Business After 5

On the 3rd of October we had our Business After 5, organised by the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Our presentation was on our new datacentre, Stratus3 and the services it provided.

We’d like to thank everyone who came along. We had a massive turnout and our office was almost full!

Introducing Filecloud – The NZ Dropbox alternative

Currently in New Zealand, you don’t have much of a choice when it comes to cloud storage. The main providers of cloud storage in New Zealand tend to offer some type of backup services.

What New Zealand needs is a similar service as Dropbox, but hosted locally. This is exactly what Layer3 have done.

Layer3 are proud to announce our new service, Filecloud. Filecloud allows businesses to share files just like Dropbox. You can access your files directly from the Filecloud website, or using the software that’s installable on most devices.

The key differences of Filecloud compared to Skydrive/Dropbox/Google drive etc are:

Hosted Locally here at Layer3’s datacentre in Wellington, New Zealand.

Local Support provided by Layer3 directly here in Wellington, New Zealand.

Agents for most operating systems including, iOS, Android, Windows, Mac and Linux. Windows Phone support will be added early next year.

Team Shares which enables teams of staff to share the same files in real-time with each other, no matter what device.

Server Sharing which enables businesses with their own server or file storage system to share their files out to all staff in the company, which sync1 in real-time.

Unlimited File Revisions which enable you to have an unlimited backup copy of a document.

Built in Backup which allows Windows and Mac computers to backup directly to the cloud. Fully customisable to back up as much of the computer as you want to.

Admin Dashboard to give your management staff a complete control of the Filecloud service, including creating accounts, deleting accounts, resetting passwords, setting permissions and more.

Support is provided as part of the service.

We are very excited with this service, and we are sure you will be too. If you are interested in a trial, make sure you contact us today!

Online Backup

Firstly, what is back up?

Simply put, backup means having multiple copies of all your important files, as at different dates. These copies should be held off-site, in case your onsite server or external hardware devices fail, or a disaster occurs. You are essentially safeguarding your business.

It is no coincidence that World Backup Day is right before April Fools, if you don’t backup your data, well, you could end up looking extremely foolish, or worst case scenario out of business.
Traditionally, many businesses may back up using tapes, external hard drives, CDs, DVDs etc. The main problem with these types of backups is that they share the same physical location as the original files. In a disaster such as a fire or theft, for example, the backups and originals have the same chances of being destroyed or stolen.

Now, we have seen what has happened when the Christchurch earthquake first strike on 4th September 2010 and again 22nd February 2011 causing wide spread devastation to businesses down in the CBD and across the city.

Unfortunately some businesses learnt the hard way. Many businesses were unable to retrieve their servers and backup devices which remained trapped in the CBD (red zone) for months, years, some businesses never got their data back.

What have we leant? Well, for anyone in business, small or large, Christchurch earthquake has been a wakeup call to secure their crucial data online. Buying piece of mind, it’s there when you need it!

Six reasons to use Layer3 Cloud Backup

WEGAH KALAH CDR 2

Secure

  • Data is encrypted before being backed up
  • Data is transferred using a secure Internet connection.
  • All backup data is replicated to another offsite server
  • Nobody else has access to your information, unless you let that person know your encryption key.

Automatic

  • Backups operate automatically in the background, either while you are working or after hours. You don’t have to waste endless hours doing it yourself.

Offsite

  • Your data is stored safely in a managed, alarmed data centre
  • By backing up offsite, you virtually eliminate the risk of losing your critical information
  • You can access your data from anywhere in the world if necessary

Affordable

  • Reduces administration time. No need to manually backup computers
  • Low annual cost and monthly payment options available
  • Plans available to suit any business (Home business or corporate)
  • Eliminates the need to buy expensive hardware and consumables

Reliable

  • Backups are verified periodically to ensure that files are 100% restorable when needed
  • Even open files and in-use databases can be backed up – while you are still working
  • Layer3 Vault allows you to restore any version of a file from a previous backup, even files you have previously deleted

Easy

  • If you are a SME that use a (MSP) Managed IT Service Provider such as Layer3, our certified technicians install and verify the system for you. No technical knowledge required.
  • A few simple clicks let you restore files or folders in seconds
  • Restore files directly from the Web Interface if you cannot get to your own computer

Data is the lifeblood of most businesses. You need it to run your operations, record your transactions and measure your progress. Without timely access to your data, your business might never recover. Local backup is a step in the right direction, but gives limited assurance.

So, ask yourself are you giving your business, employees, vendors and customers the protection they deserve with online data backup?

If the answer is no to the above question, don’t leave it to chance call Layer3 on 0508 529 373

Windows8 Preview

Microsoft is planning to release their next generation operating system, Windows 8 by year end. I don’t think many will argue that Windows7 was a fantastic operating system. It’s going to be a hard task for Microsoft to out do themselves this time around.

Lets start with the Consumer Preview video.

As you can see from the video, Microsoft is taking a new approach to the user interface. Touch has come and gone, and now it seems, it’s back (just like 3d movies eh?).

Windows8 has been designed to run on slates (tablets), laptops, desktops and low powered devices such as the ARM processor. Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 have been a great success at helping Microsoft back in the mobile phone market. Microsoft ditched Windows Mobile and started fresh. Their new phone operating systems has influenced the design on Windows8. If you have used a Windows Phone before, then you will feel right at home with Windows8.

We’ve had a quick play with Windows8 over the last few months, and currently have a Toshiba Slate on order to fully test Windows8 with touch functionality. Once we have this, I will post an update. But for now, we have been running Windows8 on our desktops, without touch support.

What we like so far…

Metro – It’s a great step forward for User Interface Design. The UI is very smooth and live tiles display a lot of relevant data.

User Sync – Windows8 now syncs all your data across many devices (Documents with Skydrive). What this means is that you can log in to other computers, either at home, in the office or a public computer and have all your user profile settings downloaded and applied to that computer. This includes Internet Explorer settings and bookmarks, browser history, desktop preferences, desktop backgrounds, application settings and much more. After using Google Chrome for some time and loving the sync features, it’s very exciting to see this sort of functionality come to Windows.

Setup – Is a breeze. If you don’t already have a Windows Live account, Windows8 will create one for you. If you do already have a Windows Live account, Windows8 will automatically link you to it. One thing I personally loved was that Windows8 Mail application supports Microsoft Exchange. Upon clicking the mail icon, Windows8 configured my connection to Exchange just by entering my email address. This was very surprising and very refreshing. I’m sure many IT admins will be jumping in joy.

I am waiting for Microsoft to release a beta version of Microsoft Office v15. This version of Office integrates with the Metro interface and looks very slick.

If you want to have a play with Windows8 Consumer Preview, download it here.

7 Tips for Online Security

Security in the last few years has changed somewhat. More and more of us find ourselves using social media, file sharing and online messaging sites. We are more mobile than ever before, with our most personal and confidential information held on our smartphones. We carry data around on memory sticks and portable hard drives. We find ourselves accessing the internet from cafes and restaurants, or at the airport while waiting for a connecting flight.

This has become everyday life.

Ask yourself the following questions

  • How secure is your data?
  • How secure are your passwords?
  • Do you use the same password on more than one website?
  • Do you use public wireless or public computers?

The following 7 tips are something I practice and preach to anyone who wants to protect themselves online. I highly suggest you read the following if you are keen to protect your security online.

#1 Ditch Passwords, Use Pass Phrases

What is a pass phrase? A pass phrase is a collection of random words that create a phrase. Instead of having a P@ssw0rd! like that (I bet you read that fine), you would use something like “the green monkey house”. What is the reason for this? See below

Pass Phrases

#2 Never use the same password

Out of all the tips listed here, this would have to be the one most important that I want you to remember. Never, Ever, use the same password on multiple devices or websites.

If your password is ever compromised, it will be very likely that the attacker will have your email address.

Most websites use your email address or social media account to login, so effectively, having your password compromised can expose yourself personally on a wide scale.

As soon as your password is discovered, most hackers will attempt to use this on common sites like Gmail, Hotmail, Facebook and so on, attempting to compromise your security even further.

For myself, I like to categorise my web services like the following:

Banking and high security websites

For these websites, I use a different pass phrase for each, and usually some other form of security such as two factor authentication. Most banking sites support this.

Sites which hold confidential/private information such as Facebook

For these websites I still use a separate pass phrase for each website. Hacking your Facebook account or similar may result in other accounts you have being hacked.

Sites where I might post comments such as news sites

For these websites I might actually use a pass phrase over a number of the sites. If an attacker has this password it doesn’t really impact me at all. It’s more of a inconvenience, and having these accounts exposed will cause very little damage.

It comes down to the level of security you feel comfortable with.

#3 When using public internet use HTTPS

If you’re using public wireless internet, make sure you use secure websites. If the website starts with http, it’s probably not secure. The website should start with https. You can usually just edit the address in your address bar and change http to https. Most websites support this.

What is https? In simple terms, it’s a secure, encrypted connection to the website you are browsing. This means any traffic sent over the network, such as usernames and passwords is encrypted.

Why is this important?

Many people sit on public networks such as public wireless networks ‘sniffing‘ traffic. This means the attacker can watching traffic flowing across the network. If you are not using encrypted sites, your usernames and passwords are sent in clear text, meaning someone sniffing the traffic will see your username and password.

#4 When using public internet, make sure your shares are turned OFF

Like most people, you’ve probably had the need to share something on your computer. Most people forget to turn these shares off. When connecting to a public network, such as public wireless, your shared files can become exposed. If you use Windows 7 or Windows Vista, when connecting to a new network, you will be prompted on your network location. Make sure that you select Public Network if you are connecting to a Public Network.

#5 When using a public computer, be very careful

If you use a public computer in a library or internet cafe, be very careful about what websites you go to and what you type. Key loggers are a form of virus. They can reside on a computer and capture all of the input from the keyboard and send it to a remote location. Internet cafes are a prime target for this sort of activity.

Make sure there is up-to-date Antivirus software running on the computer.

When visiting sensitive sites like Facebook and banking sites, make sure you are using a https connection (see above) and that you make sure that the website does not remember you.

#6 Make sure your Antivirus is up-to-date

Hopefully everyone has Antivirus installed, but just in-case, make sure you have some form of Antivirus that it’s up-to-date. If you cannot afford Antivirus, or don’t want to pay for it, there are many free alternatives. One that I really like and recommend is Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows.

Virus protection is very complex these days, and good Antivirus can save you many hours and a lot of money trying to get malware or a virus removed from your computer.

#7 Make sure your browser is up-to-date

A lot of internet attacks are done through the browser. Old Browsers like Internet Explorer 6 and 7 have many security holes which can be easily exploited. Running an old browser is one of the easiest ways to get your computer infected by malware.

There are many browsers out there. At the time of writing, Internet Explorer 9 is the latest browser by Microsoft and includes many features that will keep you safe online.

You can also download alternative browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

Summary

Stay safe. If something looks dodgy, it probably is. A few quick points

  • Use Pass Phrases instead of passwords
  • Never use the same password/pass phrase for different websites
  • When using public internet, use secure websites and ensure your computers shares are turned off
  • When using a public computer, check the installed antivirus is up-to-date
  • Make sure your Antivirus and Browsers are up-to-date
  • Make sure your operating system is up-to-date and please, use the licensed software always (to work orders , etc.)

Please leave your comments below!

The Cloud: SaaS and IaaS

What is the cloud?

It’s a question that I’ve been asked many times.

The first person to use the phrase cloud computing was Eric Schmidt of Google when he was explaining Google’s approach to SaaS (Software as a service). This was the first high profile use of the term.

The phrase has really gained popularity in the last few years with the global recession and businesses looking to cut costs.

The general view of cloud computing is that your data and applications are stored on the internet (the public cloud) and available 24/7, 365 days of the year. The most appealing aspect of cloud computing is that generally, no additional hardware, software or licensing is required at the clients end in order to access their data and applications.

Under the umbrella of cloud computing there is SaaS (Software as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a service). Both of these services are quite different in how they operate.

Software as a service is where you have your data and application(s) hosted by another provider. Generally these applications are accessed by web browsers on PC’s or applications on mobile devices. A good example of SaaS is Xero and Gmail.

Infrastructure as a service is where you have your servers, network gear and firewalls hosted by another provider such as Revera. Normally these are hosted in a virtual environment inside multiple data centres.

SaaS and IaaS have quite different requirements.

SaaS applications and data can live overseas, half way around the world. With SaaS, speed is not as important as with IaaS. Most users can live with a few seconds delay when accessing their files or applications, although, it can be annoying.

IaaS on the other hand, requires a fast internet connection. Most of the time, you will require a private internet connection to the data centre that is providing IaaS. This is to reduce latency on the network when accessing data, applications or network services. For this reason, IaaS is generally more expensive, but provides better performance.

With IaaS, you also have more control of your environment. Since it’s virtualized, if your servers require more memory because they are running slow, you can add additional memory. You generally have no control of a SaaS environment.

A good IaaS provider will also have multiple datacentres. This ensures if one of their data centres fall over because of a natural disaster, your environment will fail-over to the next available datacentre.

This is a problem for SaaS. Most of the time, you have no idea where your data or applications are hosted. Do you know if your SaaS provider has redundancy? Do you know where your SaaS provider has your data and applications hosted?

A great illustration of this is the following:

saas-iaas-large

I recommend that before taking a leap in to the cloud, you thoroughly explore your options. There are many things to take in to account. If you require any assistance, call Layer3.

– Hayden Kirk