Blog

April 25th, 2016

2016Apr25_InternetSocialNetworkingAndReputationManagement_A500+ LinkedIn connections can open doors. It can lead to more business, new clients, and provide social proof to yourself or organization. However, getting to 500+ connections can seem like a daunting task, especially if you have a business to run. So how can you break through and become a LinkedIn power networker? Here are a few tips to get you to 500+.

Network every day

If you’re struggling to grow your LinkedIn network, you may not be spending enough time on the platform. If you want to become a power player, you need to use the social network often. So dedicate 15-30 minutes a day to network on LinkedIn, and make it a goal to reach 500+ connections.

Join and participate in groups

Utilizing LinkedIn groups presents an opportunity to meet other professionals (and eventually add them as connections) as well as learn and share valuable advice. The point is not to just join a group, but actively participate in them. This requires a degree of focus and smart selection.

How many groups should you join? Shoot for around ten. This will ensure you have time to participate in each group and connect with its members. As for the groups you join, you’ll obviously want to join those in your industry, but you should also diversify. So choose five within your industry and five that relate to your other interests or provide you an opportunity to learn from its group members. Some suggestions to consider are an alumni group for your university, groups that represent causes/charities you care about, and groups that relate to a new skill you’re hoping to learn. Obviously, all the groups you join need to be active. If members only post in a group once a week, this is a red flag to avoid joining.

Once you’ve joined, you should spend some time each day contributing in at least five of your ten groups. You can ask questions, provide advice, or share valuable articles or original content you’ve created. Once you’ve developed a rapport with group members, you’ll have an easy, non-awkward way to connect with them.

Personalize your “Connect” request

The less you know a person, the less likely they are to connect with you if you send a generic connection request. You know the one: “I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”

Many people will simply ignore requests like this. This is why it’s important to include a quick note that either refreshes that person’s memory of you, mentions a common interest or connection you might share, or simply introduces yourself and your reason for connecting. The more personal your note the better.

Use keywords in your profile

Just like Google, Bing and the other search engines, keywords help you get found on LinkedIn. Plant these keywords in your professional headline, profile summary, and skill endorsement section. How do you know what keywords to use? Think about what you want yourself or your business to be endorsed for. What skills do you have to offer your clients? For example, if your business specializes in web solutions, some keywords you may think about using would include SEO or “web content”. As for your skills, be careful not to choose keywords that are too narrow. For example if your business is in the financial services and tax preparation industry, don’t use the names of niche tax solutions you specialize in like “estate taxes” or “small business taxes” as your endorsed skills. Instead, choose more general words like “tax preparation”. By doing this, your connections will be more likely to endorse you as it’s a broader category.

By following these tips and spending at least 15 minutes a day on LinkedIn, you’re sure to see the number of connections you have grow. And the more connections you make, the less work you’ll have to do to grow your network as more and more people will send you connection requests instead. This will provide more business opportunities and chances for you to meet new clients. If you’d like more ideas how to improve your social media efforts, feel free to email or give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
April 21st, 2016

2016Apr21_Office365_AWhile you can take many security precautions to protect your organization, a cyber attack is always possible because of human error. Microsoft, however, is trying to change this. In the coming weeks, the technology giant plans to launch a new security feature for Outlook, but only if you’re an Office 365 user. Here’s how it can help your business.

Aptly called “Safety Tips”, Microsoft Office 365’s new security feature is designed to help make your employees (and yourself) more aware of which emails may contain harmful content. By analyzing the data patterns of millions of emails, the feature uses a color-coded bar at the top of an email to help you determine what emails are safe, suspicious, or fraudulent.

How it works

Safety Tips uses a simple system to help you identify the safety level of an email quickly. The system consists of four colors that categorizes an email as suspicious, trusted, safe or unknown. The details of each of these categories are outlined below.

Suspicious email Color label: Red Description: This has either failed sender authentication or is a known phishing email. These messages should be deleted.

Unknown email Color label: Yellow Description: Exchange Online Protection marks this type of email as spam. However, you can move this item to your inbox by clicking it’s not spam in the yellow bar.

Trusted email Color label: Green Description: If this email comes from a domain Microsoft deems safe, then it falls into this category.

Safe email Color label: Gray Description: This type of email has either been marked safe by the user’s organization, has been moved from the junk folder into their inbox by the user, or the email is from a contact on the user’s safe sender list.

Color coding will look different between the Outlook app and Outlook for the Web. In the Outlook application, only suspicious emails will be flagged, whereas in Outlook for the Web all four types of emails will be color-coded. However, it should be noted that most emails won’t have any color code as they’re only added when Microsoft thinks they’re relevant.

With hackers getting smarter by the day, and human error a roadblock to a secure business, this new feature will hopefully add an extra layer of security to your organization. If you’d like to learn more about Office 365 or other security services we offer, get in touch today. A more secure business awaits.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
April 20th, 2016

2016Apr20_Web_AA good looking page will determine how many people trust a website. This is especially true for small business owners trying to establish their company’s identity online. But with so many similar businesses to compete with, how can you stand out from the crowd? This is why it’s even more important to stay on top of web design trends to attract more visitors. Consider using some of these web design ideas on your own website to stay ahead of the competition.

Scrolling

Scrolling is a convenient method for traversing a website. Instead of navigating through confusing menus and drop-down tabs, a scrolling one-page site has a cleaner look and is usually more intuitive for the user. This web design style is definitely more important today, now that people have grown more accustomed to mobile web browsing.

You also have to decide how far visitors will have to scroll to get to know your company. While a long scrolling page gives you more white space and content to work with, a short scrolling page can quickly convey your company’s message and encourages call to actions. The next time you revamp your company website, consider the appropriate scrolling element for your page.

Flat design

To achieve an optimal viewing experience for users, many companies adopted a flat design for their websites. The flat design style replaces the elements that gives an illusion of depth, like shadows and textures, with minimalist typography and colors. For example, Google employed this style to get content to viewers more efficiently. The company added flat design colors and used a sans-serif font. This allowed the logo to load faster and made it was easier to read as well.

Animations

One way businesses have been setting themselves apart from others is by including customized animations to their pages. Now this doesn’t mean you should overload your site with flashy effects that take forever to load. If you want to use animations on your site, give it a subtle twist. For instance, Slack’s loading animation features their logo.

Additionally, animations can be used to increase user interaction and engagement. Hover animations will allow your users to mouse over your content and get an immediate response without having to move between pages. Slideshows on your homepage can also showcase what your company is about without throwing too much information at the audience. When deciding to add an animation to your page, figure out how a specific effect can enhance the user experience while showcasing your business.

Full-screen forms

More websites and apps are using full-screen forms to increase user interaction. Rather than being redirected to another page when your visitors decide to register or login to a website, you are welcomed by a full-screen form without leaving the home page. This is also especially useful for mobile users since they are less likely to misclick sections of the form.

Customized photos

The next time you want to use photographs to highlight your company, forget about using stock photos. Businesses who exhibit their own photography on their homepages look more personal and stand out from the competition.

While these trends are popular at the moment, don’t blindly adopt them all because it will end up looking very messy. The best way to approach these web design trends is by making sure that the design fits your target audience. You won’t exactly have mouse over animations for a website that doesn’t have very many images. Use the trends that are best for your company.

If you want to learn more about current web design trends, give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web & Cloud
April 18th, 2016

2016Apr18_Productivity_ALove it or hate it, mobile technology in the workplace is here to stay. While more and more companies are utilizing it as a way to up their productivity, there is a right and a wrong way to go about it. Here are four tips to help you successfully integrate mobile devices into your organization to create a more efficient and productive business.

Use the right tool

Some work tasks just aren’t cut out for mobile use. While using a mobile phone or tablet to send emails is an effective way to work on the go, trying to write long form reports on these same devices is a bad idea. As a general guideline, small tasks such as email, viewing documents, using search engines and project management apps are good for mobile work. Anything that is too detailed is probably better suited for a computer or laptop. Lastly, only train your employees to use and learn the mobile devices and programs that make sense for their role. If you want them to be most efficient, you don’t want to overwhelm them with every mobile tool your business uses.

Communicate face-to-face

Email is undoubtedly a valuable communication tool. But it’s also become the bane of existence for many of today’s employees and business owners. Too many emails kills your employees productivity, overwhelming them. And unfortunately, many times email is simply unnecessary. Instead of sending that email about a question concerning an upcoming meeting, simply go and ask in-person. You’ll likely get a response much quicker and you avoid adding yet another message to the email overflow.

Consider adding a face-first policy in your office. This means that every time your employees consider writing an email, they should question if it’s easier to just go talk with that person directly. If that person is located a quick walk away, then the conversation should take place in-person. This especially makes sense if your employee needs an answer within a few hours, as sometimes emails go unanswered for much longer than this. By enforcing an email policy, your employees’ inboxes are less likely to be overflowing and your communication will take place in a more timely manner.

Set boundaries

There’s no question that mobile tech can help productivity, but it can also hinder it. The problem is that many employees who utilize it have difficulty “switching off”. The lines between work and personal life begin to blur as completing work tasks is always right at their fingertips. While on the surface more work output from your employees may sound like a good thing, in reality it’s far from it. Being “always on” can quickly lead to burnout. And even if it doesn’t, if your employees don’t take time to break and recharge, their productivity will suffer. To demonstrate just how many employees fall into this trap of overworking, the 2015 Staples Business Advantage Workplace Index surveyed 2,602 employees and found that a quarter of them regularly worked after standard business hours, and four out of ten worked on at least one weekend a month.

So how can you resolve this issue as an employer? Simply set boundaries. Create time frames for when work platforms and applications can be utilized and for when emails can be sent and responded to. Also, don’t encourage employees to work on off-hours by sending emails during the weekend. If your concern isn’t urgent, then by all means wait till Monday to send it out.

Be flexible

While it may sound a bit contradictory to the last point, being flexible in your work policy can be a smart decision to boost productivity. By being flexible, we mean the ability for your employees to work at hours and locations of their choosing. Most people work better and quicker at certain hours as they are more focused at specific times of the day. And some people will work better remotely than they do at an office space as there can be less distractions. The Staples survey supported this fact as 59% of the employees surveyed said that flexible schedules had a positive effect on productivity.

Cloud tools like Office 365 and Google Apps can help encourage a flexible workplace. But regardless of how flexible your office becomes, be conscious that parameters on work, mentioned in the last section, should still be in place to prevent employee burnout.

Mobile devices in the workplace can go a long way towards making your business more efficient and employees happy. If you’d like to learn more about utilizing mobile devices in the workplace or how you can leverage technology to make your business more productive, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
April 15th, 2016

2016Apr15_Windows_ADuring Microsoft’s Build 2016, new innovations were announced to the public. But what you should really keep your eye on are the changes made with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. With the new updates many are expecting features that help manage your business and personal life. So what were the most noteworthy updates to Windows 10 and how will they affect you? Listed below are a few important changes that are worth mentioning for you, the small business owner.

Cortana updates

One of Microsoft’s biggest announcements are the changes made to Cortana. Basically, cross-platform support for Cortana allows Android users to receive notifications on any Windows 10 devices and interact with them too. This means alerts from your phone can immediately be transmitted to your Windows 10 tablet or PC and you can send a quick text back, saving you the hassle of having to frequently pull out your phone at work. Even if you have low battery on your mobile devices, with Cortana installed, she’ll warn you on any device.

The update will also enable you to share directions across all devices. If you search up directions on your computer, Cortana will send those same directions to your phone. Additionally, if you ever lose your phone, you can locate it from your PC as long as Cortana is enabled on your phone.

Action center updates

Tired of getting notifications from unimportant applications? With the new Microsoft update, you can now prioritize the levels of notifications you want to see in your Action Center. Simply go to Settings > System > Notifications & Actions then click on a specific app and prioritize its alerts. You can set three levels of priority for each application: Normal, High, or Priority. Now you’ll only receive notifications that are important to you.

Microsoft Edge extensions

Microsoft’s web browsers have always lagged behind more popular browsers like Chrome or Firefox. However, Microsoft is hoping to entice people to use their web browsers by giving Windows users new and updated web extensions like OneNote Clipper and Pin It Button. Add-ons like Microsoft Translator and Mouse Gestures also received new upgrades for you to try out. To access these features, click on the dotted icon on the top right of the screen and select Extensions to find out how you can customize your Microsoft Edge browser.

Pin windows to virtual desktops

A small change for those who have grown accustomed to using virtual desktops at work. Virtual desktops allow you to separate how your windows are organized by creating an entirely new desktop to work with. Many people use this feature to separate their work files from their personal desktop to avoid confusion. The updates made it so that you can pin a window across all your virtual desktops by clicking Show this window on all desktops. What can this feature be used for? Suppose you wanted to have your favorite news website open at work and at home for personal use. With the new update, you avoid having to open another web browser just to access the same site on a different desktop.

Detailed battery use

Detailed battery use will temporarily stop high powered apps from running if your battery power is low. You can have your laptop immediately go to battery saver once it’s reached a certain percentage. Just go to Settings > Battery and slide what battery percentage you consider appropriate to automatically go on battery saver mode.

Customized update settings

Automatic Windows updates can be a real pain during inconvenient times. You’ll be glad to hear that you can now change that by going to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update. From here you can prevent Windows from automatically updating during business hours.

These are just a few of the exciting changes that are coming for Windows 10 users. We don’t know how many people will utilize these changes but, if we can expect one thing from the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, it definitely aims to make our lives a bit easier. Want to hear more of the latest Windows 10 news and updates? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
April 14th, 2016

2016Apr14_Virtualization_AWhen most business owners think of Virtualization, they likely don’t think of Disaster Recovery. The truth is, though, that Virtualization is a multi-faceted IT solution that can provide an effective backup in case your business is hit by a disaster. So for those who are new to the idea of Virtualization as a Disaster Recovery solution, here’s a breakdown.

As opposed to tape backups, Virtualization reduces recovery time in the event of a disaster. While tape backups can be reliable, using them to fully restore your system after a backup can be an excruciatingly long process. In fact, it can take up to two days to do just that. Think of all the business you could lose in those two days. Think of all the lost money in salaries you’ll pay out out to employees who aren’t working. Simply put, Virtualization is much quicker than tape backups when it comes to Disaster Recovery. Your entire system can be restored in four hours or less. How does this happen? Well, instead of rebuilding your servers, operating systems and applications separately, they exist safely off-site and can be brought back online via your virtual backup.

While the speed of virtualized backups might sound alluring, there are a few key points you should be aware of before moving forward. Here’s what you need to think about:

  • Critical data - where do you want your critical data to be stored? Do you want it stored on tapes? Disk technologies? Or on your virtualized servers? Perhaps it’s best to spread your risk by backing up your critical data to multiple sources because, frankly, your business depends on this data. Regardless, find out what critical data you need to operate your organization and devise a plan to back it up as you see fit.
  • Data to be backed up - Whether or not you decide to store your critical data on your virtual machines, figure out what data and assets you do want stored on them. Then designate specific virtualized servers to store these assets. In case a disaster does happen, you’ll know immediately where your backups live, and can retrieve your data quickly and get your business up and running again fast.
  • Systems to be virtualized - Just as your business has critical data, you also have critical applications. Some of these may include email, Microsoft Office, and applications or software developed in house. Whether or not these applications qualify as critical for your business, identify the ones that do and focus your disaster recovery efforts on them. Like your data and servers, applications can all be virtualized and then safely stored off-site.
If you choose Virtualization as part of your Disaster Recovery solution, make sure your backups are monitored regularly so they’re up-to-date in the event of a disaster. And besides Disaster Recovery, there are many other benefits to Virtualization. Your business can reduce the amount of servers and other hardware in your office, lower your electricity costs, and save money in the process. Consider Disaster Recovery as a nice bonus that’s included with these benefits.

Curious to learn how else Virtualization can benefit your business? Interested in a dedicated Disaster Recovery solution? Call us today and discover how our experts can protect your organization and save you money.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 7th, 2016

2016Apr7_MicrosoftWindowsNewsAndTips_AAt work, we depend on several apps to be more productive around the office. However, with so many of them open in our web browsers, it can be a drag to constantly click in and out of tabs just to get the information we need. Fortunately, Office 365 Connectors for Groups allows you to stay on top of all the third party services your company is using. So how, exactly, do these connectors make your life easier? Here are a few things you need to know about the new Office 365 feature.

What can it do?

Office 365 Connectors enable users to access third party apps and services within their Outlook groups, rather than having to scour through dozens of windows to access a specific application. This new feature allows you to keep your company’s discussion in one place, and enables your employees to stay up-to-date regardless of the service used to broadcast an event. For example, your team members can be informed about a particular hashtag that your company is following on Twitter without having to explicitly open the page. Groups aren’t limited to one particular service either. With connectors you can use Twitter, Trello, Mailchimp, Bing, UserVoice and over 50 other services.

Small organizations can also take advantage of connectors. Office 365 lets you develop your own connectors by embedding the Connect to Office 365 button on your site. This allows users to connect to your service and get updates on your company, as they would with other third party services. Basically, with connectors, your Office 365 client becomes a hub for third party that keeps your company in sync to get more work done.

Connector card

Connector cards offer a user friendly way to interact with external applications. If a particular connector is added to a group, connector cards are generated within the group’s activity feed. While most cards will display events in plain text, some applications like Twitter and Trello provide formatted actions to interact with the card. Trello, for example, allows you to Assign or Comment on an event card.

Who can create a connector?

Office 365 group members can configure and use an array of connectors. Once you configure a connector for a specific group, that app will be also be available for other members. However, the person who added a connector to the group is the only one capable of modifying that app.

How do you access Office 365 Connectors?

With its public release, any Office 365 Mail user can use Office 365 Connectors for Groups. Simply navigate to a Group from your Outlook page and click on the Connectors tab at the top of the page. From here, you can connect the available third party services on offer to any of your Outlook groups. You can even configure the settings of your apps without ever having to leave Office 365. However you should probably only consider pulling in the applications that you think your group will be using the most.

As your business grows, you’re going to need more services to be more productive in the workplace. By aggregating them all in one place, you save time shifting around dozens of apps to find the information that you need. So the next time you create an Office 365 Group, help your team members work more efficiently by setting up some connectors.

If you’re interested in learning about the latest Office 365 updates, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
April 5th, 2016

2016Apr5_Facebook_AYour news feed is about to get a lot more expressive, thanks to Facebook reactions. Aside from ‘Liking’ a status update, you now have five more options to express what you feel about a post. The new feature not only makes it easier for you to appropriately react to a piece of bad news but it also provides you with exciting ways to manage your business’s social media page. So how can you use Facebook reactions effectively? Here are a few ways you can use the new emojis to your advantage.

Ask your audience for reactions

Sometimes, audiences won’t know how to react to your posts. You can point them in the right direction by giving call to ‘reaction’ phrases like “Did you learn something new? Give us a ‘wow’ by hovering over that like button”.

As Facebook reactions are a relatively new feature, you can increase the total engagement of your posts by simply asking your fans to use one of the six available expressions on your post. This will not only increase your overall engagement and reach but will also give your fans the opportunity to learn about the new Facebook reactions.

Soften the blow of negative reviews

If your service ever experiences any technical difficulties, reactions can be a lifesaver. Back when there were no Facebook expressions, people would often resort to negative comments or trolling when they are unhappy with a particular post. This could lead to a toxic page environment and may encourage others to do the same or even unfollow your page entirely. With Facebook reactions, you can minimize the effect of negative reviews with a more innocent ‘angered’ or ‘saddened’ emoji. Overall, this looks better on your page rather than lines of nonsensical text in all caps.

Gain more visibility with your page

Commenting and reacting to other local pages on your business’s Facebook account increases your chances of being discovered by potential customers. And, as an added benefit, engaging with other local pages can encourage them to return the favor.

Use reactions as constructive feedback

Facebook reactions add an extra level of depth to measuring how well your posts are doing. Before, more likes would mean more engagement. But now, reactions show that people are invested in your content.

What’s more, you can now measure what people feel about your content. This allows you to tailor your next post so that it gets the most engagement. For instance, if you notice that people are leaving more ‘Haha’ reactions to your posts, then this could suggest that your audience engages with your posts if they see more humor included in your content.

Check out your competition

You should note that page posts are public and can be see by anyone, even those who haven’t liked your page yet. This also means you can review your competitor’s posts and find out how people are reacting to their posts. This is valuable information to gauge what type of content, announcements, or status updates work for your target audience. Or if you find that your competitor is only getting likes rather than reactions, you can try experimenting with creative posts to get people to engage with your content instead.

Facebook reactions create a new and exciting way for people to express how they feel about certain posts. While some social media marketers would not pay too much attention to this feature, focusing on reactions can give you an edge when it comes to measuring how your target audience feels about your service. So the next time you’re going to make a new post, consider some or all of these tips to make the most out of those Facebook emojis.

Need more advice on managing your Facebook page? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
April 4th, 2016

2016Apr4_BusinessValue_AYour technology needs to produce a return on investment. If it doesn’t, you’re wasting you and your staff’s time and money. But how can you ensure you gain that coveted ROI you’re after? What does it actually mean to have a positive ROI? And how can you tell if you have one? Here are a few tips for calculating the true costs of a new technology investment.

ROI basics

What does it mean to have a positive return on investment? It’s pretty simple. A positive ROI means the results a technology produces are greater than or equal to the amount of time and money invested. Obviously you want a positive ROI, but when is the right time to consider it? Should it be before or after you make a technology purchase? The answer is both. Before purchasing, you want to carefully consider whether a technology service or product is worth your money. Then months after you’ve implemented it, you should analyze whether or not you made a good investment. Doing this enables you to learn from your mistakes (if you made one) and make a wiser technology purchase next time.

Also, don’t forget to look at your technology currently in use. Ask yourself, is your technology simply keeping the lights on? Or is it providing a solid foundation for your business to grow? If the answer is the former, there are likely better options out there worth trying.

How to calculate ROI

When calculating ROI, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Here is a simple formula to get you started.

ROI = net gain/cost Example: You spend $100 and make $150. Your net gain is $50 ROI = 50/100 = 50%

If you’ve yet to purchase a service or new equipment, you obviously don’t know how much profit it will generate. So you’ll have to do a bit of guesswork and estimation. It’s also important to consider some intangibles. Think about the productivity costs of staff time, disruption, and frustration (because most of us don’t work effectively when frustrated). Let’s take staff time for example. How much time will your staff save if you implement a Managed Services solution? With your employees no longer having to put out IT fires daily, what if your entire staff saves 50 hours a week because of it? How much does that add up to in saved salary expense? It’s important here not just to think about the savings in time, but also what your staff could be doing with those extra 50 hours. They could put those hours towards marketing or growing your business. And that alone could make up for the costs of the technology investment itself.

Intangibles don’t just apply to saving time, frustration and disruptions, but also the costs of implementing the new technology. For example, how much time will be required to train your staff on the new technology? What’s the cost of that? Also, how much time will it take to migrate from your old system to the new one? You should consider all of these when estimating your ROI.

Lastly, don’t forget to consider the unique circumstance of subscription purchases. Since you are usually paying these on a monthly basis, it can be a bit tricky to add up real costs. That’s why it’s important to use a timeline for these. For example, if you subscribe to software as a service, what’s the cost of that plan over the course of one year or five? How much money will you save over that time span?

What’s the benefit?

Besides the staffing example mentioned above, consider how a technology investment can create new revenue streams. For example, an investment in VoIP opens up an opportunity to offer video consulting to clients in parts of the country (or even world) that would normally be out of reach. This obviously leads to a new revenue stream and increased profits. So ask yourself, can the technology you’re considering create new revenue streams?

Next steps

Before making a technology purchase, it’s wise to talk with both management and end users about your decision. If you fail to consult your end users before implementation, they may disagree with your decision and therefore take longer to adapt or even rebel against it. Checking with them beforehand gives them a chance to offer valuable feedback on how it will be used in the trenches, and will get them onboard with the technology if you implement it. As for your management team, they can be a valuable resource to bounce ideas off of and gain insights about the technology you may have overlooked.

Lastly, ROI does not need to be calculated for every purchase. If you need to buy something small, like a new keyboard, just go and buy it. Save your ROI calculations for much larger investments that can have a dramatic impact on your business.

If you need help determining the ROI of a potential technology investment, feel free to give us a call for a chat. Our experts can help you determine the true benefits of a given technology and help you make a wise investment.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
March 31st, 2016

2016Mar31_Virtualization_AWhen it comes to security, topics like the cloud and networks get wide coverage on Internet blogs and forums. However, other types of technology fly completely under the radar. Virtualization just so happens to fall into this category. And just because people aren’t talking about it doesn’t mean virtualized machines and infrastructure should be left unsecured. If you don’t have the right defense in place, you’re leaving your business vulnerable to hackers and cyber threats. Here are some of the major risks of insufficient virtualization security and a few methods to prevent them.

Security risks of virtualization

Complex infrastructure - much like the topic of virtualization itself, the infrastructure of a virtualization solution can oftentimes be confusing to small businesses. The extra layers of infrastructure complexity added by virtualization can make it more difficult to spot anomalies and unusual events happening in your virtual machines and network.

Dynamic design - the design of a virtualized environment is dynamic by nature and constantly changing. Unlike adding physical equipment, which is a bit of an event as you make room for it in your office and install it, the addition of virtual machines can go almost completely unnoticed as they’re created in a matter of minutes and aren’t visible in your workspace. The danger here is the age old adage, “out of sight out of mind.” And if you add too many, they can easily become difficult to manage and secure, creating security holes in the process.

Quick moving workloads - as your virtualized infrastructure grows, there will come a time when you need to move workloads from one machine to another. While this may sound harmless enough, the real issue is that your virtual machines will likely require different levels of security. And when you’re juggling multiple workloads over multiple virtual machines, you may accidentally move mission critical workloads to a machine with a low level security, creating a security hole in the process.

How to mitigate risks

While these three risks may sound alarming, they can all be mitigated. The key behind effectively securing your virtual machines all comes down to process. Put some thought into your security processes and then implement them. Here are a few areas to cover:
  • Organization - decide how and where to separate your test, development and production virtual machines.
  • Audit - develop a system to regularly audit your virtual machine security. Whenever possible, use tools to automate your security checks, balances and processes.
  • Patches - Perform regular security patch maintenance, and create a schedule to ensure your patches are up-to-date for all virtual machines.
  • Overflow management - When you have so many virtual machines they’re hard to track, you need a system in place to monitor them. So be aware of what each virtual machine is used for, and manage it accordingly. While doing this, find ways to consolidate machines whenever possible and get rid of the ones under utilized.
  • Responsibility - to ensure the security of your virtual machines doesn’t slip through the cracks, designate one IT technician or manager to be responsible for it.
If you prioritize security of your virtual machines and properly manage them, security can truly be a non-issue. If you’d like additional assistance with your virtualized infrastructure or would like to implement a new virtualization solution, give us a call today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.