Using managed IT services to transform your business (MSP)

EngineerThere has been a large amount of press and Internet Talk on what a managed service provider is and why you need one.

So a brief explanation, a managed service provider (MSP) is someone or a company that you outsource your ICT business components and they looks after it for you.   The two important components of an MSP contract is that it has a single base cost and you have a higher level of support for your infrastructure.   Some MSP have additional costs but these are usually covered in the shined contract called a service level agreement.

That is the basic idea behind the MSP business but if done correctly a good MSP can transform your business.   I know that sounds like marketing and sales hype but it is true if you enter into the correct contract with a good MSP.

How would a MSP do that?   At the most basic level a contract with an MSP allows you, as the business owner or manager, to concentrate on your core business.   You no longer need to balance core business with keeping the business running.  The MSP would keep you informed of what your infrastructure was doing and to act as help desk and monitoring and reporting component.   This removes these components from the worry of your normal business requirements.

The MSP should allow anyone in your business, no matter where they are, to call the help desk during working hours and you know that they will get the best available support.   It would also include a high level of proactive support so that little problems are rectified well before they become noticeable.

A spin off from the employment of a MSP is that because you know have experts managing your business systems the complicated business infrastructure now becomes a whole lot simpler.   It also allows for sound advice and information to flow between management /  owner and the MSP thus helping to move away from either the knee jerk reaction or the purchase the bright shinny new thing that seems to happen.

Your MSP should firstly implement and create an ICT strategy for your business and this would create innovation that allows your business to improve its business processes and systems.   Your MSP knows technology and how to use technology for your business it will also allow better and improved technology to improve your business.

The final point of an MSP is that you now remove the hobby technician that you have in your business allowing them to get on with the job that they were employed for.   This again allows your to improve the business.

A good MSP will cost significantly less than what you would pay for an on staff technician, it allows for better system management and  supplies onsite support within the definition of your service level agreement.

Business security is the beast that needs to be tamed otherwise it will eat you alive.

EngineerThe digital revolution is here and if you haven’t noticed you are either living under a rock or haven’t grasped the significance of what is happening around you.

By the year 2015 there will be more than 3 billion people connected to the World Wide Web and the Internet through mobile devices, business systems and normal computers.    It is something that has revolutionized the way we think, relate and work and who knows what else it will change in the future.

There are only two things that you need to take into consideration in this connected age, how you are going to use this new found wealth of information and connection availability and how are you going to protect yourself from those same people.

Utilisation of the World Wide Web is no longer a problem anymore, buy a phone, tablet or computer and it is immediately available to you, the second consideration is slightly more complicated. Somewhere along the way you need a framework, blueprint or system that is going to help with the management and protection of your business information.

In most cases how you protect your business information, your staff, your client information and your intellectual property seems to be second to and not as important as cash flow, profit, marketing, sales and revenue.   The trouble is, that is incorrect.  The security of your business information and data is just not set and forget.    It is a beast that needs constant care and attention otherwise it could just bite you hand off.

This beast that is your business information has 3 components, the what (information that is critical to the wellbeing of your business), the where (location of that information) and the how (measures you use to protect it).   Protecting that information does not need to be a full time job but it can be time consuming.   It doesn’t need to be expensive but at times it can be.

You can separate your protection into these three focus areas – the technology you are using, the command and control processes that you incorporate into your business and the sustainability of your business.

These three components go a long way to creating a stable, well protected and resilient business that will support you, your business and your family for the foreseeable future.   With all of the turmoil that the future World Wide Web can deliver your business security needs to be able to handle any changes that are thrown at it.  The system needs to be able to adapt to future change as well as allow you to do the business that you want.

A decent system of business information protection does not necessarily have to cost large amounts of money, but it can if you are not careful.  It does not need to implement by an expert especially considering most of it is common sense and it can be incorporated into your normal business practice.    A classic example is password control.   Complicated passwords can be enforced through technology and training.  You no longer need to be able to make sure that all users have passwords that are hard to guess as the operating systems and website can enforce their creation.   You just have to teach your staff how to do it.

I bought in my iPad can I use it for work?

3D Small People - Flight On PhoneMobile devices are invading our homes, workspace, businesses and organisations.   They are being demanded by workers, Y gen users and teenagers.   Management are always in the situation of trying to catch up with their use and fold them into their business model.

One of the major problems with mobile devices is the how do you secure them and what needs to be secured on the device.    Mobile defence and security consists of 3 areas – the device itself, the data, apps and access to information and the rest of the network.

Here are some ideas for making sure that mobile devices are as secure as possible.

The device – what happens if the device is lost or stolen?    Without a good security strategy it would not matter if the device is issued by the company or it is personal there will be incriminating and business critical information available on the device.   Passwords and encryption is widely used to restrict access to mobile devices, even home users can use
“mobileme” to find their iPhone / iPad or set it up that after 5 failed attempts at access it wipes the device and can only be reactivated by talking to the provider with the account holders information.   There are even better applications available at a business and corporate level.

In the business world it depends on whether you only allow access to the business through business supplied devices or it is open slather you still need to have some level of control.
If you control the device then you can wipe the device if it is lost, stolen or misplaced without any repercussions.   You also need to ensure that all devices have some level of backup and
recovery feature to ensure that important business data is not lost.   If the business doesn’t own the device then you also need to ensure that control over the system allows for the remote
removal of information deemed business critical.

The data, apps and access information that is on a device can be business critical.   Specific apps developed for the business may have critical implications if accessed by unauthorised people on a stolen device.  Some applications also deliver and retain business data on the device itself.   Finally all of those web sites or applications that have access to personal information – banking software, linked in, Facebook, what happens if that information is compromised.   As a safety system never allow the device to save your password, yes I know it is so convenient to have that one click access but!

The use of mobile devices is also compliant on the main business security strategy.   They should always comply with traditional defences like firewalls, encryption and secure passwords and should not be used as a bypass for information access on the business network.   If possible wireless access to information through a device should be done through separate network
access and VPN’s thus adding additional levels of protection and security.

How you protect your information is compliant on your business security strategy.   If you want your people to bring in their own devices or you are going to supply them then
that is your decision but it needs to fit in with your business direction and requirements.    If you have staff that constantly loose or misplace equipment I would seriously think about making the systems as secure as possible.