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Why Should a Law Firm Move to the Cloud?

After Tropical Storm Sandy, many law firms found out the hard way that uninterrupted access to company data is a critical part of any business plan. Many practices are now exploring how a cloud-based office can reduce costs, improve on their disaster recovery plans and raise productivity.

Reduce and manage costs
Ease Cloud WorkspaceMany small and medium sized law firms have maintained an in-house IT environment.  This has involved the procurement of costly servers, computers, software and the support to maintain these complex systems. 

Cloud services can reduce operational costs and cut capital expenditures by eliminating more on-site IT equipment.  A cloud provider can even roll up servers and desktop systems to provide a complete virtual office in the cloud.  IT costs can then turn into a predictable monthly fixed fee model for the firm’s budget. This plan can also extend the life of your current workstation and laptop investments with less frequent hardware upgrades.

Work from anywhere
Having the ability to work from about anywhere is a critical aspect for any attorney.  This means more than just being able to read emails and communicate with clients while on the road.  Attorneys need to work on case information securely from any device. With Internet access, cloud based desktop systems can connect from any PC, laptop or tablet no matter the operating system.

Security
Information security is imperative for all businesses and critical for law firms. Trying to equip and keep users up to date on all security procedures can be a daunting task. A cloud desktop can be encrypted connection from point to point across the Internet. Even if that device is lost, damaged or stolen the only way to get to that cloud connection again is through a new secure authentication.  Look for solutions that have industry security standards like SAEE-16 or ISO 27001 for the best protection.

Management and scalability
A cloud based virtual office can provide a much easier way to scale resources for the firm.  It is much more convenient to turn on and off services for employees with cloud services.  There is one single point of administration that can provide reports on use management for compliance. This secure scaling of devices can now be offered for work from home and BYOD.

Backup and disaster recovery
The most important part of any disaster recovery plan starts with a well-implemented back-up strategy.  Hurricanes, floods, fires and earthquakes are unpredictable devastating events for any business. Knowing that your firms and clients data is secured out-side your office provides the best level of protection against these disasters. A cloud service stores this data remotely and the best services keep redundant backups across multiple sites in the country. This level of protection is out of reach for most firms with only in-house support.

Many firms are recognizing the value of cloud services.  To learn more about how cloud services can cut costs and improve your firm’s security check out the benefits of our Ease Cloud Workspace™ or call us today at (301) 854-0010.

    

How To Create A Cloud Policy For Your Small Business

cloud services

As you begin to move your company away from a physical infrastructure and into the cloud, it's important to make sure that proper security policies are in place. While you may have a general information security policy, don't think that absolves your organization from the need for a specific cloud security policy. The dangers that come along with using cloud software or infrastructure are markedly different than those of the typical security concerns encountered by most organizations.

The biggest risk for most cloud applications is a breach of the cloud provider's security. There is no real way to create a policy averting this risk, so the ideal solution is to look at things from the perspective of risk management—all cloud providers need to be evaluated for risk, based on their history, the architecture they use, stated security measures in place, and the value or risk of data being stored on that cloud platform.

The second biggest risk for organizations is employee negligence and inappropriate cloud usage. Curbing this risk requires several steps. First is identifying a point person in your organization, usually the IT manager, who will evaluate cloud services and approve or deny requests to use certain cloud providers. Next, employees need to be informed that they are not to use cloud services unless they have been vetted and approved by the point person. Finally, organizational data needs to be stratified by level of security it requires, so that cloud services can be evaluated for certain levels of security. For example, while one service may be perfectly fine to temporarily store or transport low–security information, it might not be secure enough for high–security information. Employees must be made aware that using cloud services is a major risk, and not to be done without authorization.

All cloud policies should integrate a worst–case–scenario plan. This can include plenty of redundant backups in case the cloud service storing your data goes down. It should also include a communication plan to inform your clients and customers in the event of a security breach at your cloud service provider.

Cloud services can offer your business a lot of flexibility and significant savings, but unless they are approached in a methodical and cautious manner, they can result in significant risk. A good cloud service policy is the biggest step towards minimizing this risk.

To learn more about how cloud services can cut costs and improve you company security check out the benefits of our Ease Cloud Workspace™ or call us today at (301) 854-0010.

    

Which OS Should Your Company Consider In A Post-Windows XP World?

Windows 8On April 8th of 2014, Windows XP will officially reach its end of life as per the Microsoft Windows lifecycle factsheet. At that point, Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP with patches, bug fixes, security updates, or any kind of technical assistance except for those customers paying for extended support. With extended support prices easily exceeding half a million for many companies, upgrading is the most practical and recommended option. Which leaves the question-in a post-Windows XP world, what operating system should you upgrade to?

Windows 8/8.1
The most logical solution is to upgrade to the newest and brightest offering from Microsoft. Windows 8/8.1 is seen by many as being a pretty far departure from Windows XP. The operating system has almost been completely torn down and rebuilt from the ground up, leading to an experience that can take a little getting used to. The single most noticeable change is the overlay of Metro, Microsoft's controversial new interface, on top of the Windows that organizations are used to. This change, along with some other minor tweaks and updates (such as removal of the "start" button), has led critics to be skeptical of the system.
Still, while the changes might take a little getting used to, Windows 8/8.1 has the distinct advantage of still being Windows. That means most of your software should continue to run post-upgrade, files will still open, your network configuration should be just fine, and peripheral devices should function just like they always did. And since the end of life for Windows 8 isn't until January 10, 2023, your staff will have plenty of time to get used to the particulars of the operating system before it's time to upgrade again.

One caveat to running out and switching to Windows 8 immediately is the relative newness of the operating system. It hasn't been thoroughly put through its paces yet in the business environment, and it's difficult to say whether all the bugs have been worked out or not. Some people have reported issues with drivers, hardware, and older software, making Windows 8 and 8.1 a little bit more of a gamble if it's not rigorously tested and evaluated to work in your environment ahead of time.

Windows 7
For organizations wanting to stay within the Windows family, but not willing to push the envelope with the latest and greatest version, Windows 7 presents a great compromise. While Microsoft will be discontinuing support for the product a full three years earlier than for Windows 8, it will still remain a viable business operating system until January 14, 2020.
Windows 7 is much less of a sea-change than Windows 8 in terms of how the operating system actually functions and the way your employees interact with their computers. Compatibility between Windows XP and Windows 7 is top notch, so the majority of your software should have no problems working. Because most of the changes in Windows 7 from Windows XP are transparent, most of your employees should be able to adjust to the new operating system with little difficulty and little need for training, making it an almost plug-and-play solution.

Because Windows 7 has been around for several years now, and deployed in many challenging corporate environments, it has been thoroughly tested and is a solid, safe choice for upgrade. The only major reason to pass on a Windows 7 upgrade would be the improved performance of Windows 8 and the fact that the lifecycle for Windows 7 ends in only six years, meaning you will likely have to begin preparing for the next upgrade in four or five years.

Mac OS/OS X
If your company has been toying with the idea of giving up on Windows altogether, the end of life period for Windows XP is a great to evaluate the Apple platform. While OS X, and Apple computers in general, are very similar to their PC counterparts these days, you will still face many challenges. Of all upgrade options, this is the most expensive as it requires purchasing completely new hardware and software. Still, if you've contemplated switching over to Apple, using your Windows transition budget to soak up some of the cost is a great way to offset the added expense.  There are some real advantages to Apple eco system. Apple offers a solid mobile platform with IOS and desktop experience that work very well together.  While not for every business something to consider.

You can learn more about this issue for your business by reading our End Of Windows XP White Paper here. Call Ease Technologies today at (301)854-0010 to learn how Windows and Apple OS solutions can help improve your business in Baltimore, Washington or Fairfax.
    

Plan Ahead Reduce Time on the Phone with Tech Support

tech supportWhen a technical issue arises in the workplace, it goes without saying that you want to get it resolved as quickly as possible. One minor glitch in the system can disrupt your entire workflow, costing your company time and money. By following a standard protocol after experiencing a technical problem, you can reduce time loss and confusion associated with a technical disruption and the resulting phone call to tech support.

First, make sure you prepare ahead of time the information you are going to need on the call. When you make a call to tech support, you should assume that there will be key pieces of information you will have to provide, and having that handy before making the call will cut back on initial information gathering and allow you to dive into the actual issue at hand. Make sure your company keeps organized records of software account numbers, versions, and any other basic information related to your software that will help your tech support representative quickly identify what you're working with.

Being able to replicate the error that occurred is also important in order for you to thoroughly and specifically explain your problem and for the representative to properly diagnose the issue. Being able to identify the steps leading up to a glitch allows the tech to narrow in on exactly where the error is happening, which will greatly reduce the time it takes to solve the problem.

As the tech guides you through the solution, make sure you document the steps in detail. This will allow you to keep organized records of technical issues and solutions, which will help reduce calls to tech support in the future, and help you to better understand the cause and solution of the error, rather than just simply going through the motions over the phone.

Being thorough and organized is key to maintaining a smooth process when it comes to handling technical issues. Make sure to keep easily accessible records of all your vital technical information to ensure a quick recovery and information security.

Call Ease Technologies today at (301)854-0010 or contact us here to learn how you can cut costs and accelerate your growth with Ease’s unique IT support services and solutions for organizations in Baltimore, Washington or Fairfax.
    

Are Your Employees Sharing Company Data on their Devices?

When employees leave your company, most managers are busy trying to make up for a sudden shortfall in labor, or training replacement employees. A new study by Symantec reveals that you need to be far more worried about what your former employees are taking with them and what they do with it. And while in the past employees were likely to take some office supplies or a stapler, according to this study, modern employees are likely to walk out with valuable proprietary information. Even more troubling, according to the report, this slow and silent data leakage often happens even with employees who are still happily employed.

Organizations of all sizes are having to fight harder than ever to keep proprietary information from leaking outside of the company. Meanwhile, as more organizations begin to derive the majority of their value from the IP they generate every day (rather than from the kinds of monumental research projects that characterized companies even a decade or two ago), the leakage of information is getting harder and harder to stop.

Misunderstanding Intellectual Property
The biggest problem, according to the Symantec survey, is that many employees simply don't understand how intellectual property works. Forty–four percent of respondents to the survey revealed that they thought that a creator of intellectual property maintained at least some ownership of their creation. A slightly smaller percentage, forty–two percent, saw nothing wrong with reusing source code or other IP from a former job at their new place of employment.

Company IP on Non–Company Devices
Just as insidious, though much less malicious, a full sixty–two percent of employees surveyed reported moving company IP to non–company devices. These devices included personal laptops and desktops, tablets and phones, and cloud hosting sites. Most of these people, however, never bother to remove these external copies of proprietary files after finishing with them. This digital detritus presents massive opportunities for your organization's data to get lost or misappropriated. The problem becomes even more pronounced because most employees, fifty–six percent, don't see anything wrong with using a former employer's data in their current job. That can be a big problem if your competitors suddenly have access to your trade secrets, but it can be just as bad if you are the recipient of this stolen information.

How to Protect Yourself
With so many ways for your company IP to get lost or misused, what can organizations do to protect themselves? Based on responses to the survey, it seems that the number one thing that organizations need to do to protect themselves and their intellectual property is to educate your employees on IP laws and regulations. Many employees feel simply having non–disclosure clauses and similar protection in employment contracts is enough to guard against data leaks, however one thing this survey clearly shows is that these clauses are not enough to properly inform employees. It could well be that most employees simply sign employment agreements without really looking through or understanding them. To make the message sink in, make sure that all employees sit down with their manager and go through the employment agreement, stressing the rights and responsibilities employees have in regards to IP. When employees leave, remind them during their exit interviews that all proprietary information needs to be returned to the company, and that sharing such information with future employers is grounds for legal action.

If you do discover that a former (or current) employee is mishandling information, or sharing it with new employers, do not hesitate to invoke any legal rights you have against them. Non–disclosure agreements and confidentiality agreements mean very little when they aren't enforced, and being lax with enforcement could cause your other employees to disregard these agreements or give them less weight.

It has long been suspected by corporate information security experts that the biggest threat to organizational data security wasn't hackers or data thieves, but employees being careless or thoughtless. This survey from Symantec simply confirms these suspicions, and stresses that education, not a metaphorical fence around your organization, is the best defense against wandering data.

Call Ease Technologies today at (301)854-0010 to learn how Mobile Device Management solutions can help improve your business in Baltimore, Washington or Fairfax.
    

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