As we continue to work from home due to COVID-19 and a shift in our working practises and business models brought on by the pandemic, we need to consider that we are moving our business activities into potential hostile environments outside the safe confines of our office security systems.

Out of a need to move quickly we have all been learning how to connect remotely from our personal devices and how to continue business within our new work environment.  But, what may have be left out of your considerations is how secure is this new work environment.  Also, how many new work environments does my business now have which I currently have little or no control over?  Each employee working from home will have their own unique setup within their household for their own personal IT.  What we need to consider is this:  was this setup with business in mind?

The answer will likely be no as before now, unless they worked from home as part of their contract, the most they might have done remotely is to check emails on their home network via webmail or on their phone.  What their home setup will predominately be catering for is their personal use: entertainment, children, life admin!  The security setup will depend on their personal interest in IT and their appetite for risk.  If they are a security conscious individual concerned with internet safety they may have anti-virus software on personal laptops and have changed the default password on their router (if they know how to do this).  However, they could also have no software and have left the default password on their router as supplied from the manufacturer resulting in every hacker in the world knowing the password for their router in fact a 10 second internet search will likely provide the password to anyone that wants it.

This is where our term “hostile environment” comes into play.  When you ask employees to work from home, whether using company issued devices or not, you are introducing a new network into your business network parameters.  This means to ensure your network security is comprehensive you need to consider each employee who works from home as a satellite office and part of your overall IT network.  Ask the questions would you allow your employee to take commercially sensitive files out of the office and leave them in an unlocked home overnight?  This is effectively what you maybe doing with your electronic files.

Now we’re not trying to panic anyone and we’re not saying that you need to stop people working from home, quite the opposite!  Working from home has been vital for many businesses during COVID-19 and will probably continue with many workers afterwards. Here at MJD we’ve been working hard with our clients to set everyone up with safe and secure work from home solutions to allow them to protect their workforce and their business as best they can from the effects of the pandemic.  What we want is to increase the awareness of the security risks posed from the work from home movement and highlight that there are some key tools to implement to increase your opportunities and decrease your threats because of working from home.

In fact have you considered the fact that your employee could be in the kitchen making a cup of tea while other members of the family may have access to the computer and ultimately your valuable business information and whilst not being malicious children can be very inquisitive and can cause a lot of damage deleting things in the 5 minutes that the pc is unsupervised?

First and foremost, if your employee is working from home using a personal device it is highly recommended to make sure you have a Bring Your Own Device policy in place and that a stipulation of this is that a company approved anti-virus and anti-malware software is installed.  The National Cyber Security Centre have a fantastic advice document on their website on Bring Your Own Device policies which can be found here.

The team here at MJD can help you to implement such a policy and we can recommend suitable Remote Access software to help you manage this policy for mobile devices, laptops and PCs.

An IT policy should also be implemented alongside your BYOD policy, which we recently wrote a blog article on and can be read here.  This will help to protect the business should any IT hardware or services provide by the business to your employees be used outwith the manner agreed to and intended for while in the work from home and office environments.

A password manager should also be utilised to ensure the secure management of company passwords and allow employees to share credentials in a safe and secure method.  You can even share read only view permissions between members of your organisation so they can login but not view or edit the password themselves.

We would also recommend the use of Email Encryption for members of your organisation who require to send confidential or sensitive information.  This allows you to add a further layer or security on your business communications in these new hostile environments.  We recently wrote a blog article on email encryption which you can read here.

This is by no means an exhaustive guide on to how to fully protect your IT network and business in the work from home environment, but is a good starting point to encourage discussion and planning on the area.  If you have any questions about your remote setups or would like advice or guidance on improving your work from home security please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

The management of your IT ecosystem is not just the maintenance of the physical hardware and your networks, there are also important policies which need to be in place to compliment the good management of the IT hardware and networks.  This week we wanted to cover the importance of an IT policy.

The main purpose of an IT policy is to ensure your corporate information is kept safe through detailing the methods that will be employed to prevent unauthorised access, loss or corruption of the data in both electronic and physical forms. An IT policy will provide all your employees with a secure and acceptable framework for them to take their cues from on how to work with the IT in your network.  An IT policy can also help you to demonstrate to auditors that you have taken your IT security further than just your physical hardware and software implemented.

Now, IT policies can be viewed as micromanagement as they do detail how information should be communicated, how its stored and how it can be used within the IT network.  But it is important that you communicate your IT policy to your employees as a tool to improve communication and transparency.  You are making sure there are no grey areas on how something should be done within your IT network.  It also provides them with a decision making tool which will help to reduce time taken on problem solving if it clearly sets out what they should and should not do within the IT network.

It also means each employee has the same set of controls, so it is a consistent message and helps to communicate a fair and trustworthy environment.  Everyone knows what is acceptable and therefore what they should do.  This does mean that you are also protecting yourself in the instance of malicious actions carried out by employees.  If you clearly detail what is allowed and what isn’t, you can handle the situation with certainty that they acted outwith your companies policies and that they were made aware and agreed to these policies when they were employed or the policies implemented.

All of these add up to create a strong argument for why it is not a question of if you need an IT policy, but of when you will implement an IT policy.  The team here at MJD would always recommend you implement it now and we are here to help make IT work for you!

This is a question we are often asked when quoting or fitting new wireless networks and so we want to break this down and offer a more detailed explanation to help you understand the importance behind on-going maintenance in wireless networks.

Your wireless network is one part of your organisation’s IT ecosystem and as such, needs to be maintained in the same way as your server, PCs and laptops to minimise downtime.   However, the most important reason for on-going management is that your wireless network is a gateway into your organisation’s network.  This means it poses a security risk if it is not maintained and updated.  Especially if you also run public and private networks to allow customers to connect to gain internet access, while also allowing your organisations devices to connect to your private network.  Through your wifi a hacker wouldn’t even have to enter your premises to attempt connection to your network, they could do it from the street.

Here at MJD, our monthly WAP management package means that every time there is a new firmware released for the devices within your wireless network we will get these installed at a time that is convenient for you.  This keeps our clients in compliance with their Cyber Essentials or IASME accreditations and allows you to confidently advise your customers when connecting that your wireless network is maintained and secure.

You may be wondering what firmware is?  Firmware is a type of software which is the low-level control for the devices hardware. Firmware allows your devices to behave in the way the manufacturer designed them too.  The firmware of a device is held on Read-Only Memory, so that even when the device has no power it can still store the data.  As it is read only, firmware updating tools are required to apply updated firmware to your devices.

In addition, by keeping the firmware up to date on the equipment which runs your wireless network, you avoid any issues further down the line if you must try and install numerous updates in one go which can cause further issues and even failure.  By maintaining the network regularly, it means that down time is minimised to small periods of time when the firmware is updated.

If you have any questions about your wireless network or would like to explore WAP management please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

Have you ever thought about the security of an email or a file you send? What is in the contents of your email or what data is held within the file you need to transfer to someone? Every day we communicate via email to send information and documents, but sometimes the contents of that email or file are sensitive or confidential. If we were passing on this information face to face, we wouldn’t just discuss it at the kettle or leave the files lying on someone’s desk for them to get when they come back to their desk.

This is where email encryption comes in. With an email encryption service you can send confidential emails with the confidence that only the intended recipient will see the email. You can also see when the email is received and opened. This helps you to maintain compliance with regulations such as GDPR. Here at MJD, we work with our partner AppRiver and recommend their Email Encryption service alongside their SPAM filter. See our SPAM filter blog here.

There are a great host of features available with Email Encryption, lets take a look at them here:

– Office 365 compatible
– One-click encryption in Outlook, Windows and Mac desktop agents
– Track and prove when an email is received/read/replied to/forwarded
– Provides a control panel and registered mail options
– Recall messages, even after they are read
– Add passwords to confidential emails
– Facilitates large file attachment encryption and delivery, up to 100GB
– Built-In Secure E-Signature feature

So how does email encryption work? When you click on the send secure message, the email is then directed to the secure cloud platform to then be sent to your recipient.

Why should I implement email encryption now? As we have increased need to manage regulations on data protection and the trust in the security of emails reducing, secure business communications are becoming a necessity. By protecting sensitive and confidential data, you provide employees and customers with a method of communication that guards against breaches and permits freer, more effective communication. In the new workplace environment where the majority of us are now working from home, electronic communication is the main way we keep in touch and transfer information and data between us, we need to think about how to further protect our data and information. The encryption service we recommend and provide is fully brandable so you can help to increase customer confidence, through the encryption and seeing your brand in the secure cloud together.

This solution is not expensive and can transform the way you transfer sensitive information for very little cost. You don’t need to license your whole site, it is done on a per user basis so you can provide the service to your users who deal with sensitive and confidential information on a regular basis.

If you are interested in how this email encryption service may work for your business please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD and we’d be more than happy to discuss and provide demonstrations of the service in action.

This week we wanted to highlight a free resource on Microsoft’s website that is an incredibly useful resource for experienced and new users of Microsoft Office alike!  These videos can be useful to set as training to a new employee who may be unfamiliar with any of the Office applications.  The videos cover Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, SharePoint, Teams, Yammer and Access.

There are a variety of resources from video tutorials to cheat sheets to PDF guides as well as tips and tutorial templates to download and work through to test the skills you learn in the resources.  The home page for the Microsoft 365 training page can be found here:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/training

The video tutorials are particularly useful if you can’t quite remember how to do a specific task within a program or you’ve updated Office package and guess what, the button isn’t where it used to be.  We’ve all been there, and it can be extremely frustrating when something that used to be second nature must be relearnt!  These videos can help you to overcome that frustration quicker as they take you through the mouse clicks and you watch the desktop of the trainer.  No more searching for the function through trial and error, just learn how to go directly to it again!

Let’s have a quick tour of how to explore the wealth of information and resources within the Microsoft 365 training portal.  Let’s look at the Excel section for this example:

We’ll then see boxes representing the sections of training within Microsoft Excel:

Let’s look at Formulas and Functions:

We’ve highlighted the selection pane on the left hand side to show you where further more specific and detailed resources on individual formulas can be found.  Most of these articles have their own video and written information, so depending on how you learn best you have a variety of resources at your disposal.

Hopefully this will have highlighted an extremely valuable free training resource that you can put to work in your organisation to help make your IT work for YOU!  If you have any questions on Microsoft Office or Microsoft 365 please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

Here at MJD we actively encourage our clients to take warranties with a new device and to extend warranties on devices which are due to expire, which are still performing as required and are critical machines to the running of your business.  While you may think that the likelihood of a new device having a fault is low due to its young age, you would be right, the chances that you will need to call on the warranty in the first year or so are low.  However, every device will fail eventually, some sooner than others and usually it will happen at the most awkward time possible!

This is why we recommend keeping critical devices under warranty for their usable lifespan.  Warranties are simply a promise from the manufacturer that if the device fails within the defined period they will repair or replace the defective device within the time period stated in the warranty.  Warranties however don’t cover accidental/deliberate damage, failures due to the untended use of the device or software problems.

As a Terra partner, we deal with their warranties on a daily basis so we’ll go through a couple of their options and explain how they work.

On Site Service

The On Site Service warranties give you a response to a device failure on site.  This means you don’t have to be without the device while it is sent to the manufacturer for investigation and repair.  As Terra Partners, we can carry out the warranty work for our clients which is a big advantage for speed of response to a warranty issue.  Also, as we work within your network and setup your devices we have additional knowledge which can allow us to carry out the warranty work and our support service work in the same site visit reducing delays and down time for our clients.  We always recommend On Site Service options for PCs and Servers due to their business critical nature and the need for timely responses to issues seen with devices under warranty to ensure you can continue to concentrate on your core business, knowing your IT is covered and in good hands.

Pick Up and Return

The Pick Up and Return warranties are mainly offered with devices such as laptops and tablets, so the manufacturer covers and organises collection of the faulty devices and delivery of the repaired or replacement devices.  This warranty makes more sense for portable devices, due to their smaller nature and portability this means their construction can be more specific to their design and some repairs and parts replacements are better carried out by the manufacturer with the knowledge of how the casings and parts are all located and connected.  As Terra Partners we can help organise the collection and return of your device with Terra to ensure a timely response to your warranty call often providing a temp device for you to work with while repair is undertaken.

With all warranties, the period of cover will depend on what you purchase and can usually be extended up to a certain point in the devices lifetime.  If you are a client of ours with a warranty on a device, you will likely have had an email 2 months before the expiry date of your warranty to ask about extensions.  We manage this for our clients to ensure that your business critical devices are kept under warranty during their usable lifetime.  This way you don’t have to worry about missing the end date of your warranty of all your devices.  However, don’t worry if you think a device warranty may have lapsed some manufacturers offer the ability to reinstate the warranty for a small extra charge to cover the time without cover.

There can also be different levels of response times under a warranty, so for example it could be next business day or a 4 hour response 24×7.  This will depend on how critical the device is to your core business, for example your server would be highly recommended to have a quick response time as this will have a higher number of users relying on this device to carry out their work activities.  Whereas a PC or laptop may be enough to have a next business day response as you could potentially use another device while waiting for the warranty call.

In a previous post on how to improve the environmental impact of your IT we spoke about extending the life of your devices and one way of doing this and mitigating high repair costs which may mean it isn’t financially viable to repair and keep the existing device, is to keep them under warranty.  This way you can help to ensure you get 5 years or more out of the lifetime of your device, some servers are able to be extended up to 8 years thus reducing the need for new devices and the disposal of old IT equipment.

If you have any questions on PC/Server warranties or would like to talk to us about your approach to warranties on your devices please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

Here at MJD our security offering to our clients will help to take care of your Windows Updates.  It will check the updates that come through which aren’t zero day and once tested will be deployed to your Windows devices with our security package.  You may be asking what is a zero day update?  This is an update from the software provider which is so important and of a high priority that it must be applied as soon as it is released.  However, you may notice from time to time you’ll get an email from us asking about a device which is out of date.  This may be that it hasn’t been on for a significant period of time, or that you’ve been aware of the update required to be carried out and have been delaying the update to “later”.

Now, we’re not denying that when you’ve got multiple documents and spreadsheets open, your business management software and emails etc open on your desktop and Windows announces “You have an update!” it can be incredibly inconvenient timing to carry out the update there and then.  And in this case, it’s fine to delay until when you finish that night.  It is highly important that the Windows update is installed as soon as possible.

While it can seem like software updates are an annoying feature and functionality changing demon, they are actually an extremely important part of the security of your device.  Operating System manufacturers are constantly updating their software to combat recent virus, malware and hacking attacks to close off holes in the defences of the software.  This means, if you delay in installing your Windows update, you might potentially be leaving your PC open to virus, malware or hacking attempts!

This is why Windows Updates are so important and why our monitoring software helps us to let you know when devices are out of date.  This in turn allows us to get in touch and ask you to switch the device on and allow the updates to take place.  This is all part of the security management in your network and it should be viewed with the same importance as the other elements of your security package.  If you have any questions about Windows updates, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

Flora and Skye have been hard at work recording a video for you all to enjoy this Christmas, so without further ado:

 

 

And any who would like the lyrics to sing along here they are:

1st Day of Christmas – A Cartridge in a pear tree

2nd Day of Christmas – 2 IT Engineers

3rd Day of Christmas – 3 Terra Laptops

4th Day of Christmas – 4 Calling Clients

5th Day of Christmas – 5 Gold Pins

6th Day of Christmas – 6 Windows Updates

7th Day of Christmas – 7 Malware Blocked

8th Day of Christmas – 8 Scans Complete

9th Day of Christmas – 9 Printers Cleaned

10th Day of Christmas – 10 Hard Drives Cleansed

11th Day of Christmas – 11 Firewalls

12th Day of Christmas – 12 Phishing Scams Stopped

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Team here at MJD!

With the increase in working from home this year, we have been asked this question quite a number of times.  So we thought we should address this as a blog article to help our clients understand all the factors which affect your remote connection when working from home and may limit the speed of your connection.

If we start with a explanation of what a remote connection is.  A remote connection is where the user is able to access IT services, software applications and data from a different location to your office where said services are located.  They do this through an internet connection.  Now while your remote connection is done through your home internet connection, this does not mean that all your speed issues with your remote connection may be to do with your home internet speed.  There are other factors associated with your home network that can impact your remote connection.  Let’s explore them now!

We mentioned internet speed so we will start with the issues this can cause.  Most often our clients can be frustrated with their remote connection being slow when they know they get a reasonable internet speed, however, this will be the download speed.  What you also need to take into consideration is your upload speed which will generally be a lot slower than your download speed and this will affect the speed of your remote connection to your work PC.  It would depend on your type of broadband connection as to whether we would suggest an upgrade here would greatly benefit your working from home setup.

With our current situation in society, the majority of our colleagues and employees may well be working from home all at similar times.  This means you have to share the connection into the office network with all your colleagues, which again can limit the speed which you can get from your remote connection.  If we determine this to be an issue, it may be as simple as creating a more staggered work pattern for accessing your network to allow everyone to work at the maximum speed to be gain from remote working when they need to access the network.  There may be some network infrastructure changes we can recommend to help this aspect as well, but simply creating a schedule to reduce the amount of users accessing your network at any one time may help if this is possible with your core business activities.

The final factor that we need to consider is your home network.  Is there anyone else working from home?  Do you notice the speed issues when the children are home and playing games online or streaming movies or music?  As we move to more of a digital experience in our personal life as well, we rely more and more on our internet to provide us with access to our entertainment.  This means we have an increasing number of devices accessing the internet through our home networks and this can affect the speed of your remote connection, as it is limited by the capacity of your home network.  So the same idea of a schedule may be required to limit the amount of devices drawing from your internet resource when you need to work.  It may also be worth considering the quality and age of your home router or if you are using a wireless or wired connection to the internet.  All of these can also be factors in the speed of your remote connection.

Hopefully this has helped to explain why it is often not an easy answer or an easy solution to improve the speed of your remote connection while working from home.  If you suspect there are deeper issues or you’d like to discuss any of the points raised in this blog in relation to your own connection please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.  Let’s make IT work for YOU!

For several years now we have been introducing a different format for the contracted support we can offer our clients.  We will explore the benefits of a per device contract and explain what it is to help you decide if this is the contract setup suitable for you.

A per device support contract is based on the number of devices you have in your network and charged at a set rate.  We have a few different levels of per device contracts, to help customise the support each of our clients requirements.  This means we can monitor the network, perform maintenance and resolve any issues found or reported to us for a known figure each month.  You can plan your cash flow and know the cost of your IT support regardless of the support you require each month.  It takes the unpredictability out of your financial budgeting for IT.

Compared with ad hoc support, you get a guaranteed response time to different priorities of incidents, alongside the cloud support services and network monitoring and maintenance that might be included in your per device contract.

A per device contract can be suitable when you do not have your own internal IT department and you need to be able to predict your monthly expenses, we basically act as your IT department taking away all the stresses that can be involved.  When considering if you require an ad hoc contract or a per device contract you need to consider the importance of your IT infrastructure to your ability to operate your core business.  If without your IT network and devices you could not operate your business successfully a per device contract which allows for monitoring and maintenance of the network would be your best choice we will pro-actively monitor to prevent failures wherever possible.

A per device contract also allows you to increase and decrease your requirements as you grow in size, so it can be a great solution even if you plan to grow in size or know you will need to increase devices for a project then decrease afterwards.  The flexibility along with the known cost of each additional device allows you to plan in the IT costs to your expenses of a project and take one more unknown out of the planning of your future project.

A per device contract allows us to take the uncertainty out of IT maintenance and costs for you and to help you plan and maintain your IT infrastructure.  This means you can concentrate on your core business while we concentrate on ours to maintain your IT network.  Let’s make IT work for YOU.