Cookies on your browser

What are Cookies in your browser?
They are not programs; they don’t do anything. Cookies are text files, which can be read by users anytime on the Notebook program. Those files are stored on a computer and designed to hold a modest amount of data specific to a particular user. That data allows the websites to tailor pages according to previous cookies saved on their computer. They usually contain two pieces of information in the text files; a site name and unique user ID.

How do Cookies work?

When visiting sites, cookies are downloaded onto the PC and next time you visit that site they will be found by your PC and used again. As a result of that, it will send information from that cookie to the website, so it knows you have been there before. This then enables the website to tailor displayed pages according to that information.

Can I see my cookies?

If you’re curious about what cookies you have on your computer, you can easily view them! Most browsers will allow you to do that on their configuration screen, where also you can delete them. If your browser doesn’t offer that, there’s also a way to find cookies on your computer files. Folders containing cookies are usually stored in your browser’s folder or subfolder. You can easily look at those files simply by finding those folders.

All the good stuff about cookies…

The overall role of cookies is so you can have a better and tailored to your needs, browsing experience. From colour schemes of pages to what you put in your shopping cart. Some claim that without cookies, online shopping would be much harder.

Can’t be all good, the downsides of cookies…

Cookies have been very controversial when first introduced. Not everyone will feel good about having little files track your every move online. Therefore, the downsides are up to how an individual feels about them. Main concern users had up to date with cookies is that their name will be added to marketing and target lists for some special offers.

The government introduced a new law in May 2012 to control the use of cookies.  That law states that every site using cookies has to seek permission from users to store any information from your machine or your browsing habits, therefore websites will draw your attention to cookies, so you can make the decision.
What do you thin about cookies? Are they something that you accept or deny them? Share us your thoughts in comments!

Is ‘Cloud Computing’ Right for Your Business?

KEY BENEFITS OF CLOUD HOSTING

The business benefits of cloud computing cover efficiency, agility and innovation.

Internal Resources

Cloud solutions are engineered and maintained – patched and updated – by an outside party:  This reduces the in-house IT resource needed by a business.

Collaboration

The cloud makes data and solutions accessible to your staff from any location. Teammates can collaborate in real time on the same file. The cloud allows you to manage various tasks and projects seamlessly without working with multiple copies.

Cost savings 

Cloud hosting allows you to cut your expenses down for the hardware, maintenance and management of your computing infrastructure and eliminates a large amount of capital expense.  However, Cloud Solutions are often not cheaper when worked out over a 3 – 5 years lifetime of server hardware and software.

Introducing and Retiring Applications

Transitioning to the cloud gives you access to a vast library of applications that together can make the way you do business more intelligent.  Many Cloud applications have been designed to work together and integrate, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Quickbooks online or Monday.com and Xero

Ready-made for Change

It is critical in today’s business world to leverage IT systems for growth and that need can be challenging to meet in a rapidly evolving landscape. The cloud can adapt to changes quickly, easily and with lower costs for your business.  However, you may not get a choice as to when your cloud services are upgraded so keep an eye on compatibility with in-house applications and plugins.

Security

The cloud can be of the most secure environments to store data because the data centres include levels of security and resilience that many businesses would not be able to afford.  However, check your service terms and conditions to ensure your data will be held on servers which meet legislation and GDPR requirements (ie in the UK/EU) and what the service terms are in event of data/service loss.  Most free or consumer services will offer no guarantee of data security or continuity of service.  It is also more secure to have your people access cloud-based data from their mobile device than to have the data stored on that device.

The cloud provides business continuity if you experience a fire or natural disaster.

In addition, you may want other parties to have access to your systems and data. Within a cloud-hosted environment, you can control their levels of access. This avoids risks such as using USB sticks or emailing files.

CLOUD READINESS

Moving to the cloud is not without its risks and the following are a suggested list of factors to be considered:

  • The impact on your business if network connectivity fails or is restricted
  • Managers and Staff who have the skills and enthusiasm to manage the required changes in working
  • The position of the business in terms of legacy software / systems and contracted newer systems
  • Readiness of the business to manage services rather than assets
  • The increase in network bandwidth required to transition hosting of data and applications to the cloud

SOURCES

In preparing this post the following articles were referenced:

NEXT STEPS

Moving to the cloud is a complex operation.  It may well be that for your business the best solution is a phased change requiring a plan that is reviewed regularly as your business and the ‘Cloud’ evolve.   Significant cost and time penalties can arise from making the wrong changes or merely making the right changes at the wrong time.

ACS Technologies are experienced in helping businesses to produce and implement such plans.  Please contact us for an initial discussion of your requirements.

Cyber Attacks Soar to 26 million a day

Cyber Attacks Soar to 26 million a day

These were the initial words of a recent national newspaper headline and it went on to say that ‘as hackers find new ways to wreak havoc’.

This newspaper article was based on an annual report by specialist Sonicwall which can be downloaded at https://www.sonicwall.com/resources/white-papers/2018-sonicwall-cyber-threat-report-2/.

In October 2018, the UK government said “98% of UK businesses now operate online in one way or another, with even the smallest of firms benefiting hugely from the use of websites, social media, staff email addresses, online banking and the ability for customers to shop online.  However, the latest Government statistics show over four in ten (43%) of all businesses and charities experienced a cyber breach or attack in the past year.”   This is a quote from https://companieshouse.blog.gov.uk/2018/10/08/why-cyber-security-is-important-for-your-business/.

For most SME the detail of the cyber arms race – whether it be hackers or malware – are too complex to deal with for themselves.   But it should be remembered that almost half of cyber attacks target small businesses.

TYPES OF CYBER ATTACK

The types of cyber attack relevant to small business are:

  • The Denial of Service Attack – Attackers send enough information and data all at once from multiple computers to overload your system so it shuts down.
  • The Inside Attack – Some of the most crippling breaches occur when past employees decide to misuse the access to data
  • Malware – The phrase covers a large swath of worms, viruses, Trojan Horses and other pests like Ransomware
  • Password Attacks:
    • Brute Force Attack
    • Dictionary Attack
    • Key Logger Attack

ACTON TO TAKE ON CYBER PROTECTION

The FSB (Federation of Small Business) has suggested that small businesses could and should take action on:

  • Passwords – use them, make them strong, change defaults
  • Two factor authentication – use when available. It adds an additional layer of security to accounts or transactions.
  • Backups – data loss can be caused without warning and the result is typically a massive disruption to you and your business. Preferably offsite and check regularly to make sure you can restore
  • Software – Despite manufacturers’ best efforts, it isn’t possible to create perfectly secure software and so it must be patched and maintained to ensure it remains protected as new flaws and vulnerabilities are found.
  • Vigilance – People can sometimes be the weakest link in the security chain, but they can become your strongest asset if they understand the risks. Train them on cyber security and best practice.

The full FSB article can be found at https://www.fsb.org.uk/resources/top-five-cyber-security-tips-for-small-businesses.

SME ADVICE ON CYBER PROTECTION FROM THE GOVERNMENT

The UK government also publishes helpful information for small businesses.  Two good sources are:

ACS Technologies take our clients security seriously.  We manage and maintain our clients network security and backups as part of our contract services.

If you would like advice or guidance on improving data and network security within your company, contact us today.

What is ‘The Cloud’?

Overall Concept of the Cloud

In essence, the ‘Cloud’ is the internet.  The cloud allows users to access applications, information, and data of all sorts without necessarily housing the actual hardware on which it is running and stored.

When the software that you’re using is accessed over the internet and runs on servers operated by the software company, it is said to be ‘cloud’ based.

Cloud storage is a service which lets you store data by transferring it over the Internet or another network to an offsite storage system maintained by a third party.  Examples include Dropbox, OneDrive and Microsoft’s Azure service.  Such systems provide the ability to share data with a controlled list of allowed users, each with configurable ‘rights’ to add, view or amend.

Businesses also put publicly accessible information into systems on the cloud.  Examples of this would be social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, video sites like YouTube and Vimeo and music streaming sites like Spotify.

Similarly, when you access up to date flight arrival times from airlines, news from bbc.co.uk etc that information is on the ‘cloud’.

Advantages of Having your Software / Data on the Cloud

  • Access from anywhere you have Internet access – on the road
  • Resilience and backup should be better than SMB’s can afford inhouse
  • Cost competition due to economies of scale
  • Software kept up to date (saved maintenance cost)
  • No upfront hardware costs or maintenance

Disadvantages of Having your Software / Data on the Cloud

  • Security – Your data is held on someone else’s server with other people’s data
  • Compliance risks – is the server UK based? Does it meet industry standards?
  • Need to pay for a business service to get SLA’s
  • Can be more expensive than having your own server if used for a long time as it is a subscription service
  • Captive customers – difficult to move data and services away
  • Automatically updated software may offer incompatibility with internal systems

Models of Cloud Computing

There are several different methodologies for getting your systems ‘Cloud’ based.

Subscription based services

Subscribe to a fully hosted and maintained service such as Office 365, Quickbooks Oline, SalesForce online etc. Where the software and hardware is fully managed by the provider and you pay a monthly or annual fee to use the service.  You will have little ability to configure such software as much as the on-premise versions and software will generally be automatically upgraded to the current version, adding or removing features.

Hosted Hardware in a DataCentre

Build your own virtual servers and desktops which sit on datacentre server hardware managed by the provider.  You can specify CPU, RAM and storage requirements and then install the operating systems and applications you need (subject to licensing in a Virtual / Terminal Services environment).  Can work out expensive in an ongoing basis but useful for short term projects, testing or when staff numbers increase seasonally.

Your own Hardware hosted in a DataCentre

Buy, build and configure your own server hardware and software which is then hosted in a DataCentre, where you ‘rent’ rackspace.  You have full control over the hardware and software (so long as it meets the Data Centre’s terms and conditions.  You benefit from resilience and enterprise level networking and connectivity but have full control over your servers and software.

On Premise Servers with Remote Access Capability

You buy, configure and install your own server hardware and it is kept at your offices.  It is configured to allow users to work and connect remotely, either from home or remote offices.

You have full control over everything but are also responsible for all communications, hardware and software maintenance.  Reduces ongoing costs but you will have the upfront cost of the initial hardware and software purchases.

Hybrid Solutions

You buy, build and configure an in-house server but couple this with hosted services such as Office 365, online accounts or online CRM systems.

Your internal server manages your internal network security, stores files and possibly line of business applications but it links in with external hosted services.

The Future of Cloud Computing

There is no doubt that Cloud Computing is here to stay.  The increased requirement to work remotely and access data and applications from anywhere at anytime is not going to disappear in a hurry.

However, we have seen a change in attitude recently and instead of wishing to ditch all their own servers, Companies wish to retain their in house network security and data storage rather than subscribe to ongoing services.

We have also seen an increase in clients retaining in-house Exchange Servers as opposed to subscribing to Office 365 services as the TCO over 3 years works out more cost effective with on premise solutions even accounting for ongoing maintenance and support.

If you are considering migrating your systems to the Cloud or need to review your current Servers and infrastructure, contact us to discuss the options available and what would be best for your Company.