4 Interesting Cloud Storage Trends to Watch for in 2022

One area of cloud computing that is used widely, but often isn’t as flashy as the software side is cloud storage. Storing files in the cloud to make them easily accessible and shareable from anywhere was one of the very first uses of the cloud that was adopted widely by many users.

As advances like automation and AI come to other types of cloud services, like team communications and business apps, cloud storage is not being left behind. The industry also continues to evolve to make storing data in the cloudless complex, more reliable, and better secured.

It’s estimated that in 2021, 50% of all company data was stored in the cloud. This is an increase of 15% from just five years earlier. With today’s hybrid teams that may be working from home and be hundreds or thousands of miles away from co-workers, it’s important to centrally locate files in cloud systems that can be accessed by everyone.

What can you expect to see in the cloud storage market this year? Here are some of the most interesting trends to keep an eye on.

1. Built-in Ransomware Defenses

Ransomware can impact data no matter where it is stored. Whether on a computer, server or in a cloud storage platform, this malware can encrypt the information and make it unreadable to the business that owns it.

In 2021, the average ransomware payment increased by 82% and ransomware incidents rose 64% during the first half of the year. A survey of CISOs found that over the last 18 months, 98% of organizations suffered a cloud data breach.

To combat ransomware, you’ll begin seeing cloud storage services offering ransomware recovery protection. This involves sophisticated systems that can help prevent files from being encrypted by code as well as those that take a copy of files and store it securely away, so files can be restored at the click of a button.

With ransomware showing no sign of stopping, this is a welcome addition in the cloud storage arena.

2. “The Edge” Becomes More Key in Cloud Storage

One of the new buzzwords of the last few years has been “Edge” or “Edge computing.” This means bringing data applications and storage resources geographically closer to the user that needs to connect to them.

As reliance on cloud storage and other cloud applications has increased, so has the need to improve response times from user to server. When data must travel across large distances, it becomes more difficult to quickly and economically deliver the best user experience. Thus, cloud service providers have been moving to an Edge computing model.

What this means for you is better reliability and faster response when accessing or searching on files because your provider is going to work to provide your service from one of the company’s cloud servers that is geographically closer to your location.

For companies with offices spread out around a country or throughout the world, this means that you’ll want to keep service location in mind when signing up for cloud storage and have a discussion with the provider about distance and how Edge computing factors in.

3. Expect More Help from AI and Machine Learning

AI and machine learning are making just about every area of technology smarter. Microsoft Word and text message apps now predict what you might type to help you fill in the blanks and type faster. Programs like Photoshop can crop around a person in an image in seconds using AI.

AI is also going to become more prevalent in cloud storage this year. You can expect help with automatic organization of your files based on your cloud storage patterns. 

Look for features designed to eliminate manual or repetitive tasks to free up more time. This includes AI helping to automate things like provisioning, obtaining, and importing data (known as “ingesting”), managing data retention, and more.

4. Legacy Vendors Begin Offering More Cloud Options

2022 is going to bring more cloud storage options coming from legacy technology providers. For example, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise recently introduced a new Data Services Cloud Console, and Dell Technologies just announced a new APEX multi-cloud design that it is working on to improve the cloud ecosystem.

More cloud storage options mean you may need more help deciding which model will work best for you, as pricing will vary widely. You don’t want to end up with more storage than you need or be paying a lot for a smaller amount of space.

It pays to keep on top of new offerings and understand that every new cloud storage option might not be a fit for your organization’s specific data storage needs.

Get Help Optimizing Your Cloud Storage & Backup Environment

Your business data is what runs your company, and it needs to be stored securely and in a way that’s accessible. Find out how we can help you optimize your cloud storage to improve cost efficiency.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

The Critical Importance of Virtualized Infrastructure Security (And 4 Ways to Enhance It)

A torn-down virtual infrastructure creates risks for any business. And it can have a significant impact on how quickly you can retrieve your data and resume operations following an attack.

These days, many businesses use virtualized infrastructure for more straightforward data storage. It’s because this approach is superior to physical solutions due to enhanced flexibility, straightforward provisioning, and affordable pricing. 

However, this model also requires a comprehensive approach to security. 

There’s a much greater risk of data loss, as many tools and practices for physical data protection are nearly useless in the virtual setting. Virtual threats are different, that’s why you need to think beyond traditional perimeter protection. 

So, if you’re using a virtualized infrastructure for data storage, keep reading. 

This article discusses the risks of improper virtualized infrastructure security and talks about ways you can improve it. 

Don’t Leave Your Virtualized Infrastructure to Chance

Virtualization security is crucial for every business’s security strategy. After all, we now live in a world of virtualized environments and need to apply security to all its layers. 

Let’s explore three of the most common virtualization security issues. 

Issue #1. External Attacks

These are a real threat to virtualized infrastructure. 

If hackers enter your host-level or server management software, they can easily access other crucial parts of your system. They can create a new user, assign admin rights, and then use that power to extract or destroy your company’s sensitive data. 

Issue #2. File Sharing and Copy-Pasting

Host and virtual machine (VM) sharing is normally disabled. The same goes for copy-pasting elements between the remote management console and the VM. You can tweak the default settings by tweaking the ESXi host system, but this action isn’t recommended. 

Why?

Because if a hacker gains access to your management console, they’d be able to copy data outside your virtual environment or install malware into your virtual machine. 

Issue #3. Viruses

Virtual machines, or VM, are prone to many attacks, with ransomware being among the most popular ones. For this reason, it’s crucial to keep regular backups of your website data and store them off-site at a place where they can’t be encrypted by hackers. 

If you fail to perform backups, you may find yourself in a situation where hackers could ask you for money to decipher your data. 

Restoring a VM is quite tricky even if you perform regular backups. Therefore, you need to educate your team members on alleviating the risk of getting ransomware and other viruses. 

Optimizing Your Virtualized Infrastructure Security

Now that you’re aware of the 3 common issues a business can face if they have an unprotected virtual infrastructure, here are 4 tips on bolstering its security.

Tip #1. Managing Virtual Sprawl 

Virtual sprawls are often associated with growing virtual environments. The concept simply means that the more you expand, the bigger the need to keep your VMs secure. However, the number of machines can outgrow your ability to do so. 

To manage your virtual sprawl, consider doing the following:

  • Create an inventory of all your machines at all times
  • Set up lookouts featuring multi-location monitoring
  • Monitor IP addresses that have access to your VMs
  • Look for table locks
  • Don’t use database grant statements to give privileges to other users
  • Keep both on- and off-site backups
  • Assess your virtual environment regularly and determine which machines you need and which ones aren’t necessary
  • Have a central log of your systems and log all hardware actions
  • Create a patch maintenance schedule for all machines to keep them up to date

Tip #2. Focusing on Virtual Configuration Setup

If you use virtual servers, you risk major configuration defects. 

That’s why it’s essential to make sure initial setups are free from security risks. This includes unnecessary ports, useless services, and similar vulnerabilities. Otherwise, all your virtual machines will inherit the same problems. 

The truth is that many businesses have poor virtual network configurations. You can avoid being one of those by ensuring all virtual applications that call the host (and vice versa) have proper segmentation. This includes databases and all web services. 

It’s also worth mentioning that most virtualization platforms only offer three switch security settings: forged transmits, MAC address changes, and promiscuous mode. There’s no protection for virtual systems that connect to other network areas. 

So, make sure to investigate each virtualization platform that allows this kind of communication, including all memory leaks, copy-paste functions, and device drivers. You can also tweak the system monitoring assets to look out for these pathways. 

Tip #3. Securing All Parts of the Infrastructure

It’s imperative that you properly secure all of your infrastructure’s parts. This includes its physical components (switches, hosts, physical storage, routers) and virtual and guest systems. Don’t forget about all your cloud systems as well. 

When it comes to protecting different infrastructure parts, here are some things you can do:

  • Install the latest firmware for your hosts. Virtualized infrastructure needs to have the latest security patches. So, keep all your VMware tools updated. 
  • Your active network elements such as routers, switches, and load balancers should use the latest firmware.
  • Patch all operating systems with automatic updates. Schedule patch installations outside of your work hours and include automatic reboots. 
  • All virtualized environments should have reliable anti-malware and antivirus software installed (and regularly updated). 

Tip #4. Having a Robust Backup Plan

Proper disaster recovery (DR) and backup plans are crucial in ensuring your business can continue operating after an attack. It’s because both your physical and virtual components can equally suffer from damage done by hacker attacks, hurricanes, etc. 

Ideally, you want to have a DR site located at a faraway data center or in the cloud. This way, you’ll alleviate the risk of being shut for a long time if your vital data gets compromised. 

Also, make sure to back up your VMs and your physical servers. Fortunately, you can back up your physical systems that operate on Windows or Linux, as well as your VMs that run on any OS. 

Additionally, you want to make at least three copies of your data and store two of them in different virtual places. And make sure to keep one backup off-site. 

If you want to take things to another level, you can replicate your VMs to a different data center for emergencies. 

Prioritize the Security of Your Virtual Infrastructure

If you never gave much importance to virtualized infrastructure security, doing so should be your priority now. Given the number of possible threats, protecting your VMs from unauthorized data sharing, viruses, and other types of attacks is crucial. 

All aspects of your physical and virtual components need to be protected to avoid issues. If this topic is all Greek to you, you’re not alone. The reality is that many business owners have struggled with the same problem. 

However, you can reach out to us for a 10-15-minute chat where we can discuss how you can bring the security of your virtualized infrastructure to the next level. 


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Why Having a Continuity Plan Is a Sign of Great Leadership (And How to Create a Foolproof Plan)

Your business faces all sorts of threats that can disrupt your operations. A comprehensive continuity plan can help address them. 

Carrying on with business as usual is easy when nothing out of the ordinary is happening. But the fact is, crises can strike anytime. And when it happens, you need to be ready to pivot your operations quickly, safely, and efficiently. 

That’s where a well-thought-out business continuity plan comes into play. 

It prepares you for the worst, such as market nosedives and governments shutting down entire countries. And in these cases, your plan allows you to embrace remote work, enabling you to keep functioning and servicing your clients. It also lets you support your team at home and make them feel comfortable through various predicaments. 

These are just some of the key benefits that a business continuity plan can bring to your business. And this article will delve deeper into its significance and explain how to create one for your company. 

Why Your Business Needs a Continuity Plan

A business continuity plan details a process that your company should take to neutralize and recover from different threats. It can also help protect your business’s assets and personnel during disasters, allowing them to function uninterruptedly. 

Business continuity plans are usually developed as part of a company’s overall risk management. This means you should consider creating this plan ahead of time, not in the middle of a crisis. 

The most significant benefit of creating a business continuity plan is that it provides a clear picture of how to proceed should those threats happen. It also tells you how those circumstances can impact your operations and how to implement procedures to mitigate them. Furthermore, it helps you check if the systems work and are up to date. 

Another tremendous advantage of having a continuity plan is its ability to ensure secure and continued access to your systems. It dictates how your team and IT service provider can reach critical platforms, the available bandwidth, and whether you need to boost their network capacity. 

The overall effect can be a reduced risk of losing your business and team members. 

It can safeguard against financial loss, lost productivity, and a damaged reputation. On top of that, it helps protect your employees from injuries or death in case of threats. 

But what specific threats can you address with a continuity plan? 

Here’s a quick list:

Threat #1. Pandemics 

Pandemics can affect your business plans in numerous ways. 

For example, they can force your employees to work from home, increasing demand for some services, and reducing demand for others. Moreover, they can prevent you from distributing your offerings due to supply chain problems. 

A business continuity plan can help you overcome these bumpy periods. 

It formulates how your team will communicate throughout the period and perform business off-site. And it can also provide several options in terms of service distribution.

Threat #2. Natural Disasters

Natural disasters are extreme geographic phenomena, including tornados, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, wildfires, and earthquakes. They’re tricky because they’re hard to predict and can leave disastrous consequences within seconds. 

Like global pandemics, they can disrupt the supply chain in affected areas, which is why you need a business continuity plan.

Threat #3. Utility Outages 

Water shutoffs and loss of communication lines or power can hinder your daily operations. It’s especially true if such outages are predicted to last long. 

Without a continuity plan, the risk of asset damage and productivity loss is drastically higher.

Threat #4. Cybersecurity 

Cyberattacks are computer-based attacks on your technical assets. The most common examples include data theft, ransomware, distributed denial of service, and SQL injections. 

In the best-case scenario, your infrastructure will function less efficiently until you resolve the issue. But in the worst-case scenario, you could lose access to all business data.

Create the Best Continuity Plan for Your Business

Developing a foolproof continuity plan requires a systematic approach. Here’s what your strategy should involve: 

#1. Identifying Goals

Business continuity doesn’t just comprise your IT systems. It encompasses all essential business functions, like public relations, human resources, and operations. 

Since your company is unique, you’ll need to create a plan according to your specific goals. 

So, determine the most important processes and figure out how to back them up with recovery strategies.

#2. Setting up an Emergency Preparedness Group

Choose several cross-functional managers and anyone else who can contribute to the plan, such as your IT service provider.

Determine the emergency response leader and make it clear they’re in charge of moving things forward when disaster strikes. 

#3. Business Impact Analysis and Risk Assessment

Identify, research, and analyze your potential threats thoroughly. Discuss them with your team and see what would happen if you had to reduce, eliminate, or modify certain services.

 Make sure to document all issues along the way. 

#4. Focusing on Customer Service

Your clients need empathy and transparency during crises. And the only way to meet their expectations in such trying times is to ensure your customer support team understands your continuity plan. 

If necessary, hire more people to answer client inquiries. 

#5. Addressing Business Function

Your plan should incorporate critical business functions. These include business risk, impact on customers and employees, emergency policy creating, community partners or external organizations, and financial resources during disasters. 

This is vital to ensure business operations are functioning asap.

#6. Staff Training and Plan Updates 

Present your continuity plan to stakeholders and promote a proactive approach through trial runs to verify the plan works. This way, you can pinpoint any weaknesses or missing aspects. Then, based on your findings and feedback, train your staff to make the implementation smoother.

Following this tactic doesn’t leave much room for error. 

Besides helping you maintain business operations and the supply chain, it also builds customer confidence. If your response to emergencies is effective, your customers will appreciate it. This allows you to preserve your brand, prevail over your competition, and mitigate financial loss. 

Don’t Let Crises Cripple Your Business 

Disasters can be the ultimate test of your leadership abilities. 

That’s why instead of leaving your company to chance, create an in-depth business continuity plan before emergencies arise. Make sure everyone is on the same page, and you’ll be able to come out stronger after any predicament. 

If you need more insights into developing a continuity plan, get in touch with us today. Let’s set up a 10-15-minute chat to determine your goals and how to achieve them. 


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

The 8 Key Mistakes That Can Cripple Your Business Continuity Plan

The only way to continue your operations in case of setbacks is to enforce a well-thought-out business continuity plan. However, you’ll need to avoid several mistakes when developing your strategy.

Your operations may seem efficient and failproof, but the reality is that obstacles can happen at any time. Whether you’ve lost a major client or can’t achieve good team dynamics, it’s essential to keep going. 

That’s where your business continuity plan (BCP) comes into play. 

Your BCP outlines how your company will continue its operations during unplanned service disruptions. It’s more detailed than disaster recovery plans and features contingencies for processes, human resources, assets, and partners. It can also include checklists for equipment and supplies, data backups, and information on emergency responders. 

The contents may vary, but a BCP can help you overcome various issues and re-establish productivity to meet critical needs. However, the only way to reap the benefits of your BCP is to avoid making mistakes in the development stage. 

This article will outline the eight biggest mistakes you need to avoid when creating your business continuity plan.

The Eight Mistakes

Mistake #1 – Disregarding Your Employees

Organizations who want to get back on track after an unexpected incident should focus on the needs of their employees when devising a BCP. Otherwise, they may be running serious safety risks. 

So, plan for every situation that can affect your employees during disruptions. The list includes emergency communication protocols, evacuation routes, and many other key details. In doing so, you’ll ensure your team has all they need to weather the storm. 

Moreover, discuss the plan with your staff and elicit their input in critical safety matters. You can also tell them you’ll be there for support if a crisis takes place. This gives them peace of mind, knowing their leader cares about them. 

Mistake #2 – Not Considering Small Details

After creating a general BCP, many enterprises fail to think about specific details that ensure they can execute their plan. This is a huge mistake, as it can result in loss of data. 

The minor points you should incorporate into your BCP include logistical considerations, such as technology and medical aid support. 

For example, informing your medical providers about the plan is crucial because it enables them to make their arrangements on time. You should also tell your key personnel who to contact if they need medical assistance during accidents. Another great idea is to determine how your team can access data securely if they can’t make it to their office. 

Taking the smallest details into account can protect your data and even save your staff’s lives. Therefore, don’t leave the development to chance – go through the BCP regularly to make sure it’s effective and up to date. 

Mistake #3 – Failure To Show Your Staff How the Plan Works

While many leaders brood on downtime, they often fail to demonstrate to their team members how to execute the plan and minimize productivity decrease. 

As previously indicated, your employees are integral to the efficacy of your BCP. And the only way to perform their roles correctly is to become well-versed in the plan. 

To ensure this, explain how the staff should respond during crises. Tell them how to handle their clients if your systems go down. Don’t forget about the location and schedules that will be effective while the main office is off-limits. 

The final part is to have your team practice these tasks so they can complete them more easily when disasters strike. 

Mistake #4 – Prioritising Operational Continuity Over Team Safety

When accidents occur, it’s understandable why business owners focus on assessing the effects on their business. Nevertheless, considering operational continuity only and neglecting your staff’s safety well-being can have dire consequences. 

Your people are crucial to executing your BCP appropriately, so check on them first. Data plans that nobody can facilitate are useless, regardless of their effectiveness. 

You have to make sure your staff is safe and reachable after a crisis. The crisis management task force should be able to contact them easily and see if they can help them. 

This will help guarantee your team can bounce back after an accident and go back to work quickly.

Mistake #5 – Having Improper Tech Solutions

Waiting for natural disasters to strike before establishing toll-free hotlines for your employees is a huge mistake. Likewise, failure to set up data backups might render your systems useless in case of data breaches. 

If you have no proper technology to mitigate accidents, you could be exposing your business to higher risks, revenue loss, and prolonged downtime. 

To avert this, consult technology specialists or your IT sector to verify your system has all features and components that can keep your networks intact. Such a system should allow you to streamline communications, minimize downtime, and secure your workloads

Mistake #6 – Only One Person Manages the Plan

Developing a BCP all by yourself is possible, but it’s also more prone to error. A much better approach is to gather people across all your departments to account for all contingencies. Otherwise, you’ll restrict your team’s insight into all the processes and risks under your plan. 

Forming a BCP management team that involves multiple functions and departments offers a company-wide perspective to your planning. This diversity can help resolve problems and streamline your strategy.

Mistake #7 – Using Broad Generalizations

Continuity plans with broad generalizations often lead to uncertainty and confusion. A BCP needs to be concise and, if possible, explain each detail in short steps. Such forms enable anyone to understand the directions and visualize their roles. 

Mistake #8 – Skipping Risk Assessment

Risk assessments are a critical step that must take place before developing your BCP. As the name suggests, they can you help discover the potential risks in your area. 

Depending on the size of your organization, location, and activities, your company faces different risks. For example, there’s no need to plan for disaster recovery after a hurricane if your region isn’t prone to them. It would only increase your costs and waste time. 

Don’t Let Your Operations Grind to a Halt

A detailed BCP goes a long way in improving your response to disasters. Avoiding the above-mentioned mistakes will put you on the right track and help your staff cope with new conditions more easily. 

If you need help in creating your BCP, give us a call today. Let’s have an obligation-free chat to determine how we can help you.  


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.