawawebdesign – Fotolia

The number of different devices that people use in their day to day personal and business lives seems to be growing.

I know myself that I have my MacBook Pro, iPhone and iPad, and, depending on what I am doing at any one given time, one of these devices is almost always near me.

However, there are files that I am working on all the time and need to access frequently therefore one of the challenges I face is the ability to get to the files that I need from wherever I am.

There a services out there today like Google DriveDropBox, One Drive and Box (see here for a fuller list of possibilities) that allow you to store your files in the cloud and sync them to a multitude of devices so that your files follow you wherever you are and are always accessible.

Some of these services have tighter security than the others, some of them have nicer web interfaces than the others, some might have cheaper pricing ..etc…etc..  You could likely make a big list of PRO’S and CON’s for each.

Some of you might be completely on your own and just need something for your own personal use … some of you might work in teams and need more security and ability to determine who gets to see what and when … some of you might be super price conscious … Some of the services come with a certain amount for free and others provide little or no space for free … There is no “one size fits all” product here!

This is not intended to push you toward any particular product and is more intended to highlight the fact that these kinds of services are out there and are ready and available to you.

I would highly encourage you to check out the services mentioned above and maybe even read the article I’ve linked which compares a bunch of them!

You will ultimately need to do your own research on the topic and make a decision on the product that makes the most sense for you.

I’d really love to hear your opinion! If you have any questions or comments please reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll forward to hearing from you! 

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, or others on this site, why not use one of the share buttons at the top of this, or any other article on this site, and share a link with your tribe… I’d appreciate it!

I’ve Deleted Something … No Backup … What Now?

You have had people preach to you about backups, and you’ve always intended to have one, but now you’ve deleted something and “don’t” have a backup … what are your options?

© vizafoto - Fotolia

© vizafoto – Fotolia

Before we get started we understand that you’re likely a little freaked out at this point … very understandable. It is, however, vitally important you have a clear head and methodically think through the options available to you before jumping to conclusions.

Let’s start with the obvious and just get that out of the way first! After any deletion the first place we want to look is in the Recycle Bin (PC) or Trash (Mac). You’d be surprised how many people never look in those obvious places first.

Once you’ve confirmed that your deleted item(s) are not located here then you essentially have 2 options available to you …

  1. Software Based File Recovery
  2. Hardware Based File Recovery

Let’s look at each of these items separately …

Software Based File Recovery

This would be trying to use a piece of software to search your hard drive and, in some cases, find a file that’s been marked for deletion, and is no longer accessible, but the area of the hard drive that file was sitting on has not been reclaimed yet. In “some” cases certain pieces of software can be used to reverse the process and bring the file(s) back.

The key point to stress here is that this option would need to be tried immediately because once a file is marked for deletion and no longer accessible the operating system might re-use that space for a new file in which case the deleted file would be completely overwritten and, hence, gone…. so “time is of the essence” indeed…  You really want to limit the amount of disk activity on the machine at this stage.

A simple Google search of “software file recovery” reveals quite a number of both paid and free software file recovery tools available.

I would personally be a little wary of the free tools out there only because, as with most free tools like this, if you don’t pay for something you really have no right to an expectation in the end.

Many of the paid products will allow a trial in which case you’d be allowed to run a scan and possibly even identify that a missing file “is” accessible and “could be” retrievable and then you could pay the fee for the software and likely get your files back.

Do you research though (preferably on another machine to limit disk activity) and try to find some independent reviews of the software that look good to you and narrow it down before trying …

Hardware Based File Recovery

This is usually much more involved and often much more expensive than software based file recovery. This method is often used when a hard drive has crashed and the operating system no longer boots up.

If the hard drive is still physically intact and it’s just the operating system that has failed then you can go to any computer shop and ask them to recover the hard drive contents. They will usually remove the hard drive from the PC or Mac and install it in an external USB device and read the contents like any other external hard drive and grab the contents …

If the hard drive is not physically intact (e.g. when you turn the machine on you get a specific message about a missing hard drive or an inaccessible hard drive) then this is a whole different story.

In this case you need to decide just how important the data on that hard drive is. If you determine that you absolutely must get the data back at all costs then you would need to send it to a lab where they pull the drive apart physically and swap out whatever parts they have to try and get the drive back up and running again. If they are able to do that then hopefully they can get the data back for you.

If the hard drive needs to go into a lab for this kind of work it can often run into costs of $1,000.00 or more depending on the provider and how quickly you need it done.

Summary

This is some information to consider if you find yourself in this exact situation and I hope it’s been helpful .. please feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to me using my CONTACT page if you have questions or comments!

Should I Outsource My E-Mail Security To The Cloud?

You want proper security wrapped around the flow of email messages in and out of your organization! Do you run it yourself or outsource it to the cloud?

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© Melpomene – Fotolia

Whether your email is hosted in the cloud or it’s hosted on your premises you still have the issue of proper email security to consider.

You have 3 choices essentially :

  1. Use the canned security provided by whomever is hosting your email (assuming it’s hosted offsite)
  2. Use hardware and/or software tools onsite at your premises (assuming you host your own email)
  3. Outsource email security to the cloud (whether hosted offsite -or- you host your own)

Let’s take a look at each of these options and you decide for yourself which option makes the most sense for you and your particular situation…

Use the canned security provided by whomever is hosting your email

Many email hosting companies will provide a limited amount of security for their customers. In many cases it will be limited to simple SPAM filtering and Whitelisting or Blacklisting and perhaps even some limited virus filtering but that’s usually about it.

You really need to check the level of security provided and decide right off the top if that is sufficient enough for you or if you need to enhance the security to a more acceptable level.

PRO : Usually very expensive and includes with your hosting plan

CON : Often not very extensive

Use hardware and/or software tools onsite at your premises

There are a number of hardware vendors (SonicWall, Cisco, Barracuda and others) that provide excellent, enterprise grade, email security appliances that provide a very high level of security.

They sit on premises in a rack usually and any email delivered onsite goes to this device first where it is filtered for both virus, malware and content and, once cleared for delivery it’s forwarded on to your email server onsite.

Any email sent outbound from your organization would be sent from your mail server out through this security device where it is filtered for both virus, malware and content before being delivered to its destination.

There are also a number of software plugins available for onsite email servers and even some of the hardware vendors mentioned above will make virtual machines for things like VMWare available that are dedicated email security appliances.

PRO : Peace of Mind of being able to have all piece of the “security puzzle” under your roof

CON : Often an upfront expense with a yearly or monthly subscription attached

Outsource email security to the cloud

As with the hardware vendors mentioned above there are a number of cloud email security vendors (Cisco, McAfee, SonicWall and others).

These services work by pointing the MX Record for your email domain to the cloud provider and that causes any email sent to you to go to the cloud provider first where it is filtered for both virus, malware and content before being delivered to your mail server onsite.

Conversely any email sent outbound from your organization would be sent from your mail server to the cloud provider where it is filtered for both virus, malware and content before being delivered to its destination.

PRO : Centralized staff that monitor the cloud service where this is the only thing they do thus creating a highly specialized environment that is highly effective. You get to take advantage of staff being able to jump on outbreaks and other situations immediately and everyone gets the benefit. There’s also usually no upfront as with hardware and it’s usually just a monthly or yearly subscription and that’s it. It’s also just one less piece you need to worry about.

CON : If you insist on only having “tangible and physical” resources linked to your network and you’re not comfortable with outsourcing or cloud computing then this may not be a comfortable choice for you.

Summary

Ultimately the choice of what you’re comfortable with is completely up to you! Ultimately I suggest you do your homework and assess your comfort level and go with the solution that fits you best! There are clearly pro’s and con’s to all the solutions.

If you have questions, comments or concerns please leave a comment below or reach out using our CONTACT page and I look forward to interacting with you!

Windows 10 Is Coming! Will you jump? …

This much anticipated release will be coming sometime later in 2015 … do you plan on making the switch?

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© tashatuvango – Fotolia

I have mixed feelings on this and am not entirely convinced what I’ll do at this stage …

In the many years I’ve been in this industry I’ve noticed that Microsoft seems to have a super operating system out with wide adoption and people seem to love it … they will then release a brand new O/S that gets generally negative feedback … then they come out with another really good O/S, wide adoption happens again they then release another O/S that gets the negative feedback again!

I’ve seen this pattern repeated multiple times …

A Bit Of History …

Windows 95 came out back in 1995 and was followed in 1998 with Windows 98! Windows 98 matured as a product was very widely adopted with lots of patches and security updates published for it … people generally loved the product!

Then along comes Microsoft Windows ME (Millennium Edition) in September 2000 which was generally panned and criticized for performance and speed issues. PC World at the time dubbed it as “one of the worst operating system Microsoft had ever produced”

October 2001 saw the introduction of Windows XP which is still very much in use today and I think is a great operating system! In fact it’s nearly 14 yrs old and it’s still in use in nearly 20% of computers world wild as of December 2014 (link) … generally speaking this has been and incredible well received operating system from Microsoft …

November 2006 then saw the pendulum swing again to the dark side and along comes Windows Vista … again another operating that received much negative criticism (link) and many people made the decision to hold on to Windows XP and not make the move …

July 2009 the pendulum swings back to the “good side” and out comes Windows 7 and again people started adopting the latest operating system …

October 2012 saw the release of Windows 8 and October 2013 saw the release of Windows 8.1 and both of these were complete departures from the any of the traditionally laid out operating system and started using a series of tiles and such to try and amalgamate Desktop/Laptop/Tablet devices and Touch Computer and such and introduced quite a steep learning curve on the part of end users!

Summary

So … you see the pattern here???

Windows 95/98 (GOOD) … Windows ME (BAD) … Windows XP (GOOD) … Windows Vista (BAD) … Windows 7 (GOOD) … Windows 8/8.1 (LUKEWARM)

September 2014 saw Microsoft announce Windows 10 as the successor to Windows 8.1 and the early “hints” seem to indicate some pretty positive things including more of a return to the traditional “bottom left corner Start button” … “Traditional Interface” availability that people have grown to love and feel comfortable with over the years along with some other toys and goodies!

It’s still to early to tell if it will be a huge success … but I can’t help but refer to the pattern I outlined above. If Windows 10 follows the pattern we’ve seen repeated up to this point then all indicators would seem to point to it being a winner!

Add to that the fact that Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 for qualified new and existing Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 devices that upgrade in the 1st year and you could see quite a migration to Windows on both the personal and the business side!

I’d really love to hear your opinion …. if you have any questions, comments or concerns please leave a comment below or reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll forward to hearing from you!

Support Is Ending Soon For Windows Server 2003!

Windows Server 2003 Support is ending July 14th, 2015 … what is your plan?

© adrian_ilie825

© adrian_ilie825

Windows Server 2003 was released back in April of 2003 and is now the ripe old age of 12! I am surprised it took this long but the time has finally come to pull the plug on this server operating system!

Microsoft has been making a big push lately to get all their customers to move off this operating and upgrade to either Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2012.

The operating system will still function after July 14th but Microsoft will no longer issues security patches for the operating system and it looks like any support options after the fact will be prohibitively expensive.

According to this great article written on Tech Republic it appears there’s also a potential bug that has surfaced when migrating from Microsoft Server 2003 to Microsoft Server 2012 which could prevent your ability to migrate successfully … so, you may need to consider migrating in steps and perhaps moving from Microsoft Server 2003 to Microsoft Server 2008 instead of making the leap all the way to 2012 …

The big point here is ???? DO YOUR HOMEWORK! … make sure you ask lots of questions of your IT Team about this :

  1. Do we have any Microsoft Server 2003 installs left at our business?
  2. If so, do we have a plan to migrate/upgrade to a more current Server operating system?
  3. If we “do” have a plan to migrate, and given the risks outlined above about possible bugs in migrating from Server 2003 to Server 2012, what is the plan to mitigate our risk and protect us during the upgrade?
  4. What tools and resources do you need to help make this a smooth transition?

The clock is ticking … a plan has to be in place and you need to get moving with this so you’re not left holding the bag and leaving your organization potentially exposed when support is finally yanked!

If you have any questions, concerns or comments please leave them below or reach out using the methods on our CONTACT page and we’ll look forward to hearing from you!

Is Your E-Mail Secure, Protected and Recoverable?

E-Mail communications is the lifeblood of any organization and you want to protect it as best you can with the tools that are available to you

© markrubens - Fotolia

© markrubens – Fotolia

With e-mail security and protection we are really talking about 3 main areas of focus …

  • Backup and Disaster Recovery of email and email items
  • Virus, Spam and Content Filtering
  • Forensic Archiving and Storage

Let’s take a look at each of these separately …

Backup and Disaster Recovery of email and email items

Let’s face it, we’ve all had a situation where we’ve deleted an email folder by accident or actually “fat fingered” a delete key and Murphy’s Law strikes! That important email you received yesterday and absolutely must have tomorrow is gone!

The very first thing to do is to look in your “Trash Bin” and see if it’s there at all!

I know I know … you’re likely thinking “DUH! Of course I’d look there!!!” but you’d be surprised the number of people over the years that have faced this kind of situation and not done the obvious and looked there first so I thought I’d just get “STEP #1” out of the way

If this doesn’t work for you then the solution to finding your email depends on what your particular setup scenario is.

I think the best way to handle this would be for me to suggest a few different scenarios and if none of those apply please feel free to leave a comment below, or at my website, and I’ll try and address that specific scenario for you!

Scenario #1 : Standard Internet Service Provider E-Mail using POP3 for e-mail access

If the account set up on the machine is set to leave the email on the server for a number of days before removing it then you may be in luck. You can simply log in to the web interface for your email and retrieve the email if it was sent fairly recently … (have your current IT Staff check and see if your POP3 account is set up this way)

If this setting is set but the email you are missing was received outside the “# of days” window that is set on the POP3 account settings then you will need to go to your backup for this … if your email files are kept on your local PC or Laptop and you don’t have a backup of those local files …. then …. well … how do I say this … it’s likely time to cut your losses and move on!

If your email files are stored on the server at your office then you will need to contact your IT Administrator and have them do a restore of those email files and sift through them to retrieve the email you are looking for …

(See It’s Late On Friday, Do You Know Where Your Data Is? for tips on being aware of where all your data is at all times)

Scenario #2 : Hosted Microsoft Exchange Services in the Cloud (Office365 or others)

It would very much depend on the hosting provider that you use as to what their policies are as far as backup and restores are concerned.

Many of them will offer a special archiving service as an “add-on” to your account but even “that” might have a limited time window attached.

(See How Do I Pick A Great Hosted Exchange E-Mail Service Provider? for some great tips on this)

Scenario #3 : Using GoogleApps for Business for E-Mail

Google is a bit unique in the way they offer email in that even if you delete an email you can often times still search for it in your email program and it will often show up and that’s due to the way that emails are stored in the Google Cloud … and if you can’t find it using a regular search in your email client then often logging into your Google Apps web interface will allow you to search for it there and find it.

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ACTION ITEM : I can’t possibly cover every single scenario here but it basically comes down to this! Ask your IT Management team this one question …

“Is this organizations email set up in such a way that we can easily recover an email or emails if someone should accidentally delete something?”

If this is important to you and they cannot answer this question definitively then changes need to be made to your setup so you can have the “Peace Of Mind” knowing that you’re covered!
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Virus, Spam and Content Filtering

If your email services are hosted on an email server at your office there are numerous ways you can handle this onsite at your office .. here’s a few possibilities

Router/Firewall Based Solution : Many of todays’ enterprise class firewalls and routers have security services you can subscribe to from the manufacturer to screen for Viruses and Malware right as soon as it hits your site and before the email is allowed to touch your email server

(See How Do I Pick The Best Security Firewall and Associated Security Devices For My Business? for some great tips)

Dedicated E-Mail Security Device : This is a dedicated piece of hardware where all incoming and outgoing email is sent to for “screening and cleaning” before it is allowed either “inbound” or “outbound” from your organization … This might be a great solution for a company that is committed to their current router/firewall hardware but still desires enterprise class protection… these devices can fit into pretty much any office network scenario

Software Plug-In for Existing E-Mail Server Vendor : The software vendor for your current e-mail server software may themselves have a software “add-on” or plugin available that fits nicely with your existing server setup …

If you are using a Cloud E-Mail Provider you will need to check directly with them inquire as what kind of email security processes they have in place.

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ACTION ITEM : Have the discussion with your current IT Management Team and ask them this question …

“What steps have been taken in this organization to protect our incoming and outgoing email from all the different types of virus and malware activity?”

This is an incredibly critical piece of your network and it is an absolutely essential to have this covered. The current solution of just having Desktop Anti-Virus may not be 100% effective … Ask lots of question and if you don’t have a peace about it then you need your IT team to make the necessary changes so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you’re taken care of!’re covered!
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Forensic Archiving and Storage

Whether you are bound by certain laws that require you to keep email history for a certain time frame, or you desire to have a record of all email coming either in our out of your organization there are solutions available that can give this capability to you …

Hosting Your Own Mail Server?

#1 : Check with your email server software vendor and see if they have a solution ?

#2 : Similar to the “Dedicated E-Mail Security Device” scenario mentioned above, you can have all inbound and outbound emails directed to a “device” or “server” where it is first archived before being delivered.

Hosting E-Mails In The Cloud?

#1 : Check with the vendor to see if they have this kind of capability built into their systems to give this to you …

This can be tremendously useful if you need to find an email during an audit situation? during legal proceedings???

Having a solution like this takes the “guess work” out of things as it allows you to literally search for “anything” coming in or out of the organization during however long you are set to keep email for?

SUMMARY :

This is a pretty deep topic and I’ve tried to cover as many of the scenarios as possible … in the end it all comes down to having regular discussion with your IT team about issues like E-Mail Security and Protection …

I’d encourage you to leave comments below and let’s have a conversation …

Is Your Network Secure Around The Clock?

There are many ways to gain access to your office network… some are legitimate and some are malicious! Are you aware of all the different ways people can gain access to your network and have steps been taken to plug holes in your security?

© Petr Ciz - Fotolia

© Petr Ciz – Fotolia

 

The network environment at your office is the heart of your operation! It’s the system you rely on daily to be able to conduct business and give you access to the files, websites and data you need to run your company and make it grow!

There are many different ways to access your network and you likely fit into one or more of the following access scenarios

  • Sitting at a PC or Mac Laptop/Desktop internally and either plugged into the network with a cable or connected wirelessly.
  • Using a Tablet device wirelessly both in and out of the office …
  • Sitting at a Starbucks or Hotel with your laptop and getting work done remotely on their wireless network …
  • Sitting on either a desktop or Laptop at home and getting work done remotely …

I’ve likely left out a few potential scenarios here but you get the point there are quite a number of ways, both external and internal, to get access to the data on your office network.

As a business owner it’s nothing to necessarily be afraid of, but it is something you definitely must be, at the very least, “aware of” and better yet “proactive about” so you can rest assured that your network is safe … safe when you arrive at the office in the morning and safe as well when you turn out the lights and leave at the end of the day.

Most system access questions will be directed at the Main Router/Firewall on your network. The Router/Firewall on your network is essentially the “first point of contact” or “the gatekeeper” for any traffic coming from the Internet that is directed at your office network. It is the primary device responsible for either “allowing” or “dis-allowing” access to your network from the outside.

Everything that comes into your internal network from the Internet first has to pass through the Router/Firewall unit before it can go anywhere else. It’s “RULES” that are set up on the Router/Firewall that determine what traffic “can” and “cannot” do …

It’s a good idea to have a regular review of the Router/Firewall rules as sometimes old access that used to be in place that is no longer needed/allowed can be just left open on the Router/Firewall and that can potentially create a “hole” that needs to be plugged …

Access From The Inside Out

This is another potential security hole in any organization as lots of services are out there like “LogMeIn” … “NetOp” and others that allow a person to install a piece of software on an PC or Laptop internally on the network so they can have un-fettered access from the outside. This way an employee can go home and access their office PC, for instance, from their home and gain access to company resources.

Again, this is not something inherently “evil” but you, as the business owner, need to be aware of who has access to your network and when …

Your IT Support staff need to know this information so #1: They are aware and #2: Should that employee ever leave they can remove that access so it cannot be accessed any longer …

Summary :

This should at the very least a list of questions in your mind and here’s what I would suggest … Sit down and have a great conversation with your IT Service provider and ask them these questions :

Question #1 : What kind of firewall protection do we have ?

Question #2 : Do we know what kinds of rules and access are currently in place?

Question #3 : Has a review ever been done to ensure those rules and access are still valid and needed?

Question #4 : Has a scan of the internal network every been done to check “Inside Out” apps like “LogMeIn” and others so we know who might “backdooring” to get access to the network?

Question #5 : Overall, do we have a list of everyone who currently has access to our network from the outside and do we have policies in place to ensure our network is safe when they gain access with those devices?

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts it doesn’t have to be a big heavy conversation but in the end it’s all about educating yourself regarding what’s going on with your network. An “educated” and “informed” owner, in the end, is an owner that is being responsible and can check off yet another thing as done is his/her mind … and “that” creates “Peace Of Mind” …

Onwards and Upwards ….

Please feel free to leave comments below or reach out using our CONTACT page if you have further questions or concerns you’d like to discuss!