Category Archives: Security

Savings extended to 2011 – Don’t wait to be Proactive

Saving cost is always an important part of a good business plan, but in this sluggish economy, it is even more important than ever before.  To help you save money the IRS has extended the Section 179 tax incentive through 2011.  To take full advantage of the tax savings, you should plan your equipment purchases and include it in the budget now, instead of waiting for the end of the year.

Planning your equipment purchases and including them in the budget now will allow you to take full advantage of the savings instead of waiting for the end of the year. Up to $500,000 can be used to purchase “property” which can be written off as an expense. The “property” can be anything used for business purposes such as machinery, computers, software, office furniture, vehicles, or other tangible goods.

Here are some technology investments you should consider that will provide efficiency and productivity, not only for this year’s tax savings but also for the long term savings, efficiency and productivity:

Core Network – The core IT network is the plumbing that supports both, voice and data communications.  We utilize the network for much more than just sharing resources like printer and fileserver.  We are running line of business applications like CRM which improve productivity; we are utilizing social media, multi media, and other web based applications to communicate with clients and generate demands for our products and services.  To ensure that these and other line of business applications are providing the productivity gains and efficiencies, the core network needs to be able to support the performance and scalability requirements.    A reliable and efficient network improves performance, security and stability of business applications allowing them to do more in less time.

SecuritySecurity has become ever more important in our highly connected, social media driven network.  Most of us are actively utilizing social media and online applications for a variety of purposes, from personal and business communications to marketing and financial transactions. Some businesses in industries like healthcare and retail have to meet regulatory compliance, such as HIPAA and PCI.   Implementing technology which can secure your application, data and users can help your company stay secure and meet your particular regulatory compliance.

Firewall – A firewall is the most rudimentary security control every IT network must have.  However, previous generation firewalls provide protection based on application-port combination, which means they identify applications via the port they access. However, the current browser based applications are delivered over default port 80 and others don’t consistently use the same port. The firewall needs to be able to identify applications such as Twitter, Facebook, IM and others to protect the network and users against the threats delivered through them.  Upgrading your regular firewall to an application aware, unified threat management (UTM) firewall can significantly improve your network protection.

Servers and Workstations – Servers and Workstations are the workhorses; they run the applications and serve the user’s requests.  Previous generation servers and workstations were power hungry and inefficient compared to the latest generation of computers.  By replacing older servers and workstations with “Energy Star” certified servers and workstations you can realize significant savings in energy costs over a year.  Some studies suggest as much 60% savings in energy costs over a period of a year.

Virtualization – Server virtualization has arrived and has been accepted as efficient solution providing cost savings, reliability and productivity.  If you have more than a few servers, you can realize significant energy cost savings, higher reliability and availability by virtualizing them  and consolidating the physical servers.

Telephone System, VoIP and Unified Communications – If you are using older telephone systems, you can significantly improve collaboration with your employees and communications with your clients by upgrading your system to the latest VoIP and unified communications (UC) system.  VoIP and UM are not hype; VoIP and UC systems increase efficiency and productivity by integrating voice, email, fax, CRM and other line of business, point applications; VoIP and UC system can also reduce local and long distance costs and operational cost as a part of the converged network.

Applications – Applications need to be upgraded periodically, not only to ensure we continue to receive vendor support, but also to improve productivity and security.  If you haven’t upgraded your line of business applications, such as Email, CRM, ERP and database servers in a while then you can realize higher productivity, efficient utilization and greater security by upgrading them to the latest version.

Backup, Restore and Business Continuity – How are you currently backing up your data? Are you still using tape backup?  Have you tested the restorability of your data?  Tape based backup is prone to errors and data restoration can be complicated if you have to restore from multiple tapes.  If one of the tapes is damaged all of data becomes non-restorable.  With increasing amount of data being stored on variety of mobile devices, having a proper backup, restore and business continuity solution is critical for any business.  Upgrading your current backup to a disk based backup with offsite data storage can significantly simplify backup, restore and business continuity process and provide efficient protection in the event of a disaster.

As you can see there are many areas of technology you can invest in and take advantage of the tax savings offered by Section 179 which will help you improve core efficiency, provide higher productivity and reduce costs.

Please consult with your accountant to verify the specific equipment and software and the amount which qualify for Tax incentive.

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Security for Web 2.0

Technology has always been about making our lives easier and one area it has had a significant impact on is communications and collaboration.  Can you imagine our lives without mobile phones, email, text messaging and social media. I am sure we all know people (I know a few) who claim they cannot live without Internet.  Businesses have reluctantly accepted social media tools as they have seen how it helps the employees become more productive, helps improve communications with customers and vendors and helps improve sales.

As the technology has facilitated business communications and collaboration, it has also facilitated security exploits.  A Osterman Research conducted in 2009 found that 55% of large and midsized organizations had been infiltrated by a Web exploit within previous 12 months.  According to Kaspersky Labs security bulletin, “infecting via the Web has, over the past few years, become the main method used to infect victim machines”.  Small and Medium businesses face these same security exploits as they are surfing the same Internet, however they may not have proper resources to secure their networks.

Cybercriminals are one step ahead and are already taking advantage of the social networks and its trust based model. According to Kaspersky Labs security report, “The likelihood that a member of a social network will launch a file or click on a link sent to him/her by a “friend” is approximately 10 times greater than if the file or the link arrives via email”.

A proper defense in-depth security solution should be deployed to ensure effective security in an organization because it takes a comprehensive approach to address the three variables in an organization – People, Technology and Operations.

A Firewall is an essential part of any security solution, but a traditional firewall may not be enough to remediate the security threats posed by Web 2.0.  The new social media applications are utilized over the web browser and the security threats within can bypass the traditional detection techniques.

In order to effectively secure the perimeter a next generation, Unified Threat Management (UTM) Firewall is necessary.  A next generation UTM firewall integrates best-of-breed security and productivity solutions; it integrates key security applications – firewall, VPN, intrusion prevention, and antivirus and antispam, content and application filtering – into the single, efficiently managed solution.  So what’s next generation – it would additionally identify applications delivered over standard web browser; it would identify malicious applications which port hop to evade detection.  This application identification functionality combined with UTM functionality would provide a robust and efficient solution at the perimeter; additionally,  it would consolidate point solutions and reduce administrative and operative cost.

© NetFunction Inc. and Adventures in HIT and BIT, 2010.

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