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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.

    

The Benefits of Cloud Computing for Small Businesses

When running a small business, servers and networking equipment can be a significant expense. To reduce this burden, many businesses are turning to cloud computing. Cloud computing provides a number of benefits including improved scalability, cheaper support, and improved disaster recovery. As a result, you have more time and energy to spend on other business needs. Here is an overview of what cloud computing has to offer.

So What Is Cloud Computing?

Cloud ServicesIn cloud computing, a program or application runs on a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet. Unlike applications on personal computers, these programs and applications can run from anywhere in the world. Cloud computing relies on dynamically scaled resources which makes it both efficient and affordable for smaller businesses.  Cloud computing is not only be for applications or data, it can include servers and your desktop computer as well.

One of the biggest advantages of cloud computing is the flexibility it offers in terms of scaling server resources. A major concern when purchasing computing equipment is whether or not the purchase will scale as your business grows. If you buy equipment that only covers current needs, you'll likely need to buy additional equipment in the future. However this extra equipment can cost thousands, so most business owners are averse to making such investments if they can avoid it.

With cloud computing, you pay only for the resources you use, and as you grow you can scale up the available resources as you need them. Cloud computing lets you scale resources up or down, so costs can scale with your business revenue. Many businesses have seasonal spikes, so you pay more only when necessary and reduce costs during slow months.  This is a big plus for accountants who need to scale during tax season.

A good cloud computing hosting service also offers full support, regardless of the time of day. This support is paid for out of your monthly bill. Hiring personnel to handle problems with in-house equipment would be much more expensive. For instance, if you have an e-commerce store, you'll be out thousands of dollars if your hardware fails in the middle of the night. With cloud computing, the hosting service automatically monitors and restarts your servers at all hours, for no additional fee.

Finally, cloud computing offers a way for businesses preparedness for disaster recovery and other technology issues . Backups are a saving grace in the event of a server crash or catastrophic incident, but managing them is difficult. You not only need to remember to make backups regularly, but you must store them in a safe place. Most cloud computing hosting services avoid these types of issues entirely. First, almost all cloud computing platforms offer some type of built in backup automation solution. Second, the host has plenty of space where you can store your backups. Finally, cloud computing hosts make it easy to rely on these backups when disaster strikes.

Many small businesses have a volatile first few years, especially on the technology front. Fortunately, cloud computing can reduce costs and keep your startup running smoothly around-the-clock. There are several cloud computing hosts to choose from, so do your homework before signing any long-term contract.

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.
    

6 Reasons to Start Using a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) serves as a shield between you and the Internet. VPNs are useful for privacy, hiding your home IP address and bypassing security policies. You might wonder if a VPN service is worth the few extra dollars a month. Here are six reasons why you should invest in a VPN host for home or work.

1. Protection from Hackers
Hackers use tricks such as phishing emails to get you to open a malicious website. With a VPN, you put a barrier between your home IP and a hacker's malicious website. Your IP is masked, so potential hackers cannot see your personal IP address needed for many attacks. While a VPN can't protect you entirely, it can offer some protection when you're browsing suspicious websites.

2. IP Privacy
When you connect to a VPN service, your browser uses the VPN server to connect to the Internet. The result is that the target website owner sees the VPN IP address instead of your personal IP. Several companies have been accused of using IP addresses for data mining including Facebook and Google. You can add some privacy and anonymity to your web browsing without website owners knowing the country and city from which you are accessing their site.

3. Bypass Internet Filters and Censorship
Many ISPs and workplaces filter Internet access. When you connect to a VPN server, the VPN server makes Internet requests on your behalf beyond the eyes of your ISP or work firewall. Using a VPN server effectively allows you to bypass any type of firewall or filter that blocks part of the Internet.

The VPN trick also works if a website blocks certain countries from viewing its content. Use a VPN with the right country IP address, and the target website won't block your access. This type of bypass is popular with gambling websites that block certain country IPs.

4. Protection on Public Wi-Fi Networks
Most VPN services have encryption. You connect to the VPN servers using SSL encryption, so data transferred from your computer to the Internet is encrypted and unusable by hackers. When you use a public Wi-Fi network, you risk having any other user on the network view your data. You shouldn't connect to any private account when using public Wi-Fi. To bypass this security flaw, you can use a VPN service, which will protect your data from prying eyes.

5. Privacy from ISPs
You can delete all your cookie and browsing history in your browser folders, but your ISP still logs your Internet activity. When you access a VPN service, the ISP only sees a connection to the VPN and nothing more. The result is total privacy from ISPs logging your browsing history.

6. Faster Connections to Streaming Sites
Netflix recently announced that it would pay providers to speed up user connections to its streaming service. ISPs such as Comcast throttle online streaming, which is one major complaint from its customers. Using a VPN, ISPs such as Comcast will be unaware that you are streaming, so you can get faster speeds.

Some Final Thoughts
As technology advances, your privacy is more at risk. VPN services can protect you from malicious sites, provide anonymity while browsing online and stop your web history from being tracked. If you're tired of slow Netflix speeds, a VPN is even beneficial for simple online videos.

Call Ease Technologies today at (301)854-0010 and learn how Managed IT Services can help secure your business and reduce your IT costs in Baltimore, Washington or Fairfax.
    

How to Remove Paperwork Clutter and Store Documents in the Cloud

If you have documents piling up on your desk, you can remove clutter by scanning and storing them in the cloud. Cloud storage not only provides more secure storage of your documents, but also allows you to access them from practically anywhere. What's more, cloud storage is cheap - some vendors like DropBox, Microsoft and Google even offer several gigabytes of free storage.

EvernoteHere's how you can create your own document scanning setup.

Purchase a Scanner
Small, personal scanners are fairly inexpensive nowadays. If you have several documents to scan, you'll want to take note of the speed of the scanner. In the long run, it will be worth your time to pay slightly more for a faster scanner.  I like the Fujitsu ScanSnap line and S1300 Duplex model offers a small mobile form factor.

Some scanners have wireless connectivity capabilities. This means that you can scan from anywhere around your home or office by connecting to your wireless network.

For quick one-off scanning jobs, you can also use your mobile device (i.e. phone or tablet) to scan documents. Many mobile devices' cameras double as scanners so you can store images on your device, then email them to yourself.

Scanning Software
Most scanners come with scanning software. However, check the manufacturer's documentation to make sure the software offers what you need. Also confirm that the software is compatible with your computer's operating system.  You want to see if the software can directly store documents to cloud storage or Evernote.   For Example the Fujitsu supports both Dropbox and Evernote. 

Storing Documents in the Cloud
After you've scanned the documents and stored them in a folder, you can move them to the cloud. The best free, personal solutions for cloud storage are DropBox, OneDrive or Google Drive. All of these options offer gigabytes of free storage. You can also purchase additional storage for a small monthly fee.

Another way to store all your stuff is with Evernote.  Evernote goes beyond raw cloud storage and provides a application to manage your documents.  You can tag, categorize and manage all your scanned documents very easily.  Evernote offers note taking and many other features in keeping all your stuff organized too.  

After you've stored your documents in the cloud, you can shred all the paperwork clutter around your home or office.

Access Your Cloud Documents
Cloud storage lets you access your documents from practically anywhere. For instance, if you need to reference a file while traveling, you can view it from your mobile device.

The best part about cloud storage is that you never have to worry about losing your documents. Physical papers can be misplaced or destroyed, as can physical storage media. However, with cloud storage, your documents are always backed-up, secure and available.

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.
    

5 Steps to Prepare for Hurricane Season

Hurricane PrepHurricane season is coming soon. Is your office prepared? Follow these steps to weather the storm.

1. Keep an Off-Site List of Contacts
You probably have thousands of customers and vendors. Keeping an offsite contact list will allow you to stay in touch with them and keep your business running during downtime. This list should contain vendors that you need to contact every week, as well as any customers with current, unresolved issues. A printed paper version can be important and don't forget to keep a list of employee phone numbers too.

2. Back Up Critical Data Offsite or in the Cloud
You only have a day or two after forecasters tell you that a hurricane has a high chance of hitting your area. Power failures, flooding, and even looting are all risks to your infrastructure and data that come with a severe storm.

A thorough disaster recovery plan will already accommodate the offsite storage of critical data. If you don't have such a plan, you'll want to start backing up critical data to an offsite location as soon as possible. This will give the data time to fully transfer before the hurricane hits.

One of the best options is to store your backups in the cloud. Data saved in the cloud is also readily available and redundantly stored.  Implementing cloud backups can take some time to plan, store and test.  

3. Have a Communication Plan
Work with your employees to create primary and secondary ways of to communicate during the storm.  You might want to forward your phones or extensions to cell phones.  Many newer VoiP phones systems provide a lot of options including just carrying your office phone home and plugging it into you home Internet connect.  Email and even texting should be part of the triage plan.  Not only do you want to have plans that include employees, but what is your message to your customers.    Some companies have used social media like Facebook and Linkedin as ways to stay in touch as well.

4. Maintain Alarm Systems
Looters are a major concern during severe hurricanes. Scare away criminals and keep your equipment safe by using an alarm system. Since you might lose power, consider powering your alarm system with a generator. You'll also want an alarm system that communicates via cellular transmitter in case power lines go down.  Secure any equipment or valuables when planning on leaving the office or just bring some items home.  

5. Practice Your Recovery Plan
Test restoring your data to your servers. Ensure that your local and remote backups can be used to restore operations in the event that you suffer extended downtime. Stepping through your recovery plan makes everyone familiar with what needs to be done to get your company back up and running.

Need help with your own recovery plan? Automated backups are your best defense against massive data loss. These systems mean one less headache when worrying about your business during a hurricane. Contact us as soon as possible and we'll help you set up a complete data backup procedure to ensure that you don't lose data in case of a catastrophic event. Contact Ease Technologies today at (301)854-0010 and learn how Cloud Services can help keep your business secure in Baltimore, Washington or Fairfax.
    

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