The Impact of the Heartbleed Bug on Business

The Heartbleed bug has swept across the nation, impacting a countless number of businesses and consumers. The bug is a vulnerability in OpenSSL, which is the name of a 1998 project that was started to encrypt websites and user information across the web. What started as a project committed to data encryption is now standard on 2/3 of all websites on the Internet. Without OpenSSL, our personal information submitted across every website we visit could land in the hands of cyber criminals. Ironically, the OpenSSL software that was designed to protect users contained a flaw that made it possible for hackers to trick a server into spewing out the data that was held in its memory.

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When news of the Heartbleed struck, business scrambled to find out how many of their systems were using the vulnerable version of OpenSSL. While the big web companies, such as Google and Yahoo, were able to move fast to fix the problem – smaller e-commerce sites are struggling to “patch” the software quickly. As the larger sites close the door on the Heartbleed bug, hackers are turning their attention to any small and medium businesses that may not have the knowledge or manpower to update and protect their e-commerce sites accordingly.

However, regardless of the size of the business, if customers learn that a company’s system has been hacked and their personal information was compromised, legal issues could arise. Angered customers – and their lawyers – will look to hold businesses accountable for any personal data that lands in the hands of hackers. Businesses need to communicate with their customers to inform them what steps have – and will be – taken to fix the problem. That way, customers can update their passwords accordingly once a business has confirmed that their site is clean.

Many of the impacted sites are not just popular for personal usage, but are used every day by businesses of all sizes. Companies will need to follow the same steps as their customers and wait to receive confirmation from any frequently used websites that the issue has been resolved before changing their passwords. It’s also important to realize that other devices, such as Android smart phones and tablets, are vulnerable to the bug as well.

The Heartbleed bug ordeal is just another reminder of the security challenges companies are facing as more and more economic activity move online. According to eMarketer, an independent research organization, worldwide business-to-consumer e-commerce sales are likely to increase to $1.5 trillion this year. With money like that on the line, you can bet cyber criminals will be vigorously targeting businesses to try and get a piece of the pie. Companies need to take all necessary precautions to protect themselves and their customers.

To learn more about protecting your business, click here.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

How Cloud Computing Helps Small Businesses Level the Playing Field

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It has been said that the digital age has reduced the gap that used to exist between big companies and their smaller counterparts, if only because it’s easier for small businesses to reach out directly to customers. That might be true, but any small business owner can tell you that the bigger names still enjoy a number of important advantages – namely that they have larger budgets to work with, and can take advantage of economies of scale. When it comes to IT and business technology, those advantages can be a very big deal. Bigger spending leads to bigger performance and relatively lower expenses. In other words, it means that large organizations can afford to take advantage of things that small companies can’t…

Or at least that they used to be able to outspend smaller companies.

Cloud computing and colocation are changing all of that. By altering the way technology is used and budgeted, these two services are making it possible for small businesses to afford the high-powered tools and systems that their bigger competitors have access to.

Why Cloud Computing and Colocation Make IT a Fair Fight

When smaller businesses switch to cloud computing and colocation with a Canadian data centre, the size of the company, or its budget, doesn’t matter nearly as much. Here are a few of the most important reasons why:

Smaller businesses get access to better software through cloud computing. In the past, small businesses may have passed on investing in software applications that could help them grow their business because the costs were too prohibitive, or at least held off on making version upgrades. With cloud computing, though – and monthly subscriptions instead of big upfront investments – those barriers to critical software are removed.

Cloud computing and colocation mean lower, fixed IT expenses. Obviously, every small business owner or manager likes saving money. But, as an underrated side effect, these two types of IT leasing also allow for a fixed monthly expenses, meaning that it’s easier to plan for future cash flow. Why not give your company more money to spend elsewhere in the budget?

Cloud computing and colocation are both scalable. Over the past decade, lots of businesses have come to regret making huge investments in technology, watching it depreciate (or need to be replaced) even as business conditions remained unstable. By taking advantage of cloud computing and colocation, you can increase or decrease your level of service without making a big commitment now, or being tied to a huge monthly invoice later.

Small businesses enjoy better data security. One thing more and more companies are discovering is that keeping things like hardware and critical data in their offices is a bad idea. Break-ins, fires, and equipment failure all have to be considered and planned for. But, with leased IT in a remote location, encrypted file transfers, and continuous automated backup systems working for you, colocation and cloud computing can take away those worries.

With cloud computing and colocation, you don’t need a big IT team. In fact, when you make the move to these kinds of remote technology systems, you might be able to remove your IT team altogether. That can be a great way to lower your overall expenses while enjoying the same level of service and benefits that you and your employees have become accustomed to.

The best way to discover whether cloud computing or colocation in a Canadian data centre are a good fit for your small business – or find out exactly how much you could save on a monthly and yearly basis – is to call a provider and learn what solutions they have available. In almost every case, new clients find that it takes a lot less than they had imagined to enjoy the kind of IT care that big businesses take for granted.

Your Fridge May Be Sending Out Spam – And Not the Canned Meat Kind

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At the 2014 Consumer Electronics show, the Internet of Things and smart devices stole the spotlight. Tech heavyweights Samsung and LG unveiled their “Smart Home” devices, which consisted of household appliances that were able to communicate with the homeowner and each other. These M2M devices (machine to machine) are each assigned an IP address, allowing them to connect to the Internet and transfer data (or, in other words, talk to each other) over a network without the need for human interaction.

This technology provides businesses and consumers with an array of benefits, without a doubt. Consumers are able to save on time and money – now that they can switch their appliances to an energy saving mode remotely or text their fridge to find out if they need to buy milk at the store before arriving home. Businesses are able to collect endless amounts of information from their customers and their devices – such as maintenance requirements or customer food preferences. However, with both parties looking to utilize IoT as soon as possible, security measures have been overlooked.

Between December 23 and January 6th, several Internet-connected “smart” devices – including refrigerators – sent upwards of 750,000 malicious emails. This is believed to be the first cyber attack involving IoT, and likely won’t be the last. Many IoT devices are poorly protected and consumers aren’t able to detect or fix security breaches when they do occur. As more of these smart appliances “come online”, attackers are finding ways to exploit them for their own needs.

Additionally, following an M2M conference in Toronto, ON, the Director of Policy for Ontario’s privacy commissioner pointed out that these devices also hold a lot of data that will be personally identifiable. Organizations are being urged to think about the privacy of customer data before employing M2M and IoT devices. Recently, customer data was leaked by LG’s smart TV as it was collecting and transmitting personal information to the manufacturer because there was no encryption. In an even more bizarre circumstance, the signal transmitted from a wireless camera used to monitor the interior of a Canadian methadone clinic was being picked up by a back-up camera inside of a vehicle outside of the building.

It’s imperative for organizations and consumers to comprehend the security and privacy risks associated with M2M and IoT enabled devices. Consumers will need to ensure that they keep their software up-to-date, change all default passwords to something more secure, and place their IoT device behind a router. Meanwhile, organizations who manufacture these devices must incorporate any available security measures available to ensure their customer’s information and network stayed protected. The benefits of IoT devices far outweighs the concerns, but those concerns still need to be addressed before IoT can really take off.

To learn more about the Internet of Things, check out our previous blog post by clicking here.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

 

Are You Too Worried About Cloud Security?

Should you wait, or push forward? Is it better to embrace the new technology, or to wait for it to be improved and refined? These are questions that come up again and again in virtually every part of the business world, but they seem particularly apt when it comes to the phenomenon that is cloud computing – the hottest IT trend in the world and a way for businesses of all sizes to gain huge performance advantages on smaller budgets.

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On the surface, there isn’t much not to love about cloud computing. By moving your hardware and software to a remote location and accessing it via the web, you gain the ability to access real-time information from any web-enabled device… and all while taking advantage of those cost savings we already mentioned. A relatively sizable minority of small businesses is holding off on making the transition just yet, however, because they have concerns about cloud security.

Should you wait right alongside them? Or, is worrying too much about cloud security holding you back from making a decision that can help your company? As always, there isn’t a cut-and-dried answer to that question. While security breaches have been relatively rare, there have been some valid concerns when it comes to cloud security at some facilities, and with some vendors. However, those concerns shouldn’t be pressing enough to stop most organizations from making the switch.

To understand why, consider the basic model that most reputable cloud computing package providers employ to keep data safe. Generally speaking they do deter, prevent, correct, and detect – or do everything they can to scare thieves away, stop them from accessing data, limit the damage they can do, and then fix any known security issues quickly. To get a sense of how that actually works in the real world, consider some of the major safeguards that cloud computing providers using Canadian data centres put into place to protect the flow and integrity of client data:

Maximum strength encryption: In the best Canadian colocation data centres, high-level encryption is used for the transmission of files to and from client workstations. Although maximum strength encryption can theoretically be broken, cyber criminals almost always look for smaller and easier targets that are more vulnerable.

Comprehensive antivirus scanning: It isn’t unusual for a single virus, introduced by the wrong download or email attachment, to infect multiple computers within the same small business network quickly. At a state-of-the-art cloud computing facility, however, continuous antivirus scans mean that bits of problematic code are identified and quarantined very quickly.

On-site protection: In a lot of small businesses, servers, backup hard drives, and other pieces of hardware containing sensitive data are often left completely unguarded and out in the open. At a cloud facility, trained security personnel are on the premises around the clock – as are engineers and systems experts to monitor the hardware and flow of information.

Redundancy systems: When you lose an important piece of hardware in your office or facility, it’s likely that the important files you need have disappeared forever. Because files stored in the cloud are continuously backed up, however, even a natural disaster won’t cause you to lose information like client records that you desperately need to keep your company going.

Environmental controls. You can’t find a better environment for cloud computing than the ones you’ll find in our Canadian data centres, where continuous power backups, strict climate control, and a lack of natural disasters all work in our favor. Plus, we have a very stable government with strict privacy laws, so you don’t have to worry that any organization is going to have an unauthorized look through your company’s records.

When it comes down to it, we can’t guarantee beyond every doubt that a security breach will never take place at our cloud facility, or at any of the others across the country. What we can promise you, however, is that the steps we take to safeguard important information are much, much stronger than the ones you would find in most corporate offices… and certainly at a higher level than the ones most small businesses use.

The issue, then, isn’t whether cloud security should be a concern, but whether you can really believe that you’re safer without cloud computing in a Canadian data centre.

To learn more about cloud computing, check out our white paper Cutting IT Costs with Cloud Computing.

Data Loss and Business Downtime Infographic

Over the past year, computer users worldwide created 1.8 billion gigabytes of data. Much of that data was pertinent for business dealings and operations. Unfortunately, some of that data was also lost, causing expensive downtime for businesses – many of which will never recover from the loss.

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There are several factors that commonly contribute to the loss of data. However, the two top causes of data loss are the failure of an uninterrupted power supply and human error. Some of the other top causes include exceeding UPS capacity, cyber-attacks, equipment failure, water incursion, weather-related issues and circuit breaker failure. There are several business continuity tactics and procedures that companies can put in place to prevent or diminish the impact. However, businesses need to implement a disaster recovery plan as well in case their prevention methods were not enough.

Of companies that lose a data center for 10 days, 93 percent file for bankruptcy within a year. Additionally, 43 percent of companies that experience such disasters never reopen. Only six percent of companies without a recovery plan will survive long term. Companies that design and implement a disaster recovery plan have a better chance of surviving catastrophic data loss.

First, businesses need to perform an impact analysis, which involves organizing the data by order of recovery importance. It is important to identify your company’s most valuable assets and critical business functions. These are the tools that must be preserved in an emergency in order to keep your business operational.

Next, companies should perform risk assessment in which they identify potential points of system failure and then take action to eliminate as many as possible. By proactively testing your operational functions for a weak spot, you may be able to prevent a larger problem from occurring. Finally, each company needs to manage their risks by instituting solutions that address points of vulnerability.

This infographic was supplied to us by SingleHop. SingleHop is dedicated to bringing cloud hosting solutions to businesses. They build and maintain hosted infrastructures for companies worldwide. To visit their website, click here

Data Centers Canada Presents: Move Your Contact Centre into the Cloud

Data Centers Canada, a division of TeraGo Networks, recently posted an article on their blog site discussing the advantages of moving your business’s contact centre into the cloud. Below, we’ve provided a copy of the article:

Save Money and Improve Customer Service by Moving Your Contact Centre into the Cloud

Cloud computing is transforming the way we think about technology and communications, with new applications coming to light all the time. One of the most exciting – and one with a huge potential to save businesses a lot of money – is the ability to make your customer service contact centre cloud based.

How does a cloud contact centre work in conjunction with colocation at a Canadian data centre? In essence, it simply means that your calls are routed to Internet-connected workstations through a configurable software package. You control where the calls go, to whom, and what information is displayed to customer service representatives in real time. Because software is hosted online, and the calls are handled over the Internet through VOIP, your business gets bigger capabilities at a fraction of the cost.

With VOIP systems already standard in companies of all sizes, it’s no wonder that so many are turning to cloud platforms to lower costs and increase customer service effectiveness. It’s a classic win-win scenario, and one that virtually any organization can take advantage of.

To help illustrate the reasons why, here are seven big advantages you enjoy when you move your contact centre into the cloud:

1. You eliminate customer service hardware costs. One of the tremendous advantages you gain with any cloud computing platform is the freedom to do away with expensive and unreliable on-site hardware. The savings are especially important when you’re talking about servers, telephone switchboards, and other pieces of technology traditionally needed for customer service. By embracing colocation with a Canadian data centre, you can eliminate fixed investments and take advantage of less expensive monthly agreements.

2. More customer service capabilities. While a lot of businesses are limited to simply engaging customers over the phone, cloud contact centres can allow users to participate in real-time chat sessions and, in some situations, even screen-sharing sessions. That means your representatives can diagnose problems and assist buyers more quickly than ever before.

3. Better customer service call routing. Cloud contact centres work through infinitely customizable software packages. So, you can decide whether to offer menu prompts to callers, where to route incoming calls, and even whether to split them between different locations, departments, or priorities. With this increased control, businesses can deal with their most important inquiries first, and help customers to find the contact or information they’re looking for faster.

4. Real-time customer information. One of the greatest things about cloud computing platforms is that they work in real time, so software can be updated for all users in an instant. Since that includes databases, your customer service team can have the account-specific information they need, continuously updated and ready at a moment’s notice. That allows them to see what happened during previous interactions, view the details of orders, and check things like shipping without any delay.

5. Customer service scalability. When your cloud customer service system is set up using colocation at a Canadian data centre, you always have the option of expanding your operations quickly – and without investing in new call centre locations or buying expensive telecommunications equipment. Simply make a change in your account, based on your current or forecasted future needs, and your usage settings can be adjusted overnight.

6. Better data security. Colocation is a great way to make all of your technology safer, with encrypted connections, automated backups, and secure facilities that are monitored around the clock. That’s especially important when it comes to customer service, since you don’t want buyer information and order details being seen by unauthorized third parties. With the right Canadian data centre, you won’t have to worry about where your data is being stored, or where it might be going when you aren’t looking.

7. Less customer service downtime. Because cloud computing and colocation systems are notably more reliable than traditional in-office telecommunications packages, your customer service team spends less time offline. That means a more consistent experience for buyers, higher customer retention rates, and a better reputation in your industry.

A lot of businesses are just finding out about colocation contact centres for the first time, but they are quickly learning that there is a lot to love about handling incoming calls in the cloud. Is it time you looked into a better way to keep buyers happy and save money all at the same time?

To learn more about data centre technologies and trends, check out the Data Centers Canada blog by clicking here.

Technology Trends Expected to Change the Game

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Ramya Raju, a freelance writer from India. With over 8 years of writing experience, Raju discusses a variety of topics, such as data centre technologies, SEO, web design, and mobile. You can learn more about him by visiting his website. 

Whirlwind changes are happening in the world of business and organizations, and that has had an impact on IT as well. The IT sector will have to go through a major transformation in 2014 and that can be seen in cloud, mobile and social technologies. There is an increasing amount of focus and demand on access to information, and these technologies are quickly “coming of age” in order to keep up. As a result, it’s now necessary for companies, especially their IT, to reinvent themselves. And there are some major trends that will make their presence felt in 2014.

The Internet of Things will make things more interesting and challenging for IT

There are a large number of Smartphones and devices that are out there today. Bring your own device (BYOD) culture is also gaining ground to a large extent and that in itself can be a tricky proposition for IT. But things won’t stop at that because Internet Of Things will pose further challengers to IT masters. It involves different types of constituents including wearable personal technology and smart consumer and medical devices. There are sensors in different parts of the world and connected machines to deal with as well, and that doesn’t make the task of IT any easier.

IPv6 has been lapped up in all kinds of places and the addresses it comes with are endless. Thus there is going to be an explosion of data that will have to be handled very carefully. Thus there will be a growing emphasis on scalability and complexity. IT will have a task on its hands when it comes to these factors.

Analytics gains prominence

The industry has often focussed on connection and data movement. Immediate application functionality was another aspect that was given a lot of importance. But now Analytics will takes its place of pride. It will definitely move from being an add-on that often seemed like an afterthought for people till date.  There are several factors that have contributed to this sea change in approach. The major onslaught of large amounts of data is one factor and the impact of Internet Of Things is another. The importance of data is also observed and acknowledged a lot more today, which has made it necessary for people to incorporate analytics right from the beginning. Context sensitive and location aware abilities for IT will also become common place.

More attention on apps

People are paying a lot of attention to the performance and functionality of major projects, especially in the healthcare sector. But expectations from application delivery will be a lot higher in 2014 and things like model drives, user based development will be stressed upon. Thus IT has its task cut out as far as apps are concerned.

It means that the new age, fast development tools will be in the spotlight. People will also have to think about processes that will lead to speedy delivery, which will remain important. Other crucial aspects to think about will be predictability and reliability. To make things more challenging, people will have to think hard about meeting service level requirements and keeping the costs under control as well.

PaaS will be widely accepted

Platform-as-a-Service will get its due and wide recognition in 2014 and it will be one of the important trends of the year. This is a cloud layer that certainly has its advantages and they will be noticed by people, who are only going to lap it up. Some of its benefits include agility, analytics and faster development. Moreover it is more suited for scalability, which is something people will want. And of course, it has the cost benefits of cloud, which will be a huge bonus.

There are few other reasons why people will take to PaaS in 2014. It is known to offer structure and control for strategic needs of organizations. And that’s an appealing proposition for companies irrespective of their size. Once these advantages are noticed, the industry will be forced through a major change. It will lead to business specialists being in charge of data integration tools. Overall data integration will become omnipresent.

Budget Shift in IT

Now that cloud is becoming widely accepted and democratized, development trends seem to be the norm, individual lines of business will start getting more power. They will be in a position to start funding their own projects and wrest the initiative from IT.

As a result, companies and CIOs will have to come up with strategies to ensure that they cope with the evolving climate without losing information. They will also have to ensure that there are no security risks involved and they don’t get into technically dead-end situations. Things will change rapidly and they will have to learn to adapt quickly.

In 2014, one size fits all philosophy will become more redundant than ever before. It could mean different things and strategies for different people based on their requirements but they will certainly have to be worked on. In short, it’s all about making it possible to access information anywhere, anytime and wherever it’s needed.

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