October 21st, 2014

The news stories of cyber criminals stealing personal information from large companies is almost a daily occurrence. What you don’t hear about however are the information stolen from small and medium companies.

Consider that even a small amount of stolen information is often enough for a thief to target a company. A well-crafted email containing personal information about the recipient and/or one of their clients or vendors will have a good chance of being “trusted” and opened. And if the payload is malicious, the attacker may succeed in getting malware installed on a corporate network.

At a minimum, every small and medium business should have these elements in place in their network:

  1. Business-class antivirus
  2. Business-class antimalware
  3. Business-class UTM firewall with Next Generation technologies
  4. Business-class 3rd party spam filter
  5. Industry standard controls over mobile devices.

If you’re a business owner in Phoenix, Scottsdale, or Tempe, we encourage you to consider our Fortinet NGFW internet security service and HEXAD network security package which are included in our SecurePro managed service offerings.

Topic News
October 20th, 2014

I can actually recall the first time I got on the Internet. I was looking around on my Compuserv account and noticed a button that referred to something called the “internet”. And when I clicked on it, I felt like I was leaving the safety of compuserv and entering a much larger world; and I was.

Oddly, many companies are at the same place after all these years with their corporate IT system. Perhaps due to fears over security or control, they have remained in the old “on-premise” world. While a conservative approach should be taken to the evolution of any business IT system, there is no single barrier that should stop a small or medium business from considering cloud based solutions to enhance their business’ IT system. A common-sense approach to evolving a company’s IT capabilities will tend to improve productivity and foster long term growth.

If you are a small or medium business in Phoenix, Scottsdale, or Tempe, consider BCS as an IT company that may be able to partner with you for security, wireless, managed services, VOIP, or other technical solutions.Small world big world

Topic Articles
October 17th, 2014

There are a multitude of VOIP systems on the market today with more market entrants on a continual basis. The approaches to the best and most cost-effective solution are varied. So how does a small business owner get started on selecting a replacement for their aging phone system?

Let’s break these approaches down to 3 categories:

  1. Traditional Analog: This is the type of service that hasn’t changed a lot in over 100 years. Although the phones and phone systems inside the business has changed and improved, the service that arrives at the company location is still basically pairs of copper lines. Inside the building, the computer network is used to connect to the phones themselves which eliminates the need for separate phone cabling. This approach generally provides the best voice quality and the most reliability due to it’s simplicity.
  2. 3rd Party VOIP: In this system, a third party phone company uses the internet to transmit voice signals to and from the company. Although this approach is relatively cheap and easy to install, voice quality will vary depending on the state of the internet which is beyond the control of the phone company or the business. It also is susceptible to failure if the internet connection goes down, which represents a single point of failure for both voice and often data as well.
  3. Dedicated VOIP: This system is similar to #2 but uses a dedicated data connection that is provided by the phone company themselves. The advantage here is that the phone company controls the entire path from the phone to the phone system and usually provides consistent voice quality. The down side is high costs for the dedicated line which may not be a good fit for small companies. In addition, there is usually only a single data line which if fails, will cut all voice services.

It’s best to be careful before selecting your next phone solution. While some systems may seem attractive due to convenience, they may be a continuing source of frustration to the business owner, especially considering the critical nature of phone systems for most companies.

Topic VoIP
October 13th, 2014
  1. Use a consumer grade firewall: Any business represents an attractive target for a hacker, who now employ a multitude of attacks to steal identities, sensitive information, or passwords. Since many companies use cloud services, and their employees are spending more time online, firewalls must do much more than ward off external attacks. A modern business-class firewall can protect a company from malicious websites, unauthorized data leakage, social-engineered attacks, and sophisticated forms of intrusion.
  2. Manually back up their data: Manual backup to tapes or disk is an unnecessary risk that no business should be exposed to. The reliability of manual backups depend on the person who is doing them: a big source of failure. The main problem with this approach is that problems are usually discovered in an emergency when trying to restore lost data, and that is almost always too late.
  3. Purchase consumer grade PCs or Laptops: Not only are “Consumer grade” PCs and laptops less reliable, they are often loaded with trial software, games, and offers for products that have nothing to do with your business. In addition, manufacturers often cut corners to reduced costs resulting in the use of custom components that are often expensive and hard to find if they need to be replaced.
  4. Use outdated wireless equipment: The security provided by older wireless equipment can be defeated easily by any knowledgeable hacker. If your wireless router or access point is more than 5 years old, it should be replaced. Not only will you end up with a solution that is much more secure, it will also be much faster and likely have greater range.
Topic Articles
October 8th, 2014

A lot of business owners that we talk to are very focused on the technology they are using and what they believe they need. For example, should they stay with their current in-house setup or should the “go to the cloud”.

While these are important considerations, they are not the right questions to ask if a business is experiencing technology-related problems. For example, if an employee leaves the company or is terminated, is there a process to secure their account, archive their data, and then remove the account. In many cases when we audit a system we find old employees that still have active network accounts and in some cases have found they have logged in AFTER they left the company.

So while selecting the right technology is important, putting the correct process in place to manage that technology is much more important.

October 1st, 2014

For larger buildings or in high-density environments such as schools, it’s tempting to try to solve performance problems by adding additional wireless access points. However, does this strategy actually work?

Quite often, it will not. The access points will tend to interfere with each other because they will likely be transmitting on the same frequency or frequencies that are close to each other. This can actually degrade performance.

For better performance, consider these alternatives:

  1. Other sources of interference: cordless telephones, fluorescent lights, Bluetooth devices, microwave ovens and wireless cameras can slow down your wireless network so finding and eliminating these sources if possible will beneficial.
  2. Upgrade your wireless network: Each wireless standard can support much faster data rates than previous ones. Since only one device at a time can communicate on a wireless channel, the faster it can complete means more bandwidth will be available for other devices. This has the effect of increasing the total number of devices that can use the same access point.
  3. Switch to the 5GHz band: Some 802.11n and all 802.11ac access points can operate on the 5GHz band which remains largely unused and therefore less “noisy”. In addition, wider channels can be used which increases throughput.
  4. In summary, for larger networks it’s a good idea to analyze your current wireless environment to determine the best approach for maximum performance for minimum cost.

Topic Articles
September 30th, 2014

While there are a lot of techniques that you can use to secure your wireless network, many offer little or no protection. For a business that believes their wireless and wired networks are secure because they’ve implemented any one of these five techniques. If you are relying on any of these to secure your network you should reconsider your wireless network setup:

MAC Filtering: This technique will only allow certain devices to connect to the wireless network based on their MAC, or “hardware” address. The problem is that it’s easy for any hacker to look at the MAC address of any device on the wireless network and then change it’s own MAC address to one that is allowed.

WEP Encryption: This was the security standard used when wireless first came out. Although it initially provided some protection against hackers, it can now be cracked in less than a minute.

SSID hiding: Using this technique, the SSID is not broadcast in an attempt to hide the presence of your wireless network. Unfortunately there are 4 other ways to detect the SSID of a wireless network.

Topic Articles
September 29th, 2014

Business are relying on wireless connectivity at an increasing rate. The new 802.11ac standard can theoretically support traffic rates up to 1,000MB/s which is faster than the wired networks in most offices. The use of mobile devices has increased the necessity of supporting a secure wireless network.

However locking down a wireless network is a much more difficult task than securing a traditional wired network. A wired network can only be accessed by physically connecting a device; a wireless network can be accessed by a determined hacker from outside the office or building. And if he can gain access to the wireless network, he can often break into the wired network as well.

Fortunately wireless security has also been advancing. The old WEP encryption standard which is easy to defeat has been replaced with WPA2. Using a strong password with WPA2 will create an encrypted communication channel which is much more difficult to defeat. This should be the core of any strategy to secure a wireless network.

Topic Articles
September 4th, 2014

Wireless networks, once an afterthought in many offices, has now become a business-critical capability. Secure wireless capabilities are needed to support personal mobile devices, tablets in the classroom, machines on the manufacturing floor, bar scanners in warehouses, and workstations and laptops where there is no Ethernet cabling available.

Advances in wireless technology fortunately have kept up with the increasing technical demands. The latest standard is called 802.11ac can provide data rates up to 3 times faster than the previous 802.11n standard that is in common use today, or up to 1GBit/s of throughput. In addition, it uses the 5GHz radio band which is much less noisy than the 2.4GHz band that most systems run on today. 2.4GHz is also used by a lot of other devices including cordless phones and microwave ovens and can interfere with today’s wireless networks.

Current products that already use this standard include the Macbook Air and Pro laptops, the Apple Airport router, Samsung Galaxy S5 phone are already on this standard. About half of all new wireless devices to be sold by next year are expected to support 802.11AC. So if your company is considering installing or upgrading a wireless network, you should consider a solution that supports 802.11AC.

August 31st, 2014

As employees are spending more and more time on the internet in order to perform their jobs, small and medium business in particular may not be aware of the possible implications to productivity loss, security, and regulatory and legal issues.

In the past, all company data and systems were internal and security systems were designed to keep cyber intruders out. Today, much of the data and applications that employees are using are physically outside the company on the internet. In a sense, PCs and mobile devices are more “wired” to outside systems instead of internal servers.

This evolution has led to increased risks for businesses. For example are your employees protected against malicious websites that could infect and attack critical information systems? Also, sophisticated internet client applications such as bit torrent and skype can unknowingly transfer sensitive data elsewhere without detection from conventional security systems.

Perhaps more importantly the inability to control what sites employees’ access, such as shopping, job search, or pornography can lead to decreased productivity and increased liability.

Fortunately, the solution to these problems are inexpensive to install, configure and maintain. A reputable IT Consulting Firm should be able to provide you with a reasonable fixed price quote to do this.