26 May 2016

10 Steps to Cyber Security for your Business

THE 10 CYBER SECURITY STEPS guidance is for businesses looking to protect themselves in cyberspace. Originally published by the Government in 2012 and now used by around two thirds of the FTSE350, the guidance remains the same and is reproduced below.

Central to any organisation’s overall strategy to manage and control the threat of cyber-attacks is the Information Risk Management Regime – this is Step 1. Surrounding and supporting this regime are 9 additional steps that, collectively, provide the basis for a more secure cyber environment.

Through following the 10 steps, your business will then be ready to gain accreditation through the Cyber Essentials Scheme – and remember that your IT or Managed Service Provider has the knowledge and expertise to guide you on how best to address each of the steps.

STEP 1:
Information Risk Management Regime

Assess the risks to your organisation’s information assets with the same vigour as you would for legal, regulatory, financial or operational risk. To achieve this, embed an Information Risk Management Regime across your organisation, supported by the Board, senior managers and an empowered information assurance (IA) structure. Consider communicating your risk management policy across your organisation to ensure that employees, contractors and suppliers are aware of your organisation’s risk management boundaries.

Following the Government's 10 Steps to Cyber Security

Following the Government’s 10 Steps to Cyber Security

STEP 2:
Secure configuration

Introduce corporate policies and processes to develop secure baseline builds, and manage the configuration and use of your ICT systems. Remove or disable unnecessary functionality from ICT systems, and keep them patched against known vulnerabilities. Failing to do this will expose your business to threats and vulnerabilities, and increase risk to the confidentiality, integrity and availability of systems and information.

STEP 3:
Network security

Connecting to untrusted networks (such as the Internet) can expose your organisation to cyber-attacks. Follow recognised network design principles when configuring perimeter and internal network segments, and ensure all network devices are configured to the secure baseline build. Filter all traffic at the network perimeter so that only traffic required to support your business is allowed, and monitor traffic for unusual or malicious incoming and outgoing activity that could indicate an attack (or attempted attack).

STEP 4:
Managing user privileges

All users of your ICT systems should only be provided with the user privileges that they need to do their job. Control the number of privileged accounts for roles such as system or database administrators, and ensure this type of account is not used for high risk or day-to-day user activities. Monitor user activity, particularly all access to sensitive information and privileged account actions (such as creating new user accounts, changes to user passwords and deletion of accounts and audit logs).

STEP 5:
User education and awareness

Produce user security policies that describe acceptable and secure use of your organisation’s ICT systems. These should be formally acknowledged in employment terms and conditions. All users should receive regular training on the cyber risks they face as employees and individuals. Security related roles (such as system administrators, incident management team members and forensic investigators) will require specialist training.

STEP 6:
Incident management

Establish an incident response and disaster recovery capability that addresses the full range of incidents that can occur. All incident management plans (including disaster recovery and business continuity) should be regularly tested. Your incident response team may need specialist training across a range of technical and non-technical areas. Report online crimes to the relevant law enforcement agency to help the UK build a clear view of the national threat and deliver an appropriate response.

STEP 7:
Malware prevention

Produce policies that directly address the business processes (such as email, web browsing, removable media and personally owned devices) that are vulnerable to malware. Scan for malware across your organisation and protect all host and client machines with antivirus solutions that will actively scan for malware. All information supplied to or from your organisation should be scanned for malicious content.

STEP 8:
Monitoring

Establish a monitoring strategy and develop supporting policies, taking into account previous security incidents and attacks, and your organisation’s incident management policies. Continuously monitor inbound and outbound network traffic to identify unusual activity or trends that could indicate attacks and the compromise of data. Monitor all ICT systems using Network and Host Intrusion Detection Systems (NIDS/HIDS) and Prevention Systems (NIPS/HIPS).

STEP 9:
Removable media controls

Produce removable media policies that control the use of removable media for the import and export of information. Where the use of removable media is unavoidable, limit the types of media that can be used together with the users, systems, and types of information that can be transferred. Scan all media for malware using a standalone media scanner before any data is imported into your organisation’s system.

STEP 10:
Home and mobile working

Assess the risks to all types of mobile working (including remote working where the device connects to the corporate network infrastructure) and develop appropriate security policies. Train mobile users on the secure use of their mobile devices for locations they will be working from. Apply the secure baseline build to all types of mobile devices used. Protect data-at-rest using encryption (if the device supports it) and protect data in transit using an appropriately configured Virtual Private Network (VPN).

The Cyber Essential Scheme

The Cyber Essential scheme has been put in place to help protect companies against the majority of cyber-attacks to IT systems, in the main involving relatively low levels of technical capability. However, if you are serious about preventing attacks on your business it is likely you will need to do more.

Either way, unless your organisation has the expertise in-house, it is recommended that companies should enlist the expertise of their IT or Managed Service Provider. Synergy Technology can help you do this. Our hosted workspace solutions can provide your business with a secure yet flexible IT system. Coupled with effective email delivery services and anti-spam software solutions, Synergy Technology offers complete IT business solutions and subsequently peace of mind for your business.

Image by courtesy: StuartMiles 

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20 May 2016

Is your business set up for employees to work from home?

Quoted in research from the Institute of Inertia, some 24% of British employees, equivalent to 7.5 million workers, have revealed work-life balance is high on their agenda as they would prefer working from home instead of receiving increased pay.

As part of research to promote the National Work From Home Day on 20 May 2016 the information reveals interesting yet positive facts that promote working from home.

The main reason recorded in the research by 66% of the respondents for seeking the opportunity to work from home, was fewer interruptions. In terms of benefits, results showed that 48% of workers are happier when they can work from home, while 32% of staff said they feel more productive.

The top five reasons from the recorded results for better productivity when working from home include:

  1. Fewer interruptions
  2. Ability to structure their day to suit their needs
  3. Flexibility of working hours
  4. More control of their ‘to do’ list
  5. Fewer meetings

The study also revealed that home working is “more productive” for nearly three quarters (73%) of those of you who are 45+ year olds being more productive at home, compared to 30% for 18-24 year olds. Over 45 year olds reported feeling “more in control of their workload”, “less stressed” and “generally happier” when working from home – an important insight given that 36% of the UK’s working population will be over 50 by 2020.

Adopting a flexible mobile workspace for your employees

Cloud computing and hosted workspace solutions allow organisations to provide communication tools, software and business applications and access to documents and databases not only from anywhere such as at home, but also from almost any computer or mobile device. This has a significant impact on an organisation’s flexibility and ability to introduce new applications and systems.

One of the greatest developments over the past ten years in the way people work has been the migration to working from home. Increased office space costs, unreliable transport systems and the wide availability of broadband internet access has made working from home not just viable but a key part of the modern working environment. In the past, with traditional office networks and telephone systems, working from home either involved copying files to your laptop and taking them home or logging in to a terminal server which was housed, expensively, in the head office. It also often meant making and answering calls using your mobile phone or personal landline.

Andy Hughes, Technical Director at Synergy Technology and head of Synergy’s hosted services quotes: “Adopting a hosted workspace such as Citadel’s AppHub is revolutionising how businesses view and access information technology systems.  By moving to a hosted desktop, your team can log on to their desktop from anywhere, including from home, and get the same experience as if they were working in the office. By also using Microsoft Skype for Business capabilities, they can even become part of the office communication network with all the abilities to accept and transfer calls, take part in conference calls and webinars, pick up phone messages and use Instant Messaging.”

“By adopting a hosted workspace, working from home offers employees the flexibility to work where they want, when they want and how they want and from their preferred electronic devices. It is perfect for part time workers or people who need to work around the school run. It is ideal for people who live in remote locations or travel extensively when visiting clients.”

Whatever the driving force behind a decision to provide flexible working, Citadel hosted solutions can make a difficult decision very easy to implement technically.”

Source of statistics: Institute of Inertia

Photo courtesy of: Unsplash

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25 Apr 2016

Software Piracy – avoid the risks: use an accredited partner

When making purchasing decisions about business software it may be tempting to simply go with a cheap provider or buy online from an unknown source. The biggest myth about pirated software is that it’s cheap and doesn’t harm anyone. The truth is, everybody pays – and the price can be high:

  • In the UK, 24% of installed business software is used unlawfully.*
  • There is a strong correlation between unlicensed software and malware*
  • One in three copied software packages has malware in it*.

*Source: The Federation Against Software Theft

Software Pirates

Offline or online, software piracy is a crime. Microsoft has invested substantially in tracking down individuals and businesses that seek to gain an unfair advantage by selling unlicensed or counterfeit software.

Software piracy is the illegal reproduction and distribution of software applications. Because of counterfeit and unlicensed software, legitimate businesses are not only losing selling opportunities; they’re missing out on ongoing revenues and the chance to add value through dedicated customer support.

SME business depends on a solid reputation for delivering reliable products and services. Illegal software copying and distribution tarnishes the reputation of all software resellers and puts users at risk from inferior quality, and potentially dangerous software being out on the market.

Some of the risks of using unlicensed software

  • Financial Exposure – regardless as to whether your under-licensing situation has arisen because of intentional corner cutting when it comes to price, poorly managed environments where there is very limited control or where you have honestly just over installed an application unknowingly…if you are approached for an audit by a software manufacturer (or an industry body such as FAST on their behalf), you will be expected to settle up any unlicensed/counterfeit installations with legitimate licensing. Not only that, but there may even be penalties and back-payments to face.
  • Business Credibility – There have been instances in the past where situations of under-licensing are not only required to be balanced via purchases and penalties etc., but your company may even be required to publish an official statement to the software manufacturer or be quoted in the press as an example to other businesses. In any event, negative publicity associated to fraudulent or illegal software use can do your company no favours.
  • Malware Infiltration and Cyber Crime – Unauthorised downloads and counterfeit copies of software programs leave your security vulnerable. Viruses associated to these methods of acquiring software can lead to massive data loss and business downtime, not to mention financial expense.
  • Data/Confidential Information Leaks – When it comes to things like file sharing, it opens the company up to the risk of data/confidential information leaks that could seriously hurt the company. The repercussions of this are significant, potentially leading to legal action/resulting in identity theft.
  • Imprisonment – This is a very real possibility. The director of the company can legally be prosecuted for software theft and can actually be imprisoned for up to 10 years. Even if he had no knowledge of the offenses. It is the responsibility of the directors and/or business owner to maintain license compliance.

How to avoid these piracy problems

  • Know what is out there – Start initially by getting to know your software environment. You need to know what is out on your network. Knowledge is power, and as soon as you can identify the areas of risk, the sooner they can be addressed. This can be achieved by deploying a discovery/inventory tool that fits your requirements. Ensure you cover all the bases when it comes to software usage. Cloud based applications or application streaming are some of the latest technologies to create risk around software usage.
  • Know what you have – Just as importantly as knowing what you have out on your network, is knowing what licenses and agreements you hold and the parameters around the deployment of the software. The software you have purchased will come with clear license terms whether it is purchased through retail, OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) or volume licensing. This often means that the deployment of the software is limited to a specific number of devices/users/even hardware specifications.
  • Use Authorised Suppliers – Any attempt you can make to centralize your software purchases is a positive. Processing purchases through a centralised (and authorised) channel will give you better control over the validity of licenses you own, but will also give you access to greater discounts in pricing and additional benefits. To ensure that you are obtaining genuine software, ensure you either purchase it directly from the publisher or from one of their authorised resellers and distributors. If you are unsure, details of authorised resellers can be found on the software provider’s website.

Use authorised distributors

One way to avoid wasting valuable time and money on counterfeit or infringing software is to give too-good-to-be-true deals a miss. However, the best way to avoid becoming a victim of software pirates is to purchase from known and trusted sources.

To stop partners falling into the trap of buying or selling counterfeit software, organisations found to be involved in piracy face exposure through Microsoft’s anti-piracy campaign and are black-listed. Microsoft is committed to helping partners and customers who have piracy concerns or were inadvertently sold counterfeit Microsoft software. If you’re aware of any suspicious activity, please report piracy directly to Microsoft by email: ukpiracy@microsoft.com

To be 100% sure that that you’re buying genuine Microsoft software and working with dedicated and committed IT professionals, you should source your products from Microsoft authorised distributors.

Synergy Technology is an accredited and authorised Microsoft Partner. Not only do we support Microsoft business applications, Synergy Technology also offers complete business IT solutions, hosted workspace solutions and IT and software support services.

Information source: Microsoft  and  The Federation Against Software Theft (UK)

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20 Apr 2016

The UK Government’s recently launched Cyber Essential Scheme

With rising security threats and cyber-attacks against businesses and organisations, time is of the essence to improve your digital defences. A good approach to this is to follow the UK Government’s recently launched Cyber Essentials scheme.

Cyber Essentials is becoming recognised as a valuable roadmap and kitemark for businesses wishing to improve their cyber security and provide evidence that they meet minimum standards.

Developed by Government and industry, the scheme aims to fulfil two key roles:

  • Firstly, to provide a clear statement of the basic controls all organisations should implement to mitigate the risk from common internet based threats.
  • Secondly, through the scheme’s ‘Assurance Framework’ it offers a mechanism for organisations to demonstrate to their customers, investors, insurers and others that they have taken the essential precautions.

 

Cyber Essentials offers a sound foundation of basic cyber hygiene measures that all types of organisations can implement and then build upon. By implementing these measures an organisation’s vulnerability can be significantly reduced.

However, the scheme does not provide a silver bullet to remove all cyber security risk; for example, it is not designed to address more advanced, targeted attacks and organisations facing these threats will need to implement additional measures as part of their security strategy.

What Cyber Essentials does do is define a focused set of controls which will provide cost effective, basic cyber security for organisations of all sizes.

Assurance Framework

The scheme’s Assurance Framework provides a staged approach towards embedding established and sustainable information risk management from common Internet-based threats as well as the broader risks organisations may face.

Each stage adds confidence and it is for organisations to decide which they choose based on their assessment of risk, their customers’ expectations and cost considerations. The framework supplements other information security certification arrangements and covers the basic controls needed to defeat most threats from the Internet.

The framework consists of two stages, leading to two levels of accreditation or ‘badges’ – Cyber Essentials and Cyber Essentials PLUS.

Accreditation

Cyber Essentials accreditation involves undertaking the following, with completion of stage 1 being a prerequisite to stage 2.

Stage 1 – Cyber Essentials

You state your organisation’s compliance with Cyber Essentials requirements by responding to an online questionnaire covering the requirements for basic technical protection from cyber attacks. The completed questionnaire is sent for review to a recognised body which then undertakes an external vulnerability assessment, testing that individual controls on your internet-facing network perimeter have been implemented correctly, and that there are no obvious vulnerabilities.

Cyber Essentials accreditation involves undertaking the following, with completion of stage 1 being a prerequisite to stage 2:

Cyber Essentials accreditation involves undertaking the following, with completion of stage 1 being a prerequisite to stage 2.

Stage 2 – Cyber Essentials PLUS

Cyber Essentials PLUS encompasses the same controls as Cyber Essentials but offers a higher level of assurance through the use of an independent testing regime.

Cyber Essentials PLUS encompasses the same controls as Cyber Essentials but offers a higher level of assurance through the use of an independent testing regime.

Cyber Essentials PLUS encompasses the same controls as Cyber Essentials but offers a higher level of assurance through the use of an independent testing regime.

Scheme requirements

Cyber Essentials focuses on five key controls or requirements of your IT system as follows:

  1. Boundary firewalls and internet gateways – these are devices designed to prevent unauthorised access to or from private networks. Correct set-up of these devices either in hardware or software form is essential for them to be fully effective.
  2. Secure configuration – ensuring that systems are configured in the most secure way for the needs of the organisation.
  3. Access control – ensuring only those who should have access to systems or information have access through use of appropriate access measures.
  4. Malware protection – ensuring that virus and malware protection is installed and is up to date.
  5. Patch management – ensuring the latest supported version of applications is used and all the necessary patches supplied by the vendor have been applied.

Business benefits

Gaining accreditation delivers a number of key benefits to your business. These include:

  • Peace of mind that your business is protected against the majority of common cyber-attacks that it is likely to encounter.
  • Identification of areas for further improvement, even if you meet either of the two levels of accreditation.
  • Visible evidence that your business has taken a rigorous approach to protecting itself by displaying either the Cyber Essentials or Cyber Essentials PLUS logo.
  • Ability to respond to public sector tenders which now require accreditation for any supply that involves handling of sensitive and personal information or provision of certain technical products and services.

Making it happen

The scheme has been put in place to help protect companies against the majority of cyber-attacks to IT systems, in the main involving relatively low levels of technical capability. However, if you are serious about preventing attacks on your business it is likely you will need to do more.

Either way, unless your organisation has the expertise in-house, it is recommended that companies should enlist the expertise of their IT or Managed Service Provider. Synergy Technology can help you do this. Our hosted workspace solutions can provide your business with a secure yet flexible IT system. Coupled with effective email delivery services and anti-spam software solutions, Synergy Technology offers complete IT business solutions and subsequently peace of mind for your business.

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15 Apr 2016

Top 10 Technology and IT Trends predicted for 2016

It’s 2016 – a year to celebrate some of our favourite quadrennial events: we get to welcome back the leap year, and cheer on Team GB at the Summer Olympics in Rio. There will be great rejoicing among bean-counters everywhere, as the UN has designated 2016 the International Year of the Pulses. Where we will see the greatest impact and innovation will be at the intersection of the current major waves of technology. 2016 will be all about confluence. Here are Jonathan Woodward’s, (Business Lead – BI & Analytics) top ten technology trends for 2016:

1. We’ll have more networked devices

We, as consumers and business people, continue to accumulate more devices. Ironically enough, a decade ago, the vision was to combine everything (e.g., Blackberry, Palm Pilot, mobile phone & pager) into a single device. And for the most part we did. But now there are multiple “single devices” – many mobile options for how we communicate and work. More than half of information workers report using three or more devices for work, and that number continues to grow. In 2016 this will take the form of cross-category devices: laptops that act like tablets; phones that work like desktops; wearables perform like smart phones, and so on. It’s no wonder that by 2020 the average person can expect to have seven networked devices.

Because of the cloud, our phones, tablets and wearables have access to a vast amount of processing power and information. This raises the questions of how we, as individuals, integrate and work best across all of our devices, and how our organisations manage and integrate these devices to maintain security (a different trend discussed later) and maximise productivity.

2. These networked devices will “see” and do more

It’s not just that we’ll have more things. As computing power gets faster, cheaper and smaller, the existing features in your things will continue to improve, new features will continue to be added. For instance, think about how much better the photos you take with your mobile device today are than the photos you took just three years ago. The capability already exists for immersive 3D holographic experiences with your phone. In 2016 developers will make more devices within this medium, and apps that explore this medium.

While 2015 was the year that smart wearables became mainstream consumer devices, 2016 will be the year that developers fight it out to become dominant players for “share of wrist”. Because more and more of these devices will make their way into the workplace, it’ll also be there year that developers seek to turn wearables into productivity devices. This competition means our wearables will be more powerful with better sensors, monitors, accelerometers and GPS tracking tools to help make our experiences while wearing them more personal and more productive. For instance, your wearable will be able to interpret your heartrate and breathing to let your colleagues know if you’re feeling fatigued or productive, stressed or creative. The challenge will be finding ways, across our things, to utilise even a fraction of the capabilities in our things.

3. Our things will have more things

As it becomes easier (i.e. cheaper, faster, smaller) to add more features to our networked devices, it also becomes easier to add more features to previously unconnected things. It is now economically viable, for instance, for laundry services to add sensors to bedsheets to reduce loss and better anticipate when they need to be replaced. Farmers can now monitor livestock with sensors similar to those in our smartwatches that can diagnose disease or help optimise feed, growth and yield. Assisted living facilities can monitor residents based on a number of sensors in their rooms to determine, for instance, if a resident has had a fall or is a risk of causing a fire. The real value in connecting these things to a network comes from how these things then communicate and coordinate with each other without human intervention.

4. All these things will create a lot of data

Of course, the natural bi-product of a) having more networked devices that do more, and b) creating networked devices from previously unconnected things is data. Loads and loads of data. Expect to see the trend of exponential data growth continue in 2016. Mobile data traffic will continue to keep pace with the 57% CAGR predicted through 2019. And should pass the that’s zettabyte (that’s 1,000,000 terabytes) threshold for global IP traffic by year’s end. For perspective, that’s over 80 times the data created by the sum of all human-created information before the year 2000. By 2020, that’s expected to reach 44 zettabytes – roughly the data storage required to record every word ever spoken by humans throughout history.

But it’s not just about the amount of data we produce, but also in the types we produce as well (new sensors, new or newly-networked devices, new social platforms, etc). We’ll also have to manage the speed with which new data is being produced (and therefore processed) and the speed (some say voracity) with which business decision-makers want to turn that data into insight. And we’re not doing a particularly good job of it. Depending on whom you ask, we’re only able to analyse about 0.5% the data we produce. That percentage goes up a bit if we look at the ability for companies to analyse the data they have – but only up to about 12%. Which brings us to the next prediction for 2016.

5. The skill gap for turning that data into insight and business process will separate winners from losers

The gap between our demand for data (or for insight from data) and the supply of talent that can interpret it isn’t new for 2016. It’s been a high priority among CIOs for at least the past five years, and it’s the reason that Data Scientist has been dubbed the Sexiest Job of the 21st century. It’s also the reason why companies have been willing to shell out loads to find top talent. What’s new for 2016, though, is the impact that early investments in analytics will start to pay off as the use of data becomes a competitive differentiator.

This isn’t just due to the creation of the data scientist role within an organisation, but rather because these individuals have had an opportunity to impact other parts of an organisation helping to turn data sceptics into data evangelists. As data scientists (or power BI users, business analysts or whatever other term you call them) have helped to familiarise other business decision-makers with the benefits of data-driven decision-making, the tools used to interpret data have become easier for non-data scientists to use. These factors, among others, help to create data winners and losers. At the worldwide level, those winners (i.e. leaders) will capture £1.1 trillion more in value from their data and analytics investments over the next few years than the losers (“others”).

6. The winners will be the ones who create the algorithms that turn that data into insight and process

It isn’t enough, though, for this data to drive business decisions. Even the most sophisticated predictive analytics rely on users within an organisation turning that insight into action. The next logical step (and the next big thing for 2016) is to develop proprietary algorithms that allow companies to turn data into autonomous action. Or as senior Gartner researchers describe it “how you do something with data, not just what you do with it.” Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds. The machines aren’t rising up.

Rather than Terminator, think of algorithms from Netflix used to serve up movie recommendations, or from The Associated Press used to curate information into articles and reports. But the algorithm economy isn’t just about serving up digital content. The algorithm for Google’s driverless car incorporates data from the physical (internal sensors and systems, readings of physical surroundings, GPS data, etc…) for an incredibly complex autonomous action – driving. Norway’s eSmart system collects a huge volume of data from previously non-networked meters, building sensors and a variety of other sources (a true example of big data). But it’s what it does with that data that sets it apart. Their algorithms enable their automated demand response solution to automatically control power load to buildings or other infrastructure to prevent outages.

7. Machines will understand how we work more

These algorithms aren’t static things, though. As they make their way into more systems, and are programmed to learn more about the data they process, the smarter they become. The better they become at anticipating our needs, as individuals or as organisations. Take Clutter, for instance. This feature in Office 365 utilises machine learning to understand your organisational relationships and prioritise your inbox by importance to you. Microsoft has made the underlying machine learning that enables features like Clutter available to the developer community to create their own machine learning applications to everything from rating one’s Movember moustache to predicting customer churn.

Because of this availability, machine learning applications will take off in 2016 – both in terms of volume and sophistication. Nowhere will that growth be more evident than with the increased importance of virtual personal assistant technology such as Cortana, which will help to curate the many disparate productivity apps we currently use. For instance, machine learning will allow the product marketing manager of a consumer packaged goods company to ask “Why is there a spike for laundry soap in Leeds?” The right machine learning app would be able to understand contextually who within the organisation would be likely to have the answer and help her find the territory manager for West Yorkshire. The app would also be able to evaluate known sales influence models using the context of Leeds, against relevant data sources to try to identify the reason for the spike.

8. Machines will understand our businesses more

The same technology that will enable virtual personal assistants to curate information for individuals’ productivity in 2016, will also power smarter interactions between organisations. As more data is managed in the cloud, it becomes easier for companies to securely share information with each other, and turn that information into action/business processes.

Expect 2016 to be the year we begin to see machine learning applied to massive datasets across organisations. This could be from sectors (e.g. pharmaceuticals and medical research sharing information on human genomic data) or complementary supply chains (e.g., an aeroplane manufacturer applying machine learning in partnership with airlines and parts manufacturers).

9. Each new networked node creates new vulnerabilities

While we’ll see increased data sharing and automation of the way we make sense of our data across industries, we’ll also see increased vulnerabilities. For each new node we add to the cloud – for each previously non-networked device that gets “smart” or for each bit of shared data across organisations, we exponentially increase the risk to the overall network. In 2016, expect to see successful companies refining their data security strategy to account for these threats. Interestingly enough, a few of the previously mentioned trends – machine learning and advanced algorithms – will be key to maintain security.

10. I will be wrong:

Granted, the above is a fairly predictable set of predictions. The four big mega-trends of the past few years (IoT, Big Data, Machine Learning and Cyber Security) will continue to drive the majority of the technology discussion, I’m almost certain that there will be a breakthrough trend in 2016 that isn’t discussed above. Adoption of a nascent technology will be faster or the big strides expected within the above trends won’t materialise as expected. For instance, interactive headsets such as HoloLens or Oculus Rift might gain widespread adoption through a major commercial breakthrough. Conversely, the dearth of data scientists may limit the degree to which the algorithm economy takes hold.

Are you ready for 2016?

However these big trends shake out in 2016, though, the one strand that runs through all of them is data. How prepared are you make the most of your data? Have you thought through all the sources of data your organisation will come in contact with? Do you have the right people and systems in place to take advantage of the algorithm economy and machine learning? Have you thought through the security and vulnerabilities around your data? Synergy Technology can help you determine the ideal complete business solution for your company, call us today on 0845 456 0050.

Article from Microsoft: Authored by Jonathan Woodward,
Business Lead – BI & Analytics on January, 2016
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13 Apr 2016

Strategic IT choices for your business

In the past, keeping a business IT system up-to-date was simpler. Whoever looked after your IT installed the latest patch or update on the server and pushed those updates out to networked machines. Or if you were a really small operation, one person went from machine to machine implementing the latest upgrades.

Today, so called ‘virtual machines’ and cloud technologies have become mainstream and are impacting the workplace more and more. Studies show that by 2016, 70% of offices will be using server virtualisation, resulting in greater hardware utilisation and lower costs. And what business doesn’t have at least some of its data in the cloud?

While these new technologies offer advantages in terms of efficiency and reliability, they also present security challenges that must be overcome. Here’s what you can do to keep your systems up-to-date and well protected.

Working with virtual machines

Virtual systems have the advantage of greater stability and more up time. The process of virtualisation for businesses involves consolidating multiple servers into a more powerful virtual machine distributed across a network. Virtual machines offer flexibility and other advantages that can’t be matched by a physical computer. They make excellent testing grounds for performing trial software runs an predicting how variables will interact without putting your data at risk.

But virtual machines have security issues just like real ones. Because components of virtual machines can be spread out, hackers may find it easier to target a vulnerable point. In the past, anti-virus and anti-malware programs were difficult to run on virtual machines because of these shared resources. IT security firm Symantec’s Threats to virtual environments report published recently states that 82 per cent of the malware it tracks is now capable of running on virtual machines.

This means that implementing sophisticated, proactive malware protection that is kept up-to-date is vitally important if all the benefits of virtualisation are to be reaped.

Protecting cloud data

Data is the most important component of many modern companies and corporate users are understandably nervous about moving to cloud computing and cloud storage. But the increasingly global nature of business and the push for efficiency and convenience are driving ever-higher rates of cloud adoption.
As stories of hackers stealing thousands of identities and credit cards become almost commonplace, what precautions need to be taken to prevent data loss and security breaches? At the very least, incoming or outgoing data sent to the cloud should use secure protocols and sensitive data such as credit card payments should always be encrypted.

Maintaining cloud security requires many of the same tools and procedures as maintaining an in-house system. Application firewalls are crucial, as are systems designed to spot vulnerabilities and detect intrusion attempts.

The biggest advantage for small companies is that you don’t have to worry about meeting these demands. Reputable cloud service providers will provide 24/7 monitoring and security updates at their end.

Protecting against cloud data loss is a separate issue entirely. Many companies decide to keep in-house backups of their most crucial data,while others choose cross-cloud backups so that if one cloud fails another is still operating. Remember that if you keep data files locally, you’ll need to implement good security measures and keep them up to date, or all the protection of the cloud is pointless.

However you choose to build your systems, whether physical, virtual, or a hybrid mix, the most important precaution to keeping your IT system strong is to ensure all necessary upgrades are carried out and to have a good disaster recovery plan.

Synergy Technology offers a hosted workspace option.

Citadel is a flexible service that combines the most powerful IT components available to business users, with leading edge hardware technology. Operational with business software provided by world renowned developers and hosted in secure and modern data centres based in the UK, Citadel delivers the latest IT technology directly to your managed desktop.

By adopting Citadel your in-house IT requirements will be greatly simplified and streamlined – and  Citadel then takes care of all your server related matters by hosting the IT hardware and software for your business. The service is backed by Synergy Technology’s dedicated SynergyCare team providing Help Desk support for both the system and application users.

Moving your IT system to Citadel’s hosted workspace eliminates your business IT function from having to manage desktops, software applications and IT maintenance and releases both valuable time and money for your team to focus on more fundamental customer driven business objectives.

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