Understanding What VPNs are and Why You (Probably) Need One

If you are reading this, you’ve likely at least heard of the term “VPN”. It’s possible you’ve even used a VPN without fully understanding what it is. Today, we’re going to not only explain what a VPN is, but also why they can be very beneficial in today’s cloud-based world. 

VPN stands for “virtual private network”. While they were once mostly used by IT professionals (and maybe those looking to mask their digital activity), VPNs are very common in today’s interconnected business world, especially as remote working has become a regular part of life. With critical data being shared and accessed from different places across the world, privacy and security needs to be a top priority. 

A VPN can help with that.  

What exactly is a VPN?

Before we dive into what a VPN is, we need to establish some context. 

When you’re connecting to the internet at work, you’re (hopefully) connecting through a secured network operating off a local server. This server, among other things, acts as a buffer between your company devices and the internet. It should be equipped with a firewall and configured so that only the appropriate information can enter or exit it.  

This provides vital protection for your data while providing your employees with the access they need. 

When someone connectto the internet from their home, however, they’re most likely going straight from their device to the internet. Yes, there’s their local router and modem, but outside of a basic password set for Wi-Fi, there likely isn’t anything in the way of protection. 

While this is generally fine for personal internet usage, it can become a problem when private work information is being shared or accessed. This is where a VPN comes in. 

A VPN is a server that you connect to remotely. Once connected to the VPN, you can then browse the internet, access information on your company’s network, etc. in a secure environment. It’s essentially the same as if you were connecting to your office’s secured network, except you’re doing it across an external internet connection through a process known as tunneling.  

The actions you take, the data you share, and the places you visit are all encrypted through the VPN. 

Why Do You Need a VPN? 

The primary benefit of a VPN is enhanced cybersecurity. As we mentioned, all data sent across a VPN is encrypted. That means even if a hacker was able to get to the data you’re sharing, it would be undecipherable to them. VPNs are especially useful when people are utilizing public internet such as in a Starbucks, where you don’t know who else might be on the network. 

With so much work done on the go or remotely, VPNs offer critical security for an affordable price. For most businesses, it’s the best way to manage employees’ online activities when they’re working out of the office.  

It also provides a safe way for employees to access information kept on your company’s server.  

VPNs Aren’t Foolproof 

While a VPN is a great addition to your cybersecurity arsenal, they have their limitations. Additionally, when implemented poorly, VPNs can tax your server speeds and result in slow performance. That’s why it’s best to implement VPNs as part of a larger digital strategy for your business. 

At DataYard, our IT consultants in Dayton, Ohio can help create a proper digital strategy, including setting up VPNs, identifying weak points in your cybersecurity, rolling out updated protocols, and more. If you’re serious about improving your company’s security and technological prowess, contact DataYard today. 

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Work-Life Balance with BYOD

BYOD (bring your own device) offers a number of benefits. Employees choose the device they use, employers save on device costs, remote working is simplifiedthe list goes on. It’s not without its concerns, however.  

In addition to security risks, one of the primary red flags with BYOD is the blurring of work life and personal life. With the rise of smartphones, powerful portable computers, mobile networks, and cloud-based systems, the work-life balance has become increasingly murky. Left unchecked, BYOD can disrupt this balance even further. 

While work-life balance is sometimes labeled as an employee concern, it should be just as important to employers. It’s not just about whether their work life bleeds into their personal time, but how much of their personal life infiltrates into work time. 

True to its name, it’s a balance of both sides. Maintaining work-life balance results in employees with better attitudes who are more efficient. With the current COVID-19 quarantine measures that are in place, keeping work life and personal life separated is more difficult (and more important) than ever. 

Here is some general guidance for maintaining work-life balance with BYOD, whether your employees are quarantined at home or not. 

Separating Work and Life with BYOD

When it comes to managing devices owned by your employees, much of it is about setting expectations.  

You shouldn’t expect your employees to always have their work email pulled up, their communication app turned on, etc. In fact, unless their role requires emergency responses or it’s a special situation, it might be good to encourage employees to mute work-notifications during off hours. 

On the other hand, you should set hours when they should be online and reachable from their device. Make sure they know when their hours of availability should be. Set a policy for placing meetings/availability on a shared calendar.  

If you’re using Slack, Teams, or a similar communication tool, ask that employees keep their statuses updated. 

Speaking of tools and apps, make sure they have the necessary programs installed on their device so that they can adequately perform their tasks and responsibilities. Additionally, make sure that antivirus and firewall software is in place and activated.  

This will help protect both them and you from whatever they use their device to do. It’s hard to tell them what they can’t do with their own device, but you can mandate what they need to do if they’re going to use it for work. 

Preventing Personal Actions from Invading the Workplace 

If your employees are using personal devices for work, those devices are naturally more exposed to risks. To protect your company’s information and network from things the device might be accessing, proper security measures need to be implemented. 

For more hands-on monitoring and control, there are additional tools you can implement, such as a MAM (mobile application management), This allows you to monitor, update, and even remove mobile applications from a remote device, protecting your employees from otherwise dangerous software. 

Other tools can allow you to monitor, access, and update laptops and desktops as well. Whatever you do, it’s always important to be transparent with your employees. Make sure they know what you can see and access on their device. 

It’s a Process 

Successfully integrating BYOD requires guidelines, policies, and expectations. Maintaining the balance between work and life as your employees use their own devices is a process. It’s important that you engage with your employees, get their feedback, and adjust accordingly. 

Of course, creating policies, implementing changes, and assisting employees with any technical difficulties is a lot of work. This is where a dedicated IT team can help. 

At DataYard, we provide a range of IT services to assist modern day businesses. Whether you need cybersecurity, cloud storage, managed IT, or all of the above, we’re here to serve. For BYOD, our IT consultants in Dayton, Ohio can help create and implement policies and that maintain work-life balance and keep your systems protected. 

Contact us today! 

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Importance of IT in Quarantine Remote Work

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and the implementation of quarantine and social distancing measures, most office workers are finding themselves operating from home. While many modern offices have some degree of work from home policies in place, the idea of everyone working from home day after day is a much different situation. 

Everyone is having to rapidly adjust. 

Working from home every day sounds great in theory, but it also poses a number of problems. For workers, many struggle with productivity and focus at home, especially with schools being closed and children being home.  

For business owners and office managers, there are more unique concerns. It’s very important to maintain proper IT practices and security measures while everyone is working from home. Though we don’t know how long this time of quarantine will last, it’s best to prepare for the long-haul. 

Here are a few things to be mindful of...

Employees Being Ill-Equipped 

Most office workers have a laptop, tablet, or at-home computer to utilize. If you have a bring your own device policy in place, they may even use it for work already. Even if they do, the rest of their athome setup likely pales in comparison to their work setup. If your employees have multiple monitors, standing desks, comfortable chairs, and/or new computers at the office, sitting at a dinner table with a laptop is going to be a challenge for them. 

If possible, let employees take monitors, work computers, and even desk chairs home during this time. Give tips for creating their setupYou can even have employees share their own setups.  

Security Connections 

Home networks are often much less secure than business networks. While you can’t overhaul the broadband and Wi-Fi systems that your employees have at home, you can implement protocols on the devices they’re connecting to it.  

This includes making sure their devices network settings are configured correctly, that firewalls and anti-virus software are turned on, etc. A further measure would be to implement a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This encrypts the data coming and going from a device, making it undecipherable to anyone who isn’t authorized to view it. 

This is a highly effective measure that can be implemented with simple, affordable software. 

If further security measures are needed, you could issue hardware firewalls to employees to be used at home. It’s an added expense, not to mention some additional configuration would be needed, but for employees who are handling especially valuable data, it may be necessary. 

Implementing Communication Tools and Software 

With everyone working from home, there’s a greater need for implementing communication and sharing tools. While you certainly had a number of software programs and online tools you used in office, some applications might be needed. Thankfully, there are more ways than ever to connect, share, and work collaboratively without being in the same building. 

The main hurdle here is getting your employees setup and trained on the tools. 

A Dedicated IT Team Makes Remote Work Much Smoother 

With so much already going on, trying to micromanage the individual IT needs of each remote employee can be impossible. However, it’s very important that these needs are met and that they’re handled appropriately.  

This is an especially terrible time to lose productivity, experience miscommunication, or suffer from a security breach. 

Having a dedicated IT team on hand can make a massive differenceA quality IT company is well-versed in operating remotely, and they’ll be able to assist in setting employees up with new hardware and software and making sure your systems are secure. 

At DataYard, we provide a wide range of IT services perfectly suited to help businesses adapt to the rapidly changing work atmosphere. Our IT consultants in Dayton, Ohio can help you maximize security, connectivity, and productivity while your employees operate remotely. We have the knowledge and experience to spot shortcomings, create IT strategies, and implement changes so that everyone is on the same page, regardless of where they’re working from. 

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Bring Your Own Device

With the increasing affordability of modern technology, along with the integration of that technology in our day-to-day lives, an individual person often has numerous devices they utilize throughout the day. Almost every adult has their own smartphone. Over 50% of US adults own a tablet. Laptop ownership is even higher among certain age groups.

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Why SD-WAN Matters for Businesses in 2020

SD-WAN stands for “software-defined wide area network”. Whereas a traditional WAN typically operates at the point of contact, an SD-Wan is able to create a virtual architecture within the network, proving intelligent control. SD-WAN is designed for today’s network activity, bringing more customization, faster speeds, tighter security/privacy, and more.

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Why Backing Up Data is So Important for Businesses

Remember the days of floppy disks where you entrusted important documents to tiny pieces of plastic that were easily lost, destroyed, erased? Well maybe you don’t because you’re too young to have even held a floppy disk, but it’s the same scenario with CD’s, flash drives and external hard drives today. Thankfully, we have cloud storage systems like DataYard’s OwnCloud, which is similar to Google Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox to hold various documents.  

On top of that, many of our files end up in our email or on a project management system that we can access from any internet-connected device. 

These days, you’d have to be crazy to trust important files to a single disk, or even one hard drive. And yet, many businesses fail to properly backup their computer and server systems, leading to much bigger issues. 

Many companies that suffer a major data loss without a proper backup system in place never fully recover. Don’t think your business can suffer from data loss? Think again. 

There are many ways to lose data....

People often associate data loss with data breaches and malicious attacks, which is fair. After all, cyber-attacks, viruses, and other malicious activities ultimately result in the theft, corruption, and/or general loss of data. 

But that’s certainly not the only way you can lose data. 

Even if your systems are updated and well protected from external threats, things can still go very wrong. Machines break. Hard drives wear out. A power outage can result in the loss of unsaved information. A fire or natural disaster can destroy the equipment housing your data. 

Let alone the dreaded data loss due to something as basic as spilling a cup of coffee on a computer or network device. Nearly 30% of hard drive failures are caused by simple accidents. 

Losing data costs a lot of time and money. Having your systems down can cost a lot as wellIf you want to keep your business safe and your information protected, you need proper backup systems in place.  

For those who operate under various compliancy standards, backup systems are likely required. Failure to follow backup protocol can result in the loss of clients, as well as potential fines. 

Providing Peace of Mind with Quality Backup Support 

At DataYard, we understand just how important backups are to modern businesses. That’s why are backup services go above and beyond the various needs of our customers. Whether you have compliancy standards to meet or not, we can make sure you information is safe. 

Our cloud hosting automatically creates daily backups going back at least 30 days. Additional backups can be made as needed. Our servers our housed in our data center which is well protected against power outages and other dangers. 

Additionally, we offer colocation for those who prefer/need to use their own equipment. Want backups created offsite? We can help with that too. 

In addition to our general server capabilities, we offer consultation and management to clients across the globe, along with onsite IT services in the Dayton, Ohio area. 

Keep your business protected from data loss. Contact DataYard today.

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Your Business Needs a Next Generation Firewall

As we mentioned in a recent post, a firewall is your first line of protection against malicious presences on the internet. A firewall is the gatekeeper to what’s entering your network or device, keeping the bad things out while letting the safe information in. 

At least, that’s what it should be doing. But as malware, viruses, and hacking techniques evolve, the tools that protect against them need to evolve as well. A traditional firewall might not be enough to protect you. 

For example, once upon a time, malware and hackers exploited holes in networks and security systems. Now, however, most exploit weaknesses in applications, which make them harder to flag and block. 

That’s where Next Generation Firewalls come in.  

What Makes a Firewall “Next Gen”?

A next generation firewall (or NGFW) isn’t simply the newest version or model of firewalls on the market. It’s a complete evolution, redefining how a firewall operates and what it protects you from. 

Yes, a NGFW performs all of the traditional functions of firewalls, filtering traffic based off port, protocol, preset admin filters, etc., but that’s only the beginning. 

The exact capabilities of a NGFW can vary, but they all must meet certain criteria. Gartner, one of the most senior authorities in IT, defines them as deep-packet inspection firewalls that move beyond port/protocol inspection and blocking to add application-level inspection, intrusion prevention, and bringing intelligence from outside the firewall. 

In many ways, NGFW combines the features of traditional firewalls with features found in additional security tools, combining them into one efficient, streamlined package. This reduces complexity while enhancing control and improving performance. 

For businesses where data security and system integrity are top priorities, having a NGFW is a must. 

Do Small Businesses Need Next Generation Firewalls? 

There’s no question that every business should have firewalls in place, no matter the size.  But do small businesses benefit from the power of next generation firewalls? Absolutely. The level of control and security featured in a NGFW is something traditional firewalls simply can’t compete with. 

That said, it can depend on what type of data you’re storing online and within your internal system. For certain smaller businesses, it could be overkill. Then again, when it comes to digital security, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to properly caring for your customers data. 

Ultimately, it doesn’t hurt to talk to a professional team about what level of firewall you should have in place for your business. As it happens, we are a professional IT team that would be happy to answer those questions for you. Our Discovery process is a perfect health check for your security level while getting a great picture of your IT environment 

At DataYard, we provide IT consultation in addition to private cloud hosting, cybersecurity, colocation in Dayton, Ohio, and more. Big or small, we can scale our services to meet your needs on a reasonable budget.  

Contact us today! 

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Cybersecurity 102: How Firewalls Protect Against Threats

The internet is two-way connection. You don’t just go onto the internet. The internet goes onto the device you’re using. If you’re not careful, a lot of bad things can get into your system through the internet.  

Recently, we discussed some of the major threats that companies face on the internet. Now it’s time to look at the first step to protect yourself from those threats.  

It’s Starts with a Firewall 

A firewall is the gatekeeper to your network and/or device. Its purpose is to let safe information in while keeping the bad stuff out. Dangerous items could include spyware, viruses, hackers, and much more. Additionally, certain firewalls can be customized and configured to keep out content that’s technically “safe”, but unwanted on a particular network. For example, companies may use firewalls to block time-consuming websites such as Facebook or YouTube. 

Firewalls can also act as a filter between different company networks. This is helpful in protecting your information from vendors and contractors you may work with. 

Are All Firewalls the Same?

No. First of all, a firewall can either be a software program or a physical device. Both perform the function of flagging questionable content and preventing it from coming through, though they do so in slightly different ways. 

A software firewall operates on your computer (or other device), protecting the information found there. Should a virus or hacker breach your network, a software firewall can still protect your individual device.  

A software firewall continues to protect your device even when you’re on other networks, which is very beneficial.  

Hardware firewalls are physical devices that act as the first point of connection to the internet, protecting your entire system and every device connected to it. Sometimes hardware firewalls double as routers. Other times, they connect to a router. Different hardware firewalls can offer different features. 

Not only do hardware firewalls protect against hackers and viruses, but they also keep out spam traffic that can slow down your network. 

The best form of protection is a mixture of both physical and device-based firewalls throughout the environment. DataYard provides a comprehensive solution that may include physical, hosted, and next-generation firewall solutions.  

Firewall Systems Need to Stay Updated  

Digital attacks are constantly changing as hackers find new flaws and loopholes in network systems and computer software. In order for your firewall to do its job, it needs to be maintained and updated. It’s important that you keep your network and online data somewhere that’s secure and protected against the latest threats. 

As an IT partner DataYard values an ‘eat your own dog food’ model that incorporates all the products that we would recommend to a client including physical devices, hosted firewall solutions, and software-based products. The more points of security the better. All of these options are available to new and current clients utilizing DataYard’s access, cloud hosting services and colocation. Second to great firewall solutions we maintain backups as an extra safety measure.  

For those who have extra security compliance standards to meet, we have you covered. Our team has a track record for providing thorough solutions that check all the boxes for all compliance requirements.  

And for those who want to make sure they have the right firewalls in place and configured correctly, our IT support in Dayton, Ohio can help you out. 

Not sure what you need? We’re happy to consult so you get the protection you need. Contact us today! 

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Cybersecurity 101 – What are the Threats?

With so much of our lives and businesses online, cybersecurity is more important than it’s ever been. And it’s not just something that big businesses have to worry about. Nearly half of cyber-attacks are targeting small businesses 

For small businesses, one bad hack could be enough to put them out of business for good. 

That means cybersecurity should be a top priority for all businesses. If any part of your business is storing information online (and it probably is), you need to protect yourself against threats. How do you do that? 

The best place to start is by understanding what types of attacks are happening out there. Here are some of the most common types of attacks taking place in 2019. 

Today's most common threats to your data...

Ransomware  

Ransomware has been around since ‘89, and it’s a tactic that’s still going strong. As you might deduce from the name, ransomware is malware that gets into your system, locking you out of it, and cutting you off from your data. In order to get access back, hackers will demand payment or “ransom”. 

Sophisticated encryption in modern day ransomware ensures that your data is virtually impossible to recover without gaining permission from the random holder. What’s even scarier is the fact that should you pay the ransom, the hacker might delete your information anyway. 

This is why regular backup systems and segmentation is so important in modern server systems. 

Cryptojacking 

This is a relatively new attack that’s quickly gaining steam. You’ve probably heard of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. Without going into too much detail (because cryptocurrencies can get very confusing, very fast), these currencies involve a process called mining, which requires a lot of computer power to perform efficiently.  

This is where cryptojacking comes into play. 

Cryptojacking involves planting hidden malware that secretly uses your company’s hardware and resources to mine cryptocurrencies. These attacks can be very hard to notice as they don’t cause obvious problems. They do, however, slow down your system and anyone who is connected to it. 

The good news is it’s relatively simple to prevent cryptojacking from happening. Even if your system has been infected, a skilled IT professional can get it removed quickly. 

Device Exploitation 

Smart technology is only growing more popular. These devices connect with the internet and with each other, forming something called the “Internet of Things”. While these devices can offer a lot of convenience, they can also serve as areas of exploitation. 

Individual devices have their own systems which require their own updates. Failing to update your devices is one of the easiest ways to expose yourself to attackers. Software and network updates exist largely to patch potential security risks in products. 

Systems need to be in place to ensure that the various devices connected to your network are secure and up-to-date. 

Third Parties 

Everyone likes to think of their vendors and contractors as trusted allies, but the truth is, they can be massive security risks as wellEspecially smaller companies who often lack proper security systems and dedicated IT teams.  

If your vendors have any access to your system, they pose a potential threat. You need to account for this. An IT audit, or Discovery, as we like to call them, can help expose where these weaknesses exist and provide steps to remediation.  

Phishing 

Despite a pretty wide awareness of phishing, it’s still a popular (and often successful) means of attack. Today’s phishing schemes are smarter than ever, often utilizing personal info and professional sounding email addresses to seem legitimate. 

These schemes can easily steal important passwords or spread malware through one wrong click. 

Cyber Attacks are Constantly Changing and Evolving 

Technology is advancing faster than ever. With it, cyber-attacks are constantly evolving. The only way to protect yourself, your customers, and your partners is with on-going security. Software or a simple firewall isn’t enough. 

You need a professional team by your side. 

At DataYard, we provide cyber security in Dayton, Ohio and beyond. Our web hosting and cloud services ensure regular backups of your data are made and that your systems stay up-to-date. Our IT support services (AYS) can further assist you in forming proper security protocols and ensuring that you stay protected from the latest digital threats. 

Contact us today to learn how we can keep you and your business safe.  

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