What is a Firewall and Why do you Need One?

It’s quite likely that you have, or have used or have been recommended to use a firewall as part of your IT Network Security. But often times they are simply tacked on to your overall package without you truly knowing why you require one and what it actually does to protect your computer.

To put it in simple terms, a firewall is a software program or a piece of a hardware that helps to screen out any malicious activity against your computer or network, such as hackers, viruses and worms that try to reach your computer over the Internet or via malicious software, files and programs.

A firewall can come in different forms, and the most common you have probably encountered before, and that is a software Firewall. This is typically a program that is installed directly onto a computer or laptop and actively scans your files and connection or any malicious activity. Some of the big brand names you may have heard of before include Watchguard, McAfee and Symantec. These are most common on personal devices for use at home and on the move, and with the right configuration and management they can be very powerful and accurate. Windows XP service pack 2, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 all have an inbuilt software firewall.

A hardware firewall is a device that is placed in between your network and the untrusted internet. If more than one computer is connected to a network, then it is necessary to protect your network from the untrusted internet via a hardware firewall. This is most typically found in a business environment, where many computers connect to a physical server for network management. A hardware firewall is a powerful piece of kit for an extra layer of security, but it is also necessary to protect each computer with a software firewall so that if one computer gets infected with viruses the other computer will remain largely protected from the same malicious attach.

The basic purpose of firewalls is to regulate the flow of traffic in between computer networks of different trust levels. For example, the internet (which is considered as a zone of no trust) and your home network (which is a zone of high trust). All incoming messages are passed through the firewall. The firewall then checks whether these messages satisfy the security criteria. If they satisfy, they are passed through the firewall, otherwise they are blocked. A similar thing happens with the outgoing messages. If you turn your firewall off, then all the messages will pass through firewall freely .As a result, your computer is vulnerable and hackers with the right knowledge can potentially hack your computer and obtain your sensitive data or infect it with malicious software and files.

With Spectrum Networks Solutions you can be rest assured that we use the very best hardware and software firewalls to ensure the utmost level of security for your personal and business network and computers at all times.

Contact Us today, to know more about our IT network support services and discuss your project requirements.

Why You Should Be Using a VPN

Even with GDPR tightening the reins on personal data collecting and processing, you still have to ask yourself how much of your personal life is transmitted over the internet almost passively. If you want to take your online privacy to the next level, you should consider using a virtual private network (VPN), which gives you extra control over how you can be identified on the web.

What is a VPN?

In a nutshell, a VPN is used to create a virtual encrypted tunnel between you / your computer and a remote server that is operated by the VPN service of your choosing. This means that all traffic is routed through the tunnel, meaning that your data is quite secure from any potential prying eyes. An added benefit is that your IP address will be that of the VPN server rather than your personal IP, thus giving you an extra level of identity masking.

When you are connecting to the VPN server, your data will reach the server and then exit out to the public internet. If your target website utilises HTTPS, your connection will still be secure; but even if your connection was intercepted, it would be very difficult for anyone to trace the data back to your computer, since it would appear as though the connection is coming directly from the VPN server rather than your computer.

Let’s take a look at some real examples of where a VPN shines. For example, you connect to a public Wi-Fi in a coffee shop, something that is often done without a second thought. But when you think about it, do you even know who might be watching what goes on and what traffic travels on that network? Do you even know if the Wi-Fi connection is legitimate? You could be transmitting all kinds of private and sensitive data without even knowing it.

However, let’s say you connect to that same public Wi-Fi connection via a VPN. You can have peace of mind that no matter what, nobody on the network can intercept your data and snoop around for your personal data. It’s vital to remember that it’s difficult to recognise whether a Wi-Fi connection is how it seems – just because, for example, the connection is called Starbucks-Free-Wi-Fi, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not a potential data thief laying a trap.

What a VPN Won’t Do

As powerful as a VPN is, it still has a limit to how it can protect your privacy and identity online. Plenty of web services use cookies to keep track of your internet usage, even after you’ve left the website (Amazon, Facebook, and Google for example). It’s important to note that most VPN services are still profit organisations that are vulnerable to subpoenas and warrants if it ever came down to it. Therefore it’s vital to read the privacy policy for the VPN service you are considering, and to find out where the company itself is headquartered. NordVPN, for example, is based in Panama, and is therefore not subject to any laws that would require it to retain user data.

Choosing The Right VPN Service

At Spectrum Networks Solutions, we have the experience and the contacts to give you the best possible security and peace-of-mind when you are browsing the web. Free VPN services are often too good to be true and you may even want to consider an encrypted router as an alternative. Whichever your choice, we can advise and guide you to what best suits your business, the data you handle and your general online usage.

Contact Us today, to know more about our IT network support services and discuss your project requirements.

Are You Using Encryption?

If you’re not utilising any encryption procedures in your overall network security, can your internet connection be tapped like a telephone line?

In a nutshell (although it’s never that simple); Yes!

If you’re using a wireless network to connect to the internet and browse or perform any other daily tasks, other devices in the vicinity that are using wireless connectivity can technically overhear your packets (byte-sized-message) and if they really wanted to, they can see exactly what you’re doing.

This practice of overhearing a “wireless conversation”, much like overhearing a conversation in real life, is also known as ‘eavesdropping’, and can be quite common for hackers or other people performing malicious activities to utilise.

Your neighbour or a person sitting outside your house or office can eavesdrop on your wireless connection with the right hardware and software. If you’re using a wired connection, someone with the right know-how can even directly wiretap your connection just like a telephone line.

If you want your communication to be private, encryption is the key!

The HTTPS in web browsers, for example, indicates that your communication with the server is encrypted. Technically someone can still eavesdrop, but they can’t understand or interpret the content of the conversation thanks to the data being encrypted.

How does encryption work?

To use a simple example, let’s say you lock some confidential information in a box using a unique symmetric key and send it (the key and the box) to the server. The server opens the box using the key it received along with the box. But anyone tapping this connection also receives the box and the key.

To solve this, we use a special type of box at the server side which can be locked using a public key but opened only using a private key. The server provides you this special box and public key but keeps the private key secret from everyone. You can put your original box and unique symmetric key inside this special box, lock it using the server’s public key and send it to the server. Only the server can open this special box using its private key.

Therefore you’ve safely shared the unique symmetric key, which can be used to unlock and lock the original box. Now your browser and server can exchange data in normal boxes and need not share the unique symmetric key again. In a nutshell this is how encryption works (except there is no box really!).

Contact Us today, to know more about our IT network support services and discuss your project requirements.

Have You Planned For GDPR?

Have you started planning for GDPR? It is coming sooner than you think. Our IT Support services include all the necessary security updates, threat detection and response and encryption procedures so that you don’t have to worry about it!

What is GDPR?

GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation is an EU regulation that aims to harmonise the data protection regulations and strengthen data protection for all individuals in the European Union.

After four years of preparation and discussion, the GDPR was approved by the European Parliament on April 14th 2016 and will apply from May 25th 2018. GDPR replaces the earlier data protection directive that was implemented in national level in 1995. GDPR, instead will begin to apply to all Member States at the same time. GDPR applies to almost all companies operating in the EU and the regulation applies also to organisations outside the European Union, if they collect or process personal data of EU residents.

What constitutes as personal data?

Personal data is defined as any information related to a natural person or “Data subject” that can be used to identify the person, directly or indirectly. Data breaches which may pose a risk to individuals must be notified to affected individuals without undue delay and to the data protection authorities within 72 hours. In case of a data breach, organisations can be fined up to 4 percent of annual global turnover or 20 million euro, depending on which one is higher. Individuals can find out whether or not their personal data is being processed, where and for what purpose. A copy of the personal data shall be provided free of charge, when asked for. The data subject is also entitled to have his or her personal data erased by the data controller – under certain conditions. What’s more, public authorities as well as organisations that engage in large-scale systemic monitoring or processing of sensitive personal data must appoint a Data Protection Officer.

Getting ready for GDPR

Are you ready to get started in evaluating and implementing measures to ensure GDPR compliance? Leverage our checklist below to get closer to the GDPR finish line today:

Identify the personal data fields that you are collecting from natural EU citizens

  • What personal data is collected and/or processed?
  • Where is it stored or transmitted?
  • For how long?
  • What retention policies or processes apply to this data?
  • Can this be reduced?
  • Is it under your control or that of a contractor?
  • Does this data remain in the EU at all times?

Characterize the consent information and processes that exist when collecting this data

  • Are data subjects asked in clear language for
  • explicit consent to collect and process their data?
  • Is consent granted at the time of collection?
  • Does the consent communication identify and provide contact information for the controller, processor and Data Protection Officer (DPO) where appropriate?
  • Does it describe the purpose of processing, security of processing, and legal basis?
  • Does it provide the period for which the data will be stored?

Characterize the consent information and processes that exist when collecting this data

  • Does it name the recipients or category of recipients of the data?
  • Does it explain the data subjects’ right to access, rectify, request erasure or make portable their data, as well as their right to complain to a supervisory authority?
  • Does it state the intent to transfer the data outside of the EU?
  • Does it stipulate whether data collection is mandatory or optional, as well as the consequences of not providing said data?
  • Is it just as easy to withdraw consent as provide consent?

Characterize the ability to communicate with data subjects.

  • How do data subjects access, rectify, have erased, and extract their data for transfer?
  • How do data subjects withdraw consent?
  • How does the organization contact data subjects to report a breach?

Determine if current record-keeping measures and data processing policies are adequate.

  • Is there a record of data subject response to consent?
  • Is there a record or log of data processing events involving personal data?
  • Are these records secure and allow for queries, searches or reports by authorized personnel?
  • Are policies kept current that describe how data processing is performed in compliance with the Regulation?
  • If a controller is outside the EU, is there a designated representative within the EU, and is this documented?
  • If data processing services are contracted, does the legal agreement include the necessary clauses to ensure proper security and handling of personal data so as to be in compliance
  • with GDPR?
  • Is there sufficient access control to servers and buildings to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing personal data?

Determine if data security practices and technology are adequate to meet GDPR requirements.

  • Are appropriate technical and organizational measures taken to ensure that data is protected from accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, or alteration and unauthorized or unlawful storage, processing, access or disclosure?
  • Does the security policy address the following:
    • How to protect data during storage and transmission
    • How to restore access to data when an incident disrupts availability
    • How to ensure situational awareness of risks and enable preventative, corrective and mitigating action in near real time against vulnerabilities or incidents detected that could pose a risk to data
    • Describe the process for regularly assessing the effectiveness of security policies
  • Is there a process for providing breach notifications within 72 hours?
  • Is there a record of a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) assessing whether processing operations are likely to present specific risks?
  • Was it completed within the last two years, or immediately when there was a change to specific risks in processing operations?
  • Is there a designated DPO?

Contact Us today, to know more about our IT network support services and discuss your project requirements.

4 Advantages of Managed IT vs In-House

It can be common practice for businesses to hire an in-house technician to manage their network and IT infrastructure – but is it really the best option for your business to do so? A dedicated in-house IT technician can be an unnecessary expense and you can often times find your personnel having little to do in general day-to-day tasks and only called into action when technical faults or disasters strike. We may be tooting our own horns a little, but we highly recommend managed IT services for any small and medium sized businesses looking for the best of both worlds – high quality IT support at the most cost effective rates. Unconvinced? Here are 4 advantages of Managed IT over in-house:

Availability

It’s safe to assume that a dedicated in-house IT technician would be restricted to a work schedule, 9-5 for example. But what about if something goes wrong with your IT systems out of these hours? It may be that your IT technician wouldn’t approve of being woken up at midnight for emergency repairs! However, with managed IT, we fully expect and are ready for emergencies that occur outside of the traditional 9-5 hours. We know that time is precious and downtime can mean a loss of revenue for your business, so we pride ourselves in fixing any issues and getting your systems back up and running in the quickest time possible. What’s better; with our Managed IT these types of disasters are rarer as we’re constantly monitoring and correcting problems before they occur.

Costs

At first it may seem appealing to hire an in-house technician because of the low hourly-rate in comparison to managed IT. However, it’s important to factor in the additional costs of the hiring process, training, bonuses and other financials. These additional costs can hinder other aspects of your business and your IT systems which can result in missing important upgrades and opportunities. However, with Managed IT services, your costs are fixed and agreed upon, usually as a monthly budget. This makes the service extremely good value for money and gives you immediate access to highly trained specialists in the field.

Ongoing Training

If you have a dedicated in-house technician, you’ll often find times that they will be out of the office for extended periods of time for training in order to keep up with the rapid evolution of technologies. Not only does this result in their resource being unavailable, it is, as mentioned previously, another additional cost on top of their salary for mileage and certification. However, with Managed IT services such as Spectrum Networks Solutions, all training is taken at our own expense, and we’ll always have a technician available and on hand.

Goals

For the majority of employees, a higher salary is their long term goal and it can often result in job-hopping in order to achieve their goal. An in-house technician may well leave at the first opportunity for a higher salary, having already leveraged any training your business has paid for.  In these modern times, switching jobs regularly is expected, with an average of only 3 years in each position. It’s safe to assume that 3 years of service is a poor ROI considering the investment your business will have made in a salaried technician. However, our goals are clear and simple – we aim and pride ourselves in keeping you a happy customer for as long as we can, thus providing you with the highest level of service possible at all times.

Of course, it comes down to your particular business and requirements and the balance you need between expertise and profitability. With our Managed IT Services, you’re securing availability, ever-increasing expertise and commitment to the success of your business.

Contact Us today, to know more about our IT network support services and discuss your project requirements.

How Important Is Your IT Infrastructure To You?

The infrastructure of your IT systems can be the very backbone of your business and yet is an aspect that is often overlooked. To put it simply, investing in, implementing and maintaining a sound IT infrastructure is imperative to the growth of your business as technology continues to become vital to our every day tasks. IT systems that are aged can reduce productivity greatly and can put a strain on your every day tasks and therefore result in a loss of revenue. It can also result in downtime, which in itself can result in huge losses.

Many businesses take a piecemeal approach to updating their IT systems and network infrastructure, spreading the cost of investment across a longer period of time. However this will inevitably result in a higher investment outlay in a shorter period of time. As a modern business it’s extremely important to have a long-term strategy in place when it comes to your IT infrastructure in order to scale with the growth of your business and any advancements in technology.

The key to a reliable and effective IT system in your business is flexibility. The use of hybrid infrastructures for example, which combine the use of both on-site and cloud servers, means you can host a number of your services off-site, in the cloud, such as emails and general business applications, whilst the servers that are on-site can take the workload of other business requirements at a local level. This, of course, depends on the overall requirements of your business, but if you require the flexible services of Cloud hosting as well as the reliability of an on-site server, then a hybrid infrastructure may be an excellent option for your business.

Regardless of how it is created, an IT infrastructure must provide a suitable platform for all the necessary IT applications and functions your business requires. Solid management also allows admins to optimise resources for different workloads, and to more readily understand and handle the impact of any changes on interrelated resources.

Here at Spectrum Networks Solutions, we understand that keeping up with the latest technology and hardware for your business can be a daunting task. But don’t worry! We can assist you in making the right choices and keeping your employees equipped with the best possible hardware for your budget and business requirements. Whether it is top-of-the-range smartphones and tablet devices for your sales team on-the-move or equipping your entire office space with the latest desktop hardware; we will work closely with you and advise which options will suit your business best and give you the most flexibility. We will also provide the right support and advice on network cabling and, most importantly, the security, backup and disaster recovery solutions to ensure your infrastructure has the highest possible up time and reliability.

Contact Us today, to know more about our IT network support services and discuss your project requirements.

What Is The Cost Of IT Downtime?

Even as technology continues to grow and improve at an impressive rate, the risk of downtime and outages is still a major fear for businesses, particularly small and medium sized (SMBs). This is because IT downtime can potentially result in severe impacts to both reputation and finances.

It’s because of the severity of the impacts of IT downtime that it’s crucial for businesses to have professional, reliable Managed IT Services that includes a secure backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solution to keep their data safeguarded and ensure they can get back up and running as soon as possible if downtime does occur.

The all-too-often mistake that businesses tend to make is that they don’t fully appreciate the value and importance of BDR until after it’s too late. It’s common for businesses to only implement a backup and recovery solution once they have been hit by a disaster or downtime!

Putting a Cost Against IT Downtime

Downtime is an expected yet expensive risk of doing business today. Without the ability to maintain or restore business operations, it could result in direct losses in productivity and revenue. Below is a chart of what businesses claim to be the cost of an IT downtime incident:

There are two different types of associated costs when it comes to IT downtime; direct and indirect. The direct costs can include loss of sales or employee productivity, whilst indirect costs refer to the further consequences of the downtime, such as loss of revenue from reputational damage. The combination of both direct and indirect costs is what truly puts your business at risk. As the chart above outlines, the majority of businesses see a £35,000 – £75,000 loss just from IT downtime, with a large portion seeing even up to a £350,000 loss. Can your business really afford losing out on this level of revenue?

It’s more than likely that your businesses relies on day-to-day operations that involves data. How would you be affected if you were no longer able to access this vital data? Ask yourself if your business could still function as normal without access to this data or any relevant IT systems. Were you aware that 50% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) don’t even have BDR solutions in place?

In fact, only a tiny 6% of businesses have never experienced an IT downtime event. The below chart outlines how many and how recently businesses have suffered from downtime:

IT Downtime can occur more often than you think and is easily one of the biggest IT related expenses a business can face. Simply having a backup isn’t a solution – despite common misconception, even backups can fail. A professional backup and disaster recovery solution will perform regular, reliable backups that will allow your business to recover vital data and mitigate any losses from downtime. At Spectrum Networks Solutions, our experienced IT Support team we will even ensure that you have a solid recovery plan in place and that you will have optimal recovery points – what’s more, we’ll do our very best to prevent downtime from occurring ever again. You will have complete peace of mind that even if you do experience downtime, you won’t suffer any long-term impacts on your business and revenue.

Contact Us today, to know more about our IT network support services and discuss your project requirements.

What is The Cloud?

So what exactly is “the cloud”?. When something is stored in the cloud, it essentially means it’s stored on internet servers instead of on your computer. It’s like having an extra hard drive—one that you can access anywhere and anytime you’re connected to the internet. In the past, you only had a home computer and the software you installed on it. Now you can take your files anywhere thanks to cloud solutions, or web apps, which run inside your internet browser.

Whether you’re working in retail, or real estate with financial data or photos your business depends on Applications that run reliably and securely at costs that scales with your needs.

A web app that you may already use is Google Docs. It’s free, you don’t have to install anything to use it, and it allows you to create several different types of projects. You can access everything that you create in Google Docs from any computer or device with an internet connection. Since you only need a connected device to access the cloud, you can take your music, photos, and videos with you wherever you go.

For instance, if you take a photo on your smartphone and upload it to a cloud-based photo storage service like Flickr or Picasa, you can access that photo on any of your other devices, on your computer, or even on your TV. You can share your vacation photos with friends and family while you’re still on vacation. With your photos and other multimedia stored in the cloud, you’ll never have to worry about losing them to a computer malfunction ever again.

Storing files in the cloud is a great way to protect your important files from accidents, viruses, and more. You can use cloud-based storage services to back up the contents of your computer. These services run continually and back up automatically, so you will always have the most recent versions of your files stored in secure online servers. If something bad happens to your computer, you can easily transfer your backup files from your storage service to another device.

If your business requires it, the Cloud allows you not just to store large amounts of data on remote servers, but it also allows you to deploy very advanced computing algorithms and the ability to do high performance computing using machines that you physically don’t own yourself.

So, what are you waiting for?

No matter how you use your computer, tablet, or smartphone, the cloud has something to offer you.

Whether it’s checking your email when you’re travelling, backing up the photos and music that you love, or using web apps to work in different locations, the cloud can—and already is—making your life, and the technology in it, more manageable.

Contact Us today, to know more about our IT network support services and discuss your project requirements.

Hosted Email Explained

Hosted Email uses cloud technology to provide an efficient email service in the cloud thereby removing the need for on-site server hardware and associated management. With Hosted email all you need is internet access and a suitable device to access your email account via the Hosted platform.

If you don’t use email in your business, it’s safe to say you’re in the minority. It is currently estimated that 294 billion emails are sent every single day from nearly 3.9 billion email accounts.

100 billion of those are classed as business grade emails, and those are emails from hosted mail accounts.

76% of all worldwide email accounts are free. These are classed as consumer accounts. According to The Radicati Group, a technology market research firm, hosted email accounts currently stand at 929 million and growing at a rate of 5% per year.

But why should you pay for your email? After all isn’t email free?

Yes it can be free to you, but somebody has to pay for the service.

Maybe you receive a lower level of service than you should? At the height of the Conficker virus in 2010 it was stated that up to 20% of all traffic to free email services was dropped due to the load on their systems. These emails could have contained lucrative orders or important business information for you.

Maybe you’re concerned about privacy? In the past couple of years Google faced a law suit against their right to access and read all emails sent to or received by their 425 million users. The practice, something Google has done nearly since the launch of its email service, allowed the company to digest the contents of email messages and use them to deliver targeted ads within Gmail itself.

Hosted email, no matter if it’s on your premises or in the cloud, have guarantees attached to them. From their uptime, that’s how often they are available through to privacy, encryption and even where your data is stored. Maybe you work in an industry where you can only have your data stored within the UK or Europe? That level of service is available with hosted email.

Hosted Exchange gives you the opportunity to build on your customer service by enabling you to contact, collaborate and share data wherever you are whenever you need to. You are no longer tied to your desk! By switching to Hosted Email there are no limits to when or where you work meaning no matter where you or your employees are you retain productivity levels and ensure business continuity.

There are numerous benefits from hosted email that can be easily tailored to how you use it. These include, amongst others, remote working, mobile access or collaboration.

The underlying question you need to ask, is email important to you and your business?

If the answer is yes, then your business could benefit from what hosted email could bring to you and we’d love to discuss the various Hosted email solutions we can offer.

If not, you take the risk as to what ‘free email’ actually provides.

Contact Us today, to know more about our IT network support services and discuss your project requirements.

5 Reasons to Choose Hosted VoIP over On-Premise

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is a telecommunication system that offers an alternative to traditional systems based on a PBX – Private Branch Exchange – and an internal network that is separate to other networks in a building.

There are also two ways of implementing and managing a VOIP system;

In one corner, you have Hosted telephony, where you pay a service provider to host your system in the cloud. The provider of the hosted PBX charges a monthly fee that is inclusive of a minutes package and potentially certain features. Charges can also be at a per minute calling cost.

In the other corner is “On-Premise”, where you set up (or upgrade) the infrastructure on your own business premises. It is similar to a traditional PBX system that resides at a location, such as a computer equipment room or phone closet

But which is better? Actually, there is no clear winner! In the end, it really depends on a number of factors. Understanding benefits and limitations makes it easier to determine the best option for any particular organization

  • Your business & operational needs
  • Your internal resources & infrastructure
  • Your financial preferences

Let’s take a look at 5 key factors that may make a hosted telephony solution a far better choice for your business:

  1. Keep the up-front costs down

Paying a fixed monthly fee to a service provider makes budgeting more predictable and preserves capital for strategic investments.

  1. Get the infrastructure off-premise

VOIP infrastructure Installation costs can add up quickly. With hosted VoIP, you can say goodbye to on-premise infrastructure. All you need is a suitable connection to your service provider, and phones for your users.

  1. Make better use of your in-house IT team

With a hosted VoIP solution, the service provider takes care of system maintenance, upgrades, and other operational issues – leaving your IT team the time to concentrate on more strategic tasks.

  1. Take advantage of the latest technologies

If your VoIP is hosted, your service provider is responsible for upgrades. They deploy the latest version to all your users.

  1. Hosted solutions grow with your business.

With a hosted solution, you won’t face the cost and disruption of increasing network capacity. Just scale your level of service with your provider and you’ll have all the capacity you need, to suit your requirements.

If the above 5 points seem to fit your business, then a hosted VoIP solution is an excellent choice for you! Ultimately it comes down to satisfaction, which is the most important aspect of choosing a system, regardless of whether it is hosted or on-premise.

We would be delighted to assess your current phone system and advise which method of telecommunication system would suit your business best.

Contact Us today, to know more about our IT network support services and discuss your project requirements.

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