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

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