In the current economic climate, organizations need to adapt their network security to fit remote work requirements. In particular, many organizations are facing challenges when assessing their security in an increasingly distributed environment.

Employees are constantly accessing vital business information while outside of the company’s on-premise network. They’re at home or in a hotel on insecure networks accessing data from personal devices and networks.

When it comes to navigating the obstacles that arise from assessing and addressing security issues in a distributed environment, Guardian Computer’s Co-Founder and President, Jean Prejean, has some advice to keep your business safe.

The Importance of Security Assessments 

According to a recent Gartner survey, “82% of company leaders plan to allow employees to work remotely some of the time.” More than likely you have and will continue to have employees working remotely.

In a distributed environment, security assessments are critical. This is your chance to assess issues with your staff’s hardware, identify any security vulnerabilities, and evaluate the overall effectiveness of the network and infrastructure you already have in place. 

According to Jean, “In an office environment, you can monitor your network for incoming and outgoing traffic and anticipate potential threats. But once you get out of that space, monitoring becomes more challenging.” 

Once your data is accessed outside of your company’s boundaries, it becomes more susceptible to a breach. By performing a security assessment, you are taking the first step in creating and maintaining the safety of your organization’s data.

Challenges of Security Assessments in a Distributed Environment

A graphic showing people on a video conference call from a variety of devices, illustrating some of the security assessment challenges in a distributed environment.

Assessing your organization’s security can feel daunting when you have to account for employees accessing company information while traveling or working from home, using public Wi-Fi or personal devices. While it may be tempting to procrastinate on performing a security assessment, these changes make it more important to stay up to date with regular assessments.

We’ve outlined a few of the top challenges you might face and our advice on how to tackle them.

Multiple Devices, Multiple Locations

In a distributed environment, your employees are using personal devices linked to their home networks or public networks. One of the challenges businesses face is trying to assess these different endpoints and minimize the risk of a data breach in this type of environment.

“If you have 50 people working outside of your office, you could have 50 different firewalls,” says Jean. “That’s 50 different firewall passwords. There’s so much diversity in the equipment and configurations that people have.”

Here are a few things to consider when assessing your security and next steps so you can make your IT environment safer and more secure:

Establishing A Safe Perimeter

A perimeter includes all of the devices inside of a network, the security system that monitors and protects it, and the network itself. When you’re operating in a distributed environment, one way to reduce your risk of a cyberattack is to create a secure environment within your employees’ perimeter. When establishing a safe perimeter, it’s vital to:

  • Set Up 2FATwo-factor authentication is an extra layer of security you can require for most services or applications being used to access company data. Even if a password is compromised, a 2FA login requires a second form of approval to allow interaction with secured data. All systems that support 2FA should have it configured and required.
  • Set Up 2 Environments — In a distributed environment, it’s difficult to expect employees to use the best practices when accessing work data on personal devices. It’s a good idea to separate the two environments the best you can by providing company devices that are encrypted to protect your data. Employees should only be allowed to access company data from managed, company devices. If this is not possible, there are other options, such as using Cisco Umbrella on all devices that access company data.
Despite the security assessment challenges in a distributed environment, one key piece of advice is to establish a safe network perimeter using the tips in this infographic and the rest of our blog post.

Educating Your Users

Employee error is a major contributor to data breaches for businesses, especially in a distributed environment. Data from a recent Malwarebytes Labs report shows that 20% of businesses surveyed have had their security breached during the pandemic as the result of a remote worker.

All of your employees must be trained to effectively use their devices in the safest way possible and be aware of all company security policies. When a company has policies in place, employees can use them to fall back on when uncertain about how to interact with company data.

“It’s good practice to have a policy requiring phones to be encrypted; make sure you have secure logins enabled with PIN, facial recognition, or fingerprints; make sure you have the ability to wipe if it gets lost or stolen; and so on,’” says Jean. “When we tell people to set those three things up, it’s received well. Most employees are happy to protect their environment and just didn’t know that those things existed or how to do them.” 

Overcoming Misconceptions

Businesses have little to no control over personal firewalls or the other devices that may interact with company data, which is all the more reason not to wait to conduct a security assessment. Don’t let these common misconceptions get in the way of performing this essential task:

Security Assessments Are Not Penetration Testing

“Some people think of an assessment as just penetration testing, where a security company is coming in and trying to poke holes in your network,” says Jean. “That’s not the case. This is a self-assessment.”

When IT support performs an assessment, it’s for the betterment of the company. The goal is to assess the risks and determine how to implement procedures that prevent breaches. 

Consider Risk When Evaluating Cost 

One of the biggest misconceptions about security assessments is that they will cost a fortune. But a security assessment should only ever be an assessment. Its purpose is to give your organization the information it needs to decide which security measures it’s going to take, as well as which can be handled in-house and which should be outsourced. Contrary to popular belief, an assessment should give your company more insight and control over its security practices.

Imagine how much the downtime, loss of business, and data recovery of a data breach would cost your business. You have to account for the standards within your field to determine the risk you’re willing to take. Without regular security assessments, however, you lack the information necessary to properly evaluate your risk.

It’s also important to note that security assessments shouldn’t take place only when there is a breach. Perform assessments annually so you can make informed decisions about your security vulnerabilities. Once you’ve had your initial assessment, subsequent ones are like a checkup, making it even more critical to take that first step now.

Get Expert Security Assessments with Guardian

If you need help performing a security assessment, give the experts at Guardian Computer a call. With fair pricing, a foolproof assessment formula, and actionable solutions, Guardian will evaluate your IT infrastructure and empower you to make the best decisions for your organization.

By creating a detailed roadmap of your IT needs and providing solutions catered to what we find, Guardian can improve the effectiveness and security of your business’ IT. Contact us today to find out more.

Mobile device management (MDM) software, such as Microsoft Intune, allows for visibility and management of the mobile devices accessing your enterprise’s network. As mobile threats loom large over organizations of all types and sizes, MDM is quickly becoming a critical part of protecting confidential business and employee data from a variety of digital threats.

But what exactly is an MDM software and what does it offer to businesses? Should small and midsize businesses consider adopting an MDM software for their network? What makes Microsoft Intune a standout option for MDM?

Not only does Guardian Computer provide clients with a variety of MDM services through Microsoft Intune, we also use this software for our own tech network. Jeremy Wirtz, our Senior Technical Engineer and in-house Intune expert, offers his expert opinion about the top benefits of Intune, as well as the reasons why your business should consider adopting an MDM solution.

What Is MDM Software?

MDM software is a key element to the emerging field of mobile device management within the business world. MDM softwares like Microsoft Intune, Scalefusion, and SOTI MobiControl are designed to provide an organization with a wide range of visibility and control features for in-office and remote network devices.

While not all MDM softwares are identical, many include similar features, such as: 

  • Device monitoring and remote configuration, which allow your IT team to track the activity and location of your business’ network devices, including laptops, PCs, tablets, IoT devices, or smartphones
  • Remote disconnection, which allows IT admins to lock or wipe certain devices in the event of a potential or confirmed data breach, theft, or loss
  • Regulatory compliance management features, such as activity and data logs
  • Application and OS management tools that can schedule and control device updates, as well as block certain device and application features that may threaten data security
Keep reading or check out our infographic to learn about the top benefits of mobile device management.

What Makes Microsoft Intune Stand Out?

Today, there is a massive global market for mobile device management softwares and strategies. According to Business Wire, the MDM industry is anticipated to grow by approximately 23% by 2023. This expansion is primarily driven by increases in smartphone usage across enterprises, as well as growing threats to corporate data across the business world.

So what makes Microsoft Intune a great MDM software? To start, Jeremy argues that Intune is a perfect solution for any business currently using Microsoft’s cloud services, such as Microsoft Azure. “It comes down to the tight integration that Intune has into Microsoft’s other cloud-based offerings, as well as their other products in general,” he explains.

If your business already uses Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint, Teams, Azure, or Active Directory, then the team that manages your IT will have a clearer understanding of how Intune works from the start. “That’s going to make it significantly easier for them to understand and implement Intune,” Jeremy says.

An open laptop on an employee desk, which could be monitored with Microsoft Intune.

Even if your team doesn’t already use Microsoft products, Intune may still be a great MDM software solution for your team, depending on your IT infrastructure. Intune does not currently support Chromebooks, which makes it an incompatible MDM software for any businesses with Chromebooks in their device network. 

However, this doesn’t prevent companies that rely on G Suite from getting the most out of Intune. “Even if you’re using Gmail or Google apps, you may still have all of your users on a Windows-based operating system, like Windows 10,” Jeremy says. “And that integrates into Intune.”

Any organizations that rely on Microsoft operating systems or products can have more granular control over the policies on the operating system itself by using Intune, rather than another MDM software.

Is Microsoft Intune Worth It?

Some business leaders may still be skeptical about implementing Intune into their network. They may fear the additional costs of maintaining this software or worry about the length of the implementation process. Others may believe that mobile device management software is too complex for their business’ needs. However, MDM software like Microsoft Intune offers many practical benefits to businesses’ everyday and emergency operations.

Cybersecurity 

Company-issued smartphones, tablets, and laptops, as well as some personal devices, have become essential items for many modern businesses. But these devices are often vulnerable to cyberattacks or employee errors, both of which can lead to major expenses, extended network downtime, or even compliance issues and legal troubles for an organization.

According to Jeremy, these threats are the top reason that any business should consider integrating an MDM software into their digital infrastructure. “The main reason companies would want to consider implementing an MDM solution is to protect their corporate data,” he says.

Lock symbols over a phone, document, computer, email, and cloud to represent cybersecurity, one of the benefits of mobile device management.

Data protection is especially important for small and midsize businesses. CNBC reports that over 50% of America’s small businesses experienced a data breach between 2018 and 2019, with an average cost of $200,000 for damages and fees associated with a single attack.

Long-Term Benefits

Jeremy recommends that business leaders also consider how their organization may grow in the coming months or years. “It’s much easier to get that MDM solution in place when an organization is still small,” he explains.

In addition, Jeremy notes that the initial costs of adopting mobile device management software for your business should pay off in the long term. “Once you do have a proper MDM solution in place, you can actually end up saving the company money by increasing the efficiency at which your internal IT—or your managed service provider— can manage those devices and keep track of them.”

Remote Device Management 

As personal devices become more commonly integrated into company networks, businesses will need to consider solutions to the visibility and privacy issues that personal devices can introduce.

Employees looking at each others' phones, which can be monitored with Microsoft Intune or other mobile device management.

2020 revealed the gaps in many companies’ data privacy and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) management policies. Jeremy points out that the pandemic has rapidly accelerated MDM software adoption due to the ways that they conveniently centralize data management and control for both in-office and remote employees.

Jeremy recommends that leaders carefully consider and develop bring-your-own-device strategies for their businesses before deciding what MDM software to go with. This way, they can ensure that the software options they’re considering are those that can best accommodate their company’s personal device policies and procedures.

Implement Microsoft Intune and MDM Solutions with Guardian Computer

Guardian Computer has years of cross-industry experience helping businesses manage and monitor their networks and the devices that access them. We’re experts in providing flexible, friendly, and comprehensive IT services to commercial clients both big and small.

Curious about Guardian’s MDM services and other technology solutions? Get in touch with us today and see how we can help your business.

Backing up your data is an essential business practice that should involve multiple backups stored in multiple places. This strategy allows you to store your data more efficiently and keep your information safe.

“With viruses, hackers, and phishing in today’s world, everyone should be using some type of backup solution,” says David Neil, one of our IT Support Specialists who specializes in backup solutions

Keep reading to learn more about why your business needs multiple backups, mistakes to avoid, and how the experts at Guardian Computer can help you establish an effective backup solution.

Why You Need Multiple Backups

According to David, cyberattacks pose the greatest threat to company data. In particular, phishing emails and malware have been growing in popularity and sophistication, and many businesses today remain unprepared.

“There are so many ways that hackers can get you nowadays,” David says. “They can spoof websites, emails, ads you can click on—there are just so many ways they can get in.”

Small businesses may think that hackers won’t bother targeting them, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, cybercriminals are counting on these smaller organizations to have fewer resources and less preparation, training, and security, making them enticing targets.

This brings up a critical concern for many companies: cost. It’s a common misconception that backing up your data will come with a hefty price. Most services charge by the gigabyte, and it may only cost a few extra dollars to get the multiple backups you need.

Not only that, but the potential costs associated with data loss and recovery, network downtime, and compliance issues are far greater than the costs of investing in security and backups. Having multiple backups gives you a safety net in case something goes wrong with any of your data backups or storage, whether it’s phishing attacks, malware, or even natural disasters. 

Phishing Attacks

As technology advances and hackers get smarter, businesses have to work harder to protect their data. David highlights phishing emails as a type of cyberattack that is especially effective against employees.

Spear phishing in particular can be very convincing and hard to identify without proper training. This type of phishing attack involves researching and targeting specific users. The emails sent to these users are tailored to them, often including their name, job title, and company. The sender of the email can also be spoofed so it looks like it’s the user’s boss or someone else they would trust.

A smartphone, a tablet, and a laptop displaying email notifications to represent phishing scams, just one threat underlining the importance of multiple backups today.

Whether it’s from a phishing email or another attack, a data breach can impact more than just your organization. Compromised data can affect your customers as well. Cisco’s 2017 Annual Cyber Security Report showed that 49% of businesses were under scrutiny after a cyberattack and 22% of businesses lost customers due to an attack.

While it’s important to shore up your defenses against cyberattacks, it is equally important to be prepared to handle a data breach. Having multiple backups enables you to restore your data quickly and efficiently, allowing you to resume normal operations faster.

Malware

Malware can take many forms, including computer viruses, worms, ransomware, spyware, adware, Trojan horses, and more. Even if a malware program isn’t strictly intended to damage your data, the damage it causes to your machine can still harm your data.

While there are antimalware and antivirus softwares that can be installed on company devices, they can’t guarantee your protection against every malicious program. Not only is it important to have backups in place to safeguard your data, but multiple backups.

According to David, companies sometimes don’t realize a computer or network has been infected with malware right away. It could take just a few days or it could take a month, depending on the malware’s effects, your team’s knowledge, and how your IT is monitored.

With multiple backups, you have a wider range of options for restoring your data. If malware has corrupted a more recent backup, you can choose an earlier one from days, weeks, or even months ago instead.

Natural Disasters

While no one can control when a natural disaster happens, your business can ensure you never lose your data when it’s properly backed up. Some data centers even store their data in multiple locations, making them a better choice for your backups.

“We worked with a data center that had locations on the East Coast and West Coast,” David explains. “Their backups were split in two locations. This is great because if there was a huge disaster, such as  a hurricane on the East Coast, the center doesn’t lose all of their backups. They have the data center on the West Coast to house all of their data.”

Mistakes To Avoid With Multiple Backups

When establishing multiple backups, there are a few common mistakes to avoid. “Often, people adopt a set-it-and-forget-it mentality, which is not the right way to maintain multiple backups,” David warns. “You shouldn’t set up backups for your machine and think you’re good to go from there.” 

There is always the risk that your software might go awry. “It’s just how computers work,” David says. “No software is perfect.” With monitoring, alerts, and image-level backups, you can stay vigilant and prepared for the issues that might arise.

Keep reading or check out this infographic with do's and don'ts for data backups.

Not Monitoring Enough

The most common mistake people make with multiple backups is inconsistent monitoring. It’s important never to trust the efficiency of technology without ensuring that the output is accurate.

“Whether it’s you or some type of automated system, it’s always good to monitor your backups,” David advises. A good practice is to check daily to confirm that the previous day’s backup was completed.

Failed Backups

In addition, many people don’t create alerts for failed backups. If you are not monitoring your backups every day, then it is crucial to have these alerts so you can react when something goes wrong.

Even if you do check your backups on a daily basis, you can benefit from having alerts for failed backups. Perhaps you’ll miss something and the alert will catch it for you. Whenever you receive an alert, you can also respond immediately rather than waiting until your next daily check-in, resulting in faster response and resolution times.

Image-Level Backups

Servers house everything you need to make your network run. Just backing up the files from your server won’t give you everything you need to get your network up and running again.

That’s why we recommend implementing image-level backups. Image-based backups create a copy of the operating system and all of the data associated with it. This backup is then saved as a single file called an “image.”

With image-level backups, you can transfer the images to the cloud and access your data from anywhere. When you do this, your computers can essentially run like normal, without any data loss. Image-based backups can also help you prevent network downtime if your server goes offline. They’re a valuable part of backup solutions, especially for bigger organizations.

How Guardian Computer Manages Multiple Backups

When you work with Guardian Computer, our team monitors your backups daily, sets up and responds to alerts for failed backups, and restores your data when needed. Instead of the simpler 3-2-1 method, we provide a more comprehensive 7-day daily backup, a weekly backup for 4 weeks, and a monthly backup for 6 months.

Daily backups are incremental, weekly backups are differential, and monthly backups are full backups. This backup system allows you to store several different versions of previously backed up data. If something becomes corrupted, you would still have access to the same information before it was corrupted. 

Contact us today to learn more about how our data backup and recovery services can benefit your business.