Deploying software systems to manage a growing organization

Most organizations use software to manage at least these items:

  • Accounting – Perform vital bookkeeping and accounting functions
  • Contacts – Organize and manage clients, prospects, vendors, etc.
  • Operations – Match assets to organization’s need on a daily basis

In organizations with funding limitations, deployment of a software-based system to manage specific functions often starts as a cost-based decision, which can lead to several miscues along the way since cost is only one of the factors that should guide the decision.

I’d categorize deployment options in this manner:

  • Build your own using all-purpose, brand-name, productivity software
  • Purchase stand-alone applications and manually integrate them
  • Deploy an integrated, all-inclusive system
  • Outsource this mess to someone else

I’ll address the first three options now and provide some feedback on deployment.   Outsource is a large topic that will be covered separately.

Build your own

Organizations with a do-it-yourself perspective often turn to the build your own approach; you basically use the functionality of productivity software (like Microsoft Office) to create a custom-built solution.  Generally, this works OK to start, but can be difficult to manage and maintain with growth.

Popular productivity-software options include:

  • Microsoft’s Office suite (currently Microsoft Office 2013), which includes:
    • Outlook to manage contacts, calendar, email, and tasks
    • Excel to create proposals and track financial information
    • Access to build and manage contact and production databases
  • Microsoft Office 365, a Cloud-based alternative to the Microsoft Office suite
  • Google Apps for Business, which is a direct competitor to Microsoft Office 365

When Bryley Systems first started in the mid-1980s, we used Lotus 123 (a then-popular spreadsheet application) as our primary tool for everything financial; it quickly became unwieldy, so we purchased an accounting-software package.

Stand-alone applications

Stand-alone applications target a specific function and provide work-flows and best-practices to address this function through use of the software application.

Stand-alone applications are often categorized by function (as described above):

  • Accounting
  • Contacts
  • Operations

Below is a brief summary of these categories.

Accounting

The accounting system is very important; it automates the various accounting and bookkeeping functions (Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Inventory Control, Payroll, etc.) and provides a shared foundation for other capabilities.

Intuit’s Quicken is easy to use as a checkbook replacement, but QuickBooks is a full-function accounting system that leads this market.  Peachtree is another popular accounting package, but with only a fraction of the market share.  Intaact is making headway in mid-sized businesses.

FindAccountingSoftware.com provides an easy-to-use, online guide at http://findaccountingsoftware.com/software-search/.

Contacts

Contact-management applications permit the input and retrieval of contact information with tracking and communications activities, including scheduling.  (You can manage your contacts within your accounting system, but this becomes less practical as your account base grows.)

ACT was one of the original contact managers and claims to be the market leader.  It is now owned by Sage Software (which also owns Peachtree and other accounting packages) and can be purchased or leased online.

Other popular options include:

  • Salesforce
  • OnContact
  • Prophet

We started with ACT in the early years, but shifted to Prophet in the early 2000s since it integrated with some of our other systems.

For a recent ranking and review, please visit http://contact-management-software-review.toptenreviews.com/.

Operations (both manufacturing and service-delivery)

In a manufacturing environment, a production-management system enhances control over materials flow (from raw materials coming into the organization to finished goods flowing out), production resources (tooling, equipment, and employees), and scheduling.  It is the glue that binds these items together, permitting the company to manage its flow of work.

We often see these packages at our manufacturing clients:

  • Exact Macola
  • Exact JobBOSS
  • GlobalShop Solutions
  • IQMS  Enterprise IQ

Capterra lists many of these options at http://www.capterra.com/production-scheduling-software.

Service-delivery management is a bit more diverse; what works for one type of service operation might not be appropriate for another type.  Typically, these are industry-specific solutions.

For example, we started with BridgeTrak, which is a service-ticketing application with scheduling and limited contact management.  It served well for a number of years, but we found it difficult to integrate with our accounting package (Peachtree at the time) and with other applications.

Stand-alone applications can be deployed internally, but many companies exist to assist with this process. Multi-user versions should have a dedicated, Windows-based server or be Cloud-based.

The lines are blurring between stand-alone applications and integrated, all-inclusive systems, but the primary issues with stand-alone systems:

  • They can become separate islands of information
  • They do not readily integrate with one another

Integrated, all-inclusive system

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and PSA (Professional Services Automation) systems integrate all company functions and departments; it provides one repository for all organization data, which is available to all employees.  A related option, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), software is similar, but has less functionality and is often a component of an ERP or a PSA system.

High-end, all-inclusive systems from SAP, Oracle, Epicor, etc. cost hundreds of thousands or even millions to procure and deploy, but integrate every aspect of the organization.  Most large organizations work with one of these vendors and use their software nearly exclusively for all functions.

For mid-sized and smaller companies, there are many accounting-based systems that can be expanded through modules and customization to provide ERP and PSA-class alternatives.  Three of the more-popular options:

  • Microsoft Dynamics/GP (formerly Great Plains)
  • Sage 100 (formerly MAS 90)
  • NetSuite

There are also many software-development firms that focus on a specific, vertical market and provide a complete, market-specific solution.  In the mid-2000s, we chose this direction and purchased a PSA system from ConnectWise which is custom-tailored to our industry.

ConnectWise handles all facets of our business and integrates with our accounting system and with our sales-quoting tool.  All employees are required to enter every scrap of data into ConnectWise; our adopted slogan is “If it is not in ConnectWise, it did not happen”.

We also use QuickBooks, but primarily because it integrates with ConnectWise in a downstream direction.  We create our proposals through QuoteWerks, which integrates with both QuickBooks and with ConnectWise.

The initial investment is significant, but the time spent deploying an integrated, all-inclusive system solution within the organization and training employees can far surpass the cost of the software licensing. It is a demanding process, but it pays big dividends in uniting all functions and groups.

The primary benefits:

  • All functions integrate together
  • The system can usually integrate with other applications
  • All employees use the same interface and share the exact-same information

Deployment

To deploy these packages on-premise (rather than in the Cloud), you would need:

  • Infrastructure hardware – Physical server with reliability items (UPS, RAID, redundant power supplies, backup solution, etc.).  We recommend HP servers, but also support Dell.
  • Infrastructure software – Most business software are compatible with Microsoft Windows Server and Microsoft SQL Server.  Microsoft Exchange Server may be needed for email integration.
  • Infrastructure deployment – Setup the Infrastructure hardware and software (listed above), configure the end-user devices (PCs and mobile), etc.
  • Business software – Usually sold in a series of modules with add-ons and licensed to match your user count.
  • Business-software deployment – Usually sold as a project, which includes all of the setup stages needed to get the business software operational and assist in the transition.  A fair amount of process customization is needed; report customization is also part of this stage.  (Most folk select an internal “champion” or a “deployment team” to evangelize, build enthusiasm, watch-over the process, and keep things on-track.)
  • Training – We recommend several, time-spaced sessions followed by occasional tune-ups to allow acclimation and to provide hand-holding for those that will have the most challenges.

Cloud-based deployments eliminate the Infrastructure stages (except setup of client devices) and price the business software in per-user increments; however, customization and training are still needed.  The major incentives to Cloud-based deployments include:

  • Reduce capital expenditures (Infrastructure equipment and software)
  • Shift to operating expenses on a per-user basis
  • Speed-up time to deploy

Cloud-based deployments requires great trust in the business partner providing these services, but they can free-up cash (by eliminating the need to purchase Infrastructure) and get you setup quicker.

Summary

Many cash-strapped organizations start with build-your-own and later morph to one or a combination of the other three options as they grow.  However, deploying an integrated, all-inclusive system provides significant benefits and is now easier to budget and deploy with Cloud-based alternatives that spread costs over time.

 

For more information, please email Info@Bryley.com or call us at 978.562.6077.

Comparing Cloud-based services (Complete Overview)

Many Cloud-based services fall into one of these categories:

  • Productivity suites – Applications that help you be more productive
  • Storage – Storing, retrieving, and synchronizing files in the Cloud
  • Backup and Recovery – Backing-up data and being able to recover it
  • Prevention – Prevent malware, typically spam and related components

Each category is represented below in its own section.

1. Productivity suites

Productivity suites

Probably the segment with the heaviest hitters, Microsoft and Google are battling for supremacy; Microsoft was late to the Cloud, but is ramping up nicely with its Cloud-services sales exceeding $1B/year.  However, Google still owns this segment with an estimated 33% to 50% of Cloud-based, productivity-suite users, mostly on the strength of its free Google Apps and Google Apps for Education, but also with paid subscriptions to Google Apps for Business and Google Apps for Government.

Microsoft Office 365 Logo

Microsoft built Office 365 on its popular, desktop-based, Microsoft Office suite which includes Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other applications.  (The current versions are Office 2003, Office 2007, Office 2010, and Office 2013.)  Microsoft Office users will find Office 365 familiar since most versions include the Microsoft Office suite, which can be downloaded to your PC and to other compatible devices.

Office 365 consists of these primary components:

  • Exchange Online – Email, calendar, contacts, and tasks
  • SharePoint Online – Document collaboration and management
  • Lync Online – Online meetings with instant messaging and desktop sharing
  • Office Web Apps – Cloud versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote

Most versions of Office 365 also include:

  • Office suite – Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.
  • SkyDrive – Cloud storage of documents

Full-feature versions range from $96/user per year to $240/user per year.  Microsoft now offers its E1 plan free to qualifying non-profit organizations.

Google Logo

Google Apps are, and always were, Cloud-based; they did not start as applications installed onto your computer.  As such, they are easy to use and maintain and they work on a wide variety of devices, from PCs to tablets to smartphones.  On the downside, due to this setup, they have some functionality and usage limitations when compared to Microsoft Office applications.

Google Apps for Business has a “one size fits all” approach; you get all the features at $50/user per year.  Google Apps for Business includes:

  • Gmail – Email with Google-powered search
  • Calendar – Schedule meetings, share calendars, get reminders
  • Drive – Store files in the Cloud and send files to colleagues
  • Docs – Create, share, and work-on documents
  • Sheets – Manage spreadsheet data
  • Slides – Create presentations

Comparing Productivity Suites

Both Office 365 and Google Apps for Business provide desired applications that are somewhat easy to use; while Microsoft relies on its huge base of Office users to consider switching to Office 365, Google lures its users in with its free versions of Google Apps and Google Apps for Education and then provides a simple upgrade to the paid version of Google Apps for Business (or Google Apps for Government).

Basic reasons to choose Microsoft Office 365:

  • Users are familiar and comfortable with Microsoft Office interface
  • Multiple plan options exist to fit your needs and budget
  • Greater functionality within applications

Basic reasons to choose Google Apps for Business:

  • Relatively inexpensive with only one plan to select
  • Low maintenance with no updating necessary
  • Works over a wide range of devices

Get more Microsoft Office 365 versus Google Apps from our August newsletter at https://www.bryley.com/2013/09/04/near-term-future-computer-technology-microsoft-versus-google/.

 

2. Storage

Storage often comes in a free version with separate professional/business (paid) versions that includes advanced features.  The basic premise is that your data is stored in the Cloud – hopefully in a secure manner with sufficient redundancy – is available from any location on any device, and is synchronized between devices.

Most free versions offer these minimum features:

  • At least 2Gb of storage with synchronization across multiple computers
  • Easy access from mobile devices and PCs via downloadable client software
  • Direct access to files through a web browser
  • File sharing with other users

However, you typically must upgrade to a paid version to receive these capabilities:

  • Access control – Define and control who can access what, where, and when
  • Additional storage – Purchase extra storage once your limit is exceeded
  • Auditing – Identify and record what files are stored where and by whom
  • Integration – Integrate with other platforms (i.e.: Active Directory)
  • Security – Enable advanced encryption and security techniques

Popular services (alphabetically) include:

  • Box – 10 Gb free storage with NetSkope’s second-highest rating
  • Dropbox – 2 Gb free storage with over 200 million subscribers
  • Google Drive – 15 Gb free storage shared with Gmail and Google+ Photo
  • SkyDrive – 7 Gb free storage and integrated within Microsoft Office apps

Box

Box (www.Box.com) is a Q3-2013 leader in Forrester’s “File Sync & Share Platforms”.  It offers a free version, but is built for professional use with available integration to Active Directory and LDAP, security with rotating encryption keys, access control, and auditing.

According to Netskope’s review of Cloud-based applications, Box was the second highest-scoring Cloud application, coming in the number two spot on the NetSkope Q3-2013 Cloud Report.  (Please visit Netskope’s http://www.netskope.com/reports-infographics/netskope-cloud-report-q3-2013 for the complete report.)

My take:  Box is the most-comprehensive offering, but a bit more complex due to its advanced features.  It is a serious choice for those that value advanced features (access control, auditing, integration, etc.) and are willing to pay to get them.

Dropbox

With over 200 million users, Dropbox (www.Dropbox.com) claims market leadership.  It is built upon Amazon’s S3 storage and is easy to use.  The free version offers 2 Gb, but there is a professional (Dropbox Pro) version with greater functionality (and storage) and a business version (Dropbox for Business) that offers team collaboration.  All three versions offer synchronization and file-sharing; the help screens are brief, useful, and entertaining.

My take:  Dropbox is the easiest and most-fun to use, but it has the least amount of free storage and its paid plans are a bit more expensive than others.

Google Drive

Google offers Google Drive (www.GoogleDrive.com) as a stand-alone service or bundled within Google Apps.  The free version offers 15 Gb with synchronization among devices and sharing among peers.  It is a no-frills alternative with little glitz, just reliable storage at reasonable cost.  It is the base of Google Apps.

My take:  Google Drive has fewer doodads and the least amount of whimsy, but it is reliable and offers the greatest amount of free storage.

SkyDrive

Microsoft offers its free version of SkyDrive (www.SkyDrive.com) with seven Gb plus an additional three Gb for students.  SkyDrive is an option in newer versions of Microsoft Office and integrates to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Bing.  You can also “fetch” files from your base computer via web-browser on a remote computer.

My take:  SkyDrive offers the most for the least, although there is some buzz about slow synchronization between devices.  Its “fetch” feature is unique among these alternatives and its integration within Microsoft Office is a killer feature.

 

3. Backup and Recovery

Backup and Recovery automatically copies files and folders to an offsite location at periodic intervals.  It is similar to Storage, but is unique in that these files are held separately, unchanged, for the purpose of restoration (recovery) if the original files become unavailable.  Backups are typically encrypted and are somewhat resistant to malicious attacks; however, if the original files were infected before the backup process begins, the backup files will also be infected.

Recovery is the reason for backups.  The most common recovery scenarios:

  • A user changes a document and then wishes to retrieve the previous version.
  • Changes are saved to a template document, rather than creating a new file.
  • An upgrade to an application fails and corrupts its data files.
  • Access is needed to a deleted file.

Popular, Cloud-based, Backup and Recovery services include (alphabetically):

  • Carbonite – Extremely popular; starts at $59.99/year per device
  • Mozy – Also well-known with prices starting at $5.99/month for up to 50Gb
  • SOS Online Backup – Starts at $9.99/month for 100Gb; unlimited devices
  • SugarSync – More synchronization than backup starting at $7.49/month

Carbonite

Carbonite is automated, encrypted, and easy to use.  It is available for home users, but includes business-oriented plans.  Home-user plans are per-device; each device is priced at $59.99/year with unlimited backup.  Business plans start at $299.99/year with an unlimited number of devices.

Visit www.Carbonite.com.

Mozy

Mozy is a subsidiary of EMC, a Fortune 500 company in Hopkinton, MA.  Like Carbonite, they offer both home and business packages.

There is a free version, but most MozyHome plans start at $5.99/month per device with up to 50Gb. The business option, MozyPro, starts at $19.99/month for unlimited devices up to 50Gb; $26.98/month with servers.

Visit www.Mozy.com.

SOS Online Backup

Plans from SOS Online Backup do not restrict the number of devices, but their base plan is restricted to a single user starting at $9.99/month.  Plans that include unlimited devices and unlimited users start at $99.99/month and include monitoring, password encryption, and phone support.

Visit www.SOSOnlineBackup.com.

SugarSync

SugarSync is more of a folder-synchronization service than a backup service; it synchronizes a folder across multiple devices.  SugarSync is user-based with plans starting at $7.49/month per user; multi-user plans start at $55/month.

My take:  Of these four options, we hear more about Carbonite and Mozy than SOS Online Backup or SugarSync.  Although SugarSync is popular, it is not as good a backup and restore solution as the other three.

Mozy has the deepest pockets with a large corporate partner, but Carbonite has, at this time, greater momentum.  The monitoring and telephone support included with SOS Online Backup makes it attractive.

Visit http://pcsupport.about.com/od/maintenance/tp/online_backup_services.htm for an extensive review of 40 backup services by Tim Fisher at About.com.  Another comparison at http://www.toptenreviews.com/services/internet/best-online-backup-services/ ranks 10 services from one through 10.

Bryley Systems offers our Backup/Disaster Recovery (BU/DR) service for servers; it is a monitored, secure, service hosted within our data-center in Hudson, MA with onsite appliance included.  Please visit www.Bryley.com for details.

 

4. Prevention

Prevention is a necessary evil; it can slow end-point performance (since these tools are using computing resources to constantly scan for problems), but it is critical in keeping end-users safe from external threats like spam, malware, and viruses.  Cloud-oriented Prevention includes:

  • Email protection – Control spam plus encrypt and archive emails
  • End-point security – Secure end-user computers against attacks
  • Web filtering – Prevent unauthorized access to undesired websites

Email protection is wholly Cloud-based, but end-point security tools usually deploy an application onto the end-user computer while web filtering requires at least an adjustment to (ie: setup a proxy server), or an application installed on, the end-user computer.  We’ll cover only Cloud-based, email protection in this article.

Key issues for email-protection options include:

  • Administration – Easy setup and enforcement
  • Effectiveness – Works reliably and consistently
  • End-user interface – Intuitive, secure, and easy-to-use
  • Granularity – Allows multi-level policies and permissions

Popular, email-protection options (alphabetically) include:

  • Google Message Secure (formerly Postini; now bundled within Google Apps)
  • McAfee® (now Intel Security) SaaS Email Prevention and Continuity
  • Microsoft® Exchange Online Protection
  • ProofPointEssentials Business
  • Symantec Email Security.cloud (formerly MessageLabs)

Google Message Secure (GMS)

GMS was one of the best products at an excellent price of $12/user per year.  In 2013, Google discontinued GMS as a stand-alone service and bundled it within Google Apps.  Former GMS clients will retain the $12 pricing for a period of time, but will eventually pay the Google Apps for Business price of $50/user per year.

Visit http://www.google.com/postini/ for details on this transition.

McAfee SaaS Email Prevention and Continuity (MEPC)

Intel is currently rebranding McAfee within Intel Security; no timeframe on the conversion, but the McAfee logo (a red “M” on a shield) will remain associated with these services.

MEPC prevents spam, but also includes Continuity, which allows end-users to retrieve and send email even if their email service is unavailable; once the email service becomes available, all emails received and sent via MEPC are then resynchronized with the email service.  The price is $27/user per year.

McAfee also offers email encryption and email archiving.  (Please visit our site at http://www.Bryley.com/services/email-management/ for details on MEPC and related offerings.)

Microsoft Exchange Online Protection (EOP)

Microsoft provides email protection and archiving within its Office 365 suite, but also offers it as a stand–alone service under EOP, although it is directed solely at Exchange-based email.  In addition to spam and malware prevention, you can establish content and policy-based filtering to ensure outbound emails do not violate company standards.  Price is $12/user per year.

Visit http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/exchange/microsoft-exchange-online-protection-email-filter-and-anti-spam-protection-email-security-email-spam-FX103763969.aspx for details on EOP.  Or, visit our site for information on

Office 365 at http://www.Bryley.com/office365/.

Proofpoint Essentials Business

Proofpoint Essentials Business is a comprehensive offering that classifies security threats and then manages against their intrusion.  Outbound filtering, content filtering, and 14-day spooling are included; archiving is also available.  Proofpoint Essentials Business starts at $26.40/user per year.

Please visit http://essentials.proofpoint.com/ for more information.

Symantec Email Security.cloud

Symantec recently acquired MessageLabs spam filter and rebranded it within their Symantec.cloud services under Email Security.cloud.  It protects against targeted attacks, malware, spam, and the like using proprietary Skeptic technologies.  Content filtering is included; email encryption is available.

See http://www.symantec.com/email-security-cloud for details.

 

For more information, please email Info@Bryley.com or call us at 978.562.6077.

Protect your mobile device

The need to secure newer mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) has grown since they now meet the basic criteria for malicious, cyberspace-based attack:

  • Developer kits are readily available
  • Mobile devices are in widespread use throughout the world
  • Motivation is increasing since usable/saleable data live on these devices

In addition, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has introduced related, security-oriented concerns and complexities:

  • How can we accommodate personal equipment in the workplace, particularly when two-thirds of 20-something workers in a recent survey from research firm Vision Critical state that “they, not the company, should be responsible for the security of devices used for work purposes”?1
  • How do we manage the large variety of mobile devices, many with differing operating systems, processing capabilities, and user interfaces?
  • How do we structure our security offerings to permit broad access to low-risk functions while restricting high-risk activities on a need-to-have basis?

Protecting a smartphone (or tablet) gets easier if you take the perspective of Garin Livingstone, one of our technical staff, who pointed out: “It is just a small computer; all of the same security concerns and rules that apply to PCs also apply to smartphones.”

As described in a recent InformationWeek article2, corporate response from the IT department should consist of these three stages:

  • Set policy for mobile device use
  • Train users
  • Enforce

 

1. Policies

Mobile-device-use policies should protect company data, while enabling employees to do their jobs efficiently.  The policy should protect, but not inhibit, the use of data from a mobile device; this usually requires the protection of the device itself with a strong focus on what data is available and where it will reside.

Some policy suggestions:

  • Device:
    • Deploy an anti-malware utility set to scan automatically
    • Set continuous updates of operating system and anti-malware utility
    • Encrypt company data (if stored on the device itself)
    • Backup data to a secure site (preferably daily)
  • User:
    • Require passwords and make them complex
    • Set an auto-lock period of five minutes or less
    • Set browsers to high-security mode
  • Remote access:
    • Access data/applications securely via SSL, HTTPS, or VPN technologies
    • Provide virtualized access to data stored at the corporate site

 

2. Training

Training is an important, early step in any process; informing end-users of the need to secure their mobile devices is critical.  Recommended training topics:

  • Why we need to authenticate and encrypt
  • How to reduce the risk of loss or theft
  • How to safely deploy new applications
  • How to securely backup your data

Authenticate and encrypt

Authentication is the process of confirming that the end-user is authorized to use the mobile device in a prescribed manner.  It is typically handled through a username with a complex password that is changed frequently.  (A complex password requires at least three of four character options – capital letter, lower-case letter, numeric, and special character – with at least eight characters.)

Increasingly, biometrics (fingerprint verification, eye-scans, etc.) are playing a role in authentication.

Sensitive data should be encrypted to make it unreadable if the device is lost or stolen.  (Encryption scrambles the content, making it unreadable to anyone without the capability to unencrypt.)  Authentication is required to unencrypt and access the data.

Reduce the risk of loss or theft

Cell phones are easy targets for theft; they can be sold on-the-street and are (still) easily programmed to a new service on a cellular network.

To prevent theft:

  • Be vigilant; know where your cell phone is at all times and keep it close to your body.  (It doesn’t always help:  One of our clients had his cellphone taken right from his hand by a man on a bike on a busy city street; the bicyclist also gave him a kick to discourage pursuit.)
  • Install phone-tracking software
  • Install a physical locking device

Safely deploy new applications

Mobile-device users download applications through app stores installed on the device.  App stores are increasingly targeted areas for malware distribution; only trusted and approved applications should be downloaded and deployed.  (Most app stores have responded by requiring additional security precautions from their customers.)

For company-owned devices, end-users should have specific guidelines on what applications can or cannot be deployed; ideally, an enforcement mechanism would be installed on the mobile device to ensure these policies are followed.  For employee-owned devices, this policy may need to be recommended rather than required.

Securely backup your data

To prevent loss or inadvertent deletion, data stored on a mobile device (pictures, documents, contacts, etc.) should be backed-up in an encrypted format to a separate, secure location.

Backups should be required on devices owned by the organization and strongly recommended for individually owned devices.  Backups should be scheduled periodically and verified.

Online, consumer-oriented backup and file-storage applications – spritemobile, DropBox, Mozy, SugarSync – are somewhat restricted by the mobile-device operating system in what type of data that they can backup; typically contacts, calendars, tunes, and photos.  Full backups are usually done through tethering (attaching the phone to an external device).

Visit Enterprise Security Policies for Mobile Device Backup and Restoreat Dummies.com for an informative article on mobile-device backup.

 

3. Enforcement

Enforcement is usually assisted through a Mobile Device Management (MDM) tool; typically a software-based application that requires an agent be installed to the mobile device.  Once installed, this agent connects back (remotely) to a central console from which an administrator can monitor, manage, and secure the mobile device and also support its user.

MDM features typically include:

  • Enforce user security policy:
    • Require complex password with frequent changes
    • Permit remote access only via SSL or VPN
    • Lock-down browser settings
    • Enable encryption
  • Recover lost or stolen devices:
    • Activate alarm (set off an audible alarm on the device)
    • Enable track and locate (track and locate the device via GPS)
    • Permit remote wipe (complete erasure of the device as a last resort)
  • Control mobile device applications:
    • Recognize and prevent installation of unauthorized applications
    • Permit whitelisting and blacklisting of application
    • Restrict or block application stores
  • Remotely deploy and configure applications (email, etc.)
  • Audit the mobile device for installed software, configuration, and capacity

ComputerWorld has a comprehensive article on the challenges of MDM.  View it at Mobile device management: Getting started.

MDM Tools

To support our mobile device clients, we use the MDM capabilities built into Kaseya, our Remote Monitoring and Management tool.  Other MDM providers include:

  • AirWatch
  • LabTech
  • MobileIron
  • Symantec
  • Zenprise

While MDM provides a comprehensive tool, it can be costly to procure and support.  Many companies utilize a trusted business partner (like Bryley) to provide MDM tooling, monitoring, and support for their mobile devices on an ongoing basis with pricing that ranges from $15 (in quantity) to $75 per device per month.

Non-MDM Tools

Alternatively, Microsoft Exchange 2010 offers many MDM-type features through Exchange ActiveSync (EAS), an included protocol that licenses by end-user or end-device Client Access License (CAL).  The Exchange 2010 Standard CAL licenses:

  • Password security policies
  • Encryption required
  • Remote wipe

The Exchange 2010 Enterprise Add-On CAL licenses advanced features including:

  • Allow/disallow Internet browser, consumer email, unsigned installation, etc.
  • Allow/disallow removable storage, Wi-Fi, Internet sharing, etc.
  • Allow/block specific applications
  • Per-user journaling
  • Integrated archive

Exchange Server Standard 2010 is $709; Standard CALs are $68 each while the Enterprise Add-On CAL is an additional $42 each (based on list prices for business).

Main difference between MDM and EAS: Most MDM tools provide greater control over the mobile device during its lifecycle and can provide control over the device even before email is configured.

Other recommended tools include:

  • Anti-malware: AVG Mobilation – From free to $9.99 for Pro version
  • Protect and find phone via key-case fob – Kensington Bungee Air at $79.99

First step suggestions

These are our minimum, first-step suggestions:

  • Deploy anti-malware software immediately and manage it continuously
  • Require password to activate the device with a low auto-lock time
  • Update mobile devices through vendor-approved patching
  • Enable on-board encryption if handling sensitive data

Visit 10 Steps to Secure Your Mobile Device for detailed recommendations on securing your mobile device.

 

References:

1. Visit Network World at http://www.networkworld.com/news/2012/061912-byod-20somethings-260305.html to review the article “Young employees say BYOD a Right not Privilege” by Ellen Messmer.

2. Please review the May 12, 2012 InformationWorld article “Mobile Security Gaps Abound” at informationweek.com by Michael Finneran.

 

For more information, please email Info@Bryley.com or call us at 978.562.6077.

Outsourcing IT (Information Technology)

When in doubt, source IT out.  It’s a big topic, but there are many ways to save time, effort, and money by outsourcing some of all of your IT functions.

Often, organizations staff IT themselves using one of these techniques:

  • The part-time IT person
  • The full-time IT person
  • The IT team

The part-time IT person

Smaller organizations might assign IT tasks to an existing employee; IT becomes an add-on to that employee’s full-time job.  This arrangement might work well initially, but can creates these issues:

  • Insufficient expertise – Your employee does not have enough expertise and makes mistakes that compromise performance, reliability, and/or security.

Not much needs to be said; basic training and certifications are helpful and should be encouraged.  It might help to have an outside look periodically (an IT audit) to see if your employee is heading in the right direction and doing the right things.

  • IT takeover (makeover?) – Your employee becomes enamored with IT and does not spend enough time on their full-time job.

Often the employee spends too much time chasing IT problems; they find the challenges fascinating and spend hours pursuing issues that might be solved faster by asking for help.  (Pride might also play a part.)  This behavior takes them away from their full-time role, which they might not like as much.

It is a fine line; when should I call for help versus getting it done without engaging anyone else.

  • Skill-set range – IT requires several different skill sets:
    • High-end – Plan strategically, define security requirements, etc.
    • Mid-range – Select and support required applications.
    • Low-end – Change toner in a printer, replace a keyboard, etc.

One employee is required to perform low-level tasks, but is also expected to address high-level functions.  At the mid-level, they own organization-specific applications and provide setup, training, and problem resolution.

It is difficult to find someone who can handle the high-level functions, but is willing to do the mid or low-level tasks; conversely, someone only capable of performing the low-level tasks often cannot support the high-level needs.

Ideally, you would have people for each end of the IT-needs spectrum and all things in-between; realistically, you might consider outsourcing various aspects to supplement the skills of your part-time employee.

  • Management – Who is managing this employee?  How do they know if they are doing things correctly?  How can they be sure that the employee can handle both his/her full-time job and the part-time IT job?

The full-time IT person

Investing in a full-time IT employee is considerably better that counting on a part-time person, but some problems linger:

  • Skill-set range
  • Management

This scenario typically works best if the full-time person is high-end enough to plan strategically, but engages and manages outside assistance to deploy and maintain high-impact items like the network infrastructure.  In this fashion, the skill-set range can be supplemented while direct management is provided.  In addition, this person is always onsite to address critical needs immediately (like showing the CEO how to call-up his/her Facebook page.)

The IT team

An IT team is ideal; you can staff it with individuals who have the appropriate technical skills while providing seasoned management to keep everyone focused and productive.  This manager, who might report to a C-level executive, becomes the interface between the organization’s business requirements and their translation to the technical efforts of the team itself.

An IT team is what you get from most IT-service companies; the good ones know how they fit with their clients and have a long-term relationships with these clients.

Questions to ask an IT-service company

When you engage an IT-service company, you should receive an IT team capable of handling most, if not all, of your IT needs.

Some key questions include:

  • Do you offer features and functions that meet the needs of my organization?
  • Can you state your services and their benefits in business-oriented language?
  • Can you demonstrate dependable service at a reasonable cost?
  • Are you certified and trained in the areas you support?

An IT-service company should be a strategic partner, someone capable of guiding your future while supporting your current infrastructure.

 

For more information, please email Info@Bryley.com or call us at 978.562.6077.

Bryley Basics: More of Anna’s Windows 8 tips

Those of you running Windows 8 have probably experienced the new Photosapp, which opens the image in the full-screen, hiding everything else on the screen. It is really inconvenient for me, and I am guessing I am not the only one.  Here’s how to change from the default photo-views application in Windows 8, Photos, back to the Windows 7 version, Photo Viewer:

  1. Once in Desktop Mode go to the Windows Icon winIcon, right-click, and then select Search.
  1. A search bar will open; type Default Programs and then select.

 

  1. Select Set your default programs.

scnShot_1

  1. Select Windows Photo Viewer, select Set this program as default, and then click OK.

scnShot_2

You can use the same procedure to change other default programs.  If there is some type of Windows 8 default application that you are not happy with, this is the place to make those changes.

Did you miss my earlier post on how to boot Windows 8 straight to desktop mode?  If so, check it out here.

Livingstone interviewed by CEOCFO Magazine

Gavin Livingstone, President at Bryley Systems, was interviewed by Lynne Fosse of CEOCFO Magazine, which was published in the 4/28/2014 web-edition.

Registered subscribers can see this in-depth overview of Bryley Systems by logging into the Subscriber Exclusives section at www.CEOCFOMagazine.com.  (The article resides at http://ceocfointerviews.com/CEOCFO-Members/BryleySystems14-CEOCFO-Article4.pdf.)  Or, click the button below to read the article on our website.

[su_button url=”http://www.Bryley.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Bryley-CEOCFO-Interview-4-28-2014.pdf” target=”blank” style=”soft” background=”#cc0c00″ size=”5″]Read The Article Now[/su_button]

 

 

The problem with Heartbleed

Heartbleed is a much-publicized security flaw in the OpenSSL cryptography library; an update to this OpenSSL flaw was published on April 7th, 2014, which was (coincidentally?) the same day that the flaw was disclosed.

OpenSSL runs on secure web servers certified by trusted authorities; it is estimated that about 17% of secure web servers may be vulnerable to an attack based on the Heartbleed flaw, which could compromise the server’s private keys and end-user passwords and cookies.

Fortunately, most organizations with secure web servers have taken steps to identify and fix this flaw.  And, to date, no known exploitations of this flaw have taken place.

Unfortunately, this flaw has been around for over two years and leaves no traces; if exploited, there would be no ready evidence that anything was wrong.

At the moment, there is not much any end-user can do except to logout of any secure web server that has not been patched.  (See http://filippo.io/Heartbleed/, a site created by Italian cryptographer Filippo Valsorda, which claims that it can identify unpatched servers.)

Http://money.cnn.com/2014/04/09/technology/security/heartbleed-bug/index.html contains an informative article and video by Jose Pagliery at CNN Money.

Living with Windows XP

Microsoft has officially ended general support of Windows XP, but many have not updated or replaced their Windows XP PCs.  Although we recommend against continuing to use Windows XP, particularly in any Internet-facing role, there are some steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of remaining on this platform.

The easiest, but least practical solution would be to disconnect all Windows XP PCs from the Internet or to limit their access to the Internet.  This step could exclude exposure to outside sources, but reduces the effectiveness of these PCs.

The second-most effective strategy would be to replace older versions of Internet Explorer (IE) with a supported Internet browser; replacing IE with Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome will reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of using a Windows XP PC to browse the Internet.  (Windows XP originally released with IE 6, but most Windows XP systems are now running version 7 or 8.  The current version of IE is 11.)

Updating to Mozilla’s Firefox is easy:

Please see http://www.zdnet.com/windows-xp-support-ends-survival-tips-to-stay-safe-7000028188/ for more information from Charlie Osborn of ZDNet.  Or, visit http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9246877/US_CERT_urges_XP_users_to_dump_IE?source=CTWNLE_nlt_pm_2014-03-11 for a similar message from Gregg Keizer of ComputerWorld.

Additional steps to reduce Windows XP risk include:

  • Disable the ability to add new applications to a Windows XP PC
  • Remove administrative rights of all Windows XP users
  • Disable ports and drives on Windows XP PCs

See the article from Toby Wolpe of ZDNet at http://www.zdnet.com/windows-xp-support-end-10-steps-to-cut-security-risks-7000028193/.

98% of mobile-device malware attacking Android (DROID) phones

Worldwide, a significant portion of the population owns and uses a smartphone;  mobile users search Google over 5.9 Billion times daily while over 6 Billion hours of YouTube are watched each month on mobile devices.  (Statistics taken from a presentation by Intel Corporation at the MOBILE World Congress 2014.)

Since most smartphones are based on Google’s Android operating system, these are the primary targets of malicious attacks.  Kaspersky Labs, a prominent anti-virus software manufacturer, reports that 98% of malware targeted at mobile devices attacks Google’s Android (DROID), which confirms “both the popularity of this mobile OS and the vulnerability of its architecture”.

Suggestions for DROID (and other smartphone) owners to suppress malware:

  • Keep your mobile phone updated with the latest patches
  • Deploy an anti-malware application

Visit http://blogs.computerworld.com/mobile-security/23577/98-mobile-malware-targets-android-platform for the entire article by Darlene Storm at ComputerWorld.

Fitness regime for your IT equipment: Keep it clean, cool, and empowered

IT (Information Technology) equipment is somewhat temperamental; it requires reasonable temperatures; stable, uninterrupted power; and some air flow to operate efficiently.  Cleanliness is important.  Here’s how to keep it toned.

IT equipment should be kept in a clean, neat, and (preferably) dust-adverse/static-resistant area; walls with painted surfaces, tiled or coated floors without carpeting, etc.  Fire-suppression equipment is a plus, but cannot be water-based.

Access should be restricted; a separate, locked room is ideal, but a closet with sufficient space and air flow can work for smaller sites.

Dust is the enemy of fans and electrical components; a reduced-dust environment and regular cleaning of equipment fans can lengthen the life of most items.  (Note: cleanings should be performed when equipment is powered-down, which is not always desirable or feasible.)

The area should have dedicated electrical circuits with sufficient amperage to match the power requirements of the equipment.  We also recommend an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) for all critical items (and require them for equipment that we cover under our Comprehensive Support Program); the UPS provides emergency power when the input-power source is unavailable, but it also helps to regulate fluctuations in power, both spikes/surges (voltage overload) and brown-outs (reduction in voltage) that can damage sensitive equipment.

Cooling and humidity control are very important; most equipment runs optimally within a narrow range of temperature (64° to 81° Fahrenheit) and a maximum range of relative humidity of 60%.  HP, in an effort to be “greener”, lists current specifications on its DL360 server that provide a wider range of 50° to 90°F with 10% to 90% humidity (non-condensing).  However, cooler temperatures do make things last longer.  (The DL360 will actually throttle-back the CPU when the air-inlet sensors detect temperatures over 85°F.)

The area should have continuous air flow (to provide new, cool air while removing heated air that is exiting the equipment) and remain uncluttered to facilitate this air flow.  A dedicated A/C unit combined with a closed door is optimal; locating all equipment within a rack enclosure (with blanking panels over open areas) can enhance air flow.

TechAdvisory has 9 tips at http://techtimes.techadvisory.org/2011/11/9-steps-you-must-know-to-prevent-a-server-crash/.