Is Cloud Hosting Still the Best Option for Your Business?

The cloud is a powerful method of computing. When the term first entered into wide usage, it was ambiguous. No one really knew what it meant. Or, if they understood the concept, most people had no idea how it worked.

Today, we’re past the stage of being mystified by the cloud. Most people get the concept of a decentralized computer network that harnesses the power of many individual machines to provide computing services.

But understanding the cloud and trusting the cloud are two entirely different propositions. Despite the proven benefits, many business owners or administrators still have a tough time relinquishing control over their data to a third party. They just don’t like the idea of sending proprietary information out into the ether.

Are they right to be concerned? Are there better methods of storing data?

To be sure, cloud computing isn’t the only option available. Many businesses choose to host their websites or manage their business infrastructure on their own, in-house servers. Some may split some data storage tasks between in-house servers and the cloud. On the other hand, many businesses fully embrace the power of the cloud.

What’s right for someone else may not be right for you. And vice versa.

So, how can do you know if cloud hosting is right for your business? Let’s take a look at a few attribute of the cloud to help you make an informed decision.

Ease & Access

One of the best things about cloud hosting is the ability to easily access your data anytime and from almost anywhere. This makes running your business on the go very easy. And, it can also foster greater collaboration among your employees – especially if they’re working remotely or in different locales.

Another benefit is foregoing big expenditures on expensive hardware. In-house servers cost a lot of money. If you’re a small business, investing in costly infrastructure may not be the right move. Cloud hosting allows you to keep your costs down as your organization grows.

This highlights another cloud advantage – scalability. If your company grows quickly, or your website traffic takes off unexpectedly, all you have to do is inform your provider that you need to step up your plan to meet your data needs. That’s it.

Another upside of cloud hosting is the ability to get back up and running quickly after a disaster or emergency situation. Decentralizing your data allows you the flexibility to access important information whenever you need it, from whatever device you have available.

Security

Many cloud detractors cite security is a reason why they won’t engage with the service. This group prioritizes maintaining complete control of company data from start to end. They would rather entrust their IT security to an in-house team of experts.

However, cloud providers are actually better positioned to provide data security than any individual business. Cloud providers have dedicated teams that are specifically tasked with keeping the entire cloud network safe. Most organizations, especially small businesses, don’t have the resources to stay on the cutting edge of network security. Even a robust internal IT team would have trouble matching the security capabilities of a cloud host, as security is just one aspect of an in-house IT team’s responsibility.

Also, it’s important to remember that your internal security protocols are only as strong as your weakest user. System users (people) are the greatest weakness to a secured system. Keeping sensitive information off your local servers can actually protect your business from an accidental breach, employee theft or corporate espionage.

The Final Case

Is cloud hosting right for absolutely everyone? Probably not. However, the scalability, flexibility and security of the cloud makes it an attractive and affordable choice for small and medium-sized businesses.

If you’d like to know more about how cloud hosting can help your business, give BITS a call. Our IT security experts can provide a professional analysis of your vulnerabilities and network needs.

By | 2018-11-27T08:59:04+00:00 October 30th, 2018|Hosting Services, IT Services|

Cloud IT Services and Security

Is Cloud-based Computing as Secure as Server Hosting?

Security questions have hounded cloud services since their inception. But, is the cloud an inherently less secure method of computing than in-house servers? The answer differs depending on who you ask.

A 2014 study by the information security-focused Ponemon Institute found that about half (51%) of IT security practitioners had concerns about their organizations’ ability to secure data and applications hosted in the cloud. Understandably, these concerns provide enough justification for some organizations to avoid using the cloud.

However, other IT experts contend that the cloud’s out-sized security vulnerability is a myth. In fact, they argue that security of cloud-based services is often better because of industry standards governing data centers. In majority of cases, they say, what threatens the security of the cloud is the same thing that threatens in-house IT infrastructure — the users.

So, perhaps, the debate should be reframed. Maybe the question isn’t “How secure is the cloud?”. Maybe what you should be asking is “How good are my data security protocols?” and “How well does my team understand them?”.

These are much bigger questions. But, ones that are likely to result in a better approach to data security and risk management. Putting cloud-specific security concerns aside and thinking about your data network holistically allows you to zero in on your organization’s unique IT management needs.

The Public Cloud

Over 70% of the world’s businesses rely at least in part on services based in the cloud. These services offer some serious advantages for data storage and website hosting, not the least of which is cost effectiveness.

Cloud services are easy to access, customizable to your organization’s structure and adaptable to changing needs. When you host your website on the cloud, there’s no need to buy and configure expensive servers. There’s no need to hire a large IT staff for the purpose of server maintenance. And, you can also scale up quickly, in case your website traffic spikes unexpectedly (yay!).

Services delivered via the cloud tend to have extensive security measures, including change management — the ability to track system and data changes within a computer network. You can also restrict access to sensitive data streams to designated personnel.

That adds up to a fairly convincing business case. So, why do some organizations insist on building out their own extensive IT infrastructure?

The Case for In-house Servers

The bottom line is, you lose a measure of control the second your data leaves your network. Even if that data is stored on a very secure server in a tightly controlled data center, there’s a possibility that you could lose access unexpectedly.

Additionally, some industries carry stringent requirements for data management that can impact IT infrastructure decisions. If you work with the military or the intelligence community, for example, you may be restricted from relying on servers based in other countries. If you’re a hospital or a doctor’s office, there are legal obligations that come with storing patient records electronically. In both cases, the choice to use secure, in-house servers may be perceived as more prudent.

Lots of things happen that we cannot control. When and if they do, proximity to the physical location of your data can be an advantage. For this reason, organizations large and small, sometimes choose to keep their data network in-house.

Beacon is Here to Help

Whether you’re looking to streamline your IT infrastructure, or need expert assistance supporting your in-house data processing and storage, Beacon IT Services (BITS) has the technical know-how you need. Have questions or concerns? Give our experienced team a call at 336.265.2700.

By | 2018-06-19T10:50:11+00:00 June 19th, 2018|Hosting Services, IT Services|

Review Your Web Hosting Options: Dedicated, Shared or Cloud

With cloud services becoming more and more popular, this seems like a good time to review the options available to us. Perhaps, by comparing the advantages and disadvantages of the three most common computing solutions, you’ll get a better idea of the service or option that can best suit your business.

Do I need dedicated hosting?

In the event that you’re struggling with that very question, let’s clarify what dedicated hosting is and what it can do for you. Basically, dedicated hosting means that you have a dedicated server and resources specific to you. Dedicated hosting can be a good answer for you if you’ve got a high volume website and can manage your own data center. That means you’ll need to have resources on site or an IT vendor you can call for emergencies.

Advantages:

  • Every aspect is within your control.

Disadvantages:

  • In the event of an emergency, calling your IT guy on short notice can become an expensive proposition.

Do I need a shared hosting solution?

A shared or managed solution is exactly as it sounds. Your server is at a remote location and most often, you have a local back up. A company manages and maintains this server for you, ensuring that all updates occur promptly, security is in place and your information is accessible should a major on-site episode take place.

Advantages:

  • No need for on-site resources
  • Packages may include 24/7 support
  • Extremely reliable – little to no downtime

Disadvantages:

  • Less control
  • Cost (when compared to cloud)

What’s all this talk about cloud computing?

With cloud hosting, your information may be managed over several servers. Each server performs a specific task. A malfunction of one server with trigger another one into use, creating a back-up and ensuring uninterrupted operation. Cloud hosting is becoming popular for its low cost and flexibility, among other things.

Advantages:

  • Low up-front investment in hardware and low monthly costs
  • Flexibility/Mobility
  • No maintenance
  • Little to no downtime

Disadvantages:

  • Subject to internet outages

What solution is best for me?

Another good question. You’re on fire today. Email me and let’s discuss which solution works best for your business needs.  One of our Microsoft certified engineers can get you up and running for as little as $5 a month. You can give us a call at 336.447.3473 or request a free audit to find out where your business is. We’ll help you take the first step towards an affordable network solution.

By | 2017-11-15T11:38:38+00:00 November 14th, 2017|Hosting Services|

Is It Time to Move to a Cloud Based Server?

Applications are running slower. Productivity is suffering. So, you’ve decided to face the music and  update your network servers. But your business partner is singing a different tune. He wants to go with what’s trendy. It’s what all the kids are talking about, he says. It’s called Cloud Hosting.

In our respective business spaces, we all want to be the Rolling Stones, not Gnarls Barkley*.  With that in mind, do we go with the traditional dedicated server or the trendy, cloud server? Cloud server vs. dedicated Server. You can look at this as the IT version of American Idol or, for the baby boomers among us, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.

Cloud Hosting – One Hit Wonder or Here to Stay?

Are cloud based servers the one hit wonders of IT or are they in it for the long haul? Before we proclaim cloud hosting as the greatest thing since The Beatles, let’s examine the pros and cons.

What are the Advantages of Cloud Servers?

Backup & Recovery – This is a huge upside, especially for small and medium size businesses. Backup is automatic and Cloud based backup service requires no large up-front investment. In the event of an unexpected event, disaster recovery is as easy as 1-2-3.

Software Updates Are Automatic – Providers roll out regular software updates so you don’t have to. This includes the all-important security updates. Best of all, it frees up more time for business as usual.

Low Upfront Cost – Cloud servers are subscription based so there is no upfront hardware expense. You simply pay as you go.

Remote Workstations – You can have access to your documents or desktop from anywhere. Additionally, you can offer remote opportunities to employees, making it easier to attract the best talent.

Security – Lost a laptop? No problem. As well as having the safeguard of a cloud backup, one can wipe data from a lost laptop so proprietary information doesn’t find its way to a competitor.

This is just a short list. There are other advantages, too.

What are the disadvantages of a cloud based server?

Downtime – You are at the mercy of your internet connection. When it’s offline, so are you. If your connection is reliable, then all is good. But, if you’ve experienced frequent outages in the past, think carefully before you take the plunge.

Data Breach – While hosting companies have made significant strides in this area, hacking still occurs. Despite added security features, your data is not 100% secure here or anywhere, for that matter.

Data Transfer Costs – While transferring data to the cloud is generally free, you should be aware that outbound data transfers over the basic monthly allowance of the agreement are charged a fee.

The Votes Are In

If this were American Idol, we’d invite this contestant back. In American Bandstand terms, it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.

How ‘Bout a Dedicated Server?

Dedicated servers are like Elvis. At one time, they were the hippest thing out there. And let’s face it, who doesn’t want “a hunk, a hunk, o’ burnin’ love”? I know I do. But there’s a little bit more to it than that. So, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of having your own dedicated servers.

What Are the Advantages of Designated Servers?

It’s Dedicated (Not Shared) – In some cases, the resources of a single cloud server can be tried by other clients who suck up CPU and RAM. This cannot happen with a dedicated server, by definition.

Performance – Since you know that you’re not sharing the server with tons of other people’s traffic, performance should be great. However, if you’re seeing a large influx of your own traffic, you may have outgrown it.

Unique IP Address – On a cloud server, you share an IP address. If your neighbor is spammy, your performance, rankings and more could be adversely affected. This is never an issue with your own dedicated network server.

What Are the Drawbacks of Designated Servers?

CostUpfront cost can be prohibitive.You’re purchasing a lot of hardware that, in the case of a cloud hosting arrangement, resides elsewhere.

MaintenanceUnless IT is a core competence of yours, you’ll need a full-time IT staff or someone to troubleshoot problems as they arise. You’ll incur expense from tech support as well as possible revenue gaps from downtime.

The Kids Are Alright

Just as with cloud services, we’d invite them back. And the kids say you can dance to this, too. Truth is, either solution may be right for you depending on your organization’s individual and unique needs. Feel free to contact us at 336.447.3473 with any questions regarding your server needs and situation. One of our BITS experts can help you determine which solution is best for you and help punch your ticket to your own Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

*Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” peaked at #2 in the charts in 2006. The duo never made it to the top 40 again.

By | 2017-08-07T11:15:57+00:00 August 7th, 2017|Hosting Services, IT Services|

Do I Need an Email Spam Filtering Service?

You may be asking this very question as cyber criminals find more and more ways to access databases for valid email addresses to exploit. Spam emails, malware and phishing messages aren’t going away any time soon.  But you can take solace in the fact that your Outlook office suite has a spam filter feature enabled automatically. Or can you?  The more you know, the more likely you are to consider using third party spam filtering solution in addition to the out-of-the-box protection you already have.

Yes, the major office suites have an anti-virus solution built in. However, they are designed with the most minimal of requirements in mind. Additionally, it is important to note that once configured, it takes time for the out-of-the-box spam email solution to learn what is and isn’t spam. Hosted email protection services can work around the clock (and right away) to sense more complex attacks and defeat them.

A third party anti-spam solution can save you and your company time and money because….

You use less bandwidth. A third party solution vets incoming emails before they reach you. Only the ones deemed acceptable will travel to your email server.

If your server is down, you can still get your email. If your mail server is down for any reason, many third party email solutions enable you to access your email from their server. This is a tremendous benefit should you have an unexpected or lengthy server interruption.

You won’t be victimized by ransomware. Due to recent events, we’re all aware of the damage ransomware can do. There are third party anti-spam solutions created to defeat the latest internet scourges such as Petya and WannaCry. Out-of-the-box spam coverage is static.

No worries about a DoS attack, either. A DoS or denial of service attack attempts to overwhelm your server by sending an extreme volume of traffic from multiple sources. The objective is to bring your operation down and make you lose money. Since a third party service vets your email before it ever arrives at your server, the attack is detected and thwarted.

What works best for email security and protection?

Our IT services team has almost 20 years’ experience fighting spam related, nefarious activity. We do exhaustive research into the latest technologies that we might leverage to keep our clients’ proprietary information safe.

Beacon chooses to partner with ESET, offering their security suite to our clients. ESET has advanced security features that perform a cut above most anything else we’ve worked with. Their small business antivirus software is reliable and features an easy to use management console.

The software includes a firewall and you can enhance your email protection through this interface. Testing has indicated that it rarely if ever produces a false positive. In other words, not only does it perform well in eliminating malicious email, it does not confuse safe transmissions with questionable ones.

Additionally, the software’s anti-theft feature not only protects your mobile devices but should you lose your cell phone, you can lock your device remotely or even wipe it completely.

Could you benefit from a third party anti-virus solution?

Take the first step by getting a FREE network assessment from the IT professionals at Beacon. We’ll review your current to setup and let you know of any vulnerabilities we find and who you may be able to address them. Call Beacon IT Services at 336-447-3473 or email me at klackey@beacontec.com with any questions you may have on email management and anti-virus protection for your business.

By | 2017-07-20T06:55:20+00:00 July 12th, 2017|Hosting Services|