Digital Workspaces

Blog, IT Solutions, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

The New Hero of Cyber Security; Zero Trust


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The ability to work from anywhere, on any device, has quickly become one of the greatest developments in the workspace of all time. It’s not an exaggeration either. In the UK, 4.2 million people were working from home in 2015. In fact, between 2012 and 2016, the mobile workforce increased by 12.35%, and that percentage is growing exponentially year on year. It’s widely predicted that by 2020, half of the UK workforce will no longer be plonked in an office all day. That means that it’s time to invest in nice shoes and/or new pj bottoms. And while that’s an amazing turn of events, it will cause some significant security concerns for everyone concerned. With so much of your workforce wandering the plains of the UK, your network is no longer secure by actual brick and mortar perimeter.

Today’s increasingly decentralised enterprises have become a bit of a headache for IT, who now have to keep you secure even when you’re not potentially clicking on some dodgy email phishing links. Zero trust has evolved to answer the issue. Back when cybercrime was still all the way at Gen III, most organisations assumed that their security protection was robust enough to keep them safe. Those few who did err on the side of caution deployed security operations centres or other cyber monitoring solutions, but for the most part IT departments assumed that anything inside the perimeter was safe. Oh, but those were far simpler times.

By working on the assumption that any resource in the network might be compromised, zero trust puts monitoring solutions in place so that you have the power to take remedial action if it’s needed. With this new solution, no one service or server is considered more secure than the next. It’s basically a data-centric network design that puts micro-perimeters around specific data or assets, giving you the flexibility to apply more-granular rules can be enforced. It solves the ‘flat network’ problem of hackers infiltrating your network and scurrying around undetected. With the right guidance (you’re welcome in advance) and a little bit of know-how, it only takes a couple of steps to get started with zero trust.

Identifying your sensitive data is the obvious first step. It sounds like an easy way to start the process, but it’s a little more challenging than you’d think. You can’t possibly protect data that you can’t see or know about. You need to know where your employees store their data, exactly who uses it, how sensitive it is and how they, your partners and customers use it. Without knowing all of this, you’re putting your data and your organisation at risk. And you can’t exactly start investing in security controls until you know what it is you’re actually trying to protect. When you have a better idea of what you’re dealing with, it’s time to classify it all. I suggest procuring the help of your most organised member of staff before moving onto mapping your data.

To understand how you’re going to employ zero trust, and therefore micro-segmenting specific sensitive data, you need to know how it flows across your network as well as between users and resources. This is a fun (probably not) exercise to have with your stakeholders, such as application and network architects, to fully understand how they approach information. To give yourself a bit of a springboard, security teams should streamline their flow diagrams by leveraging existing models. A zero trust network is based on how transactions flow across a network, and how users and applications access data. Optimising the flow to make it simpler, and start identifying where micro-perimeters will be placed and segmented with physical or virtual appliances. In a network where the compute environment is physical, the segmentation gateway will usually be physical as well, whereas a virtualised compute environment will deploy a virtual segmentation gateway.

Micro-segmentation is the name of the game after you determine the optimum traffic flow, by determining how to enforce access control and inspection policies at the segmentation gateway. The point of zero trust is to enforce identity rights, so that you can control who has the privileges to access specific data, so it’s important to know exactly which users need to access what data. You need to know more than the source address, port and protocol for zero trust to work, since security teams need to understand the user identity as well as the application to establish access rights. Having created your ecosystem, it’s important to ‘Big Brother’ it to identify malicious activity and areas of improvement. There’s no point only logging traffic if it comes from the internet- god only knows what kind of infectious diseases your network could contract from a wild-spirited USB. With your shiny new zero trust network, the segmentation gateway can send all of the data flowing through it, which includes traffic destined for both internal and external network segments, straight to a security analytics tool that inspects it properly.

Now that you’re the proud owner of a zero trust network, you can rest easy knowing that your network is being monitored effectively. Here at Cetus, we believe that building the best architecture is just as important as keeping it safe. We’re experts in all things datacentre and cloud, so make sure to have a chat with one of our specialists who can help you through all of your security challenges. And while you’re at it, book yourself in for our complimentary security posture review to identify where your organisation is being exposed to the nasty things that lurk on the outside of your perimeter.

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Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

 

Blog, Cetus Solutions, Citrix, Cloud, Cloud Hosting, IT Solutions, Our Upcoming Events, Security, Technology, Uncategorized

Five Signs You’re Ready to Embrace Cloud


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Unless you’ve been spending the best part of the last decade on a remote island devoid of human contact, chances are that you’ve heard a lot about this ‘cloud’ malarkey. And it’s a difficult one; there is just so much information out there, and it doesn’t always overlap. Even in your organisation, there can be significantly polar opinions on what’s best for your situation. In one ear, you have an IT specialist whispering “It’s the best thing since the Nokia 3310” and another one in your other ear muttering “It’ll take years to adopt, if we can even afford it”.

And both angel and devil in this scenario (decide which is which yourself) are right. Cloud is the best thing since the introduction of the Nokia 3310 redefined the use of the word ‘brick’, catapulting the world of on-the-go tech into a whole new revolution (even if that was just being able to play Snake at the bus stop). Sadly, we are constantly sold the idea of a plug-n-play service that will make a significant difference to your workforce. The thing is, it’s not the rainbows, unicorns and fluffy bunnies that we were promised. When it comes to cloud adoption, the focus is usually on going fully-SaaS almost overnight, which just isn’t really possible for long-established organisations. But it’s not all doom and gloom; if you pick the right IT solutions provider your dreams can become a reality, and deliver everything you expect. Still not sure if it’s for you? Here are five signs that you are ready to embrace cloud;

You’re adopting the new ‘mobile workforce’
Your business is growing and you’re employing more than ever. The millennial workforce has grown up with a significant experience in emerging tech, and they don’t know what life is like without it. The brightest graduates just out of uni are used to having their mobiles, tablets and laptops on the go. Let’s face it, they’re the generation that have mastered paying attention to multiple screens at once, all while walking, eating and doing whatever.

The problem is, they don’t want to be in an office all day. While the older generation are stuck in traffic three miles from the office, your mobile employees are already on their second coffee of the day, just finished replying to their emails and ready to get some real work done. Likewise, they’re more than happy to jump in the car, train or plane and join a conference, exhibition, workshop or a customer’s site and make sure they get all their work done on the spot. Gone are the days when your workforce would have to sacrifice a day to get the train to the other part of the country for an event, completely unavailable for anything else.

Work is no longer the be-all and end-all of a person’s life- living is. The modern workforce is picky. They no longer have the loyalty of generations before, sticking with one company until they retire. They want the best, and that includes the possibility of a more flexible work-life balance. So being able to work from anywhere, anytime makes far better sense. And that’s where the cloud comes in, allowing your employees to log in to their corporate virtual desktops from whatever device they happen to have on hand, regardless of where they are.

It’s time for a refresh
All tech, no matter how advanced it might seem, has it’s sell-by date. It’s a fact that a lot of organisations are quickly coming to realise. Chances are, this is the first time you’re looking at putting your servers in the cloud. Why not just replace your whole infrastructure like for like and be done with it? You’d forget how many bits of hardware makes up your IT closet, and how much of an investment it is just to keep the lights on in your data centre.

Now, it’s not as easy as clicking your fingers and just connecting everything to the cloud. There are plenty of reasons why it’s not feasible immediately; being chained to your legacy system, not having the internet connection to safely rely on cloud…. But don’t despair, there is a way to create an infrastructure so that it grows and evolves with your organisation and the latest trends in technology. Say goodbye to aging infrastructure, out-of-date applications and those constant reminders to get the latest version of your software. Poof! All of a sudden it’s a thing of the past.

It’s time to think about disaster recovery
Your organisation is built on a foundation of data. Whether that be customer lists, orders, customer data, the random PowerPoint presentation for the upcoming Directors’ meeting- you get the idea. If you couldn’t power up your laptop in the morning every employee in the company would essentially be a very expensive seat warmer. Disasters do happen, and if you can scoff that you haven’t experienced any yet, then you’re living on borrowed time. A single server fault could erase years of vital information in less than a second.

It’s even more scary when the facts state that the cost of an hour of downtime can cost from £6,100 to £534,000- and that includes small businesses too. Multiply that by the average time it takes to recover; 18 and a half hours. Could your business survive such a dramatic loss of productivity and reputation? 

By adopting the cloud and moving your data across, the majority of your disaster recovery planning is done. You can be safe knowing that your good solution provider will ensure that your data is being continuously backed up, testing the virtual backup server daily. When you do face your disaster, it’s reassuring to know that it’s simply a case of downloading the latest backups of your files and getting back down to business.

You’re growing, but you don’t know how to deal with it
Every organisation wants to expand. It’s the sign of success, of how a moment of entrepreneurship can turn into an achievement, and with every new person starting with you is an extra person who believes in your company and your message. But with every rapid expansion brings its own unique growing pains, and your organisation is no different. It’s only so easy to outgrow your physical infrastructure and network, leading to a loss of productivity. Which is exactly what you were trying to avoid in the first place, right?

Here’s another great way that cloud can make a difference. You obviously see a bright future for your organisation; full of targets being met, goals being blown right out of the water, the need for bigger offices, glittering awards nights and interviews from business newspapers on how you made it (may as well think as big as you can get, right?).

With your data, virtual servers and all of your storage in the cloud, it’s an easy fix to make your infrastructure flex with your needs. Instead of having to buy more servers and bandwidth, it’s a straightforward case of just renting a bit more of the cloud. And if you don’t need it later on, it’s quick and painless to reduce the size of what you need. As a certain meercat likes to say; “Seeemples!”

You want to beef up your data security
There are so many threats to your organisation. You always have to take care that your customer data collection and storage meets GDPR regulations, stay vigilant of potential Gen V cyberattacks, make sure that your ex-employee didn’t walk out with your company projects, there are plenty of things that could possibly go wrong. Not only do these really mess up your day, in only the politest of terms, but they could really cause you harm in the long run, too.

By running your organisation in the cloud, a significant portion of the manual processes that can lead to issues can be avoided. With automated backups, you can be sure that you’ll never have to run around patching up forgotten vulnerabilities and bugs. Having your data on the cloud makes it easier to see what your users are accessing, effectively abolishing the possibility of a user with a nefarious agenda sneaking around behind your back.

Every so often, you’ll change the door code to the office. That’s to secure your building from ex-employees who, let’s face it, have no business popping in anymore. It’s the same principle with your data. Chances are, you haven’t done anything to give them a reason to want revenge, but since they have no business rummaging around your secure files you want to make sure that they can’t. And that’s a simple thing to do with cloud, giving you the over-arching control over your users, without impeaching their self-governance.

Looking at a cloud adoption from afar can make the whole thing seem like an impossible task. When it comes to moving everything from on-premises to the cloud smoothly, while also keeping your business up and running with no disruptions, it’s akin to having your cake and eating it. At Cetus, we’ve been doing this for a while, and we’ve built a team of experts that has coordinated many a cloud project from start to finish. We’ve partnered up with Citrix and Microsoft Azure, the experts in cloud, to design, build and manage your cloud deployments. Speaking of Citrix, our Cetus experts will be attending the partner-only Summit event. We’re expecting to hear plenty about cloud migration and reducing IT costs, and we’re inviting you to our free update webinar where we share the latest announcements from Citrix, before anyone else. Make sure to register for your free place now! In the meantime, our experts are always on-hand to answer any question you might have (especially if it’s cloud-based!)

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Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

 

Blog, Cetus Solutions, IT Solutions, Technology, Uncategorized

Season’s Greetings


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When I was a lad, Christmas meant snow, and ‘Morecambe and Wise’ of course, but mainly snow. I know everyone says that this was what it was like in the past; but I’ve got actual photographs to prove it. Good times indeed.

How times have changed. In the UK we’re now more likely to get snow in March than December – I guess that’s progress … or something. So, this year there might not be snow at Christmas, but there are definitely clouds … a lot of clouds: Office 365, SalesForce, Azure, AWS, Google, Private Clouds and, of course, hybrid-clouds.
So, in these cloudy times; what presents might Santa be bringing on Christmas Morning? I’ve reminisced about past presents, so how about:

A Personal Organiser?
A very handy present indeed. You can put all of your appointments in it; take note during meetings; keep contact details. And, when you get back to the office; you can transfer all of this useful info into your chosen productivity tool. A very useful work tool indeed. Now that’s what I call progress.

As an alternative; why not consider our Digital Workspaces? They’re also pretty handy: with one of these, you can take your entire working environment to your meeting, or on the train, or to Christmas Dinner. You can remain connected, and up-to-date, at all times.

A Rubik’s Cube?
Enjoy hours of fun trying to get all six sides the same colour; realising that every minor change you make will have repercussions to each and every side of the puzzle. But at least you only get frustrated when things don’t work out. As an alternative, why not try managing multiple clouds as part of an ever-evolving cloud strategy: that can be a bit like a Rubik’s Cube … but with serious cost (and career) implications if you get it wrong.

The instrato approach to this challenge is called ‘Cloud Orchestration’. We can help you to take all of the, constantly evolving, moving parts of a hybrid-cloud solution; and to adapt your strategy in response to change. This allows you to deliver on your business requirements without wondering “what if I just change that bit?”

A Mouse Trap Game?
A bit old-school, but still a classic. It’s fun trying to get all of the pieces connected in just the right way so that the ball traverses the numerous hurdles to trigger the trap. There’s only one way to put the pieces together; it takes patience, a good eye and a sense of what you’re trying to achieve.

At instrato, we see the challenge of building a resilient Wide Area Network solution as being a bit like that; so … we cheat. By using Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN); we can avoid the complexity of the bit in the middle. We can ensure that the ball always reaches, and triggers, the mouse trap.

A Microscope?
One of my favourite presents from days gone by. Microscopes open up a whole new world of detail that, without the right tool, go unnoticed and unappreciated. It’s only when you can see the intricacies of how a system works, that you can truly understand what is going on inside.

Our Cloud Analytics solutions are (a bit) like a microscope. We can provide new insight into the detail of what is going on inside your hybrid-cloud solution; allowing you to identify threats, bottlenecks and potential cost reductions; ensuring that you continue to deliver on your cloud strategy.

At instrato we’d like to make all of your Christmases come at once. We can help you to start the new year with a clear, adaptable, cost-effective hybrid-cloud strategy that will definitely be ‘not just for Christmas’ – instead, our solutions will be a gift that keeps on giving year after year. Why not give us a shout in January to see how we can help you to have a ‘Happy New Year’?
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year – we look forward to working with you in 2019…

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Directors-9619Paul Kiveal – Business Development Director
Paul works with business leaders, helping combine strategic objectives with innovative technical solutions, developing inspirational new IT platforms that transform the way technology powers organisations.

 

Blog, Citrix, Cloud, IT Solutions, Technology, Uncategorized

The Citrix ‘Virtual Workspace’ Vision: What Have We Achieved?


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I don’t remember ever not having a computer at home. When my brother and I were little, somewhere in the rolling Irish countryside, that was technology; messing around in Paint for hours, until we were old enough to graduate to Tomb Raider (on keyboard) and whatever game demos my Dad got with his monthly PC Live subscription. If we were allowed to use the printer (that was a rare treat), we’d spend hours in Word making posters for our room, trying out every single option in WordArt and agonising over what colours we’d use- which would have absolutely no significance whatsoever since it printed in black and white exclusively. Then, as early teens, we got second-hand laptops to mess around in PowerPoint (I once did an amazing presentation on the benefits of having an allowance for my rabbit Poppy, graphics and all), and flex our creative writing muscles in Word. Back then, floppy disks were king (I still have some knocking about, storing god only knows what). Hell, I remember being 16 when my Mum bought my Dad a brand-new printer for his birthday; a super cool one that printed in colour and scanned documents and photocopied and printed wirelessly. It was amazing to have all of those features in one small device that was affordable for a modest family. And that was only in 2010!

For most of us, that was the reality until quite recently. Technology was just a cool little add-on, the ability to type out a document instead of writing it by hand, playing two-player videogames using only a single keyboard and mouse, being able to email Granny across the country- regardless of whether she’d remember how to access it or not. It was fun, but it wasn’t particularly useful. The workplace was the exact same (so I’m told); visiting the dusty clock-in machine at 9am, tapping away at an even dustier computer half the size of the desk, emailing people sitting just across from you, and finally kissing the clock-in machine goodbye at 5pm.

Last month was our Cetus Summit, a day of celebrating the achievements of the year just gone and anticipating how we can be even bigger and better in the year ahead. As part of the morning presentations, we had several vendors come and talk to us. One of those vendors was Citrix. For half an hour, they analysed a Citrix video from way back in 2001 that predicted the power and capabilities of a future workspace (if you want, you can find it here). It’s crazy to think that in 2001 we were still so behind on lots of techie features and gadgets that we couldn’t possibly imagine working without now. Anyway, since I’m betting you weren’t at that presentation, I’ve decided to do a bit of an analysis myself of Citrix Workspaces 2001 vs 2018 this week.

In the current future that Citrix had imagined (does that even make sense?), things are very 90s. Someone clearly didn’t get the memo about the segways, ripped jeans and I’d say fannypacks are the only thing from the 90s that we’d still see today (and they’re still a crime against fashion). Honestly, of all the changes since 2001, not wearing those god-awful suits is probably the best advancement. That and the awful Mercedes he drives- I swear, it’s the kind of car a drug kingpin would drive in the mid-90s. The scene is set; our protagonist, Jim, is evidently a high-flying business man, with a fancy office and no doubt an assistant. It’s the end of a workday and he’s particularly chirpy, but it’s not a Friday, so it must be a relaxed week at the office. Apparently it’s his anniversary as well, so that could be a contributing factor.

Telling no one in particular that he’s leaving work early (probably that assistant), he grabs his fancy PalmPilot-looking device and walks away, while his workspace gets transferred from his PC. Accessing your desktop via whatever device you choose is something that almost comes automatically in a virtual workspace in 2018. Indeed, Citrix Workspace makes it incredibly easy to access all of your apps, data and desktop, regardless of what kind of device. Move between your PC, home laptop, mobile or tablet, all thanks to your workspace. Getting into that God-awful Mercedes, our chirpy Jim is safety-first and pops his PalmPilot-mobile hybrid into its hands-free holder. Ever security-conscious, he accesses his device by using a fingerprint scanner. I’ve already covered multi-factor authentication (and how I feel about fingerprint scanners), and it’s no surprise that the Citrix vision of the future included biometric sign-on.

In any organisation, the ability for secure content collaboration is crucial. Jim clearly works for a huge multi-national company. On his way home, he gets a call from a colleague on the other side of the country. Some hiccup in a big deal means that he needs to try and make things happen before he can go for dinner. To fix the issue and speed the deal along, he needs to organise a conference call with colleagues in Seattle and Tokyo. Using his Citrix Workspace, he can securely call these different locations, while presenting and collaborating on documents in real time. It’s easy enough to transfer the conference call from Jim’s phone to his huge monitor- just the case of pointing his PalmPilot-thing at the screen and hey presto. I’m sure in 2001, this would have been a bizarre concept. Who would be too lazy to just turn the thing on? Nowadays, we don’t have the time to faff around with logins and transferring conference calls. With Citrix Workspace, this is a nifty little feature that’s sure to wow any newbies starting out, or even the CIO of a high-stakes partner. Honestly, try it out, you’d look terribly high-tech. Eventually Sharon, in Denver, fizzles in to add her expertise. Apparently she doesn’t have the same security clearances as the other three (is it the accent?), so Jim sets her a more limited visibility she has of the documents being collaborated on. This is also a pretty common feature of Citrix Workspace, but it covers far more than just a conference call. From a single network point, your IT department has access to, and can manage, every one of your users. That gives them the flexibility to automatically grant every user with unique levels of clearance depending on their job necessities. Sharon in HR doesn’t really need to know what’s going on in boardroom meetings, now does she?

During the conference call, they get interrupted by a failure. Now, here’s where Citrix were a tad bit off in their predictions for today’s technology. In the video, Jim can hear his colleagues as they question the foreboding ‘Switching to backup data centre’ flickering on the screen for a moment or two, before the rather more cheerful ‘Backup now active’ signals the return of the call. It’s not the case now that a failure would cut the call instantly until the WAN came back to life- thanks to SD-WAN, a failure of any kind would not even be noticed, simply switching to the secondary system component. In today’s workspace, Jim and his colleagues wouldn’t be the wiser, with zero stalling, pausing or loss of quality to signal the switch.

A lot was covered in that short seven-minute video. But it’s clear that in 2001 Citrix had a vision. It was a vision of revolutionising the workspace to make it bigger and better than ever before (and keep ill-fitting suits in fashion). And it’s a vision that continues to look to the future in order to start making advances towards it now. Here at Cetus, we’re big believers in the Citrix vision. So much so that we’re one of the few Citrix Platinum Partners in the UK. We believe that Citrix is the future of the workplace, and we want to work with you to unlock those possibilities. Our experts are Citrix-centric, so click over here to have a chat and see what Citrix Workspace can do for you.

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Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.