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What is a BYOD Policy?

In the new normal, switching between working in the office and remotely from home is common. This makes it important for businesses to make the transition between working from home and the office a seamless experience.

As such, it’s crucial to devise a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy that allows you to do that safely. By implementing a solution that ensures privacy, security, and regulatory compliance, your organisation is well-placed to reap the benefits of BYOD while mitigating risk.

What is BYOD?

A BYOD policy allows employees to bring their own personal devices to work. This approach enables staff to access enterprise infrastructure with sensitive company or client information on their own devices to complete their work from home or at the office.

This approach eliminates the frustration one might have trying to juggle multiple devices (including one issued by the company) to work on a project. In this scenario, the most pressing concern is the level of security deployed on personal devices. Most often, they fall short when compared to enterprise-issued desktops, laptops, and mobile devices.

However, with a BYOD policy and robust business IT support, employers can maintain privacy and compliance while making it easier for their staff to work in multiple settings.

What Are the Advantages of Adopting a BYOD Policy?

Boost productivity: In a highly digitised world, employees (especially millennials) prefer to work at any time from anywhere. Most often, they’ll have their own devices and not company-issued hardware. This approach helps boost morale and, in turn, productivity.

Builds loyalty: Having the convenience of working from just about anywhere helps build loyalty. Happy staff will think twice before jumping ship because of the additional benefits provided by your business.

Lower costs: When your employees are working on their own computers (that they have paid for), you don’t have to absorb the overheads that go with company-issued machines. As people like to work with the latest technologies, you can bet that your employees will use the latest applications without expecting you to pay for them.

What Are the Disadvantages of Adopting a BYOD Policy?

Higher security risk: When staff are allowed to use their own devices, your risk exposure grows exponentially. While individuals are keen to have the latest apps and hardware, they’re not as diligent when it comes to security protocols.

Employee separation: If an employee leaves the company suddenly, you won’t be able to retrieve all the company and client information stored on their device. This could leave your organisation vulnerable to a data breach or (even) sabotage.

Misplaced devices: People lose things. It’s a fact of life, and it happens to the best of us. But a lost or stolen device with access to your infrastructure can have far-reaching consequences. This makes strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and more critical to BYOD policies.

Unsecured Wi-Fi: The Wi-Fi networks at homes or at coffee shops aren’t as secure as enterprise networks. As a result, hackers can easily breach enterprise infrastructure through a compromised public network.

So, how do you reap the benefits of BYOD while mitigating risk? The best approach here is to engage a managed services provider who can provide adequate security and reliable IT support.

How Can a Managed Services Provider Help?

An established managed IT services provider can help implement a BYOD policy but securely through virtualization. In this scenario, regardless of the device your staff use, they will only access your network through virtualized desktops.

This approach helps organisations leverage more control over their data and software used on the network. By insisting on connecting through a Virtual Private Network (VPN), you can mitigate the risk of working on a compromised Wi-Fi network.

By moving your IT environment up to the cloud, your managed services provider is better placed from an administrative perspective to manage your BYOD environment. It’s better than trying to partition individual devices to support user privacy and security.

By enabling secure client access to the cloud, issues with hardware glitches and more are resolved quickly through IT support services. Furthermore, your business IT support partner will implement all the patches and updates as they are released to keep your enterprise environment secure.

If you’re looking to implement a BYOD policy, we can help. Schedule a commitment-free consultation with one of our in-house experts.


What Is Multi-Factor Authentication and Why Is It Important?

Everyone is a live target in the current threat landscape, and data breaches make the headlines almost daily. Whether it’s a company or an individual, the risk is higher than ever before. For example, hackers now have access to approximately 15 billion stolen login credentials sourced from over 100,000 data breaches.

That’s just about everyone on the planet!

In this scenario, if one of your accounts was compromised, the potential for an attacker to exploit it is high. If it’s your email account, they might send emails to your contacts, attempt to gain access to enterprise infrastructure or share dodgy phishing links (that compromise their accounts).

Suppose you reused your username or password on another platform. Now that is also vulnerable to a cyberattack. It could potentially lead to identity theft, fraud, and other nightmare situations.

For companies, the fallout from a security incident can be significant. So, never reuse your login credentials and use multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible.

What Is Multi-Factor Authentication?

MFA is an additional security layer that demands users to present two pieces of credential evidence when logging into an account. These credentials take the form of a second password, an SMS with a PIN, or a code from an app like Google Authenticator.

Why Is Multi-Factor Authentication Important?

Whether it’s your bank, email, mobile app, or even your social media account, adding an additional layer of security makes it difficult for threat actors to steal your sensitive data or impersonate you. For example, if you use your phone for MFA, criminals must steal both your password and your phone to log in.

MFA also remembers your device and uses it as another form of authentication. It’s excellent because threat actors continue to use multi-pronged attacks, and you can never have too much security. This activity is often further supported by geological and behavioural analytics.

MFA Secures Cloud and Enterprise Infrastructure

As remote working quickly becomes the norm, enterprises must enforce MFA to ensure data privacy and security. If the company doesn’t, its cloud and related infrastructure are vulnerable to a credential stuffing attack.

MFA Helps Negate a Data Breach

MFA is a critical step that businesses can take to avoid a potential data breach. According to Microsoft, using a second factor for authentication can block as much as 99.9% of attacks.

MFA Helps Companies Avoid Regulatory Fines

If you’re collecting and storing sensitive customer (or patient) data, your business will likely suffer significantly more in the event of a security incident. For example, you’ll potentially face regulatory fines, lawsuits, and damage to brand value.

MFA Protects Users from Social Engineering Attacks

Social engineering attacks like phishing attacks attempt to fool the user into giving up their passwords and personally identifiable information. However, with MFA, these types of attacks are rendered useless because the MFA code that’s generated each time will be different.

However, no security protocol is infallible, and MFA alone won’t be enough to protect your organisation. Instead, it should be used in concert with other security technologies and strategies to enhance your security posture.

As such, you should use MFA whenever possible, even if it doesn’t concern sensitive data. Businesses with an online customer-facing website benefit from adding MFA to help protect their infrastructure and (of course) their customers. It also goes a long way in ensuring that your customers feel secure.

To learn more about how you can protect your business from cyberattacks, schedule a commitment-free consultation with one of our in-house security experts.


Top 5 Things You Need in Email Security

For most companies, email is still the leading communication channel. While communication tools like Slack and VoIP solutions have made an impact on modern business, email still plays a vital role in enterprise communications.

According to cybersecurity firm Fortinet, online scams increased by more than 400% during the pandemic. Google also blocked more than 18 million malware and phishing emails about COVID-19 every day in March 2020.

This makes it vital to take steps to ensure email security. After all, business email accounts are prime targets for threat actors. Whether it’s social engineering attacks or ransomware attacks, email is often the chosen mode of exploitation.

So how do you prevent malicious actors from breach your enterprise email system?

In this blog post, we’ll explore the top 5 things you need in email security.

1. Leverage Encryption Technologies

Encryption is like an insurance policy. Even if you don’t prevent a data breach, the data stolen by hackers is rendered meaningless with the right decryption keys.

As corporate email often includes highly sensitive information, email encryption is key to keeping all communication confidential. Email encryption also ensures that your communications aren’t altered during transit.

Google’s Gmail and Microsoft Exchange have TLS encryption. However, this isn’t enough to secure your communications. To better secure your emails, use tools like CTemplar, which is open-source and leverages both OpenPGP and TLS to protect emails in transit and at rest.

Such tools also protect users from JS injections used to deliver malicious codes. It’ll also help your company become more resistant to Man-in-the-Middle attacks.

Managed services providers often have a number of encryption solutions for you to choose from. So, make sure to discuss this with your managed services provider before committing.

2. Enforce Password Security

While it isn’t always the best, passwords remain your primary line of defence against unauthorised access. However, passwords are only as good as you make them.

By enforcing an enterprise password policy, you can ensure that employees follow best practices and create strong passwords. This approach ensures that staff don’t inadvertently create unnecessary vulnerabilities in the network that lead to major security incidents.

However, don’t stop there. Add another layer of security in the form of multifactor authentication (MFA).

3. Implement MFA

Having a strong password helps, but it’s not enough. To take email security to the next level, ensure that all employees use MFA. In this scenario, MFA adds another layer between your enterprise data and cybercriminals.

Whenever you have deployed MFA in your email systems, users must verify their password with another piece of information like a code from Google Authenticator.

This code or PIN is sent to another connected device like a smartphone. As a result, this makes it nearly impossible for hackers to breach the email system without having the device in their possession.

4. Integrate Robust Antivirus, Anti-Ransomware, and Anti-Phishing Solutions

Even though antivirus software might seem old school and obsolete, it’s still a good idea to install it on your corporate computers. Security software like these scans all emails before a single bit of data is downloaded.

You should also install a robust anti-phishing solution to complement your antivirus and anti-ransomware software. Whenever in doubt, it’s best to discuss your email security options with your managed services provider.

5. Create a Security Culture within the Organisation

Regardless of all the security tools deployed in your enterprise infrastructure, humans remain the weakest link. The best way to mitigate risk is to train your staff regularly. When you do this frequently, staff are alert to potential threats.

Email security training must cover topics like:

  • Always using strong passwords
  • Avoiding public WIFI
  • Not opening suspicious attachments
  • Not sharing personal details and passwords (even with colleagues)
  • Not using business emails for private communications
  • Social engineering (including phishing attacks)
  • Using MFA

At AU.IT, we’re highly experienced in ensuring email security. To learn more, reach out to one of our in-house security experts.


Basic Authentication Considerations for Office 365

If you’re using Office 365, you would already know about the benefits like Workplace Analytics that come with the package. You should also be aware of Microsoft’s intention to end Basic Authentication support for five Exchange Online protocols this year. The primary objective is to address security concerns effectively—for example, issues like password spray attacks.

As such, Microsoft already blocked the following protocols last October:

  • ActiveSync
  • EWS
  • IMAP
  • POP
  • Remote PowerShell.

So, if you haven’t already, you should immediately shift your Microsoft 365 protocols to “modern authentication.” This approach ensures that you enable the Active Directory Authentication Library (ADAL)-based login for your Office 365 client (including apps and support features).

While the tech giant was set to disable more Basic Authentication protocols in April, there has been a considerable change of plans due to the long-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the goal to disable Basic Authentication in Exchange Online is still (very much) on, the date for a complete shutdown has been postponed (indefinitely). The good news is that this gives us more time to prepare and get tenants ready for the inevitable.

What Should Enterprises Using Office 365 Do to Get Ready?

If you engaged in this activity last year, you would already know that blocking legacy protocols isn’t straightforward. However, you have to do it as the consequences can potentially lead to a disastrous security event.

Microsoft 365 users must be aware that there are several unnecessary legacy protocols that remain switched on in their tenant. However, if you activated security defaults, then these will be blocked in newly created tenants. By blocking these unused protocols (and preventing any potential misuse), you can better secure your enterprise infrastructure.

Each application or service that connects to Office 365 must authenticate itself. When basic authentication is disabled in the near future, all programs that leverage legacy application protocols to connect to Exchange Online will stop working.

To avoid disruption, data loss and ensure business continuity, you have to take some action!

If you’re using Outlook 2010 (or an older version), your email clients won’t be able to connect to Office 365 once basic authentication is disabled. Those using Outlook 2011 for Mac should be aware that it won’t support Modern Authentication.

Companies still using Outlook 2013 have to make some changes to the registry to enable OAuth 2.0 and keep using it. As Remote PowerShell is on its way out, make sure to switch to the modern Exchange Online PowerShell V2 module.

If some tenants have already been qualified for disabling Basic Authentication, IT departments will have to get to work updating or upgrading the software on multiple workstations. In other words, IT administrators across Australia must (if they haven’t already) start preparing for what will eventually come.

As Outlook relies on Exchange Web Services (EWS) to run its core features, tenants still using Basic Authentication must enable modern authentication before it’s disabled.

Basic Authentication vs. Modern Authentication

While this forced switch might feel overwhelming or just plain frustrating, you have to remember that it’s for your own good.  ADAL-based modern authentication and OAuth 2.0 are far more secure than Basic Authentication protocols.

Why?

Basic Authentication demands that each app or software pass your credentials such as your login and password with each and every request. Whenever this is the case, the program stores your user credentials within its settings. This increases your exposure to risk as threat actors can potentially exploit this vulnerability and gain access to your IT infrastructure.

This legacy approach also fails to support grading or scoping permissions. This means that any app connecting to Microsoft 365 using Basic Authentication protocols can access all user data. In the current threat landscape, it’s best to only enable access to data and application resources needed to work seamlessly and not one bit more.

Once you make the switch to modern authentication protocols, you’ll add another layer of security. This approach will go a long way to support your established security and privacy policies.

To learn more, go to Microsoft’s blog HERE or contact IT support.


Top 5 Reasons to Use Managed Services in 2021

When it comes to managed services, the primary benefit is significant cost savings. For example, it helps small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) digitally transform their operation and reduce their overall technology investment.

That’s why the global managed services market is forecasted to be worth USD 417.1 billion by 2024. As such, you can expect managed IT services providers to help even the playing field by enabling access to top tech talent and the latest cutting-edge technologies.

In this scenario, this translates into robust IT support and a competitive advantage. But what are the other benefits to using managed IT services?

Here are the top 5 reasons to use managed services in 2021.

1. Boost Productivity

Managed IT and support services help SMBs increase productivity and improve the way they do business. With robust business IT support, enterprises minimise downtime and ensure seamless collaboration, communication, and more in a secure environment.

As managed IT support handles all potential malfunctions and helpdesk services, in-house IT staff can focus more on their core responsibilities. This approach also has the potential to improve your bottom line.

2. Security for Remote Workers

In the “new normal,” most companies still have a significant number of employees working remotely. This transition will continue due to benefits like flexibility and more.

However, cybersecurity remains a significant concern for both enterprises and remote employees. With managed support services, businesses can rest assured that their cloud infrastructure is adequately protected in the current threat landscape.

Managed network support also helps identify and rectify potential vulnerabilities and takes away the responsibility of patching and keeping your software and security up to date.

3. Maintain Compliance

Beyond cybersecurity, managed IT services help ensure compliance. For example, if you’re operating a medical clinic, managed services will secure sensitive patient data and implement strategies that ensure regulatory compliance.

When your patients or customers see that you take security seriously, it’ll also help build brand value and loyalty.

4. Supports Small Business Goals

SMBs have limited resources. So, it doesn’t make much sense to spend considerable time and resources making decisions on complex IT systems.

After all, spending time researching and understanding new technologies takes your focus away from your business goals. With managed IT support, you can focus on scaling your business and achieving your objectives and leave the IT part to your support services provider.

5. Predictable Monthly Costs

When you partner with a managed support services provider, your business pays the same amount every month, regardless of how much support you received over a four-week period. This approach helps you budget and plan exactly how much you’ll spend each month.

Managed IT services are highly adaptable. So, you can scale your business up or down based on your present needs. This approach helps negate any potential unnecessary expenses.

As your business grows, the support structure around will grow with it. This could be especially critical for business just starting out.

Regardless of whether it’s a small or large business, managed IT services positively impact both daily productivity and your bottom line. All the dollars saved by leveraging managed business IT support can also be reinvested back into your business.

With a low initial investment, predictable monthly technology expenses, and access to expert support services, your company is well-placed to compete in a crowded marketplace. The best part is that you don’t have to spend a significant amount of time and resources setting up and maintaining enterprise infrastructure.

At AU.IT, we have significant experience digitally transforming businesses. If you’re ready to take your company to the next level, reach out to one of our in-house experts


5 Compelling Reasons to Outsource IT Support

There’s no doubt that the world has changed. In a post-pandemic world, businesses are required to be more flexible and resilient than ever before. One way to achieve this is to partner with an established managed services provider who offers reliable IT support.

However, this doesn’t mean that you have to get rid of your in-house IT department. Instead, you can augment your IT team with external IT support. This approach ensures that your in-house tech teams focus on more important tasks while your business IT support partner handles the rest.

What are the benefits of outsourcing helpdesk services? Here are the top 5 benefits of outsourcing business IT support.

1. Reduce IT Costs

The primary benefit of outsourcing any business process is the opportunity to cut costs. It’s the same when it comes to outsourcing support services. When you partner with a managed IT services provider, you don’t have to blow your budget to building and maintaining your IT infrastructure.

Top tech talent is in high demand. With outsourcing, you also get access to the best minds in the business without the overheads, recruitment costs, employee benefits, and high wages that come with in-house hires.

Over time, you can reinvest these saving back into the business. You also have the option of exploring new opportunities or scale your current operation.

2. Increased Productivity

Enhanced productivity is an indirect benefit of outsourcing business IT support that doesn’t get much attention. Before managed services, small and medium-sized enterprises didn’t have the resources to access value-added services on their own.

Today, small businesses can get the latest cutting-edge technology and additional services to boost the company’s overall productivity cost-effectively. For example, enterprises were able to ensure business continuity with significant productivity during the pandemic because of the option of remote working (made possible by cloud computing).

When your staff are not engaging in mundane tasks like updating and patching your desktops and laptops, they can focus on your core business.

3. Improved Security

Cybersecurity is now a business priority. If you can’t properly secure your enterprise infrastructure, you’re probably not going to be around for long. However, this isn’t always easy without the necessary resources and domain expertise.

IT support services help businesses improve their security posture with the latest technologies and best practices. Furthermore, in the event of a cyberattack, your IT outsourcing partner can also ensure business continuity through their backup and retention protocols and disaster recovery planning.

This approach also helps mitigate risk as your managed IT services provider will update and patch your software as its released.

4. Improved Agility

We learned from the pandemic that businesses that are most agile survive. Companies today have to be able to adapt quickly and respond to market changes and global events. The key here is to ensure that your operations never come to a standstill.

Through periods of uncertainty and economic recession, your managed services provider can help you ensure business continuity cost-effectively. It’s also the best way for struggling businesses to get back on their feet.

5. IT Support On-Demand

While in-house IT teams only work business hours, your support services partner is available around the clock. This means that employees logging in from home at odd hours or over the weekend can count on reliable network support and helpdesk services whenever it’s needed.

It’s vital because an emergency can occur at any moment, not just during business hours. Your ability to respond immediately will be key to minimising potential downtime.

At AU.IT, our customers benefit from local Australian IT support. You can count on our technical expertise, reliability, and familiar accents at any time, day or night.

To learn more, schedule a commitment-free consultation with one of hour in-house experts.


How Do You Protect Your Business from Ransomware?

One of the most significant threats to your business today is ransomware. Several high-profile companies, government agencies, and even hospitals have fallen victims to these malicious attacks.

While the damages add up to billions of dollars every year, ransomware attacks are expected to increase in frequency this year. In this scenario, research suggests that businesses will be attacked every 11 seconds.

What Is Ransomware?

A ransomware is the name used to describe a type of malware that encrypts or blocks access to your data. The only way to regain access is to pay the ransom (often in cryptocurrency) demanded by threat actors.

These types of cyberattacks are aimed at businesses of all sizes. So, even if you feel like you’re too small to be targeted, you should take steps to secure your infrastructure from a ransomware attack.

Conduct a Risk Analysis

You have your standard security protocols deployed. But are you sure that you have resolved every potential vulnerability? What if you’re wrong?

In this scenario, it’s best to engage a third-party partner to conduct a security audit. It’s the best approach to identify and rectify potential risks missed by in-house security teams. For example, they will engage in penetration testing to ascertain your current security posture.

Patch Potential Vulnerabilities

If your IT infrastructure isn’t supported by a managed services provider, it’s critical to establish strict protocols to ensure that all software is patched immediately after release. This approach helps mitigate risk, but most companies fail to keep up as it’s a time-consuming process.

In this scenario, it’s best to hire an IT professional to manage maintenance and patches or move your enterprise infrastructure up to the cloud.

Backup Your Data

It’s vital to back up your data regularly to ensure business continuity. For example, if you had the unfortunate experience of falling victim to a cyberattack, a recent updated backup ensures little to no downtime.

As such, it’s crucial to back up sensitive data regularly and store it somewhere that’s not connected to the network. Furthermore, your restoration protocols should be checked frequently to ensure rapid restoration.

Devise a Comprehensive Disaster Recovery Plan

What if an employee clicked on a suspicious link and now all your data is encrypted? What will you do? Pay the ransom?

In the current threat landscape, it’s critical to ask yourself these questions and create a realistic disaster and recovery plan. When you have a comprehensive disaster response and recovery plan, you’ll be well-placed to protect your data, reputation, and revenue.

However, just having a plan isn’t enough. You should also test and tweak your disaster recovery plan regularly. If you’re working with a managed services provider, it’s critical to explore their disaster recovery plan before committing.

Engage in Regular Cybersecurity Staff Training

Educating your employees is crucial to cybersecurity hygiene. They must know how to identify suspicious emails or messages that could lead to a ransomware attack. So, make sure they know what NOT to do.

It also helps to establish a response plan and let everyone know what they should do if a device gets infected with malware. This includes immediately notifying the network administrator, isolating infected devices, disconnecting from the network, and changing passwords.

To keep staff alert, it’s important to engage in this activity regularly. After all, complacency is the enemy of cybersecurity. By taking a proactive approach to cybersecurity, you’ll be better placed to avert a ransomware attack or minimise the damage caused by one.

There isn’t a single solution or service that protect against ransomware attacks. Instead, you have to leverage the tools and expertise available within the organisation to respond effectively to the evolving threat.

Whenever you can’t manage it in-house, the best option is to partner with an established managed services provider.

At AU.IT, we go the extra mile to keep Australian businesses secure. To learn more about how you can protect your business from a ransomware attack, schedule a commitment-free consultation with one of in-house security experts.


Why Businesses Hire Managed Services Providers

Small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners know that technology is at the heart of many business processes. Suppose there is a minor problem with the hardware, software, or internal databases. In that case, there’s always the potential for significant downtime (which costs a lot of money in lost opportunities and more).

While some companies can afford to hire and accommodate their own IT support staff in-house, this can quickly get expensive in a highly competitive labour market. In this scenario, SMBs are often better served to adopt IT managed services.

Another reason why organisations choose business IT support is to efficiently and securely manage remote working. It’s also the best way to free up your staff and focus on what’s important—your business goals.

Managed IT services is a comprehensive approach to outsource the daily management of enterprise technology needs. They can either augment your in-house IT team or even become your IT department, depending on your resources and specific business objectives.

What Are Managed IT Services?

Managed services or managed support services are like an in-house IT department. They perform tasks like hardware and software installation, helpdesk services, systems administration, network support, and troubleshooting technical issues.

For SMBs, these tasks are often performed by the owner or employees juggling multiple roles. With business IT support, they will not only take over this process (that often feels overwhelming) but also offer so much more.

Immediate Access to Expert Support

If you have been calling your colleague several times a day to resolve a technical issue and they still haven’t shown up, it’s time to get some professional support. Managed business IT support includes helpdesk services. This means that you can get expert help, and it’s just an email or call away.

As they work remotely, they are also accessible from anywhere at any time of the day. This translates into (24/7) round-the-clock management and IT support.

Access to Cutting-Edge Technology and Robust Infrastructure

Most managed services providers have strong relationships with software and hardware vendors. As a customer, you’ll benefit from significant discounts and access to the latest technologies for an affordable monthly fee.

Building and maintaining enterprise infrastructure also demands a significant investment of resources. However, by sharing this responsibility with an IT support provider, you can offload some of the expenses and all of the responsibility.

This approach also helps SMBs become more agile and diversified. Whenever businesses can adapt quickly to a rapidly changing environment, they are also better placed to innovate and improve their bottom line.

Managed IT services also include automatic updates and upgrades. So, you don’t have to worry about security as your managed services partner will deploy patches as they are released.

Disaster and Recovery

If you’re hosting IT infrastructure on-premise, a backup retention and disaster recovery plan are critical to ensure business continuity. For example, a server failure can quickly bring all operations to a standstill. There’s also the risk of losing all enterprise data if the right processes aren’t in place before the incident.

However, if you’re working with a managed services provider, it’s all in their hands. They will use the latest backup retention and recovery tools, ensure minimal to zero downtime, and secure your data. This approach helps ensure business value and build customer loyalty.

Other benefits of partnering with a managed IT support services provider include:

  • Lower costs, higher reliability
  • Real-time monitoring
  • Simplification of complex IT processes

Are managed services suitable for your business? Reach out for a commitment-free consultation.


How Do Managed Services Accelerate Digital Transformation?

Over the last few years, enterprises across industries started digitally transforming their businesses to leverage automation, boost productivity, enhance efficiencies, and optimise processes.

However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies also had to digitally transform their infrastructure to enable remote working, seamless collaboration, and business continuity.

This is expected to continue in 2021 and beyond. According to IDC, digital transformation spending will grow to over 55% of total ICT investments this year (up from 45% in 2020).

However, not all IT teams have the bandwidth to support such initiatives. They are already overwhelmed with day-to-day tasks and don’t have time to take on sizeable company-wide transformation projects.

As it no longer makes sense to rely solely on in-house IT teams, many businesses are now turning to the cloud and managed services to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives.

What’s Managed IT Services?

When companies sign up for managed services, they outsource their daily IT management responsibilities to a managed IT services provider. This approach helps accelerate digital transformation initiatives, improve operations, and fast-track your technology investment return.

The business IT support categories are made of groups of service elements designed to help organisations achieve their present and long-term goals. It’s a robust strategy to access automation, maintenance support, optimisation of critical services, and more.

When organisations partner with an established managed IT services provider, they unburden in-house IT teams and enable access to cutting-edge technologies. When your IT team is free to focus on more meaningful work, they’ll be up for the challenge of digitally transforming internal processes to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

What Are the Key Challenges?

While deploying new technologies presents exciting opportunities for enterprises, it also introduces some challenges. For example, it might take a bit of time to standardise all systems and computer models across departments. Furthermore, mobile devices connected to the cloud also introduce a level of complexity.

For many organisations, these challenges lead to significant expenses:

  • Cost of hiring and training qualified professionals
  • Purchasing and integrating infrastructure to support new technologies
  • Real-time monitoring and security

The good news is that an established managed services provider can also help you overcome these challenges cost-effectively. They’ll ensure that all your systems are patched and up to date and engage in real-time monitoring, manage cloud deployments, enable close collaboration, and more.

A business IT support services provider will also offer network support, Office 365 migration, systems administration, helpdesk services, disaster and recovery, IT asset management, IT project management, and IT support.

One of the key benefits here is that the ongoing tech talent shortage in Australia won’t impact your organisation. Your managed services provider will enable immediate access to the best minds in the country, so you won’t have to deal with hiring and retaining top tech talent (or the overhead expenses that follow new hires).

When companies are digitally transformed and adequately supported, they can invest in innovation. They can hire more qualified professionals in other areas and scale without resource-related bottlenecks.

Are you looking for a managed IT services provider to accelerate your digital transformation initiatives? We can help, schedule a commitment-free consultation now.


Top 3 Features You Need in an Endpoint Security Tool

In the current threat landscape, it’s vital to secure the devices and systems that connect to your enterprise network. In fact, it’s a critical component of data security policies and regulatory compliance.

In recent years, maintaining corporate security has become increasingly challenging with the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) programmes, and remote working.

For companies across industries, efficient endpoint solutions are now vital to cybersecurity. It’s the best approach to mitigate risk and ensure business continuity.

What Is Endpoint Security?

According to McAffe, endpoint security describes the practice of securing the entry points of end-user devices like desktops, laptops, and mobile devices from being breached or exploited by threat actors and campaigns.

Endpoint security systems safeguard these endpoints or entry points on enterprise networks, on-premises, or the cloud. Since its origins as traditional antivirus software, endpoint security has evolved to provide comprehensive protection from sophisticated malware attacks and evolving zero-day threats.

Advanced endpoint security tools available today effectively detect, analyse, block, and contain live attacks. However, to achieve this, you have to use different security technologies to provide administrators the necessary visibility into advanced threats and ensure rapid detection and remediation.

Some endpoint security solutions used by corporations and managed services providers alike include the following:

  • Check Point
  • CrowdStrike Falcon
  • FirstPoint
  • Nyotron
  • Sophos
  • Symantec Endpoint Security by Broadcom

If you’re in the market for endpoint security tools, make your choices based on the following necessary features. If you’re working with a managed services provider, ask them what they’re doing in the background to help secure your infrastructure.

1. Robust Malware Detection Capabilities

Hackers aren’t using traditional executable files anymore. They now leverage co-opt scripts such as JavaScript, Office Scripts, and VBScript that legitimate actors often use. This makes it critical for the endpoint tool to detect any malware attempting to avoid detection by traditional protection tools.

This means these security tools must make sophisticated determinations by monitoring behaviours and more. However, it’s not a straightforward process and requires powerful machine learning algorithms to automate it. For example, smart algorithms can engage in the telemetry collection for scripts and troubleshoot processes whenever something unrecognized appears in the enterprise environment.

2. Proactive Approach to the Evolving Threat

Bad actors are constantly using a wide array of tools and techniques to attack businesses. Whether it’s encrypting data and holding it for ransom or looking for weaknesses in the code itself, you need a security tool that evolves with the threat.

This makes it essential to dig deeper and identify tools that are constantly updated and alert to advanced tactics before a potential attack. These security solutions are updated based on the latest techniques used by hackers. However, endpoint protection tools should provide an option to whitelist a method that’s often used by the business for legitimate purposes.

In this scenario, you need a combination of human intelligence and predictive technology to detect suspicious activity and determine if it’s malicious or not. This means that the endpoint detection and protection tool should examine the behaviour on the network and not just focus on signature models.

3. Regular Reporting on Detected Threats

Old-school endpoint security solutions like antivirus and DNS concentrate on known threats and wait for them to strike. However, in contrast, endpoint protection assumes that an attack is imminent and continuously attempts to identify new infections.

Before committing, security teams must determine what kind of reports they need. This means how often they want to see these reports and what information they want to see in them.

The above scratches the surface of endpoint security protocols. If you don’t have the necessary tools or skillsets in-house, your managed services provider can also help you formulate the best approach to fortifying your security posture.

At AU.IT, we’re highly experienced in ensuring enterprise security. To learn more, reach out to one of our in-house security experts.


Why Is Data Loss Prevention Critical to Business Continuity?

In the current threat landscape, everyone is a live target. Even if you’re running a small business, you can bet that threat actors are looking to breach your systems. This makes it critical to have a data loss prevention plan ready to go if the unthinkable happens.

As the IT environment becomes more complex, it’s now more challenging than ever to implement and maintain robust privacy, security, and regulatory compliance. This is because not only are we dealing with multi-cloud environments, we’re also managing sensitive personally identifiable information, intellectual property, and more.

A data breach will potentially attract adverse publicity, regulatory fines, and damage to brand value. It’ll also disrupt business continuity unless you’re proactive and implement a layered defence strategy. If you don’t have the necessary resources, engage an established managed IT services provider who’ll help fortify your IT infrastructure cost-effectively.

What’s Data Loss Prevention?

Data loss prevention is a component of your comprehensive disaster and recovery plan. It’s essentially a set of data protection protocols designed to secure critical or sensitive data.

This approach concentrates on protecting enterprise data from unauthorised access, human error, misuse, and data loss. It works by leveraging cutting-edge tools for monitoring, filtering, blocking, and more.

Whenever you have a prevention plan in place, you mitigate the risk of data exfiltration, data leakage, and data loss. In this scenario, risk-appropriate controls are deployed with minimal impact on overall business processes.

There are several types of prevention processes, these include:

  • Data identification
  • Data leak detection
  • Endpoint data loss prevention
  • Network data loss prevention
  • Protecting data in motion
  • Protecting data at rest

A robust data protection plan that efficiently protects against data loss will combine all of the above and more to fortify enterprise infrastructure. In fact, it’s the go-to approach of leading managed IT services providers.

If you don’t have a data loss prevention plan, make sure to start with data governance. This is because you need policies and rules in place for storing, accessing, moving, and manage critical data.

Standard Metrics vs. Substandard Results

Data loss protection is traditionally focused on the recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). RTO measures restoration time or the time it takes to restore enterprise data. On the other hand, RPO measures how much data you’re willing to lose to an outage.

IT security teams across industries tend to leverage RTO as the primary approach to ensure business continuity. This approach has successfully got businesses back online in mere minutes rather than hours or even days.

But the story doesn’t quite end here.

The age of your data also plays a crucial role in disaster and recovery plans. For example, there’s an outage, and your back online within seconds. But the last backup took place more than 12 hours ago.

What happens to all the workflows and sales orders placed during that window? When you don’t know what happened over those 12 hours, you risk losing revenue, productivity, and so on.

The best way forward is to use the RPO in concert with RTO. That way, when your infrastructure is back online, and you’ll be working with a recent backup of critical data.

As today’s computing environment grows more complex, it’s vital to have a robust data loss prevention plan in place to ensure business continuity. But more often than not, enterprises fail to boost their data protection protocols because of restricted budgets. Whenever this is the case, it’s best to engage a managed IT services provider who’ll fill the gaps cost-effectively.

At AU IT, we recognise that there’s a shortage of top security talent. We’re here to fill that gap with our managed IT services to ensure that your sensitive data is always safe and available. To learn more, reach out to one of our in-house data security experts.


Transition to Outsourcing Business IT Support and Management

Technology is quickly and continuously evolving, transforming how companies operate. Keeping pace is critical to maintaining a competitive advantage, but not all enterprises, including small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), can afford it. That’s where Business IT support comes in.

By working closely with an established managed services provider, enterprises of all sizes can quickly adapt and compete in a rapidly changing technological landscape. This approach also frees up staff to concentrate on core business outcomes.

In this post, we’ll dive into what outsourcing IT support really is and how to figure out if you need it.

What Is IT Support?

Outsourcing business IT support describes the process of hiring a third-party provider to manage your technology infrastructure, devices, users, and services, including systems administration, network support, and helpdesk services.

A professional managed IT services provider will handle all the IT protocols integral to enterprise operations and ensure seamless processes across departments and hierarchies (with little to no downtime).

While every managed support services provider offers different services, most provide the following:

  • Authentication
  • Data centre, storehouse, and warehouse management
  • Data backup and retention
  • General management and support services
  • IT security
  • Helpdesk services
  • Network management, monitoring, and security
  • Process execution and enforcement
  • Systems administration

The primary advantages of outsourcing your IT support function are immediate access to cutting-edge technology and top tech talent access. Companies also access significant cost savings, mitigate risk, and ensure uninterrupted uptime by outsourcing their IT operations.

Do you need to outsource your business IT support function? The answer to this question depends on the following:

You Need Access to the Latest Technologies

If you need access to the latest technologies but can’t afford the capital expenses that go with it, managed services enable access to cutting-edge technology cost-effectively. What’s more, you won’t have to bother with the setup, deployment, management, or maintenance (as it’ll all be outsourced).

Your support services provider will also ensure that you have the latest hardware and software. They will also help you manage the hardware end of life scenarios safely and resourcefully.

You Need Access to Top Tech Talent

If you can’t afford to compete in a highly competitive labour market, again, an IT support services provider can help fill the skills gap. This approach can help augment or extend in-house teams, or you can outsource all your IT support requirements.

This approach helps businesses plan, strategize, and scale their operations efficiently. Outsourcing models have historically helped businesses tackle existing labour constraints cost-effectively. Going forward, expect this process to become critical in a highly digitised world.

You Need Enhanced IT Security

Maintaining security and compliance is a monumental task that demands specialised skills and automation. In the current threat landscape, bad actors are relentlessly attacking enterprise systems. To stay a step ahead of threat actors, you have to identify and rectify potential vulnerabilities in real-time (with 24/7 monitoring, blocking, patching, updates, and more).

As everyone is now a live target, SMBs and corporations alike can access expert cybersecurity services through managed IT services. This approach ensures peace of mind as your outsourcing partner will work to keep your brand out of the headlines.

You Need to Increase Efficiency

Let’s face it. We can’t do it all by ourselves without the necessary resources. If you do, you’ll end up losing time, money, and (in a worst-case scenario) a data breach. Every company has heaps of stuff going on at any given moment, so managed IT services providers make it all manageable and help boost operational efficiency.

Even better, your managed services partner will accelerate the research, development, and implementation to make the transition to outsourcing business IT support painless.

To find out if your business can benefit from outsourcing IT support, schedule a commitment-free consultation.

META: Outsourcing business IT support helps Australian businesses ensure efficiency and business continuity. But do you need to make the transition? Learn more.


Can Managed Services Reduce Total IT Cost?

Enterprises of all sizes have to contend with capital and cyclical expenses. These expenses relate to accounting, business processes, business IT support, development, helpdesk services, and much more. In this scenario, managed services providers help fill the skills gaps, enhance efficiencies, and reduce costs.

What started in the manufacturing sector has grown exponentially across the technology vertical. Today, companies can take advantage of asset and resource allocation management, IT support, and even software as a service (SaaS) models specifically designed to minimise capital expenditure.

Cutting IT costs through managed services depends on the organisation and business model. Sometimes companies are equipped to handle IT operations internally, efficiently, and cost-effectively. But most often, small and medium-sized businesses find that they can’t keep up with the rapid evolution of technology.

Whenever this is the case, enterprises benefit from outsourcing some or all IT operations to a managed IT services provider.

Let’s take a quick look at how managed services help reduce total IT costs:

1. Reduce IT infrastructure Costs

Setting up your own enterprise IT infrastructure demands massive investment in both hardware and software (and let’s not forget personnel). For example, when businesses leverage managed IT services and move to the cloud, they immediately access substantial savings.

They don’t have to invest in an in-house data centre, and they don’t have to pay for prohibitive expenses like power, cooling, software, storage, security, and more. What’s more, the cloud services provider will provide network support, systems administration and will keep track of hardware and software updates.

The best part of managed infrastructure services is the fact that you’ll never have to worry about updating your hardware and software ever again. Your business IT support services provider will ensure that you’re always working with the latest technologies. Sometimes they will also offer software like Office 365 at a discounted rate.

2. Reduce Operational Costs

Deploying IT infrastructure is one thing. Maintaining it is another. The maintenance of robust enterprise infrastructure requires a dedicated team of experts to oversee it daily. Maintenance costs are also unpredictable. You never know how much time and money it’s going to cost to resolve a problem.

Managed IT services help eliminate surprises down the road and provide maintenance and security services at a fixed cost (monthly or yearly). With the help of cutting-edge tools and experienced professionals, your outsourcing partner will monitor the infrastructure 24/7, engage in regular backup and retention, and minimise the risk of downtime by resolving potential problems in real-time (saving you thousands of dollars).

3. Reduce Human Resources Costs

Software engineers and technology professionals are in high demand and don’t come cheap. This makes hiring and retaining a full-scale IT support team will be expensive.

The ongoing tech talent shortage in Australia also makes attracting IT professionals much more challenging. If you manage to hire some engineers, you also have to consider training costs, benefits, and overhead expenses (to keep them on-premises).

Often, IT departments are overwhelmed with mundane and manual work like maintenance or fixing minor issues. When managed IT support services take on this responsibility, your staff is free to focus on what’s important, your business, and your customers.

This approach goes a long way to streamline processes, improve operational efficiency, and boost productivity. Happy employees are also easier to retain in a highly competitive labour market.

When companies are supported effectively by business IT support services, they can invest more in core business teams. This means that you’ll be able to add more qualified personnel, allowing you to scale without resource-related bottlenecks.

Managed services help reduce total IT costs. It’s just like renting or leasing an office space for a few years rather than buying the whole building. You also don’t have to deal with expenses related to infrastructure depreciation, hiring costs, or worry about creating additional space for new employees.

Are you looking for a managed IT services provider to enhance operational efficiencies, improve productivity, and cut total IT costs? We can help, schedule a commitment-free consultation now.


What Is the Real Value of IT Managed Services?

In an age where data is just as good as gold, robust IT support is critical to enhance operational efficiencies and avert potential data breaches and disruptions. But in a highly competitive marketplace, enterprises find it both difficult and costly to manage on their own, so it makes sense that many turn to managed IT services.

Today, IT managed services are at the heart of digitally transformed businesses. When companies partner with an established managed IT services provider, they get immediate access to cutting-edge technology and professional expertise (that’s often out of reach), cost-effectively.

What Is IT Managed Services?

IT managed services describes the practice of outsourcing secondary IT functions and processes to a third-party provider. This approach helps organisations concentrate on their primary tasks while drastically improving efficiencies and cutting costs.

For example, a Systems Administrator in Canberra commands an average salary of $85,000 per year (not including the costs of benefits like healthcare, paid time off, and more). But with IT managed services, companies can refocus their capital and other resources and concentrate on their core businesses.

Based on service level agreements, companies can focus on their customers without worrying about systems administration, helpdesk services, maintenance, network support, updates, upgrades, and security.

What Are the Key Benefits of Managed Support Services?

There are several direct, and indirect benefits to signing up with a managed IT services provider. In this post, we’ll explore the top four advantages of partnering with a managed IT services provider:

1. Access to Cutting-Edge Technology

When you sign up for business IT support, you avoid expenses related to hardware and software upgrades. With enterprise infrastructure deployed in a state-of-the-art data centre, you can rest assured that your data is safe, secure, and always available.

You won’t have to hire a team to assemble technology products, pay for training, and so on.  A managed support services provider will be equipped with the right infrastructure to start the project immediately.

It’s the most effortless and cost-effective approach to staying up to date with the latest technology. IT support services also ensure that small and medium-sized businesses compete on par with corporate giants.

2. Enhanced Efficiency and Improved Proficiency

When your staff is free to focus on core business tasks, there’s an opportunity to boost productivity with lower downtimes and reduced lead times. Employees are also better placed to identify new opportunities and create new revenue streams.

With highly experienced IT professionals just a click or call away, you’ll avoid significant disruptions and ensure compliance and business continuity.

3. Lower Risks and Robust Security

Ensuring regulatory compliance, privacy, and IT security is getting more complicated by the second. In the current threat landscape, expertise and experience mean everything.

For example, your support services provider will boast significant knowledge and expertise to deploy robust security protocols and secure your infrastructure in real-time. You’ll also benefit from their wealth of experience securing similar enterprise IT infrastructure.

Your business IT support services provider will also secure your business with the latest security tools. For example, if you have a payment gateway operating on your system, they will help ensure compliance with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI/DSS). They can also help with training exercises to mitigate the risk of human error.

4. Save Time and Money

When you partner with an established IT support services provider, you’ll have a clear idea about your IT spend (whether it’s on a monthly or yearly basis). This amount will be significantly lower than hiring an in-house support team, which comes with additional overheads like benefits, office space, training, and more.

With managed support services, you decide your contract terms and pay for only what you need. Furthermore, you avoid situations like the sudden need for capital expenditure to update and upgrade your technology infrastructure.

Your business IT support services partner will breakdown these expenses into fixed, manageable monthly, quarterly, or yearly payments and ensure seamless upgrades with little to no downtime.

As you’re always getting immediate access to the brightest minds in the business, you’ll also save time (with fewer breakdowns and troubleshooting exercises).

There are plenty more advantages to outsourcing your enterprise IT function. To learn more about IT managed services, schedule commitment-free consultation.


What Are Managed Services in the IT Industry?

Managed Services Providers (MSPs) offer a wide range of technology services following a subscription model. This approach eliminates initial capital expenses and ensures immediate access to cutting-edge technology, cost-effectively.

Originally designed to help corporations outsource some of their operations to boost efficiency and cut costs, managed services are now accessible to small and medium-sized businesses.

But before we go any further, let’s first define it.

What are Managed Services?

Managed services describe the process of outsourcing certain functions (like back-office processes) to enable efficiency and optimise costs. As it gets harder for small businesses to access the expertise they need, things like managed helpdesk services and support services are quickly becoming the norm.

Whenever enterprises adopt this approach, they get an external dedicated team of experts assigned to handle specific tasks and a team leader who is accountable for the services rendered.

When you partner with an MSP, you essentially free up your staff and resources to focus on your primary operations and what’s really important–your business.

As this industry vertical evolves, Managed IT services have grown to offer services like cloud hosting, real-time monitoring, maintenance, and more. This approach helps organisations fill the skills and technology gaps while ensuring business continuity and regulatory compliance.

In this scenario, managed services don’t just help enhance operational efficiency through technology adoption but also control expenditure and mitigate risk.

What Kind of Services Does an MSP Provide?

MSPs today offer a wide array of services. However, it’s important to note that all service providers won’t provide the same kinds of services. Some might provide all the services listed below, while others might just offer a handful of services. Some might only offer business IT support.

Managed Data Analytics

Data is the underlying force that drives digitally transformed companies forward. Managed data analytics services help companies access business intelligence technologies, data management and analytics tools, and real-time monitoring services.

Managed Cloud Infrastructure

Cloud infrastructure management is widespread, especially in a post-pandemic world. Managed cloud infrastructure services providers help manage cloud computing protocols, operating systems, data storage, software, and more. Some even provide virtualisation services for apps.

Managed Communication Services

Managed communication services or managed unified communication services provide extensive communication capabilities for a monthly (or annual) fee. For example, a managed communication services provider may deploy communications infrastructure to enable instant messaging, VoIP (voice over internet protocol), and video. Some MSPs also provide third-party call centre services.

Managed Network Support

MSPs that provide managed network support usually manage the entire enterprise network. In this scenario, they’ll handle your LAN, WAPS (and other connections) and manage backup and storage options.

Managed Print Services

Managed print services blend both business and managed IT services. For example, the MSP will provide the technology, remotely assist with data and file infrastructure, and (sometimes) connect to external printing services. This type of service is suitable for companies with highly complex file management and printing needs.

Managed Cybersecurity

As data breaches become the norm, it’s now critical for companies to fortify their infrastructure. But not many boast the necessary resources and personnel to achieve it. Managed cybersecurity services help even the playing field by deploying robust security technologies that are supported by real-time monitoring, 

Managed Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

While you can directly access SaaS options from a company, for example, Office 365 from Microsoft, it’s often cheaper to subscribe to through an MSP. This is because managed IT services providers often have special agreements with tech giants that enable cost savings (that trickle down to the customer).

Managed Support Services

As alluded to above, the most common service offered by MSPs is IT support services, which usually takes the form of helpdesk services. This approach provides businesses with real-time IT support without any of the HR or overhead expenses.

If your company has been digitally transformed, you’ll benefit from support services. It can also have a positive impact on your bottom line by boosting productivity and keeping costs down.

To learn more about managed services and how it can help your business, schedule a commitment-free consultation.


Top 4 Cybersecurity Threats to Look out for in 2021

The pandemic proved that the bad guys never stop. With the rapid rise of remote working, individuals and organisations are now more vulnerable than ever before to cyberattacks.

In Australia, the health sector reported the most security incidents (22%) during the first half of 2020. Healthcare was followed by the finance sector (15%), education (8%), and insurance (7%). Legal, accounting, and management services (5%) also experienced malicious attacks last year.

Going forward, we can expect an increase in ransomware attacks. As many businesses continue to pay threat actors, it’s turned into a lucrative business. While this may seem like a good idea when you’re in the middle of a security event, it not. There’s no guarantee that they won’t sell the stolen data on the dark web or continue to blackmail your company.

So, what else can we expect to see over the next 12 months? Let’s take a look at the top four cybersecurity threats to look out for in 2021.

1. The Relentless Assault on Remote Workers

As humans remain the weakest link, cybercriminals will continue to target and exploit user behaviours. We already saw how remote workers were targeted last year, and the current surge will continue.

In this scenario, it’s vital to ensure that your staff are aware of cybersecurity best practices. So, make IT security a priority across your organisation. Even if staff are trained and alert, remind them regularly through training workshops online and offline.

If you don’t have the necessary resources to secure your IT infrastructure properly, it’ll be a good idea to engage a managed services provider that provides security and IT support.

2. The Rise of Insider Threats

While your (trained) staff maybe alert to phishing schemes and other social engineering attacks, there’s still a risk of accidental breaches caused by mistakes like misconfigurations.

With more people working remotely and with sensitive data potentially exposed to others at home (or at cafes and co-working spaces), the security risk is now higher than ever before. What’s more, they don’t have IT support professionals around them to answer questions whenever there’s a doubt.

Then there’s also the risk of having a malicious insider that takes advantage of the present situation to engage in nefarious acts. This makes it vital to implement robust access control (including identity and authentication management) across the organisation.

3. An Increase in Fileless Attacks

Expect to see more of the subset of the living off the land (LotL) attacks (or fileless attacks). In this scenario, threat actors exploit tools already present in enterprise environments that don’t generate file-based payloads or generate new files. This creates the risk of these threats going unnoticed.

The typical attack starts with an email that links to a malicious website, but this isn’t always the case. When such sites launch system tools (like PowerShell), built-in security algorithms often miss them, making it a significant challenge for security teams.

However, this is nothing new. Leveraging system tools to create backdoors have been around for decades. However, fileless attacks are widespread again because they reduce malware development cycles. As a result, businesses of all sizes are now a live target for fileless attacks.

To mitigate risk, it’ll help to move your on-premise systems to the cloud, where a managed services provider can support you with cutting-edge security tools, security experts, and extensive real-time monitoring.

4. An Explosion of Business Process Compromises

Whenever bad actors fail to exploit systems and tools, they look for vulnerabilities in the process flow of enterprise operations. In this scenario, cybercriminals seek out systemic operational weaknesses for financial gain.

Those who successfully breach businesses in this manner boast considerable knowledge about the inner workings of the victims’ operations and enterprise systems. They often penetrate the IT infrastructure and gradually observe business processes to identify potential weaknesses.

These attacks often go unnoticed as the compromised systems continue to work as expected. Companies only become alert to it when it’s too late (for example, when bank account information on invoices are changed and funds are siphoned out).

Again, you can mitigate risk by making security a priority and by following best practices. But it’s not always easy to maintain a robust security posture when considering all the different variables like remote working. Since IT support isn’t available at home, make it available remotely while they work in real-time, 24/7.

When was the last time you performed a security audit? If it’s been a while, the time is now. Reach out and schedule a commitment-free consultation with one of our in-house security experts.


Microsoft 365 vs. Perpetual Licensing: What’s the Best Option for Your Business?

Last year, Microsoft announced that it would no longer sell perpetual licenses for their products like Office Home and Business 2019 and Office Professional Plus 2019. This deeply discounted option to use Office 365 on PCs and Macs seemed destined for a subscription-only licensing model.

However, a year later, the tech giant quietly announced that they would release a new perpetual licensing version of Microsoft Office during the second half of 2021.

The company also announced they would release new versions of Exchange Server, Project Server, SharePoint Server, and Skype for Business Server (although these will follow a subscription model).

So what’s the best approach for your business? Let’s take a look.

Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365, formally known as Office 365, is the only option for anyone who needs unlimited access to a wide range of Office 365 apps. Furthermore, it’s the best option if you need to use it across multiple devices.

At its most basic, a single subscription can be shared by up to six people who access the account simultaneously, or you can pay $9 per month for a single user. Finally, this subscription-based solution offers an endless stream of upgrades and updates with a low cost of ownership for apps like Access, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Word.

Microsoft 365 also comes with artificial intelligence and cloud features that enable real-time collaboration and automation. This approach helps staff maintain productivity across devices.

The Microsoft bundle also offers one terabyte (TB) of OneDrive storage (which can be expanded for a small monthly fee), Skype minutes, and real-time customer support.

While perpetual licensing comes with a one-time fee and limited options, Microsoft 365 allows access to all its applications for a monthly or yearly subscription. However, you might also end up paying for functions and features you’ll never use during your day to day operations.

Pros and Cons of Microsoft 365

ProsCons
Unlimited access to all office appsLimited functionality and potential service issues
$9 a month per userOngoing monthly or yearly payments
Free real-time upgradesPaying for features, you don’t use
Windows 10 and macOS supportSome changing can be overwhelming
24/7 customer support 

Perpetual Licensing

Perpetual licensing is ideal for home-based users. In this scenario, you can obtain immediate access to popular software like Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word with necessary functionalities for a one-time fee.

If you don’t need access to extensive features and you’re happy to use it on a single device, then the perpetual licensing model makes the most sense. You make a one-time payment (that’s on the higher end of the spectrum), and you never have to pay again.

This software pricing model doesn’t provide regular upgrades or updates. But you’ll get all the necessary security updates.

One of the drawbacks here is that you risk using an obsolete version of the software in a year or two. However, the software usually has a life-cycle of five years, so you can still get a lot out of it.

Pros and Cons of Perpetual Licensing

ProsCons
Access to core appsLimited features
One time feeOne PC per license
Traditional computing experienceNo customer support
Regular security updatesNo upgrades
Windows 10 and macOS supportOnly provides support for Windows 10 and macOS
 No 1 TB OneDrive storage or Skype minutes

So what’s the best option for your business?

The answer to the question depends on your specific needs. If you’re working in teams and plan to use office apps for an extended period of time, Microsoft 365 makes perfect sense. This approach ensures seamless access to their entire catalogue at a low cost of ownership.

To learn more about Microsoft 365, schedule a commitment-free consultation.


Equipment Destruction and Recycling

Technology is evolving at an accelerated pace. For businesses, having the latest hardware is vital to staying competitive. Failing to implement an equipment destruction and recycling strategy can put your organisation at risk of operational inefficiencies and poor customer experiences.

While staying up to date is important, it’s also essential to have a safe and ethical e-waste recycling policy. If you’re working with a managed services provider, they will have their own protocols to update, recycle, and destroy server hardware and more. However, the devices used on-premise is your responsibility.

If this process isn’t handled with care, you’ll put your business at significant risk. If enterprise equipment isn’t properly sanitised before it’s destroyed or recycled, it could lead to a data breach.

That’s why a proper IT asset disposal programme is designed to protect both your business and the brand. Furthermore, it ensures that enterprise hardware is disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

A proper equipment destruction strategy will:

  • Protect your brand value
  • Refurbish and re-market legacy devices and other assets while ensuring privacy
  • Securely destroy or recycle media onsite or offsite

Destroy Data Before Destroying Equipment

Enterprises destroy end-of-life equipment, sometimes, unnecessarily, because of outdated security policies. However, before dumping legacy hardware in a landfill or recycling them, it’s critical to destroy the data stored in them.

In this scenario, deleting the files isn’t enough. You need to take steps to ensure that the data is properly wiped clean before taking the next step. Regardless of whether it’s a PC or a PoS device, the same rules apply.

Your organisation decides the level of data destruction and recycling required. For example, if you’re a healthcare provider, you might need magnetic degaussing of computerised data.

In highly regulated industries that handle sensitive information, you may also need to have dates, descriptions of processes used to destroy data, and signatures of those who witnessed the destruction of old hardware.

However, destroying enterprise equipment shouldn’t be your first option. According to the World Economic Forum and the United Nations E-waste Coalition, about 50 million tonnes of electronic waste is produced each year. Most of this waste is either dumped in the landfills of the world’s poorest countries or incinerated.

Recycle Whenever Possible to Save the Planet

When you recycle end-of-life equipment, again, data destruction is the first critical step. In this scenario, you can leverage software that purges and wipes hard drives (and storage drives) clean.

If you engage in magnetic degaussing, it’ll render your hard drive useless. So refurbishing the device to sell it on won’t be an option. Either way, even if you decide to smash your legacy devices, you can recycle some components( and not throw it all in the bin).

After the data is wiped clean, evaluate which parts are viable for repair and resale. Whenever electronics still have something to offer, refurbish and resale is the most environmentally sound option.

However, refurbishing old enterprise equipment doesn’t necessarily have to take the resale route. Instead, you can support ongoing corporate social responsibility programmes by donating your old devices. This approach not only breaths new life into old hardware but also enhances your brand image.

Whenever you’re unable to manage this process in-house, it’s best to engage an established third-party partner. A third-party partner will have tried and tested strategies for the safe and environmentally-friendly disposal of enterprise electronics.

It’ll also ensure that end-of-life equipment is either destroyed or recycled following strict security policies. As long as they follow the Australian government’s ICT equipment sanitisation and disposal guidelines, your company will remain protected.

To learn more about establishing safe and environmentally-friendly equipment destruction and recycling protocols, schedule commitment-free consultation.


What Is the Role of a Data Centre?

In a highly digitized post-pandemic world, data centres power modern businesses by enhancing efficiency and productivity. Data centres leveraged by managed services providers and corporations are modern marvels that feature cutting-edge high-density servers and revolutionary cooling systems.

In recent years, data centres have evolved significantly and will continue to do so. What started with proprietary mainframes on on-premise servers have grown into the cloud, hybrid cloud, and cloud-native infrastructures.

The sheer demand for d cloud computing and data storage has made a wide range of services accessible to everyone from the smallest start-ups to multinationals that demand state-of-the-art enterprise infrastructure.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s define it.

What Is a Data Centre?

A data centre is a facility that helps organisations centralise their shared IT operations and equipment to process, store, and disseminate data and applications.

As a company’s most valuable (and critical proprietary) digital assets are housed in data centres, they are located in highly secure and often impenetrable structures.

A few years ago, data centres were traditionally on-premise physical servers. With the emergence of cloud computing, they’ve evolved to host virtual networks that support applications and workloads across on-premise and multi-cloud environments.

What Are the Key Components of a Data Centre?

The primary components that make up a modern data centre differ significantly, based on the business model. For example, a public cloud services provider will have a different infrastructure and security requirements than a data centre hosting a private cloud on-premise (like one in a highly regulated industry like banking and finance).

The most popular data centre models are as follows:

  • Cloud data centres (like those used by Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud)
  • Colocation data centres (where businesses rent space within a facility located off-premise)
  • Enterprise data centres (owned by companies, housed on-campus, and optimised for the end-user)
  • Managed services data centres (operated by managed services providers who allow companies to lease the hardware instead of buying it)

Since these facilities house business-critical data and applications, they’ll be able to withstand physical intrusions, cyberattacks, and natural disasters.

Standard components found is data centres are as follows:

  • Computing resources (like servers that enable processing, memory, local storage, and network connectivity)
  • Environmental control (to allow cooling, heating, and ventilation supported by exhaust systems)
  • Network infrastructure (both physical and virtualized to enable essential services like external connectivity to end-user locations)
  • Physical and virtual security systems (like biometrics, CCTV video surveillance systems, and encryption technologies)
  • Storage infrastructure (to house its most valuable commodity—data)
  • Support infrastructure (with equipment to ensure the highest availability possible or uptime)
  • Uninterruptible Power Sources (like battery banks, generators, and redundant power sources)

What Is the Purpose of a Data Centre?

Data centres are at the heart of digitally transformed enterprises. These facilities are designed to support big data and analytics, email platforms, high-volume e-commerce platforms, data storage, management protocols, and backup and recovery systems.

These facilities also support cutting-edge artificial intelligence and machine learning applications used by many businesses and government agencies.

As enterprise demands grow exponentially, data centre infrastructure will continue to move off-premise into virtualised environments that support multiple workloads and applications across pools of physical infrastructure and multi-cloud environments.

To learn more about our data centre and hosting services, schedule a commitment-free consultation.


Backup Retention, How to Set a Rotation

Backup retention strategies are at the heart of enterprise data protection protocols. However, it’s critical to choose the right rotation scheme that best suits your operational schedules. This approach helps avoid potential disruptions and downtime.

In this scenario, organisations can leverage user-written scripts or different software applications to schedule data backup, retention, and rotation schemes. But most often, enterprises, including managed services providers, use tape backups because they’re durable and cost-effective.

What Is Backup Tape Rotation?

Backup tape rotation is the process of backing up data to tapes. This approach helps reduce the number of media needed because you can reuse the same tapes for future backups.

However, it’s vital to manage your backup rotation schedule with several redundant copies. This retention method helps preserve rapidly evolving and changing file versions.

Companies need to have a robust strategy in place to determine when each tape is scheduled for another backup. Most businesses, including managed IT services providers, do this based on how long the data on it needs to be retained (before it’s scheduled for another backup).

Although the data that’s backed up most of the time is the same, enterprises can better balance retention requirements and costs by deploying different rotation and vaulting schemes.

What Are the Different Types of Backup Tape Rotation Schemes?

The right backup rotation scheme for your business depends on your specific storage and retention requirements.

The three leading backup retention and rotation schemes are as follows:

First In, First Out (FIFO) Backup Tape Rotation Scheme

FIFO focuses on backing up the newest or the most recently modified files and saves it on the oldest tape. When companies do this, they ensure that they use a backup tape with the least useful (previous) data.

When you follow the FIFO retention and rotation model, your backup depth goes as far as the number of tapes used for this activity.

Grandfather–Father–Son (GFS) Backup Tape Rotation Scheme

GFS backup schemes are popular among companies that leverage three or more backup cycles. The GFS model leverages daily, weekly, and monthly data backup models, depending on the business’ specific needs. However, these daily, weekly, and monthly backup tapes follow the FIFO rotation system.

The Tower of Hanoi Backup Tape Rotation Scheme

The Tower of Hanoi retention and rotation model is the most complex of the three strategies. This scheme follows a mathematical puzzle created by French mathematician Edward Lucas.

The Tower of Hanoi backups and tape rotation cycle follows exponential retention periods. The scheduled tape backup schedule follows a recursive pattern instead of using a large number of backup tapes daily.

For example, Tape A is used to backup data every two days, while Tape B is used every four days. Tape C and Tape D are backed up every eight days.

The idea here is that data from eight days ago can be used for restoration despite using just four backup tapes. If you use five tapes, then the backup data from 16 days ago will be available to restore data.

Backup Retention and Rotation Tips:

  • Always verify the seamless recovery of your backup data
  • Always create a version history (regardless of the backup and retention approach)
  • Always store backup tapes off-site.
  • Always have a robust management system in place

At GoHosting, we recommend that enterprises use one of the regular rotation schedules described above. They provide for different file versions and backup most applications and software packages.

The best backup and retention method for your organisation is relative to your company and business model.

If you need help identifying and deploying the right backup data retention and restoration scheme, we can help schedule a commitment-free consultation.


Is EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response) better than Anti-Virus Software?

Traditional anti-virus programs are often enough to protect a small business’ endpoints. However, EDR takes it to a whole new level by responding to the current threat landscape effectively.  

At a distance, both anti-virus software and EDR can appear almost indistinguishable. However, upon closer examination, the two security protocols prove to be substantially different.  

Understanding these differences is key to achieving robust enterprise security. 

  1. What’s anti-virus Software? 

According to leading cybersecurity provider Norton, anti-virus software is more like a decentralised security system that helps protect your computer from cyberattacks (including malware and spyware attacks).  

In this scenario, anti-virus software monitors the data traveling through the network to your devices. This information is then compared to known threats while examining the behaviour of all programs on the system.  

Whenever suspicious behaviour is identified, the anti-virus program will attempt to block or remove the infection.  

Anti-virus programs do the following to protect against different types of security threats: 

  • Confirm the safety and security of your device 
  • Delete malicious codes and software 
  • Pinpoint particular files for the detection of malicious code 
  • Scan either a single file or your entire computer at your discretion 
  • Schedule automatic scans 

With ever-evolving cyberthreats, anti-virus is vital to protecting enterprise devices. However, having anti-virus software alone isn’t enough. Instead, anti-virus software should be a component of your overall cyber defence strategy. 

  1. What’s EDR? 

According to the global security software provider McAfee, EDR (also know as ETDR or endpoint threat detection and response) is a unified security solution. It combines a collection of endpoint data with a rules-based automated response, continuous real-time monitoring, and analysis capabilities. 

EDR solutions and tools are designed to detect and investigate suspicious activities across all endpoints in your enterprise infrastructure. Compared to traditional anti-virus software, EDR helps better secure enterprise networks. 

EDR tools do the following to protect against different types of security threats: 

  • Analyse data to identify threat patterns 
  • Automatically respond to recognised threats by removing or containing them  
  • Forensics and analysis tools to research known risks and compare them with internal activity to search for suspicious behaviour 
  • Monitor and collect activity data in real-time from endpoints to pinpoint potential threats 
  1. Anti-virus vs. EDR 

In general, EDR tools don’t replace traditional anti-virus software and firewalls. Instead, they work together to help companies enhance their security protocols and fortify their IT infrastructure. 

However, as threat actors relentlessly try to find innovative ways to breach enterprise systems, EDR is better placed to secure networks. For example, the different analytical tools offered by EDR solutions provide advanced monitoring and reporting capabilities not found in traditional anti-virus programs.  

Traditional anti-virus solutions are simplistic in nature and limited in scope when compared to EDR. When organisations build a robust EDR system, they can make anti-virus software a part of their overall threat detection protocols. 

Modern EDR systems incorporate anti-virus, firewalls, monitoring tools, whitelisting tools, and more. It’s essentially a comprehensive approach that runs on a client-server to better secure your digital perimeter.   

Some key differences that help EDR stand out are as follows: 

  • Its ability to identify endpoint threats quickly 
  • Real-time response when threats are identified 
  • Robust data loss prevention protocols 
  • Protects large scale enterprise architecture efficiently 
  • Provides more holistic protection of enterprise networks  
  • Sandboxing 

Today,  Managed IT services providers also offer EDR solutions powered by artificial intelligence that stop attacks before they cause any real harm. This approach helps derail advanced threats at the most vulnerable endpoint.  

Anti-virus software, on the other hand, allows attacks to take place and then responds to it. This makes EDR solutions and tools the best option for business.  

From now on, companies can’t afford to make security an afterthought. Furthermore, your familiarity with anti-virus software shouldn’t trump the capabilities of EDR.  

To learn more about endpoint detection and response, and how it can help your business maintain robust security and compliance, schedule a commitment-free consultation


IT Security, What Is It Really?

In the current threat landscape, data breaches are rapidly becoming the new norm. This makes robust IT security critical to secure company and customer data.

According to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), malicious cyber attacks remained the leading cause of data breaches, accounting for 61% of all data breach notifications in the first half of 2020.

Furthermore, human error accounted for as much as 34% of all data breaches in the country. This suggests that enterprise security’s far more complicated than just obtaining sensitive data or protecting it.

Today, managed IT services providers help small and medium-sized enterprises and corporations access top security talent and technologies to fortify their IT infrastructure, cost-effectively. This approach allows IT support teams to leverage various cybersecurity protocols to protect sensitive, personally identifiable information and maintain business relevance.

IT Security Defined

IT security incorporates a set of cybersecurity strategies to prevent unauthorised access to enterprise assets such as servers, networks, and data. It helps ensure data privacy and compliance by maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive information (by blocking the access of sophisticated hackers).

It’s essential as bad actors are relentlessly attacking enterprise networks. So with the help of managed IT services, security teams must strive to mitigate multiple cyber threats like the following:

  • Denial-of-service attacks
  • DNS tunnelling
  • Malware attacks
  • Man-in-the-middle
  • Phishing campaigns
  • Ransomware attacks
  • SQL injection
  • Zero-day exploits

Different Types of IT Security

There isn’t a fool-proof turnkey security solution that can alleviate multiple threats to enterprise networks in this rapidly evolving threat landscape. To mitigate risk, companies must evolve with the threat and implement a multi-pronged approach to secure their technology infrastructure.

This process starts with the individual evaluation of different cybersecurity layers:

Application Security

Application security focuses on security at a development level. This approach demands adequate security protocols coded into applications to eliminate any potential vulnerabilities.

For example, a zero-day attack is initiated when hackers hunt for vulnerabilities to exploit and find one. So applications are now thoroughly evaluated during the development cycle to identify and fix any of the app’s potential weaknesses.

Today, organisations take it a step further by engaging in manual penetration tests, black-box analysis, white-box analysis, and more to identify potential flaws missed by internal security teams.

Cloud Security

Cloud security protocols help secure enterprise applications and users on the cloud. Whether it’s a public, private, or hybrid cloud, companies must deploy a variety of technologies to better secure their environment.

Some cloud security tools deployed by companies include:

  • Cloud-Access Security Broker (CASB)
  • Cloud-Based Unified Threat Management (UTM)
  • Secure Internet Gateway (SIG)

While the technologies above help protect the cloud, businesses must also implement robust encryption protocols to protect data in motion and rest.

Endpoint Security

Of all the different IT security protocols, endpoint security is probably the most challenging threat to mitigate. This is because end-users often don’t follow the same security best practices and jeopardise the entire network (often through human error).

With endpoint security, IT security teams must strive to secure every entry point to the network, whether it be computers, mobile phones, or the Internet of Things (IoT). This is not straightforward and often demands extensive third-party IT support to fill the talent gap.

To achieve robust endpoint security, security leaders must also demand regular security training workshops and technologies like sophisticated anti-malware software, encryption tools, and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).

Network Security

Network security is leveraged to block malicious users from breaching the network while ensuring enhanced usability, reliability, and uncompromising integrity. It’s the most common form of IT security deployed to deny unauthorised access to data generated within the network.

This approach helps ensure enhanced user experiences while maintaining robust security. In this scenario, security teams use endpoint security protocols along with antivirus software, firewalls, and Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDS/IPS) to strengthen their security posture.

As technology continues to grow more advanced and scale, maintaining robust IT security has become a game of cat and mouse. As hackers discover ever more ingenious ways to exploit vulnerabilities, security teams must adapt to the changes and strive to stay a step ahead of threat actors.

To learn more about how our IT support services can help boost enterprise security, reach out to one of our in-house security experts.


Let’s talk about backups

Backups are an essential practice for any organisation aiming for high-availability and redundancy. Nowadays the importance of backups is generally understood but a lot of people tend to overlook how their backups are stored. It’s important to look beyond the scope of your system when analysing critical functions as external factors can be just as impactful as internal events.

So in this blog article, we will be analysing some of the common methods organisations backup their data and evaluate how effective their storage solutions are in the event of a crisis.

This is a thought piece and something to get you thinking about your backups and hopefully landing you in a place where you are at least doing a better job than average of managing your backups.

A very high level look a some of the common types of backups systems:

Backups are something many small business fail to understand and manage.

Method 1: Local Backups to Same Disk (LBSD)

The first method we will be discussing is Local Backups to Same Disk (LBSD). What this means is that the backup information is stored on the same disk as the backup source. This is a rather poor method of protecting your data as it is physically stored on the same disk which puts both the backup source and destination at risk in scenarios of disk failure / data corruption.

Allow me to explain the LBSD ideology with an example being a house with a spare key stored inside the house. In the scenario that you were locked out of that house; the spare key would be useless as it is being physically kept inside the resource that you cannot access. Overall, we don’t recommend any organisation use LBSD backups as their only backup source as they’re not impactful enough in the event of a crisis and often provide a false sense of security.

Method 2: Local Backups to an External Device (LBED)

The next method is Local Backups to an External Device (LBED); this involves backing up your information to an external device that is kept in the same physical location as the source of the backup.  Following our trusty house example; this would be the same as having the spare key be stored outside the house but still close enough if needed in a locked-out scenario (under a doormat or potted plant outside). This is a lot better than LBSD as it is not prone to the same shortcomings of having one unified weakness instead replacing that with two independent devices that would require both disks to fail / corrupt before any data loss occurs.

This means that LBED has twice the redundancy of LBSD for minimal extra effort. However; there are still risks to this method as both disks are physically stored together, meaning that any crisis that affects the entire physical location would still affect both drives. This possibility can be mitigated by having multiple external drives that are rotated between the location and an external safe location.

Remote Backups over the Internet (RBOTI)

The last method we will be discussing is Remote Backups over the Internet (RBOTI). Remote backups are done by running a backup much like LBSD / LBED and uploading the result to a trusted destination across the internet. This removes the risk of any data loss incurred by damage to the hardware or software. In the house / key scenario this would be the equivalent of giving the spare key to a trusted neighbour that can give the key back to you if required. This backup method comes with its own set of risks and challenges though; For instance, the channel that you use to backup the data or the data itself should be encrypted or else you would simply be sending a copy of all your data to every malicious user along its path. It is also important that the recipient is trusted to protect your data and takes measures to prevent malicious access to your data because having a backup is just as valuable as having the original copy for a hacker. Another downside to this method of backup is that the restoration time post-crisis is significantly longer with current infrastructure as the restoration data would need to travel back over the internet to be used locally. All-in-All, we don’t recommend this as an independent backup solution because of its limitations post-crisis.

But what about good old manual offsite backups?

So one thing that we decided to NOT include in our main discussion points is the good old manual offsite backups. This means physically taking data offsite and storing it somewhere safe. This is of course what many people have been doing for years and many still do, but these days it should be the last option you choose after you encounter blockers for the other options. In today’s world, most people are time-poor, and therefore, people are an unreliable part of your backup system, so their failings should be avoided and strictly managed as a result.

What should I be doing?

Well, the answer these days, is usually using a combination of method two and three. By Utilising LBED with a disk rotation as well as RBOTI you are ensuring your data is protected from many common crises that can and will affect your business. It ensures that in the scenario that a simple restoration is required your business is not out of operation for a large amount of time as well as giving you some form of business continuity if for example; your primary business location burns to the ground, or more likely, gets robbed with valuable computers and servers being taken. It also gives you added redundancy in the scenario that the backups themselves have data loss as you will have two possible restoration points.

There are many other discussion points that we could have veered down in this brain dump, but we hope this at least gets the risk management juices flowing. On a closing note, if you are in a position where you are managing a businesses data, being your own business or as a manager in anothers business, do yourself a favor and call AUIT and book in for a free consultation with one of our Business Risk Managers. We have some very affordable ways to greatly enhance and assist you with reducing your I.T business risks, as well as increasing productivity and meeting security standards.

At AUIT we love to have a chat with business owners and hearing about your experiences, so please feel free to comment on this article, or give us a call or an email anytime. All of our quotes and recommendations are 100% obligation free, so please do reach out to us at any time.