reduce it monthly - How to Reduce IT Costs on a Monthly Basis

How to Reduce IT Costs on a Monthly Basis

By | QCS Group Blog

Not many people enjoy spending their revenue on technology expenses, but many businesses have to. Small businesses spend an average of 6.9% of revenue on IT according to TechTarget. This cost is a necessity for business operations but does not have to be so high.

When it comes to Managed Services, there is no “one size fits all” solution. Each organisation is unique in its business model, goals, structure, etc. and should have a provider who tailors their services to fit that model. A good MSP will present you with options based on your budget, company size, compliance requirements, and other factors as well.

With so many critical operations relying on your technology, it may seem impossible to reduce IT costs. The most expensive cost is generally personnel and technology experts. Without having to let employees go or completely shift your IT model, we have identified three ways to reduce IT costs that you can build into your existing strategy.

Virtualisation

Rather than using a dedicated server for every application, you can utilise virtualisation to optimise server usage. Not only will you make the most bang for your buck when you virtualise desktops, servers, and networks, but you can also lower expenses and security threats. Virtualisation allows platform independence without the additional costs of shipping hardware to remote users. This solution will improve productivity by promoting remote access and reducing IT costs simultaneously.

Proactive Managed Services Provider

Many IT providers have a break-fix model where they bill you for time spent fixing a problem after it has broken. To avoid this, you can partner with MSPs that work proactively to prevent issues before they occur. Not only will this method promote the most uptime for your business, but it will also lower the consequences and monetary costs associated with solving IT issues.

Plan Ahead

If you can foresee an expansion or office move, you can save a substantial amount of money by planning ahead. When it comes to the design and set-up of your network, it is most beneficial to do it right from the start. This includes labelling all equipment, allowing extra room in conduit for additional cables, and planning for any changes well in advance. You can reduce IT costs through proper planning and execution from the beginning.

These three methods will reduce IT costs for your organisation without having to fire full-time employees. It is important to find a reliable managed services provider who will work with you to provide the services you need. In addition, partnering with a trusted IT consulting firm will add value to your company when faced with technology decisions that require the input of an expert.

If you’re in the Brisbane area and would like to find out more about this or other IT topics, please don’t delay — Contact QCS Group, at 1300 858 723 or by sending us an email to: marius@qcsgroup.com.au

security 1024x894 - Security? But I have Antivirus

Security? But I have Antivirus

By | QCS Group Blog

With growing cyber security threats, many organisations have implemented antivirus and basic cyber security practices. But when it comes to vulnerability, there are other ways for hackers to breach your technology. Let’s take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and consider another security weakness, physical security.

Physical Security of Technology

Where is the technology infrastructure stored? Are racks and servers kept out in an open hallway or in a broom closet? Can anyone from within the building physically tinker with the equipment? If you answered “yes” to any or all these questions, we are looking at an on-premises security vulnerability.

The first step in securing your infrastructure is to allocate a designated location that can be locked. This should not be a shared space that many people have access to, like a janitorial closet or a storage room. Ports on servers and computers can be accessed physically and can be detrimental to the security of your entire network because someone can plug into the equipment and bypass the security measures in place. Either physically disable or use antivirus to disable unused ports.

Secondly, consider the security of desktops and laptops. Do laptops frequently leave the premises? Consider getting lock mechanisms and hard drive encryption for anything that frequently leaves the office. Don’t forget about ports that can be easily accessible on a typical laptop.

Oh, and think about where these physical and encryption keys are kept. Locking up equipment doesn’t matter if keys are available to everyone. Once you select a secure location, provide only the necessary personnel with access. Everyone should be seen as a possible threat in this situation; don’t underestimate a person’s capabilities based on their job title. No need to tempt anyone unnecessarily.

User Permissions and Access

This leads me to general user permissions and access on your network. Provide end users only with access to whatever is necessary for them to complete the day-to-day functions of their job. Not everyone needs access to everything. Set access restrictions on files containing sensitive information, like HR documents or the company’s accounting books. While this may seem like more administrative overhead it can not only protect you from data theft it can also reduce malware’s impact, for example, it can’t encrypt what it can’t read or have write access to.

Each user should have a unique username and password to log in to workstations and technology around the office. This way you can control for who can reach what, in addition to an audit trail so you know who’s been accessing and/or modifying shared files.

Your password policies should not be too stringent. You don’t want users to write passwords on sticky notes and “hiding” them under their keyboard or in a drawer. Create a policy that is user-friendly yet secure. The current recommendation is to recommend passwords that are complex in the sense that they are full phrases or sentences, not just a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Not kids and pets names or significant dates in your life.

Secure your technology environment and essential business information from all types of possible breaches, including the physical security. Reach out to us for more information about securing your systems and implementing security precautions. We can perform a basic assessment to see how secure your environment truly is.

If you’re in the Brisbane area and would like to find out more about this or other IT topics, please don’t delay — Contact QCS Group, at 1300 858 723 or by sending us an email to: marius@qcsgroup.com.au

ageing infrastructure problem - Why Ageing Infrastructure Is a Growing Problem

Why Ageing Infrastructure Is a Growing Problem

By | Uncategorized

Amidst the day-to-day challenges of keeping systems running at optimal performance and defending against the changing threat landscape, the problem of ageing infrastructure is a nagging issue that too often remains unaddressed. By leaving outdated hardware and applications intact, organisations are playing a dangerous game. Out-dated systems and software that are no longer supported by vendors create vulnerabilities, making an easy target for hackers to infiltrate the network.

As hackers grow increasingly more malicious and cyber security defences become stronger, the tactics needed to launch a cyber-attack are becoming more sophisticated, mandating that organisations modernise their infrastructure to close the gaps in security. Too many organisations are failing to do this, exposing themselves to preventable risks.

92% of Devices are Vulnerable!

Cisco’s Annual Security Report demonstrates that the problem of aging infrastructure is quite widespread. The report outlines how Cisco scanned 115,000 devices and found that 92% ran software with known vulnerabilities. On average, each of these devices had 26 potential weak points. Additionally, 8% of devices in use had reached end-of-life, while another 31% will reach end-of-life within the next four years.

We all understand that replacing hardware and legacy applications is both expensive and complicated and requires a significant expenditure of both human and capital resources. By failing to upgrade an ageing infrastructure, organisations place themselves at risk for a breach as well as audit failure.

Why End-of-Life Technology Poses Risks

End-of-life (EOL) is any technology—hardware or software—that is no longer actively supported by the vendor with upgrades, patches and technical support. Running Windows XP on a PC is an example of EOL technology that poses a problem. Using EOL technology is not only risky, in the long run, it’s quite expensive.

Major risks posed by EOL technology include:

  • Increased Vulnerability: Once a vendor stops supporting a product, you no longer receive security updates and patches, increasing the vulnerability of your infrastructure. Also, hybrid IT that includes public or private cloud applications and legacy systems have inherent incompatibilities that increase risk.
  • Non-Compliance: Failure to protect your data according to regulatory standards means your organisation risks significant fines and legal consequences. In the event of a data breach, the financial impact of noncompliance can be considerable.
  • Poor Reliability: Aging hardware is more likely to break down and cause failure, possibly resulting in significant disruptions to your business operations, and costing you customers.
  • Increased Support Costs: As infrastructure ages, it becomes harder to support. Hardware replacement parts can be difficult or even impossible to obtain. If an application breaks, it usually requires the assistance of outside expertise, making a fix much more expensive.

These risks clearly point to the need to replace technologies before reaching EOL.

Tackling the Problem of Aging Infrastructure

To understand the financial implications and cyber threat your ageing infrastructure poses to your organisation, you need to conduct a thorough assessment to understand your risk and take active steps to remedy the problem. A thorough assessment will help you to understand the where the risk lies in your infrastructure, create a comprehensive list of all vulnerabilities, and formulate a plan to replace or upgrade your infrastructure to address these risks.

By taking the time to assess their current infrastructure, many organisations have found that it isn’t worthwhile to upgrade their old hardware and have turned to outsource IT services. Outsourcing your IT infrastructure will save you both the capital outlay and maintenance costs associated with purchasing new equipment and maintaining an on-premises data center. Outsourcing allows you to take advantage of the latest technology and security, as well as lower your risk and increase the efficiency of your IT operations.

Click here to download the full version of Download Cisco’s Annual Security Report, and contact QCS Group IT Solutions for expertise in understanding your risk.

3 mistakes msp - What 3 mistakes are you making when selecting a MSP?

What 3 mistakes are you making when selecting a MSP?

By | QCS Group Blog

Selecting a managed service provider to partner with is a big decision and should not be taken lightly. Many companies heavily rely on technology to conduct business. From phone calls and emails to data storage and server availability, technology integration and reliability are important aspects of daily operations.

As business grows and companies scale, outsourcing IT becomes logical in order to focus on improving the business as a whole. Managed service providers take over all IT operations which can save costs and improve security. If you are looking for an MSP to partner with whether you’ve just decided to outsource IT or you’re unhappy with your current provider, we’ve put together a list of common mistakes companies make for you to take into consideration.

1. Settling for Less

While low costs are attractive, quality of service is more important. Don’t make the mistake of settling for less, especially when it comes to your IT service provider. Ask in advance about the type of support provided and make sure you partner with an MSP that provides both on-site and remote support. Don’t be afraid verify that they will be providing all of the services you need. Also take into consideration their work ethic and communication.

2. Neglecting Compliance

Each industry has different regulatory compliance rules and it is important that your managed service provider is aware and fully equipped to follow all compliance regulations. In the healthcare industry, all patient data must abide by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). If your MSP is not aware of the compliance rules for your industry or if they are not prepared to verify that your data will follow regulation, you should seek a more experienced provider. Companies that neglect compliance could end up in an expensive lawsuit.

3. Signing too Quickly

Although it may be exciting when you think you’ve found the right IT service provider, you don’t want to jump the gun too quickly. One mistake companies make is failing to address whether the MSP is engaged enough from day one. Your potential partner should be asking tons of questions in order to fully understand your business and provide the right service. Be aware of the questions being asked as well as how in-depth they are and if they truly paint the picture of your business overall.

Taking these three mistakes into account can improve your selection process of the right managed service provider. Remember that your IT is a critical part of your business and decisions like this should not be rushed. An MSP should be a trusted partner that works with you to develop a custom solution that is right for your business.

If you’re in the Brisbane area and would like to find out more about this or other IT topics, please don’t delay — Contact QCS Group, at 1300 858 723 or by sending us an email to: marius@qcsgroup.com.au

it engineer on phone 1024x683 - 10 Reasons to Consider Managed IT Services

10 Reasons to Consider Managed IT Services

By | QCS Group Blog

It’s hard to imagine, but there was a time when industrial companies had to generate electricity in-house in order to manage the quantity, cost and consistency of the energy required to support operations. Today, most companies are able to get the power they need from the grid without a second thought. Small to mid-sized businesses and enterprise operations can take their IT support for granted in much the same way.

Thanks to standardised procedures, shared infrastructure and massive scale, it is now not only possible, but also practical and affordable to outsource IT support to a high-quality Managed Services Provider (MSP), like QCS Group.

Of course, outsourcing always comes with concerns about people, especially when IT team members are involved. However, in our experience, CEOs would rather see their in-house IT talent focused on innovation and adding value for the customer, rather than mundane tasks related to maintaining basic operational readiness. IT staff, in turn, can enjoy increased job satisfaction and career growth as they shift their time from routine support to more challenging projects that help move the organisation forward.

Even if you have considered outsourcing before, it is worth taking a fresh look at this topic each year. When you look at the benefits, you may realise outsourcing is the right choice, and now is the right time.

Here are some of the top reasons to consider partnering with a quality MSP:

Outsourced IT Support is More Cost-Effective Than Ever

High quality MSPs have developed standards and procedures that allow them to keep your systems humming at a lower cost per employee and to quickly scale with your organisation as it grows.

Large MSPs Have a Wide Range of Skills & Highly Specialised Expertise in Certain Areas

Because MSPs employ mostly technical people, they often have the ability to attract and retain some of the best talent in the business. Because their team encounters the applications and technology challenges your business faces across many clients, they bring a depth of experience that is hard to match in-house.

Outsourcing Can Help Reduce Your Risk

By placing critical functions in the hands of highly specialised experts, your team may be able to prevent costly errors and problems.

Gain Access to Benchmarks & Best Practices

Since large MSPs work with other companies in your industry, they are familiar with common challenges and solutions. Because they work with clients outside your industry, they can help to cross-pollinate your organisation with fresh ideas. Finally, because they often have deep relationships with software and equipment providers, they have access to resources that may not be readily available to individual companies.

MSPs Never Sleep

Large MSPs provide 24/7/365 monitoring and support that can be very costly to replicate in-house.

Talent Can Focus on Innovation & Adding Value for Your Customer

For many organisations, outsourcing begins as a cost-reduction initiative, but evolves into a competitive edge as in-house staff suddenly finds time to deploy new technologies and even create proprietary solutions that add value.

Outsourcing Can Fill a Skills Gap

With today’s rapidly changing technology, organisations often find themselves in need of specific skills that their in-house team doesn’t possess. They may have difficulty recruiting or affording that talent, or they simply may not need enough of that specific expertise to justify additional salary and benefits.

Outsourcing Can Help Free Up Capital Needed for Growth

Reducing costs can impact the bottom line, of course. But it can also free up the funding you need to fuel new initiatives.

MSPs Can Often Provide Additional Help in Unexpected Ways

From specialised training, to disaster recovery, to security and compliance improvements, to taking advantage of opportunities such as BYOD, big data, workforce mobility, or reducing printing and phone costs, MSPs bring a wealth of expertise and relationships to help protect and grow your business.

Proactive Support Means Increased Productivity

Often, in-house teams are forced to operate in reactive mode, responding to problems as quickly as possible to restore productivity. The MSP business model, on the other hand, ties profitability to anticipating and preventing problems before they occur or even remedying problems before users realise they exist. A large, well-established MSP can keep your employees serving your customers, rather than waiting for the help desk.

If you’re in the Brisbane area and would like to find out more about this or other IT topics, please don’t delay — Contact QCS Group, at 1300 858 723 or by sending us an email to: marius@qcsgroup.com.au

rethinking it security - Rethinking IT Security

Rethinking IT Security

By | QCS Group Blog

Digital transformation is disrupting the old ways of doing business by introducing digital technologies into the workplace and enabling employees to perform tasks in more efficient and productive ways, which in turn brings exponential new opportunity for business growth.

However, with digital transformation comes risk. The devices, software and technologies that are transforming your business need to be protected from hackers, insider threats and other cyberattacks. While digital transformation is reshaping the way companies do business, it is also forcing companies to reshape the way they approach their security.

Security Risks in the Digital Transformation
Protecting networks and data is a top priority of IT departments today. A single data breach or security incident can destroy an organisation’s reputation, and the financial costs can shutter a small business.

But the truth is, security can be difficult to ensure because there are so many variables involved, and the digital environment is constantly changing. Users make mistakes that can harm under-protected systems, so applications need to be consistently updated and patched to prevent hackers from sneaking through new vulnerabilities.

And then there is the ever-increasing number of endpoints and applications attached to the network. Estimates show most employees used at least five devices in 2016 to access corporate data. With Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), many employees are using their personal devices and favourite applications to conduct work, often without permission or knowledge of the IT department. While all of these endpoints and applications improve worker productivity, they create a potential nightmare scenario for security.

Rethinking the Approach to Security
Overall cyber security spending is expected to hit $90 billion this year, with many organisations increasing their budgets to fight against mounting threats. However, traditional approaches to security aren’t as effective as hackers become more sophisticated and find ways to circumvent legacy security methods.

To counter the increasing stealth and persistence of modern cyber threats, organisations need to shift to a more holistic approach to cyber security. The holistic approach integrates technology with human behaviours and physical considerations and recognises that security incidents go beyond simply dumping malware into a network.

They require a human to plan the attack and a human to make a mistake; they also factor in location or industry, or in some cases, something as simple as dropping an infected USB flash drive on someone’s desk in hopes of them plugging it into the company network. By looking at the overall picture of how cyber threats happen, you can better map your security plan to address them. But effective cyber security takes a very tactical approach to win the battle. Our partner, VMware, recommends taking these tactical steps in an effort to start building a defence:

  • Simplify security models by replacing ad-hoc, poorly coordinated systems with collaborative, unified architectures that deliver protection efficiently and effectively.
  • Implement a ubiquitous software layer across the application infrastructure and endpoints to abstract infrastructure from the applications running on it.
  • Gain more visibility and context to more fully understand interactions between users, applications and data to better pinpoint security vulnerabilities and align security controls and policies to applications.

The digital transformation has opened doors for many businesses to thrive and is creating opportunities never seen before. But as you rely on more applications and endpoints to access your network, the threat level rises.

By rethinking your security approach, your business becomes better equipped to meet new threat challenges. A good starting point is working with an IT solutions company like QCS Group to establish a plan that protects your applications, infrastructure and endpoints. With this in place, you can improve visibility into your company’s digital interactions and better protect your most sensitive holdings.

LEARN MORE about how VMware is rethinking security to combat growing threats. Download the eBook: Guide to Rethinking IT Security

ransomware failed backups - Ransomware + Failed Backups = A Disaster Waiting to Happen

Ransomware + Failed Backups = A Disaster Waiting to Happen

By | QCS Group Blog

To say that cyberattacks are dangerous to the health and success of a small business is something of an understatement. According to one study, an incredible 60% of all small businesses close their doors within just six months of a successful cyberattack taking place.

The attack itself can cause an initial shock, but the consequences of the attack are what often cause a business to fail. Getting hit with a cyber attack often creates an environment of confusion and chaos:

  • What’s the extent of the damage?
  • What important files were stolen?
  • Are we in breach of any confidentiality laws, or do we have compliance issues to worry about?
  • Who needs to be notified?
  • What will this do to our reputation?
  • Was any of our intellectual property stolen in the attack?

The answers to these questions are almost uniformly bad, particularly in a situation like a ransomware attack. Thankfully, these types of situations can be avoided—provided that you’ve made regular, successful backups a priority.

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a particularly nasty strain of malware that targets both individual computers and entire networks. According to a study by NBC News, ransomware was a billion-dollar enterprise in 2016.

Most of the time, ransomware attacks occur after you or one of your employees accidentally downloads and executes a rogue computer program from a source that you thought was legitimate. Maybe that email from a client wasn’t from a client at all – it just looked that way at first glance. The fact that you didn’t have time to dig deeper is what hackers are depending on.

When a ransomware virus executes, it immediately encrypts all data on the infected machine. You are then greeted with a screen outlining what has happened with a promise to return that valuable information if you pay a large sum of money. The problem is that these costs can often be quite significant and, even if you do pay, there’s no guarantee that the hackers will actually turn over the data they’ve compromised.

The end result is that everything on your system is gone in an instant. All those important projects you were working on, all of those documents that took months or years to create. You’re suddenly back at “square one.”

The Problem with Failed Backups

Backups, are the one hope you have after a ransomware attack—If you’ve been keeping up with them, that is. One of the most essential best practices for backing up documents and other mission-critical data isn’t just to make sure that it happens, but that they were successfully completed and stored in a secure, off-site location.

The problem is that far too many small-business professionals see backups as a burden, and something they really don’t have time for. If you get hit with a ransomware attack and your backups were stored on the same machine, bad news — They’re not going to help you. If you get hit with a ransomware attack and you haven’t backed up in months, bad news — You’ve just lost a huge amount of progress, and potentially ruined your reputation with clients.

Note: According to a study conducted by Storage Magazine, over 34% of companies don’t test their backups on a regular basis to make sure they actually completed successfully. Of those that do, 77% found that tape-based backups often failed to restore for a wide range of different reasons. Perhaps the most damning statistic of all is that according to Microsoft, 42% of attempted recoveries from tape-based backups in the past year have failed entirely.

The Best-Case Scenario

The key to not to just hope your backups will never fail. It’s to take realistic, effective steps to mitigate risk failed backups.

Backing your data up to a secure, off-site location is the best-case scenario in the event of a ransomware attack. For the sake of argument, let’s say that your work computer was hit with a ransomware attack. You did everything you could to prevent it, but somehow it slipped through. You were quick, but the attacker was quicker. It happens.

With quality backups on a separate machine that’s been tested and re-tested, recovery is a foregone conclusion. All you have to do is service the machine in question to totally remove the virus, which will usually involve the IT equivalent of a factory reset. Then, you can restore those quality backups onto the machine and pick up right where you left off.

You might lose an afternoon of productivity, but you’re not going to lose documents or other data that do the type of damage from which your small business might never recover.

But again, none of this is possible if you aren’t prioritising your backups in the first place. In the vast majority of cases, your backups are your first and best line of defence against today’s cyber attacks that are getting more sophisticated all the time.

Any step that you can take to avoid becoming just another example in a long line of painful situations is a step absolutely worth taking.

Ransomware isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. If anything, it’s only going to get worse before it gets better. This is why ongoing training and education are so essential. It helps create a much stronger defence against these and other types of threats. If you’re in the Brisbane area and would like to find out more about this or other IT topics, please don’t delay — Contact QCS Group, at 1300 858 723 or by sending us an email to: marius@qcsgroup.com.au

Managed Services Provider Growth - 5 Ways a Managed Services Provider (MSP) Promotes Revenue Growth

5 Ways a Managed Services Provider (MSP) Promotes Revenue Growth

By | QCS Group Blog

To gain and maintain a competitive edge, small to mid-size businesses (SMBs) require the same technologies as larger corporations. With enterprise needs and small business budgets, more and more SMBs are turning to a managed services provider (MSP) to move them ahead of the curve.

While some businesses view IT consultants simply as a means to keep computers up and running, others see the possibilities for powerful, strategic partnerships. Choosing the right MSP not only helps your organisation work smarter; it can also help you grow your business and improve your bottom line.

Consider these five ways a quality managed services provider (MSP) can promote revenue growth.

1.  Increased Productivity

Managed Services ProviderFor business owners, the adage that “time is money” rings especially true. For a Brisbane tax consultant, partnering with a managed services provider (MSP) led to a 20% increase in revenue. Staff productivity doubled, cutting return processing time in half and reducing payroll costs by 15 percent.

Upgraded technology made it possible for employees to access server-based software from anywhere. Because the MSP managed the servers, integrating critical processes in one package, server downtime was eliminated. The reduced tax processing time resulted in new referrals and the 20% growth in revenue.

For similar small businesses, facilitating remote access for employees often means organisations can accomplish more work in less time and with less capital expense. The right MSP gives your employees the ability to bring the office wherever the work takes them, with features such as:

  • Office 365 and enterprise-grade cloud services
  • State of the art video conferencing
  • Email hosting
  • Secure remote print access
  • File sharing and collaboration tools

2.  Budget for Growth

Budget spikes can cripple a small business. Replacing aging technology, renewing software licenses, recovering from a security breach or an extended outage all pose significant financial risk with unexpected hits to the bottom line.

With a managed services provider (MSP), you pay a monthly fee based on a scalable service contract tailored to your business needs. In return, the MSP implements, upgrades and maintains the technology you need and handles software licensing, enhancing business continuity.

Because technology expertise is the business of a MSP, you get up-to-date technology without a huge capital expense. With a predictable budget, you can plan for growth projects. Also, since most MSPs provide scalable technology solutions, with pricing based on usage and/or number of devices, your technology grows as you grow.

3.  More Security, Less Downtime

Managed Services ProviderAccording to a recent survey by Imperva, the business cost of a ransomware attack runs from $5,000 to $20,000 per day. Those costs come primarily from downtime due to lack of system access. The resulting idle sales staff and offline eCommerce directly impact revenues. Increasingly, cyber criminals have begun to target smaller businesses.

To combat cyber threats, MSPs provide 24-hour remote monitoring, multi-layered virus protection, server and desktop management, and more. Effective network security measures will anticipate and prevent problems before they can cause damage. In addition, 24/7 proactive support means that your problems are addressed immediately—often before you are aware of them—keeping you up and running.

4.  The Best Tool for the Job

The right technology can mean the difference between a business that gets by and a business that thrives. MSPs have the resources to stay ahead of the technology curve, and your organisation benefits from that expertise.

A small retail furniture chain turned to its MSP to implement new technology. The upgrade resulted in improved internet access and more reliable tools. Standardised print services and a more efficient point of sale system smoothed the sales process, reducing lost sales.

Updated technology allowed the company to open a new location in weeks rather than months. Because the solution was scalable and standardised, the MSP was able to manage a multi-location rollout and achieve key business objectives.

Managed Services Provider

5.  In-House IT Available for Specialised Projects

While some businesses find it easier to outsource all their IT needs, others offload the day-to-day technology maintenance to their MSP but still retain an in-house IT staff. The MSP implements and maintains critical business technologies such as servers and email.

Meanwhile, with infrastructure running smoothly, your organisation can focus on strategic business objectives. Instead of installing software and solving downtime issues, the in-house IT staff is free to address specialised projects, such as revenue-enhancing initiatives or using technology to improve workflows.

Managed Services Provider: Your Partner for Growth

The best MSPs for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) offer a comprehensive suite of managed services and cloud solutions tailored to meet your business goals.

The Brisbane area IT company combines technology leadership with deep industry expertise. From network monitoring to full cloud services, its team of experts helps business owners and CEOs leverage the right technology to grow their business.

Let’s Talk about your requirements. 1300 858 723

data have a plan b - Does Your Data Have a Plan B?

Does Your Data Have a Plan B?

By | QCS Group Blog

With the recent WannaCry worm and other ransomware attacks in the spotlight, many small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are taking a good hard look at their data backup solution — and finding it wanting. In addition to lacking a second site for storing backups, many still use rotating tapes or removable offsite media — which is cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive. It’s time for Plan B.

With data the lifeline of most small businesses, and ransomware and other cyberattacks on the upswing, ensuring you have the right data backup (and recovery) solution in place is critical. The key is to focus your backup strategy on availability, and that’s where cloud-based solutions shine.

Among the advantages of cloud-based solutions are seamless backups on-demand, sized right for your needs, without big upfront investments in hardware, software and secondary storage sites. It’s a win-win, but choosing the right cloud-based backup solution isn’t easy. It requires:

  • Assessing your situation: This includes fully quantifying your data storage needs, and establishing backup windows and priorities. It also means planning for growth: The rule of thumb is to plan for 30-50% storage growth each year.
  • Leveraging existing IT solutions: You’ve invested quite a bit in modern storage and virtualisation technologies. Doesn’t it make sense to base your backup plan on them, specifically by choosing a partner that uses the same hardware, software and service providers you do?
  • Realising all applications are critical: No two end users have the same needs, but they all agree their own data is most critical. Today, 47% of IT workloads are considered mission-critical, and that number is expected to jump to 52% in the next two years. Optimal backup solutions know any downtime is unacceptable and plan for 100% application availability.
  • Focusing on speed and visibility: Availability requires fast, seamless backup and recovery. Look for partners that provide single, agentless, image-based backups that enable granular data and file recovery, as well as strong visibility into the health and performance of your backup infrastructure.
  • Testing every scenario. Even the best backups aren’t any good unless they are available and recoverable exactly when and where you need them. Choose a solution that can run automated recovery verification jobs to guarantee recovery of every VM every time.

Availability is also the prime focus of our partner Veeam with its Veeam Cloud Connect. It provides the easy, affordable and reliable cloud-based backup you need, tailored specifically to the unique needs of your business.

Read 10 things to consider for an Always-On SMB here

With Veeam Cloud Connect, all your hosted backup repositories (called cloud repositories) are integrated directly into the Veeam backup console. Simply click “Add Service Provider,” enter the credentials you received from your provider (like QCS Group), and their cloud repositories appear in the backup infrastructure. That’s it! There’s no VPN or separate console, and cloud repositories work like other backup repositories – except they’re available even if the primary backup or data center is lost.

Don’t get caught without a plan B. Ensure the availability of your mission-critical data without the cost and complexity of building and maintaining a backup site. Veeam Cloud Connect—now with VM replication— provides fully integrated, fast and secure cloud-based backup through QCS Group.

pexels photo 442150 - 3 Out of This World Benefits of Outsourced IT

3 Out of This World Benefits of Outsourced IT

By | QCS Group Blog

It takes a can-do attitude to run a small business, but as your company grows, you’ll realise that just because you can do things yourself, doesn’t mean you should.

A growing number of small business owners are discovering the benefits of outsourcing everything from one-off projects to entire departments. If you’re looking to join the outsourcing trend, IT is a great place to start. Read how outsourcing IT to QCS Group can secure your company’s assets as well as its future.

  1. Save Money

Hiring a team of experts to manage your company’s IT sounds expensive, but it is actually quite economical.

Consider the expense of hiring just one full-time IT Manager. You pay to advertise an open position, experience a costly dip in productivity during the interview and on boarding phases, and must provide benefits and a competitive salary throughout the IT Manager’s tenure.

Why settle for 9 to 5 network monitoring when you can have 24/7 surveillance at a fraction of the cost? Outsource to QCS Group and secure a team of IT experts for one flat subscription rate.

  1. Stay Current and Competitive

“Experts” being the operative word. QCS Group’s techs are well-versed in today’s leading data security tactics and tools and we have the certifications to prove it. Offering regular software updates and experience-based advice, we place small business clients on an even playing field with large corporations that can afford to have these resources in-house.

Leave data security to the pros and focus full-time on developing your area of interest and expertise: your business.

  1. See the Unbiased Truth

security protection anti virus software 60504 300x200 300x200 - 3 Out of This World Benefits of Outsourced ITSad, but true: 43% of data lost is breached by the companies’ own staff. In a world where internal threats loom almost as large as external ones, you need surveillance that is always on your side—something that a full-time employee working closely with colleagues may not be capable of providing.

QCS Group can be your watch dog. During each hour of our 24 hour network monitoring sessions, our loyalties rest with you. You see Frank, from sales, who brings doughnuts to the office every Friday. We see an end user. If we detect suspicious activity, you’re notified.

Expert-level maintenance. Nonstop monitoring. Unbiased reporting. These are just a few of the remote managed services QCS Group provides. You may not see us at the water cooler, but we are inside of your business, updating software and securing data to keep you in sync with your biggest competitors, at minimal cost.

 

Reach out to QCS Group about outsourcing IT. We have everything your small business needs to make it big.

Fotolia 103587670 S - Data Backup Best Practices: Avoid These 6 Disaster Recovery Fails

Data Backup Best Practices: Avoid These 6 Disaster Recovery Fails

By | QCS Group Blog | No Comments

When it comes to data recovery, even the savviest IT directors don’t have all the facts. In fact, only 30 percent reported having a fully documented disaster recovery strategy in place. Our cloud technicians experience this disconnect in data backup best practices all too often. IT staff know that gaps exist — but fail to realise how a failed restore affects every area of operations.

Overcome Disaster With Data Backup Best Practices

As a cloud managed services provider, we’ve educated our clients on the complexities surrounding backing up and restoring every layer of their IT infrastructure.

Here are some dangerous misconceptions we often hear from clients — and data backup best practices to secure your data.

1. They Don’t Test Their Data Recovery Process

Your disaster recovery plan is only as good as your data restore process.

It doesn’t matter how often you back up the hard drive or take server snapshots. If your data fails to restore, the entire organisation suffers.

An alarming 32 percent of IT administrators don’t regularly test their backup process. Often, it boils down to simply not knowing how often to test their data restore process. So they test infrequently or not at all.

But if you’re leaving restore to chance, there’s a strong possibility you won’t successfully recover every layer — from servers, applications to data — when you need it most.

How often you test your data backup and restore process depends on the nature of the data. Regardless, make sure to test under simulated disaster conditions so you think through every detail.

2. They Underestimate the Time to Restore

Sure, your data may be stored safely offsite. But when a disaster occurs, how long will it take to restore and access that data?

Consider the value of the data and financial impacts if your organisation couldn’t immediately retrieve that information. The loss in productivity, revenue and customer trust quickly amounts to thousands of dollars.

Speed to recovery is critical — and failing to plan for recovery time can result in huge costs to your business. Classify your applications based on how long the business can stomach to go without them to prioritise mission-critical data.

3. They Fail to Realise the Layers of Backup and Restore Involved

Your IT infrastructure is complex — composed on files, operating systems, data center, servers, etc. To stay productive during an outage, you need to back up, restore and test all these layers, which gets complex.

For instance, you likely need to back up databases, files, virtual machines and physical machines that run the VM differently, cascading into a much bigger, hairier solution. Without a firm grasp on your IT inventory and how to successfully back up and restore each component, your restore process will likely fail.

4. They Don’t Modify Their Backup Strategy

The growth of cloud and virtualised solutions has forced backup solutions to evolve as well.

If you’re doing tape backups, at some point, a vendor stops making tapes. Your back up strategy should change often — yearly at the very least — to stay current and prevent failed restores.

5. They Oversimplify Backups & Deemphasise the Importance of Recovery

Backups seem simple enough, but focusing on backups alone leaves your organisation vulnerable to data loss.

When planning your disaster recovery strategy, you must think from a restore – not backup — scenario. Restoring data (and testing the process) is critical to keeping your business up and running during an outage.

6. They Only Back Up on Hard Drives or Take Server Snapshots

We often talk to IT staff that believe backing up their hard drive or taking server snapshots is enough to safeguard their data.

When you rely on server and database snapshots, someone must hang onto them. But what if that person goes out of town? Without an automated backup process, you’re putting the company in the hands of one or two people, which can be unreliable. Physical backups also require extra storage. With time, this cost can grow exponentially.

So what’s the solution?

Build Your Disaster Recovery Solution in the Cloud

Preparing for a far-off disaster scenario might not seem critical today — especially while juggling a growing list of IT tasks. But building your disaster recovery solution in the cloud will eliminate the uncertainty that data will restore after an outage.

Read more about managing your organisation’s data backup in the cloud.

Choosing a cloud backup solution eliminates the need for external hard drives (or other storage media) and the costs associated with storing those hard drives.

With a cloud-based backup solution like Azure, you can configure the solution to automatically back up during idle times. You can even retrieve data on a smartphone or other portable wireless devices, reducing the time to recovery. Read our Azure backup review here.

An effective backup and recovery plan keeps data available, reduces storage costs, protects you against financial loss, preserves operational efficiency and increases staff productivity.

If you’ve fallen for any of the enterprise data recovery misconceptions above, learn how cloud backup services from QCS Group can give you peace of mind.

Plan A vs Plan B 300x250 - When Is Managed Services for IT The Right Time?

When Is Managed Services for IT The Right Time?

By | Uncategorized

Increasingly today many organisations are examining the business impact of transitioning from capital expenses for their technology support to an ongoing, operational expense monthly agreement. There are a few variables that factor into this decision, and as a technology provider that offers both, we are very familiar with this decision making process.

As with most things in IT, it depends. I personally have worked with a variety of organisations on an ad-hoc consulting services basis, an ongoing managed services basis, and in between as they transitioned from break-fix or project-based consulting services to regular, ongoing managed services. The factors that usually weigh in are the budgetary planning necessities, a need for more technological skill than a one-salaried individual can possess, or the overall need for a better system for supporting and implementing business technology.

In hopes of helping you decide what’s best for your organisation, I would like to share a story about a current client of ours who made the budgetary decision to switch to our ongoing managed services solution.

Break-Fix Breaking the Bank?

We had been working with Steve for about a year from a consulting perspective. There was an agreement between us that a QCS Group engineer would be onsite at their office for at least two hours weekly. During those weekly hours, the QCS Group engineer would take care of any issues that might have popped up from the last visit as well as do any proactive patching/updates. If an issue was more severe and needed immediate attention, then we would dispatch an engineer to get it resolved as needed. This, of course, would cause additional service hours, beyond the guaranteed two hours a week. An issue here and there might not sound like a big problem, but it started to add up over time.

Company A is a nonprofit and they get their budgets approved at the beginning of the year, including IT. Once a budget has been approved, barring a catastrophic failure, it is near impossible to get anything else through if it means spending beyond what was originally estimated. Steve was feeling stressed about some invoices for these extra service hours, so I went and met with him so we could talk over some issues.

During the meeting, we discussed a number of invoices as well as some upcoming projects. Steve needed help figuring out a better way of planning for their yearly IT spend. He wasn’t able to push off the additional break-fix we continually addressed because he has mission-critical systems, but he certainly couldn’t afford and budget for this type of arrangement.

We created a cost-benefit comparison between our hours-based consulting and our ongoing managed services, and it showed that Steve would not only be able to get all of his desired projects completed this year, but he would get additional services and still come in under what they had been spending on IT in the past years.

This is a case where the client was using our services enough through the year that the numbers made sense for him to make the switch. However, if the numbers had not been in Steves’ favour, our recommendation would have be to stay on the hours-based consulting services side and work to minimise any extra service calls.

If you’re in the Brisbane area and would like to find out more about this or other IT topics, please don’t delay — Contact QCS Group, at 1300 858 723 or by sending us an email to: marius@qcsgroup.com.au

SSD Drives Office Productivity 1024x536 - How Upgrading To SSD Drives Can Improve Your Business’ Productivity

How Upgrading To SSD Drives Can Improve Your Business’ Productivity

By | QCS Group Blog

Sure you’ve heard of Solid State Drives and Hard Disk Drives when comparing processors for your company’s computers. But, what’s the difference, really?
Whereas the prices of an SSD once outweighed the performance and storage benefits in favor of HDDs, the simple fact is that now, SSDs are cost-effective and provide an obvious increase in performance in terms of data movement and speed.

The Difference Between SSD and HDD

The major difference between the two is that HDDs come with magnetic storage, and while that means there exist more read/write capabilities, it can also lead to more fragmentation (when a disk is full of data a file can be written across multiple sections and it will end up taking longer to read).

SSDs don’t have this issue as files are written randomly across cells, which increases reading speeds. Overall, SSDs are far more durable than HDDs simply due to the lack of moving mechanical parts. HDDs become worn more easily over time and are immensely more susceptible to damage if dropped.

The Continuing Decline in SSD Costs

Investing in an SSD can make all the difference in your company’s operations as well as employee satisfaction, and thanks to the continuing decline in SSD costs, it doesn’t have to break your IT budget.

Whereas before, the cost of an SSD could be considered a deterrent, prices continue to drop and make it less necessary to opt for an HDD. For about $140 nowadays you can buy a 240GB SSD, which is only roughly $20 less than a 1TB HDD. While the difference between 240GB and 1TB seems immense, opting for the $140 SSD could save time and frustration in the long run in terms of data access and loading times.

Upgrading Networks Increases Productivity

One study found that upgrading to an SSD can halve a laptop’s start-up time. Think of all of the additional tasks your employees could complete if their boot-up time was cut in half.

SSD’s increase productivity especially in companies where their work requires manipulating a lot of data. If you’re using large databases, rendering and processing videos or photos, or involved in complex customer management services, SSD’s will save you inevitable headaches encountered with HDD’s due to a gradual decrease in processing delays.

Increased Speed Equals Happy Employees

We’ve all been there — sitting at our laptop frustrated as all get out waiting for that little spinning wheel to disappear so we can save that thousand-cell spreadsheet we’ve been working so hard on. You can see how decreased speed and long load times can frustrate employees, so we’re sure you can see how increased speed, shorter load times and fast navigation can lead to happy employees.

Now, imagine that you are not only able to work faster, but that every single member of your team is able to work faster. The entire organisation will begin to move faster, and they will do so in a more efficient and positive manner, which increases customer relations and overall retention. Simply put, when companies use SSD’s they are decreasing the amount of time wasted on one factor they have complete control over: mechanical hard drives.

Keeping Your Network Up-to-Date

As your business continues to evolve to stay relevant, you will inevitably need to adopt new IT technologies to support it. Using a professional team to oversee these types of projects, which include improving access to critical information, automating business processes and helping increase overall employee satisfaction, can help you stay under budget with as little business interruption as possible.

Whether your company needs to modify existing technologies or implement new ones, QCS Group’s IT professionals will use previous experience and expertise to design a solution that fits your needs.

If you’re in the Brisbane area and would like to find out more about this or other IT topics, please don’t delay — Contact QCS Group, at 1300 858 723 or by sending us an email to: marius@qcsgroup.com.au

7 cloud backup myths - 7 Cloud Backup Myths Debunked

7 Cloud Backup Myths Debunked

By | QCS Group Blog

Second only to your people, your data is your organisation’s most important asset. Backup is crucial, especially since SMBs and large enterprises alike are increasingly requiring constant availability of business-critical data. In the absence of disaster preparedness, organisations face risks associated with loss of revenue, customer satisfaction, compliance and brand reputation.

Fortunately, businesses are catching on to the urgency of data recovery, with 78% of SMBs expected to integrate cloud backup by 2020. However, before investing in a third-party backup solution, it’s helpful to know what cloud backup is and isn’t.

Cloud Backup at a Glance
Cloud backup is a technology that involves sending a copy of your data to an offsite vendor – a cloud provider – that keeps the data secure and accessible. Companies often use cloud backup in conjunction with in-house recovery methods (e.g. local drive tape drive, network share/NAS).

Misconceptions about Cloud Backup
Some SMBs are still on the fence about cloud backup and stick to an in-house recovery plan, or, in some cases, no recovery plan at all. However, the hesitation often stems from common misconceptions, which we’ve laid out here…

  1. One Backup is Enough
    Well…not really. One backup is clearly not enough. You need at least one local backup and one backup in the cloud to have decent protection against data loss.  The first and probably easiest step is to backup files locally on an external hard drive/NAS. But don’t let that (false) sense of security fool you.
  1. It Takes Ages to Get Data Back
    It depends on how much data needs to be restored. Do you want to do a full restore of over a terabyte of data? If yes, it might take longer to get all your files down to your machine. That’s why we recommend always having a current local backup at hand for when things go awry.
  1. Cloud Backup is Cost-Prohibitive
    While cloud backup is an investment, it can save you money in a number of ways. For starters, it eliminates the need to continuously invest in new infrastructure to meet increasing data storage demands and reduces data size via deduplication.
  1. Cloud Backup Performs Unreliably
    Data volume can be immensely reduced with compression and deduplication. This enables much faster backups compared to traditional tape and other in-house backups. Cloud backup services may also use cache prefetching for recovery times up to 32x faster than legacy systems.
  1. Cloud Backup Forces Provider Lock-In
    It is commonly believed that once data is stored in the cloud, companies are indefinitely locked into their specific provider. With most vendors now offering public cloud solutions via Google, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft Azure, this is no longer true. Today, businesses can freely move data from one provider to another, as business evolves or their needs change.
  1. Cloud Backup Lacks Strong Data Security
    With data breaches on the rise, many businesses rightfully worry whether cloud backup can match the security of a private, in-house recovery solution. With most vendors now providing AES 256-bit encryption and transport layer security encryption, organisations can be more confident their providers can reliably protect data in transit and at rest.
  1. Cloud Backup is Overly Complex
    A common concern is that cloud backup processes are too complex and implementation is disruptive. Most cloud-integrated appliances can easily be integrated with existing backup software and are managed from a central interface, accessible to multiple devices. Reduced disk and tape management requirements serve to simplify, rather than complicate backup administration.

Backup and Recovery Assessment Best Way to Start
Not sure where to start? QCS Group’s Backup and Recovery Assessment provides the first step towards creating an efficient, reliable and appropriate backup and recovery solution for your business. It allows you to gain visibility into your current backup environment, plan for future backup projects and ensure that your mission-critical data is protected.

5WaysManagedIT - 5 Ways Managed IT Services Can Simplify Your Life as a Business Owner

5 Ways Managed IT Services Can Simplify Your Life as a Business Owner

By | QCS Group Blog

Running a business is never easy, and both you and your staff are busy enough as it is. The last thing you want to do is worry about something going wrong with your servers or a mission-critical software program. You could hire in-house IT staff, but these skilled professionals command impressive salaries, and for a small to midsize business, hiring someone could be out of the question.

Managed IT services can help make your life, and your staff’s lives, a whole lot easier. IT companies can provide the services you need when you need them, without the need for a full-time employee. Managed IT services can provide a versatile, affordable solution.

Not convinced? Here are 5 ways that IT companies in Brisbane can provide managed IT services that can help simplify your life.

1) Future proof your technology assets

Technology is constantly evolving and changing. The latest version of software or hardware can become dated in a matter of just a few years. Keeping up with new technological developments can be difficult, confusing, and costly for businesses. Managed IT companies provide continual software upgrades, hardware replacement recommendations, and other services to keep your business moving with the times.

2) Predictable, stable monthly costs

Investing in specialised software and hardware on your own can get incredibly expensive. Plus, if something goes wrong, it could incur unexpected costs that can put a dent in your budget. Managed IT services come at a fixed monthly cost, which can vary depending on which services you do or don’t need. You’ll know exactly what your IT service is going to cost each month, removing any uncertainty and preventing nasty surprises.

3) Flexibility & Breadth of Services

Managed IT services are also quite flexible, and as your business grows, you can expand your service package as you see fit. Most IT companies in Brisbane provide a full range of IT related services, including remote tech support, 24/7 system monitoring, hardware and software management, and network security. IT is a broad and varied field, with many different areas and specialities. Managed IT service gives you access to multiple services. An IT professional who’s an expert in network security, for example, may not be an expert in server migration. With managed IT, you get access to multiple areas of expertise, with experienced professionals on your side to help your business optimise your use of technology.

4) Less Stress About Disaster Recovery

Managed IT companies provide top of the line server infrastructure, designed by experts to be resilient, redundant, and secure. An on-premises server crash could be a disaster for your company, losing sales while preventing your staff from getting anything done. Managed IT services help you avoid these potential problems, letting you rest assured that your data is secure and safe.

5) Energy Savings

When your business’s mission-critical systems are located in a secure remote data center, you don’t have to maintain a high degree of hardware infrastructure in-house. This can lead to surprisingly high energy savings for your office or headquarters, cutting your overhead expenses.

At QCS Group, our team of expert IT gurus provide your business with all the technology services you need, at one convenient and predictable flat rate. To find out more about our managed IT services, call us any time at 1300 858 723.

Fotolia 112387185 S - 5 Biggest Office 365 Migration Challenges and How to Overcome Them

5 Biggest Office 365 Migration Challenges and How to Overcome Them

By | QCS Group Blog | No Comments

Migrating from an on-premises environment to one hosted in Microsoft’s public cloud offers compelling benefits for organisations. Moving to Office 365 lets you to continue enjoying popular programs such as Word, Outlook, OneNote, Excel, Publisher and PowerPoint, but it also gives you document synchronisation on different platforms, easy collaboration within your organisation and the ability to access the service anytime, anywhere. As with any transition of this magnitude, an Office 365 migration can present several roadblocks that hinder an otherwise smooth transition process. Here are five of the biggest Office 365 migration challenges and how to overcome them:

How to Overcome 5 Major Office 365 Migration Challenges

1. Building hybrid solutions

The migration process is usually straightforward for organisations that want to move all employees from on-premises applications to Office 365. The process is more challenging for organisations that want to retain some aspects of their on-premises environments while moving the rest to Office 365.

This second method is commonly the case for organisations that need Office 365 for their mobile workforce but also want to keep on-premises solutions for employees working behind a desk. A hybrid solution makes sense for a large organisation that needs to maintain data stores for thousands of users.

Solution: Implement a single sign-on with Active Directory Federation Services to get the best of both Office 365 and the familiar on-premises solutions.

2. Difficulty transitioning some areas

Some company aspects are easy to migrate while others are more complex. Exchange data, when migrated correctly, leads to an almost unnoticeable change for the end-user.

For more complex systems such as SharePoint Online, migrating to Office 365 might introduce changes that prove quite challenging to users. A key example is a linked Excel spreadsheet, which can pose some issues when migrated to Office 365. Links directed to legacy environments that are not SharePoint will not be updated automatically. Another example is that permission models on SharePoint Online differ from legacy ECM systems, since the latter do not use concepts such as inheritance.

Solution: Set realistic expectations, and keep in mind that like-for-like migrations for legacy ECM systems, previous versions of SharePoint and file shares do not exist. Providing reports with details such as file source location, file name or SharePoint Online location can help minimise user confusion.

3. Overcoming low bandwidth

Smaller organisations with limited bandwidth and lots of data to migrate can sometimes become frustrated by the lengthy migration time from on-premises to Office 365.

Solution: Use the migration tools to help overcome this problem; the tools will bypass mailbox data multiple times before making the actual cut-over. This way your data is imported to Office 365 multiple times before finally moving mail. Once the final switch is made, your mail will be waiting for you in Office 365.

4. Unifying email

Transitioning to Office 365 requires all users to give up their previous email platforms and adopt the Exchange platform. Additionally, Office 365 limits email attachments to 25MB. Users of rival platforms such as Gmail or Lotus Notes can reset these changes.

Solution: Manage user expectations and the cultural shift to avoid resistance and employee backlash. Introduce file-sharing programs to replace large file attachments.

5. Calming security fears

Some employees might harbor fears about moving their on-premises data to the cloud. However, these fears are mostly unfounded because Microsoft has plenty of safeguards in place to ensure your data is safe during the migration process and after the transition.

Solution: Assure your employees that Microsoft takes security seriously. Office 365 Trust Center can answer all security questions that your employees might have regarding the safety of their data.

Moving to Office 365 is a multi-phased project that often requires technical consulting and support. At QCS Group, our Office 365 migration services have helped hundreds of companies seamlessly migrate hundreds of mailboxes to Office 365 with minimal business disruption. We’ve encountered nearly every issue imaginable and troubleshooted to find the most cost-effective long-term solution.

If your organisation is interested in migrating to Office 365 but wary about the challenges that lay ahead, please contact us today, and we’d be happy to answer your questions.

1023px Network cables plugged to router 20170903 990x743 - Wi-Fi security flaw puts every wireless device at risk of hijack

Wi-Fi security flaw puts every wireless device at risk of hijack

By | QCS Group Blog

The weakness was found in the WPA2 security protocol used by almost every modern phone, computer and router.

You use Wi-Fi every day — you may even be on it right this very moment — and that means the device you’re using is at serious risk of being hijacked.

Researchers have discovered a flaw in the security protocol that’s a fixture in almost every modern Wi-Fi device, including computers, phones and routers.

A weakness in the WPA2 protocol, meant to protect both wireless networks and devices, was discovered by computer security academic Mathy Vanhoef, and is being nicknamed “KRACK,” short for Key Re-installation Attack.

The bug ultimately could allow hackers to eavesdrop on network traffic — bad news for anyone sending sensitive or private information over a Wi-Fi connection. These days, that’s pretty much all of us, although this could hit businesses using wireless point-of-sale machines particularly hard.

Update all the wireless things you own

Good news! Your devices can be updated to prevent the KRACK vulnerability. Updated devices and non-updated devices can co-exist on the same network as the fix is backward compatible.

So you should update all your routers and Wi-Fi devices (laptops, phones, tablets…) with the latest security patches. You can also consider turning on auto-updates for future vulnerabilities as this won’t be the last one. Modern operating systems have become quite good at auto-updates. Some devices (ahem Android) don’t receive a lot of updates and could continue to pose risks.

The key point is that both clients and routers need to be fixed against KRACK so there are lots of potential attack vectors to consider.

In the case of KRACK, hackers would have to be within physical range of a vulnerable device to take advantage of the flaw, but if they’re in the right spot, they could use it to decrypt network traffic, hijack connections and inject content into the traffic stream.

Look to your router

Your router’s firmware absolutely needs updating. If the router has been supplied by your ISP, ask the company when their branded kit will be patched. If they don’t have an answer, keep asking. You can make sure your router is up-to-date by browsing the administration panel. Find the user guide for your ISP-branded router and follow the instructions to connect to the admin pages.

If your ISP is not quickly putting out a firmware update to fix KRACK, it may be time to consider switching your ISP. A less drastic option would be to buy a WiFi access point from a responsible company that has already issued a patch. Plugging a WiFi access point into your ISP router and disabling WiFi on your ISP junk is a good alternative.

Here’s a list of some of the router makers that have already put out fixes (Ubiquiti, Mikrotik, Meraki, Aruba, FortiNet…).

why businesses use voip - Why are businesses using VoIP?

Why are businesses using VoIP?

By | QCS Group Blog

Firstly, what is VoIP exactly?

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a type of technology that allows its users to make calls using the Internet rather than traditional fixed-line services (copper telephone lines). So, if you are using a VoIP telephone system, you are essentially using the Internet to make phone calls instead of a telephone line.

Because VoIP is a method of making calls and not a physical object the fact that the term VoIP is often used to describe many different things can become quite confusing.

For simplicity, we use the following terminology:

  • Converted or Upgraded VoIP System: This refers to the process of taking ‘older’ style business phone systems and converting or upgrading them to use the internet to make calls (VoIP) instead of traditional fixed-line services (copper telephone lines).
  • Modern VoIP Phone System: This refers to the more modern business phone systems which have been purpose-designed to use the internet to make calls. When we refer to a VoIP Phone System, we are referring to a Modern VoIP system not a converted or upgraded one.
  • VoIP Desk Phones: These are modern purpose-built desk phones which allow you to harness most of the great features VoIP allows such as, call forwarding, auto-attendant and video conferencing.
  • Analog or Digital Phones: These desk phones were not traditionally designed to use VoIP, they were designed to use traditional fixed-line services, therefore, while their operating system can be converted or upgraded to use VoIP they lack the built-in functionality to make all the features of VoIP, such as those listed above, work correctly.

It has become clear that VoIP is rapidly gaining popularity in the business and even residential sector so the question arises…

What are the real advantages and why are so many people choosing a VoIP for their business?

Well, it turns out that choosing to use the internet to make calls (VoIP) turns out to be a very clever businesses decision. It can save your business a lot of money, make your life more convenient, increase employee productivity and give employees the tools they need for a modern, efficient workplace.

Another significant business consideration for choosing VoIP is its future-proofing capabilities. It is important to be aware that currently throughout Australia NBN is being rolled out as the preferred standard for connectivity. Because of this preference we are seeing the traditional fixed-line (copper services) fast declining with some new developments choosing to only install fibre with no copper connectivity being made available. This means that in the near future it is quite likely that a time will come where copper services are ‘turned off’ or made redundant.

The last thing you want is for your business to be left behind with redundant systems. The future is already here and you need to take proactive steps if you want to stay ahead of your competition.

While VoIP offers many incredible advantages, we have also started to notice that some sales people have been making very exaggerated claims which are setting unrealistic expectations for what your business could achieve with VoIP. To set the record straight we have compiled a list of the top 4 benefits of a VoIP phone system with the facts to back them up.

1. Switching to VoIP could save you A LOT of money.

switch voip save 300x144 - Why are businesses using VoIP?The cost of using a VoIP phone system is usually much cheaper than using a conventional phone. This is because there is a lower initial equipment cost, reduced wiring required and making local and international calls is significantly cheaper when using a VoIP provider.

The facts to back it up:

  • An IT World Report found that small businesses who move to VoIP can lower the cost of their local calls by up to 40%. Source
  • A 2016 report on sustainability found that Dell leveraged VoIP to aid its mobile workforce and saved over $39.5 million. Source

2. VoIP can make your life more convenient and your staff more productive

call centre group 300x200 300x200 - Why are businesses using VoIP?The convenience and comfort provided by a VoIP phone system is available to you anywhere in the world. Using any good internet connection, you can log into your VoIP phone and get a dial tone. Simply take your headset, IP phone or use an app on mobile, and you can contact staff or clients on the go.

The facts to back it up:

  • According to research firm Infonetics, approximately 31 % of all businesses use VoIP systems due to its productivity-boosting and cost-saving features. The reduced communication expenses and logistical benefits help companies gain a competitive edge over businesses that remain on traditional phone systems. Source
  • A Digium Survey found that unified messaging saved employees 43 minutes per day due to more efficient message management while mobile workers saved 55 minutes per day. Source

3. Add amazing new features and functionality to your communications

Aside from making phone calls, you can also use the video conferencing features that come with some VoIP phones. This feature allows you to visually stay in touch with your co-workers and clients to discuss important deals, affairs, meetings, files, documents and agendas, no matter where you are. Now you can still attend important meetings without having to worry about being physically present even when you are abroad.

In addition to this, VoIP gives you new capabilities that even the most expensive traditional systems can’t match.  One of the best features is the ability to have soft phones which allow employees make calls through their PCs or a mobile app on their phone rather than being tied to a desk or desk phones.

The facts to back it up:

  • A Megapath Report found that Integrated voice and Web conferencing resulted in a 30 percent reduction in conferencing expenses and an average savings of $1,700 per month in travel costs. Source
  • According to The Connected Executive, Forbes Insights, 2016, Soft phones resulted in an average savings of $1,727 per month in cell phone and long-distance charges. Mobile workers also saved 40 minutes each day and generated annual productivity gains of 3.5 days per year. Source

4. Greatly reduce your office relocation costs.

page cover office relocation 300x100 300x100 - Why are businesses using VoIP?When you relocate traditional fixed-line phone numbers you have to go through a manual and often costly procedure to install the services at your new office location.

For example, when you relocate you will usually need to  put in place temporary call diversions. This is a manual process which requires you to phone your communications provider. On top of this inconvenience, if you relocation to a totally different area, you may also be required to pay a $20 per month, per number, fee to keep your existing phone numbers.

With VoIP when you relocate, all you need to do is ensure suitable internet connectivity at the new office location. While the phone system hardware is being physically relocated your calls will automatically divert as per your instructions( given to your VoIP installer) and once the system is relocated and online inbound calls will simply start working.

The facts to back it up:

  • MyVoIPprovider.com writes that one of the biggest benefits of using a VoIP service is that you can move your phone system with you and retain your phone number without extra charges or purchasing additional equipment. Source.
  • VoIP-org states that as long as each employee keeps the same IP Phone, the system will function exactly the same in your new office. As soon as the IP phones are connected to the network, the re-installation of your VoIP phone system is complete. All company greetings (Auto-Attendant), call routing, voicemail greetings and voice mailboxes remain unchanged. It is really that simple. Source.
1931682122 - 7 Cyber Security Threats All SMBs Face

7 Cyber Security Threats All SMBs Face

By | QCS Group Blog

You read the news and hear about cyber attacks on big businesses and think, “that would never happen to me.” It’s an easy trap to fall into. Many Small & Medium Business (SMB) owners operate under the guise that cyber criminals go after the big fish – the ones with lots of money, sensitive data, and a strong identity. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

SMBs are an equally attractive target for cyber criminals, and usually, they’re easy targets. It takes less effort to break into an unprotected SMB system than it does to blow past the firewalls of the large corporations.

This isn’t just speculation either. 31 percent of data breaches were on businesses with 100 or fewer employees, and another 9 percent were on businesses with 101 to 1,000 employees, according to the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report.

Cyber crime impacts companies of all shapes and sizes. Here are 7 cyber security threats that SMBs are especially at risk of falling victim to.

1. Theft of Sensitive Data

Time for a security check. How safely are you storing your data and your customer’s information?

Sensitive data is passed around your business daily. Customers give you their payment information. Vendors accept your payment information. Staff have paychecks deposited directly into their bank accounts. Usually the passing of this payment happens online and when it does, cyber criminals want to steal it to use for their own malicious reasons.

The amount of sensitive data being passed via the Internet is at an all time high. Cyber criminals are stealing credit card information to sell in the black market. This data can be sold for as much as $300 per record, which makes it an attractive target for thieves.

2. Trade Secrets

SMBs have something unique to offer. You’re innovating, building, growing, and producing the latest and greatest new things. All this innovation and growth means you have a handful of trade secrets in your arsenal. To the right cyber criminal, those trade secrets are worth gold. On the black market, thieves might be able to sell these as a get rich quick scheme to people who don’t want to put in the years of work you have.

3.  Identity Theft

A person’s identity is valuable on the black market today. Over 11 million had their identity stolen in 2012, with damages as a result of the theft reaching $21 billion, according to Statistic Brain.

The information you keep about your employees, such as license number, bank account information, and more, is perfect for thieves who want to sell identities to make a pretty penny. Securing your human resources information can help you and your employees avoid a major personal disaster that could come back to haunt your company’s reputation.

4. Your Reputation

Speaking of reputation, yours is on the black market too. Competitors often use underhanded ways of getting the advantage in the marketplace. One is by destroying your reputation online.

Reputation destruction today goes way beyond sharing a few bad reviews online. Attacks are often done by rogue employees or disgruntled customers who aim to destroy your business by stealing data and slowing down your success so they (or a competitor) can get ahead.

5.  Your Email

One of the most used apps on a smartphone is the email app. People are constantly connected to their inboxes today. It’s the way to keep in touch, especially with customers and teams who are geographically separated.

Buried within these email accounts is access to your other accounts. iTunes, airlines, your business’s website login information, or even your online banking is all stored in your inbox. Hack one account and the cyber criminals can access many.

 

6. Online Banking Theft

It’s a simple concept. If thieves gain access to your bank account, they’re going to be able to drain your funds. What would you do if you came into the office thousands of dollars poorer? Would you be able to make payroll? Would you be able to buy inventory? Would you be able to pay vendors?

Online banking is highly convenient, but if done on an insecure network, it could expose you to a major cyber security threat.

7. Ransomware

Ransomware is when a cyber criminal uses malware to hold your business’s data hostage. The malware is inadvertently downloaded to your network (usually when an employee mistakenly opens a file that appears trustworthy) and soon, a ransom is set. Pay up and you might be able to get your data back. Yes, it’s not even guaranteed… Wait to pay and the ransom goes up, while your cash flow usually goes down.

It’s a nightmare scenario and one that’s affecting many businesses of all sizes. Companies are being forced to pay thousands of dollars to reclaim what is rightfully theirs.

The Threat is Real

Cyber criminals are relentless. They’re experts at hacking accounts and stealing from unsuspecting SMBs and it’s all done with the intent of malicious gain. Most of the time it’s a monetary gain. Sometimes, the gain is meant to be used to destroy your business and give your competitors an unfair advantage. Whatever it is, one thing is certain – without solid security measures in place, you’re at risk. At QCS Group we can help you out with all your IT security needs. Give us a call at 1300 858 723 today to see how we can secure your network from the growing number of cyber criminals targeting businesses just like yours.

backup internet connection - Should Your Business Have A Backup Internet Connection?

Should Your Business Have A Backup Internet Connection?

By | QCS Group Blog

Does your business need a backup Internet connection?

Over a relatively short space of time, Internet has become an essential part of most businesses. When major Internet providers have outages, we all worry about if/how our business operations will be affected (eg, web browsing, email, telephone system, backup and disaster recovery solutions, cloud-based applications). Do you realise you have an Internet redundancy option that can save you a lot of stress?

Have a second Internet connection.

For many businesses the idea of shelling out for a second Internet connection that you may never use may not sit well with your financial controller. The question to ask however, is what would happen to your business if the internet stopped working for a few hours or even a couple of days? Recent outages by even the country’s largest provider demonstrate that no ISP’s are immune to outages.

The cost of a backup Internet connection needs to be weighed against staffing costs and in many cases, the backup connection can actually be used every day to relieve the strain on your primary Internet link.

The good news for businesses is that Internet connections are cheaper than they ever have been, and most firewalls purchased in the last few years have the capability to support multiple Internet connections. So what sort of connection should you be considering as a backup for your Internet?

How can the Internet fail?

To protect yourself effectively, it’s important to understand the different types of failures that can impact your business. The most common faults are:

  1. Simple ISP ‘internal issue’. This will be a fault within the network of your ISP and will often be resolved within a couple of hours.
  2. Accounts issue. Perhaps your ISP thinks you haven’t paid your bill, maybe there’s a billing dispute. If things escalate, the ISP may cut you off.
  3. Major ISP issue. This could be a complete failure of critical equipment within your ISP, perhaps in their main operations centre or, alternatively, of equipment located within an Exchange somewhere. Depending on availability of parts, this could take several hours or a couple of days to resolve.
  4. Critical infrastructure failure. This could be something like a back hoe that has inadvertently dug up a cable in your street or even an extended power outage at the Exchange. A failure such as this can take many days to recover from.

How can I protect my business?

As you may imagine, protecting yourself from some of these eventualities could be quite simple or alternatively require more significant planning.

If your business runs on an ADSL or lower end Ethernet connection, a backup ADSL connection from a different supplier would protect against the first three eventualities mentioned above. You might find things a bit slower than usual if you’re on the backup link but at least you’ll keep ticking along.

Alternatively, if your Internet is absolutely mission critical and you require protection against all eventualities then it’s most likely that a wireless connection is best for you. A wireless connection could be as simple as a 4G modem or, if higher speeds and other features are required, a point-to-point microwave connection could be your best option.

If the Internet is critical to your business, talk to one of the network engineers at QCS Group and we can help you decide what level of protection is best for you.

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