Applications, workloads, and data power your business. But the physical hardware they run on doesn’t. In many cases, it simply adds to the cost and complexity of your end-user computing. That’s where virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) can help. By decoupling software and hardware, you can deliver secure, scalable end-user computing at a much lower cost.And like many parts of the IT ecosystem, VDI is even better in the cloud. Our managed Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) service gets you the security and performance of VDI hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud service, combined with world-class support from a Microsoft Gold partner.
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Innovation in the insurance sector has led to a rise in digitalisation, adoption of the Internet of Things and increased use of AI.
For years, industry experts warned of the insurance sector’s slow pace in adopting digital technologies. But now, insurers across the world are waking up to the benefits of digital transformation.
Greg Baxter, Chief Digital Officer of MetLife, Inc notes that “digital technologies have changed the way that you can connect and relate to customers”. Indeed, as consumers continue to turn to mobile apps and the internet to access their key financial services, truly digital solutions in insurance will become increasingly important.
What is the digital transformation, specifically in the insurance sector? What are the key technologies driving this transformation? What challenges will need to be overcome before insurers can properly take advantage of the benefits of our digital world?
To undergo a digital transformation is to integrate digital systems & processes into your organisation’s workflow. The key goal of a digital transformation is to reduce costs and alter the way your organisation interacts with your customers.
In insurance, the need for such a transformation is clear. Oxford Economics found that 90% of insurers say that, within five years, consumers will buy most of their insurance through online and mobile apps. The way that insurance customers want to interact with their providers has changed.
It is now up to the insurance sector to respond to these changing consumer tastes and adopt digital processes. Why do consumers need a digital experience?
McKinsey found that most of all, consumers want simplicity and 24-hour access to their services. Conversely, insurers are always looking to drive down costs. Digital processes can solve all of these demands.
Primarily, digital transformation in insurance revolves around these four key areas:
Many insurers have been able to completely digitise their claims procedure – making it easier than ever for customers to make insurance claims. Some insurers are also using automated AI tools to process and evaluate these claims.
To explore the process of digital transformation, it’s important to look at the technologies and processes that are at the forefront of this digital disruption.
Any digital process requires agile & adaptable cloud infrastructure. To deliver an omnichannel digital experience for consumers, insurers will need to deploy their insurance platforms in the cloud.
Cloud storage of customer data and analytics is the most secure & efficient way to store insurance data. Furthermore, cloud resources are far more scalable than physical systems – facilitating rapid growth & scalability.
To migrate your data to the cloud requires careful oversight into the whole process. Considering moving your data from an on-premises solution to the cloud? Get in touch with us today to ensure a safe, smooth cloud migration!
According to McKinsey, insurers can cut the costs of the claims journey by up to 30% by turning to automation. Indeed, using AI & machine learning to automate and streamline processes is one of the biggest ways insurance companies can boost efficiency and improve their bottom line.
WorkFusion found that automation reduces the human input into claims by up to 80%, cuts the time it takes to process claims by 50% and also drastically reduces errors.
Automation is also particularly useful in underwriting, as algorithms can automatically judge creditworthiness, health risks, financial limits etc.
The availability and integration of data into insurance platforms is a key driver of automation & efficiency gains.
For algorithms and AI to accurately predict & analyse claims, policies, underwriting, etc, systems will need to access a sea of data on consumers, their habits, their vehicles, their homes and their lives.
Insurers looking to use digital AI tools to optimise their processes and policies to better suit their customers will need to understand what consumers need from insurance through insurance data.
Forbes writer Gary Drenik writes: “the [insurance] industry is finally undergoing a customer experience overhaul focused on loyalty and retention”.
As the industry becomes even more saturated and competitive, insurers will need to turn to improve their customer experience (CX) to gain an edge over competitors.
CRM – or customer relationship management – software allows insurers to manage their customer interactions more seamlessly and ultimately helps build a more positive customer journey.
A CRM – like Dynamic 365’s Service platform – gives customer service teams great visibility into all their interactions with leads and customers. Insurers also benefit from automated chatbots and live chat systems to deliver a quicker, more responsive support system.
There’s a reason so many insurance companies are turning to digital technology to fuel their growth & expansion.
Why should your business embark on this digital journey?
The digital transition isn’t easy for any business – especially not in the insurance sector where thousands of customer accounts, insurance claims and bucketloads of data will need to be migrated.
Let us guide your digital transformation and leave the complicated processes like cloud migration, and configuring software solutions like ERP or CRM software to us.
Want to find out how we can best help bring your insurance firm into the digital age? Get in touch with us today!
From early 2020 to now, most businesses adopted new technologies faster than they ever had before. Whilst some of these solutions were poorly implemented due to the short timescale, it was a net positive for many businesses as they realised how novel technologies can improve processes, enhance business outcomes and fundamentally change the way a business works. This concept is known as digital transformation. However, as the pandemic no longer has such a hold on businesses and remote and hybrid work is now commonplace, businesses have started asking the question “what’s next for digital transformation?”
The most common technology solutions that businesses implemented in the early days of the pandemic were a remote meeting solution, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, a cloud telephony solution and a VPN. Most of these early digital transformation projects were reactive, rather than proactive. However, for some businesses it meant that they adopted a new technology in a matter of weeks, whereas it may have taken months or years if it was not for the pandemic.
As businesses become more confident in the fact that remote and hybrid work was here to stay some businesses also implemented additional solutions and invested in ensuring that all solutions had adequate security in the face of ever-growing cyber threats. Some businesses also invested in moving their on-premises infrastructure to the cloud to truly take advantage of the benefits of cloud computing and allow users easy access from anywhere, on any device.
With businesses looking for the next technology to help them achieve better business outcomes, it can be difficult to know where to invest their IT spend. Whilst each business is different, with their own goals and requirements, there are three key areas that are becoming more prevalent and important in 2022, more than ever before.
Although most businesses have already implemented new technologies to survive the move to remote work, not all businesses are getting the most out of this investment. For example, businesses may have adopted Teams as part of their Microsoft 365 subscription, but they are not using the full range of services included within the subscription. Some of these services include Microsoft Bookings, Forms and Yammer.
With Microsoft Bookings, customers can schedule meetings online through a webpage or app with employees. As it is connected to their Microsoft 365 account, customers are only able to book meetings when there is free space in the employee’s diary. If the meeting is for an online event, Microsoft Booking will automatically create a Teams invite for each booking.
Microsoft Forms is a tool that allows businesses to create online forms, surveys, polls and quizzes that can be shared with internal and external users. Internally, these can be used to determine employee satisfaction, or they can be used externally as an easy method of data collection. Using Forms can save businesses money, as they don’t need to pay for a third-party service, such as Survey Monkey.
Yammer is a social network designed for internal use within a business. It enables employees to share information, ideas, files and image with other departments so everyone is up to date with what is happening around the company.
These are just some of the features within a Microsoft 365 subscription that businesses can use to maximise their technology investment. Similarly, with other solutions, such as cloud telephony, cloud servers and virtual desktops, many businesses can benefit from better use of the solutions. Working with a trusted third-party IT provider can help businesses with this, as they can rely on the expertise of the provider.
Whilst Microsoft Teams works well as a meeting solution when all attendees are remote, it is less effective in hybrid meetings. This is due to the fact that it is easy for in-person attendees to become anonymous faces in a meeting room, whilst remote attendees struggle to be included in the discussion. All businesses that plan to make hybrid work a long-term endeavour should invest in meeting rooms that facilitate productive hybrid meetings.
Teams Rooms is Microsoft’s hybrid meeting room solution, designed to ensure all participants have the same productive meeting experience, regardless of where they are physically located. Teams Room is such a powerful solution as it is both a software and hardware solution, with peripherals designed to work with Teams, and functionality within Teams specifically designed for inclusive hybrid meetings. There is a wide variety of Teams Room hardware to ensure that the solution can scale to any size room, from small huddle rooms to full-size conference rooms.
Over the past 2 years, the employee experience (EX) has become increasingly important. Not only does a focus on the employee experience help businesses attract and retain talent, but it can also lead to significantly increased profits. When considering EX it is important to note that technology is only half of the equation. Businesses should invest in an employee experience platform, but this should also be supported by internal changes in the business, likely through the HR department.
Employee experience is closely related to digital transformation, as businesses that invest in the employee experience will have greater success with other digital transformation projects. The main hurdle to digital transformation is pushback from employees and resistance to change. A positive employee experience can solve this challenge as employees are more engaged within the business and have an opportunity to influence the direction of digital transformation for the better.
Implementing new technologies and undertaking digital transformation projects present many opportunities for your business to work more effectively and produce better business outcomes. However, unless you have in-house expertise on such projects, in order to ensure success, it is advisable to work with a trusted third-party IT provider. If you want to find out more about how your business could benefit from a digital transformation project, contact us today.
Whilst data threats and leakages can occur in any organisation, it is small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) that are most susceptible to data loss incidents. Indeed, cybercriminals often target smaller businesses as ‘low-hanging fruit’ as a mixture of inadequate security infrastructure and insufficient staff training leads them to be particularly vulnerable to data incidents.
Data leaks are costly. According to IBM, the average cost of a data leak stands at $4.24 million – or $161 per lost record.
That’s where data loss prevention (DLP) solutions come in. Data Loss Prevention is vital for information security and helps protect your critical information from data leakages.
What is Data Loss Prevention? Why is it essential for your business? What are the common causes of data leaks? How do DLP solutions work?
In this article, we’ll explore the world of data loss protection and cover why your small-to-medium business needs to invest in a DLP solution.
Businesses often handle sensitive information & data such as financial information, customer data, health records, trade secrets etc. that should never be lost or be placed in the wrong hands.
Data Loss Prevention – or DLP – is vital for ensuring that this sensitive data is not leaked, accessed by unauthorised users or lost. Essentially, DLP aims to protect sensitive data and prevent employees from sharing it with unauthorised users.
DLP solutions are software packages that scan your network and detect detecting and potential data breaches or exfiltration, and help information security personnel look for unauthorised destruction of sensitive data.
The primary responsibilities of such a solution are as follows:
The primary goal of implementing a data loss prevention solution is to reduce the incidence of data leaks within your organisation. However, to properly optimise your data incident response, it’s important to understand why do data leaks occur?
Generally, DLP solutions can be described as using two different approaches: content awareness and context analysis.
A content-aware DLP will read, parse and analyse a document or message’s content to look for sensitive data – whereas a context analysis DLP will only look at metadata – such as headers, format, size, and timestamps etc. to detect suspicious activity.
A modern DLP solution will blend these two approaches together. Context analysis screening is a lean way to detect threats whereas content analysis uses more resources to take a deeper dive into documents.
How does a DLP analyse content? Firstly, a rule-based filter is used to detect sensitive data – for example filtering out 16-digit credit card numbers or national insurance (social security) numbers.
Exact data matching is a technique used to detect database dumping – where DLP solutions look for exact matches to records to intercept any authorised leaking of database records.
The same result can be achieved for files through exact file matching. Here, file hashes of communications are matched against known hashes. This technique can be circumvented easily, however, by duplicating files and thus generating new file hashes. Content matching can instead be used to compare partial content to analyse documents.
As previously mentioned, data breaches are extremely costly. The average cost to businesses of a data breach rose to $4.24 million (£3.39m) in 2021 – with each record lost costing an organisation $161 (£128.80) on average.
IBM describe four major cost centres driving up this loss:
An effective data loss prevention solution eliminates these costs. DLP solutions afford information security teams the necessary visibility to detect and neutralise any data threats.
Given that so much damage is caused by employee negligence and inexperience, enforcement of DLP policies is key to ensuring a watertight information security strategy.
The key to doing this with scale is to use an adaptive DLP policy enforcement option – with the ability to automatically adjust and create new policies based on new threats and behaviour patterns.
A DLP solution is also crucial for maintaining regulatory compliance – most notably with the strict European GDPR legislation.
In our modern digital landscape, data is key. Now, more than ever, organisations need to properly consider their information security. Data Loss Prevention solutions give information security teams & IT staff the power to monitor and detect data breaches.
Want to learn more about how a DLP solution can help your business? Get in touch with us today to explore how we can help you take control of your information security once and for all.
Organizations that are undergoing a merger, acquisition, divesture or rebranding will need to migrate their Microsoft 365 infrastructure to a new “tenant”. That’s where Tenant-to-Tenant Microsoft 365 Migrations come in.
T2T Migrations make the process of moving the resources, information and accounts of one organization to a new entity. Migration can, however, be long and complex – especially if two large-scale M365 infrastructures need to be merged into one single cloud platform.
What are Tenant-to-Tenant Migrations in Microsoft 365? In what scenarios and situations should your business consider them? What are some common challenges of T2T migrations, and what process should your business follow when embarking on a migration?
In this article, we’ll teach you all you’ll need to know about Tenant-to-Tenant migrations in Microsoft 365.
In Microsoft 365, tenant-to-tenant migration refers to the process of migrating your information from one Microsoft 365 tenancy to another.
What is a tenant in terms of Azure & Microsoft 365? It simply refers to the set of services that make up your organization.
Typically, a tenant is associated with one or more of your public DNS domain names – and they act as a central container for your Microsoft 365 licenses.
Tenant-to-Tenant migrations are commonly required during mergers, acquisitions, rebrands and divestitures. When an organization merges or otherwise changes its structure, a new tenant may be needed or the subscription, services, users, domains etc. may need to be merged with an existing tenant.
For instance, if a business has been acquired or merged with another organization, a tenant-to-tenant migration may be needed to migrate both organisations into a new conglomerate tenant.
Microsoft sets out a range of different migration architectures depending on the scenario and circumstance of the tenant-to-tenant migration.
Let’s briefly explore the options available to you:
Intuitively, a single event migration is the most straightforward tenant-to-tenant migration. Here, all accounts, services and domains are migrated into one single event. These migrations tend to complete faster but are also inherently riskier – as all data is going to one, single repository.
You can mitigate this risk by establishing an Exchange hybrid coexistence or using a phased migration.
Why would your business opt for a single event migration? For acquisitions where there is no rebranding – e.g. the DNS remains originalbusiness.onmicrosoft.com and email@example.com – a single event migration may be a suitable option.
In practice, you should avoid this migration architecture if you’re handling over 15,000 users or 7 TB of site content. Many medium-sized digital businesses will find that site data volume limitations too constraining.
A phased migration involves gradually moving users, services, and data from one tenant to another – as opposed to the “Big Bang” tactic of single-event migrations.
With this migration architecture, however, source domains cannot be transferred and users assume new target domains. This method is useful if the migration is needed due to rebranding – i.e. you’ve sold your business and the organization will adopt the target company’s branding.
Due to the phased nature of the data migration, this is less risky – but takes much longer. Phased migration requires a certain level of coexistence – and the limitations of this approach (especially for scaling resources) can cause issues. Employees may need to sign in with multiple identities and may require duplicate licensing over the migration period.
If users need to be split between two target tenants – for example where a subsidiary splits from a parent organization – a tenant move or split is needed.
Here, identities remain in the source tenant, but all users and workloads are moved to a new cloud tenant. This method is fairly similar to single-event migration, but accounts are not moved to a new event.
A Microsoft 365 tenant-to-tenant migration is a fairly complex procedure – and most M365 customers work with a Microsoft partner to migrate tenants.
Microsoft has listed some common considerations that organizations need to make during this process:
Most businesses use a Microsoft Partner to help them embark on a tenant-to-tenant migration. This is because this is a complex, and somewhat risky procedure – with lots of considerations and requirements to proceed correctly.
Using a third-party migration tool is key to making sure the tenant-to-tenant migration goes smoothly. Undergoing a merger, rebrand or divesture and need to undergo a tenant-to-tenant migration?
Get in touch with us today and let us guide you through the process!
As expected, in the first 7 months of 2022, there have been multiple major cyberattacks that have resulted in a loss of productivity, revenue or large-scale data leaks. Whilst some of the largest attacks have been in countries such as America and Ukraine, there have also been some major cyberattacks within the UK. Although these cyberattacks are the ones that receive media coverage, there are many more attacks on smaller businesses that cause major devastation. This can be seen as so far in 2022, 39% of UK businesses have identified cyberattacks within their business. Fortunately, this number is significantly less than in 2020, as 46% of businesses identified cyberattacks. Without further ado, here are the 6 worst cyberattacks of 2022 so far.
KP Snacks, the maker of KP Nuts, Hula Hoops, Nik Naks, Tyrell’s, Pom-Bears and more, fell victim to a ransomware attack in January of this year. The gang behind this attack was Conti, an infamous cybercrime group from Russia. Shortly after the attack was detected, KP Snacks released a statement explaining that it could not ‘safely process order or dispatch goods’ due to the incident. Following this, there were supply chain issues until the end of March.
As is now expected, the Conti gang operate double extortion, whereby they would release stolen data if KP Snacks did not pay the ransom. Initially, a small number of staff documents were posted online, with a 5-day countdown, that when the clock hits zero, all data will be released, unless the ransom is paid. However, the post on the Conti website was removed soon after, potentially indicating that the ransom was paid, or the two parties were in negotiation. With this being said, neither party disclosed whether or not the ransom was paid.
In April, the UK Home Office’s visa service had to apologise for a data breach in which the email addresses of over 170 customers were mistakenly copied into an email. The email was informing a customer of a change in the time of their appointment. The emails included in this breach were a combination of personal emails and lawyers working on behalf of customers. This data breach was particularly noteworthy as UKVCAS is run on behalf of the Home Office by a private contractor, therefore it was not directly the Home Office’s fault. The breach was likely a case of an accidental malicious insider, and businesses can decrease the likelihood of these forms of breaches through regular cybersecurity awareness training.
UK Retail chain, The Works, was forced to shut down a number of its stores in April due to a widespread cyberattack. Although the retailer did not go into much detail about the nature of the attack, it is believed to have interrupted deliveries, extended online order fulfilment times and compromised the safety of payments on their POS systems. After the attack was remediated, it was found that no customer data was exfiltrated. However, it is believed that the attack was a ransomware attack, although it is unknown how much the ransom amount was, or how The Works restored their systems.
The real-world impact of this attack was the fact that the share price for The Works fell by 10% the day they announced the cyberattack. There was also a loss of revenue from the stores that were unable to open due to the attack.
In January, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges, Crypto.com, released a statement explaining they were the victim of an account compromise attack that resulted in 4,836.26 Ethereum and 443.93 Bitcoin being stolen, totalling approximately $35 million. The attack affected 483 users, and the threat actors performed unauthorised withdrawals from the victims’ wallets to their own. Interestingly, the attackers were able to perform the withdrawals without the MFA authentication control being inputted by the user. After the attack, Crypto.com suspended all withdrawals and migrated to a new MFA infrastructure.
Crypto.com was able to prevent some of the unauthorised withdrawals before it was too late, and the company reimbursed customers so there was no loss of customer funds. Crypto.com has now implemented a new program, the Worldwide Account Protection Program, which will prevent this from happening again. The program includes controls such as the use of MFA and anti-phishing codes.
Throughout the first quarter of 2022, Russian hackers targeted many Ukrainian websites, including multiple government and financial services websites. In January, around 70 websites were hacked, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cabinet of Ministers and Security and Defense Council. The majority of these hacks only involved changing the text on the website to display pro-Russia sentiments.
Shortly after, Russian threat actors targeted multiple government, non-profit and information technology organisations throughout Ukraine with a piece of malware disguised as ransomware. The malware had all the features of ransomware, but lacked a recovery feature, meaning that it simply destroyed all files on the victim’s computer.
Early in February, there were several large distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, bringing down the websites of the Defense Ministry, Army and Ukraine’s two largest banks. Later in the month, there were more DDoS attacks, but the organisations were able to recover quickly from these.
From March until the present day, there are still many cyberattacks being launched against Ukrainian citizens and businesses. Most of these attacks are phishing attacks, with the goal of launching widespread malware attacks.
In March, one of the largest cyberattacks in recent history occurred, when a threat actor stole approximately $600 million worth of digital assets. These were stolen from a blockchain network, Ronin, that is connected to a popular online game, Axie Infinity, created by Sky Mavis. This attack was possible as there were some outdated Sky Mavis accounts with dangerous permission levels. The attacks were able to compromise these accounts and subsequent nodes, allowing them to authorise fake transactions on the network or bridge that handles converting tokens, Ronin. The hackers were able to steal 173,600 Ether and 2.5 million USD Coin, totalling over $600 million. In 2021, there were many similar attacks on bridges and Decentralised Finance platforms, totalling $2.3 billion.
Whilst this form of attack is not viable for most businesses, it acts as a cautionary reminder for businesses looking to adopt new Web 3.0 technologies.
Although the media is awash with stories of malicious actors exploiting vulnerabilities and targeting organisations, there is a community of ethical hackers actively trying to find exploits to responsibly disclose them to the affected organisation. Many organisations offer a monetary reward for finding these vulnerabilities, called a bug bounty program. So far in 2022, we have seen two of the largest bug bounties paid out, one totalling $6 million, and another totalling $10 million.
The $6 million bug bounty was awarded to the ethical security hacker by the name of pwning.eth who found a critical vulnerability in the Aurora Engine, a bridging and scaling solution for the cryptocurrency Ethereum. If pwning.eth was to have exploited the vulnerability it could have cost the company $200 million.
The $10 million bug bounty was awarded to the bug hunter Satya0x after discovering a vulnerability in Wormhole cryptocurrency bridge. Wormhole is the message-passing protocol that connects blockchains such as Ethereum, Terra and Binance Smart Chain. If the vulnerability was exploited, it could have resulted in $736 million worth of digital assets being lost forever.
The past few years have taught us that all businesses, regardless of size, industry or location, are at risk of falling victim to a cyberattack. Although there is no way to ensure that your business is immune to cyberattacks, there are controls and solutions that can be implemented to significantly decrease your cyber risk, as well as making detection and remediation as effective as possible. If you want to find out more about how your business can reduce its cyber risk, contact us today.
Virtualization tools like virtual machines and containers are brilliant for organizations looking to get more out of their servers and cloud infrastructure. IBM believe that “virtual machine deployment has improved efficiency – and moving to containers can bring even more value.”
Many see VM and container deployment as similar – but there are key differences in the use cases and benefits of each tool.
In general, virtual machines aim to solve an organization’s infrastructure problems as virtualizing cloud infrastructure adds a degree of workload portability. By contrast, containers aim to improve DevOps by solving application issues and facilitating microservices.
What are Virtual Machines? What are Containers? Which is right for your business? In this article, we’ll introduce answer these questions and give you some key guidance on how to implement each approach.
A virtual machine (VM) simply refers to a digital, simulated instance of a computer. This virtualized environment can perform all of the same functions of a physical computer – such as running applications – but is isolated from the rest of the system.
Each virtual machine on a physical computer runs its own “guest” OS. This could be a new instance of the same OS – like Windows. But, a VM could be running a completely different operating system and software architecture (e.g. ARM vs x86) than the “host” machine.
1 – Source: Microsoft (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/virtualization/windowscontainers/about/containers-vs-vm)
In a virtual machine, the “guest” OS is fully independent of the “host” – and the VM operates its own kernel. This isolation is a brilliant security asset. For persistent storage – even after the VM has been shut down, Azure offers a virtual hard disk (VHD) for local storage for a single VM.
Virtual machines communicate with the system hardware through hypervisors – which allocate resources, memory and processors to VMs.
Individual VMs can be deployed using Windows Admin Center or Hyper-V Manager. However, for those deploying multiple VMs at a time, the System Center Virtual Machine Manager is the tool to use.
A container aims for a more lightweight method of virtualization. The key difference here is that a container shares the OS with the host system, along with the host system’s libraries.
Containers are built upon the host OS’s kernel – and contain only the application being virtualized and its dependencies (such as OS APIs). As an entire system doesn’t need to be virtualized, containers can spin up instantaneously.
To facilitate persistent storage, Azure Containers will use Azure Disks for local storage or Azure SMB shares for files shared by multiple containers.
Virtual machines provide the highest degree of isolation from the rest of your system or cloud infrastructure. If you’re turning to virtualization to run risky programs or complete tasks that may jeopardise the security health of your network using a container, a virtual machine is right for you.
There are significant costs to virtual machine management, however. There is a huge resource overhead to take into account. Not only do virtual machines take up GBs of storage space, but they also suffer from slower performance.
Containers are a lightweight, more adaptable virtualization method. Without the overhead, containers perform much faster. If you’re looking for a high-performing method for, say, hosting microservices, containers are a brilliant option. Containers also boast much greater resource utilization and are therefore more cost-effective. If security isn’t too much of an issue and full isolation isn’t required, containers are a safe bet.
If you’re looking for the speed of a container and the security of the VM, why not try a hybrid deployment approach?
A key takeaway of this debate between virtual machines and containers is the need for smart, careful lifecycle management. We highly recommend working with an MSP like us to deploy and maintain your virtual environments.
Need some help and guidance selecting which virtualization method is right for you? Want some guidance and assistance with deployment? Want to get the most out of your system and cloud resources? Want to know more about a hybrid deployment approach?
Get in touch with us today and find out how we can help!
In 2022, European companies are dedicating an average of 25% of their IT budget to hosted or cloud-based services. Moving workloads to the cloud has many benefits for businesses, however, cost savings are always high on the agenda when businesses are considering investing in the cloud. With this being said, lifting and shifting poorly optimised workloads to the cloud can actually be more expensive than on-premises infrastructure, especially if they are not managed correctly. In this article, we will explain 7 ways your business can make the most out of their cloud investment.
The fastest way that businesses can move to the cloud is through a lift and shift migration, or rehosting. This is where a copy of an existing application, data or workload is moved to a cloud service provider, such as Microsoft Azure, with little to no redesigning or modification. Although this migration method is simple and fast, it does not make the most of cloud innovation and often results in higher-than-expected monthly bills with no real cost savings over time.
In order for businesses to make the most of their cloud investment, they should consider refactoring their workloads to suit the cloud platform. This ensures that the business can make use of the innovations within cloud technology, and truly optimise their workloads to suit this. Depending on the expertise within a business, many businesses migrate to the cloud with the support of a trusted third-party IT provider.
Although many businesses pay for cloud usage on-demand, it is possible to reserve instances to cut down on costs. If a business can accurately forecast their compute capacity over a period of time, they can reserve this capacity to receive a significant discount of up to 80%. With Azure, businesses can reserve instances for 1 year or 3 years and pay for this usage upfront. If the business uses more than they have reserved, they simply pay for the excess with pay-as-you-go pricing
One of the greatest benefits of cloud computing is that businesses only pay for what they use. However, this is a double-edged sword, as if businesses leave resources running whilst they are not being used, it can be a money sink. Some of these resources may include idle virtual machines or ExpressRoute circuits. Thankfully, with Azure Advisor, businesses can get recommendations on which resources can be shut down, and the cost savings of each.
Similarly, it is important that businesses use Virtual Machines with the correct compute capacity and performance. Azure has many different VM options available, so businesses should test multiple VMs to find one that suits their workload, with auto-scaling to adjust the number of VMs necessary. It is also important to note that in order to derive the most value from a VM, ideally it is utilised 100%, so this should be what businesses strive for when optimising their cloud investment. These analytics can be monitored using the Azure Monitor.
Whilst cloud storage has a low cost per GB, over time data storage can become a significant component of a business’s cloud bill. To avoid this, businesses should make use of Azure Blog Storage which provides different storage tiers (Premium, Hot, Cool & Archive). The Premium tier is designed for sensitive data that is accessed often, whereas Archive tier data is intended for storing data that is rarely accessed. The Premium tier has the highest cost per GB of storage, but no data access costs, whilst the Archive tier has an extremely low cost per GB of storage, but higher data access costs.
Businesses can save costs by optimising their storage between these tiers. It is also possible to automate storage tiering to constantly optimise storage costs.
As cloud spend can skyrocket if not monitored, it is advised that all businesses configure cost controls within Azure Cost Management. Not only does this allow businesses to proactively manage costs and monitor spending over time, but it can also help with forecasting usage and the associated cost in the future. Businesses can also set up notifications if it seems like they will exceed the budget set, and therefore make changes to ensure they do not do so.
Whilst the previous tips have been focused on how businesses can be smarter with their cloud usage, it is also essential that businesses take cloud security seriously. A poorly secured cloud server can be hacked, and the cybercriminal can use the VM to mine cryptocurrency, leaving the business with a massive bill from the usage. In order to safeguard against these forms of cyberattacks, it is recommended that they implement security controls with the support of a cybersecurity professional.
Moving to the cloud can be simple, but getting the most out of your cloud investment requires experience and expertise. We can help by optimising your Azure costs and working with you to ensure your business can take advantage of all the recent innovations in cloud computing. If you are ready to make the most of your cloud investment, contact us today.
Typically, most businesses are concerned about external adversaries maliciously accessing confidential data and systems. However, businesses often neglect to safeguard against their own employees who are threats to the business. This concept is known as insider threats. An insider threat is any employee, vendor, contractor or person within a business that has authorised access to sensitive data or IT systems, that misuses that access in a way that negatively impacts the business. In this article, we will discuss the types of insider threats, how to detect an insider threat and how to defend against them.
Malicious insiders are individuals that intentionally misuse their access to data or IT systems for their personal or financial gain. An example of a malicious insider that was currently in employment was a Russian Nuclear Scientist who abused their access to a supercomputer to mine Bitcoin. However, malicious insiders can also be ex-employees who still have access to data and IT systems, or exfiltrate data before they leave. This was the case when an ex-Google employee saved thousands of confidential files before leaving the company, or when an ex-employee of a financial firm attempted to sell 100GB of customer data for $4,000 online.
Not all insider threats have malicious intent, as such as is the case for accidental insiders. Accidental insiders are individuals who unknowingly increase cyber risk or harm the business. An example of an accidental insider was when an HR employee within the NHS accidentally sent an email to a team of senior executives. The email included the mental health information and surgery information of 24 NHS employees.
Similar to accidental insiders, negligent insiders do not intentionally harm the business but do so through negligence or carelessness. This may be through the use of shadow IT or avoiding updates or security patches, which can lead to a cyberattack. An example of this was when a Boeing employee shared an Excel spreadsheet with his wife, so she could help solve formatting issues. This spreadsheet contained the personal information of 36,000 employees.
One of the key challenges in defending against insider threats is how businesses can detect an insider threat. As these individuals have legitimate access to data and IT systems, basic forms of detection are not viable.
Therefore, in order to accurately detect insider threats, businesses require a comprehensive Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) platform or User and Entity Behaviour (UEBA) solution. These solutions solve this challenge as they collect information about the behaviour of individual employees and create a baseline model of normal behaviour. Therefore, if the employee deviates from this behaviour and accesses abnormal data or starts saving confidential information, the activity will be flagged. After this, the business’s IT department or third-party IT provider can look into the behaviour and assess if they are an insider threat.
Whilst detecting an active insider threat can help with remediation, it can also be too late if the employee has already exfiltrated data or shared confidential information. To defend against malicious insider threats, businesses need to identify where all their sensitive information resides and determine who has access to this data. Most businesses allow employees to access more sensitive information than is required in their role. This can be solved through the Zero Trust principle of least privilege. This principle states that employees should only be given privileges required to complete their job, and nothing more. This defends against malicious insider threats as it means that employees cannot access or exfiltrate data.
As many insider threats only abuse access after they have left the company, businesses should ensure that after an employee leaves, their access to any company data or IT systems is revoked. If the employee has additional login credentials to systems, such as administrator or root credentials, these passwords should be changed.
Whilst the above recommendations can also defend against accidental and negligent insiders. In order to defend against these insider threats, businesses need to develop a strong security culture and give employees the education and tools they need to ensure they do not become a risk to the business. This can be accomplished through cybersecurity awareness training and regularly tests or quizzes to ensure that employees retain the knowledge. If a business can create a strong security culture, employees are less likely to become accidental or negligent insiders.
Many businesses struggle to implement the necessary safeguards to both detect and defend against insider threats. If your business is looking to start taking insider threats seriously, contact us today and we can help with the deployment of security solutions, as well as running cybersecurity awareness training.
Extended periods of rapid growth are positive for most businesses, as it means that the business is acquiring new customers, which is driving increased revenue and better business outcomes. Whilst these periods are exciting and necessary for the longevity of a business, it also creates a host of new challenges, especially regarding IT and technology. In this article we will delve into 6 common IT challenges for fast-growing businesses, and how they can be solved with the help of a trusted third-party IT provider.
As businesses grow, they will also need their IT systems to grow with them, including everything from software licenses to cloud servers. If businesses are not careful, their IT spend can get out of control, leaving them with a large invoice, exceeding their budget and eating into their profit margin. Often, fast-growing businesses are not getting the most value from their IT spend and deployment and implementation of technology is reactive, rather than proactive.
If a business partners with a third-party IT provider, the provider will typically be able to give a simple monthly cost per user, with everything included for the end-user and back end set-up. IT providers can also proactively forecast the cost of larger projects, and the associated ongoing fees, making it easier for businesses to stick to their IT budget.
As businesses grow, they have different requirements regarding IT infrastructure, as well as IT support. For businesses that already have an internal IT department, during periods of rapid growth, the team typically is forced to dedicate their time to research, implementing and deploying new systems to support the growth. This results in less time dedicated to actioning support tickets which can decrease productivity within other departments and slow business growth.
If businesses involve a third-party IT provider, they can either outsource the implementation of new technologies or outsource their support desk. This gives IT departments more time to do what they do best to support the continued growth of the business.
Hiring new employees on short notice is always a challenge. However, this is only made more difficult due to the current chip shortage as hardware procurement can be a lengthy process, and even if a business already has the device, it still needs to be reimaged and set up for the employee. If onboarding is not a smooth experience it can give new hires a poor first impression of the company, leading to increased churn.
A trusted third-party IT provider can assist with the onboarding of new employees through the procurement and deployment of new devices. This ensures that every employee receives the right equipment and it is ready to use from day one.
Whilst most cyberattacks that we hear about in the news are high profile multi-national enterprises, small businesses and fast-growing start-ups are just as likely to be targeted. This is due to the fact that cybercriminals view these companies as easy targets as they typically have invested less in security. If a business does get attacked, not only can it harm their reputation, but it can also lead to significant downtime as the attack is remediated.
This challenge can be solved by investing in a comprehensive security solution. Such a solution typically includes multiple layers of defence to ensure that even if a hacker gets through one layer, there are still many more to stop them from accessing confidential data. Most security solutions also include backup and disaster recovery functionality to ensure swift recovery after an attack.
In the early stages of rapid growth, businesses may not have sufficient liquid cash to invest in upgrading IT systems to support the growth. This is particularly true for infrastructure such as servers, which require a significant capital investment. Thankfully, with the rise of cloud servers, businesses can move away from capital expenses and move to operational expenses, as there is no upfront investment, but rather businesses only need to pay for what they use.
An IT provider can not only help with the implementation and deployment of cloud servers but also use some of the built-in cost management features to ensure the business gets the most value from their cloud investment.
Whilst small businesses can typically get away with using spreadsheets to store customer relationship information, this is not feasible once a business reaches a certain size. This can be solved through the implementation of a customer relationship management solution, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365. As the implementation of such a solution is not a quick process, businesses should invest in a CRM solution early, to be prepared for their continued growth.
For any business that is currently growing, or looking to grow, you don’t want IT to be holding you back. Our role as a third-party IT provider is to ensure that your IT works as intended and supports the growth of your business. If you want to find out more about how we can help your business, contact us today.
Technology is most effective in a business when it is solving a problem or delivering a tangible benefit. This way it enables a clear return on investment and enables employees to spend more time growing the business, rather than dealing with technical issues. There are few solutions as powerful as Azure Virtual Desktop when it comes to solving multiple business challenges with a single technology. In this article, we will introduce Azure Virtual Desktop, and the problems it can solve within your business.
Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) is a virtual desktop interface (VDI) solution that is deployed through Azure that allows users to access Windows 10/11 and all the necessary applications, from anywhere, on any device. The technology can also be used for RemoteApp streaming when businesses only require employees to access a single application on the virtual machine. AVD offers businesses full control over the configuration and management of virtual machines and also supports multi-session Windows virtual machines. Billing for AVD works on a consumption basis, however, there are many features within Azure to optimise a business’s costs.
The number one business problem that AVD can solve is how to enable a secure remote workforce. Allowing employees to work from home, or any location other than a secure office network is a difficult task as there is less visibility over the network and endpoint device. To make matters worse, the attacks surface is constantly expanding and the exploitation methods that cybercriminals use and getting more complex. With Azure Virtual Desktop, employees can work from any location without compromising their security posture. With this being said, AVD is only as secure as it is set up to be. Therefore, businesses should consult an Azure security specialist to ensure their workloads are as secure as possible.
With the ongoing chip shortage, many businesses are struggling to procure workstations and laptops with a strong performance to price ratio, and many businesses simply cannot find enough devices to replace all their employee devices. Another challenge facing businesses is that if they want to upgrade to Windows 11, all devices need to have a TPM 2.0 chip. Older hardware will not have this chip, making it impossible to upgrade to Windows 11. Some businesses may consider implementing a BYOD program to reduce their hardware expenditure, however, this typically carries a significant security risk.
Azure Virtual Desktop solves these challenges by moving the computing power away from the device to the Azure Cloud. As the compute is provided on Azure, employees only require ‘thin’ devices, which are typically not powerful, but very cheap. Employees can also run Windows 11 through AVD, even with older hardware that lacks a TPM 2.0 chip. Finally, AVD is one of the most secure ways to implement a BYOD program, as no data leaves the cloud.
Each employee within a business has a different compute requirement. Whilst some staff require less powerful devices for word processing and administrative tasks, other employees need powerful devices for graphic design or other intensive applications. This becomes more difficult if an employee only occasionally uses these intensive applications. Typically, the only way to accommodate this is by purchasing a device that is overpowered for 95% of its use. This leads to increased hardware expenditure, especially if multiple employees occasionally require a powerful PC. Azure Virtual Desktop can solve this problem with intelligent compute scaling. This makes it possible to allocate additional resources to a virtual machine when required, and then deallocate it when the employee has finished using the application. Therefore, businesses only need to pay for the computing power they use.
It is essential that all businesses are prepared for the worst, from everything from natural disasters to cyberattacks such as ransomware. Whilst regular backups will ensure that a business can eventually continue to work as normal, it is also important to consider how quickly this is possible. For a disaster such as ransomware, recovery can take a long time as all devices need to be re-imaged. With AVD, this process is streamlined as all workspaces can be reverted to their golden image. Similarly, there are many features available within Azure to aid in disaster recovery, including automated backups of images and profiles.
As many businesses have made the move to remote and hybrid work, it has created a new challenge in how businesses and their IT providers can provide support to employees. Whilst there are many tools on the market that enable this, few are as flexible as Azure Virtual Desktop. With AVD, it is possible to remotely manage host pools, as well as individual workspaces. Similarly, IT support staff can remote connect to a user’s workspace for non-AVD related troubleshooting. Finally, AVD simplifies update and patch management as the image can be updated, and all instances are automatically updated.
Whilst Azure Virtual Desktop can solve many business challenges and deliver tangible benefits within a business, it requires expertise to implement and deploy, especially regarding security and cost management. We have expertise in Azure Virtual Desktop and making sure that your business achieves the best value for money with its AVD solution. To find out more, contact us today.