WHAT IS SASE?

Abstract image of SASE Secure Access Service Edge network security

SASE stands for Secure Access Service Edge. It is a comprehensive solution that combines network security and connectivity in a unified cloud-native architecture. SASE removes the legacy part of network security and shifts to a more dynamic, modern, and flexible security system.

 

In this article, I explain why businesses should migrate from traditional firewalling to SASE. Find out why SASE, in my view, is the future of network security.

 

Cloud-Centric Architecture:

SASE represents a paradigm shift from hardware-centric traditional firewalling based on what “tin” in your network to cloud-centric security. Unlike traditional firewalling, which relies on on-premises appliances. This networking system delivers security services directly to users, regardless of location. Whether in the office, at home, or at the local Starbucks, the cloud-native approach ensures scalability, agility, and global reach. This allows organisations to adapt seamlessly to evolving threats and business requirements.

 

Zero Trust Security Model And SASE:

SASE embraces the zero-trust security model, which assumes that no entity, inside or outside the network, should be trusted by default. Authentication/ authorisation of users and devices grants access to applications and resources. In this way, SASE minimises the risk of unauthorised access and lateral movement within the network. This granular approach to security enhances protection against insider threats and external cyberattacks, bolstering overall defence posture. Now, don’t be fooled into thinking that all Zero Trust is SASE! Many vendors use “Zero Trust” to define their SD-WAN or legacy products to compete with SASE products.

 

Converged Security Services:

One of the key advantages of SASE is its ability to converge multiple security functions into a single platform. Unlike traditional firewalling, SASE integrates these functionalities into a unified architecture. Historically, the system required deploying disparate security solutions such as VPNs, firewalls, secure web gateways, and intrusion detection systems.

 

This consolidation streamlines management, reduces complexity, and lowers operational costs, enabling organisations to achieve greater efficiency without compromising security.

What is SASE?

 

Additional benefits of adopting SASE include:

Optimised Performance and User Experience:  SASE leverages a distributed architecture with points of presence (PoPs) strategically located around the globe. By routing traffic through the nearest PoP, SASE minimises latency, optimises performance and enhances the user experience. Additionally, SASE employs advanced traffic steering and optimisation techniques to prioritise critical applications to ensure consistent performance across diverse network environments.

 

Dynamic Policy Enforcement: Traditional firewalling relies on static rule-based policies that are often prone to misconfigurations. SASE adopts a dynamic policy enforcement approach based on contextual factors such as user identity, device posture, location, and application sensitivity. This contextual awareness enables adaptive access controls that dynamically adjust security policies in real time. This gives organisations greater flexibility and responsiveness to evolving threats or business needs.

 

Comprehensive Threat Protection: SASE combines essential security services such as firewalling, secure web gateways, intrusion prevention, data loss prevention, and malware detection into a unified platform. By integrating these capabilities with advanced threat intelligence and machine learning-driven analytics, the business gains a greater ability to operate in the safest environment. Lastly, SASE delivers multi-layered protection against a wide range of cyber threats, including malware, ransomware, phishing, and zero-day exploits.

 

In conclusion, SASE represents a quantum leap forward in network security, offering a transformative approach that addresses the challenges of the modern digital age. By embracing cloud-native architecture, zero-trust security principles, converged security services, optimised performance, dynamic policy enforcement, scalability and comprehensive threat protection, organisations can future-proof their networks and empower their workforce to thrive in an increasingly interconnected world.

 

If you want to talk to one of our experts about how we can help your business secure itself using SASE, please call 01235 433900 or email [email protected]. If you want to speak to me directly, you can contact me via DM or at [email protected].

 

 

Did you enjoy this article? Why not read another of James’ blogs…
The True Cost Of Migrating On-Premise Infrastructure To The Cloud

An abstract image depicting the cost of migrating on-premise infrastructure to the cloud.

 

The True Cost Of Migrating On-Premise Infrastructure To The Cloud

An abstract image depicting the cost of migrating on-premise infrastructure to the cloud.

With the shift in cloud-based solutions showing no signs of slowing down, we often think about the true costs of cloud migration.

Organisations are enticed by the cloud’s promises of scalability, flexibility, and cost-efficiency. However, the decision to migrate presents some advantages, but it is also valid to note the drawbacks. Especially, when the actual cost can extend beyond the budget, for this reason, we see many businesses flip-flop between the two worlds. Confused and uncertain about the level of commitment and the lack of strategy, leadership is often faced with difficult decisions that can potentially harm the business.

In my experience, there is a lack of understanding of the scope: the benefits and the costs involved in making these choices. In this article, I delve into the multifaceted aspects of migrating on-premises infrastructure to the cloud, unravelling the true costs of migration, hoping to help you make an informed decision for your business.

So What’s Positive About Cloud Migration

 

Scalability and Flexibility:

The cloud enables organisations to scale resources dynamically according to demand. Unlike on-premises infrastructure, scaling often requires substantial upfront investment and time-consuming processes.

This agility enables businesses to adapt swiftly to fluctuating workloads, enhancing operational efficiency and boosting customer satisfaction. For the first time, we have such a large degree of flexibility; it requires a shift in mindset from the sizeable single server instances to the flexible containerised (load-balanced).

Cost-Efficiency:

Cloud computing offers a pay-as-you-go model, eliminating the need for hefty upfront capital expenditure on hardware and infrastructure. Additionally, organisations can benefit from economies of scale as cloud providers leverage their vast infrastructure to offer services at competitive rates. Moreover, the cloud reduces ongoing operational costs associated with maintenance, upgrades, and energy consumption, leading to long-term savings. This has never been more important with the growing cyber threats.

Some instances of lacking upgrades for legacy and patching can leave businesses at risk, now more than ever. Let’s explore this in more detail.

Enhanced Collaboration and Accessibility:

By migrating to the cloud, businesses transcend geographical boundaries and facilitate seamless team collaboration. Cloud-based tools enable real-time access to data and applications from any location, fostering productivity and innovation. This accessibility offers a more agile and responsive work environment, empowering employees to collaborate efficiently, irrespective of their physical location.

Improved Security and Disaster Recovery:

Cloud providers invest heavily in robust security measures and compliance frameworks to safeguard data against cyber threats and breaches. Additionally, cloud platforms offer built-in redundancy and disaster recovery mechanisms, mitigating the risk of data loss and ensuring business continuity by leveraging the expertise and resources of cloud providers and organisations,

If you think, “Nothing beats my 3-2-1 backup” and/or “My disaster recovery is better than the cloud”, then you are wrong! It takes a lot more technology and resources to come anywhere near the scalability and protection of the public cloud. You may get close, but it will always be at a different level than Microsoft, Amazon, or Google can offer in comparison for a fraction of the costs.

The Negatives Of Pushing Your Business Into The Cloud.

 

Hidden Costs and Vendor Lock-In:

While the pay-as-you-go model initially appears cost-effective, organisations may encounter hidden expenses associated with data transfer, storage, and bandwidth usage. Moreover, as businesses scale their operations on the cloud, they may become susceptible to vendor lock-in, wherein switching providers or migrating back to on-premise infrastructure entails significant complexity and cost. This dependency on a single vendor can limit flexibility and hinder strategic decision-making.

Performance and Latency Issues:

Despite advancements in cloud technology, organisations may encounter performance and latency issues, especially in scenarios where real-time processing and high throughput are paramount. The physical distance between users and cloud data centres can introduce latency, impacting application responsiveness and user experience. Additionally, shared resources in multi-tenant cloud environments may lead to performance degradation during peak usage periods, necessitating careful optimisation and resource allocation.

Compliance and Regulatory Concerns:

Migrating sensitive data and applications to the cloud raises compliance and regulatory challenges, particularly concerning data sovereignty, privacy, and industry-specific regulations. Cloud providers operate globally, which may conflict with jurisdictional requirements governing data residency and protection. Compliance with diverse regulatory frameworks demands meticulous planning, robust encryption, and contractual agreements to safeguard sensitive information and maintain regulatory compliance.

Dependency on Internet Connectivity:

The reliance on internet connectivity represents a fundamental vulnerability of cloud-based infrastructure. Organisations may encounter service availability and productivity disruptions due to internet outages or network latency issues. Moreover, data privacy and security concerns may deter businesses from fully embracing cloud solutions, for instance, regions with inadequate internet infrastructure or heightened cybersecurity risks.

Summary

Migrating on-premise infrastructure to the cloud entails a complex interplay of benefits and challenges, each significantly impacting operations’ overall cost and efficiency. While the cloud offers unparalleled scalability, flexibility and cost-efficiency, organisations must navigate potential downfalls, including performance issues, compliance concerns and dependency on internet connectivity. By conducting thorough analyses of regulatory requirements and implementing robust security measures, businesses can unlock the full potential of cloud computing while mitigating risks effectively. Ultimately, the actual cost of moving to the cloud transcends financial considerations, encompassing strategic, operational, and technological implications that shape the future trajectory of organisations in the digital age. The first step is the cloud migration assessment of a business. This is something that Planet IT can help with as a subject expert.

 

If you want to talk to one of our experts about how we can help your business review its environment and plan to move to the cloud, please call 01235 433900 or email [email protected]. If you want to speak to me directly, you can contact me via DM or at [email protected].

Read more about Cloud Implementation Strategy.

How to Create and Implement a Cloud Strategy

 

The Onion Approach to Cyber Security – Data Security Defence in Depth

Shrek image on the abstract onion background.

In Shrek’s words (Well, sort of), “Onions have layers. “Cyber Security” has layers… You get it? They both have layers.” He has a point!   

You may have heard of the term Defence-In-Depth. The principle is that the more “layers” of security, the better protected it will be from the threat actors who seek to affect your business, damage your workflow and disrupt your profitability. In the cyber security space, we often liken this approach to an onion, and I cannot liken anything to an Onion without seeing Donkey’s face as Shrek explains the principle of having layers! 

In this article, we’ll peel back the layers (pun intended) to understand why having multiple security measures is crucial for safeguarding our valuable data. Most importantly, how and why your business, regardless of size, needs to be taking the onion seriously and ensuring you’re not leaving yourself woefully underprepared.  

Having worked in the IT and Cyber Security space for over 15 years, I have seen first-hand the devastation, disruption and loss of business caused by a failure to take a layered approach to protection, so much so that I have even had the unfortunate pleasure of seeing well-established companies fold due to their lack of investment in cyber security.  

The “defence in depth” strategy emphasises creating multiple layers of security around various components in your IT environment. Let’s explore these layers and understand their significance. 

The Onion Approach To Cyber Security

Imagine an onion: it has concentric layers that wrap around its heart. Similarly, our data needs layers of protection. In this scenario, our data, our intellectual property, and our customers are the heart of our onion! However, we should consider the outside layers first, as they are the most vulnerable to the first attack. 

Planet IT and Sophos AI Cybersecurity event

People, The Human Layer (AKA The Human Firewall)  

In any business, the most significant risk to your data security is always your people. We are all human, we all make mistakes, and therefore, we all need the training to understand how to reduce the risk you pose to the business and how best to protect the system you use every day. I call this the Human Firewall, the largest surface and the easiest to harden and develop. However, this is usually the most underdeveloped across all the businesses you see that have suffered a cyber attack. To build this layer, you should; 

Implement strong Security Policies: Educate users about best practices, how the business expects them to interact with the systems and data and what could go wrong if they don’t. 

Have strong Business Conduct Guidelines: Promote security awareness by giving the staff all the training to correctly use the system and strong guidelines on what happens when you fail to adhere to the expectations. 

End User Training and Test: Test your users every month, train them every six months and don’t always use the same training and testing. You should have strong Phishing training, cyber security and data protection training in place that should involve regular assessments, training and re-evaluation. Don’t allow complacency. 

Comply with Local Regulations: Ensure that your staff know the regulations and expectations of your operational locations, be that EU, UK, US or any other regional regulation; now, knowing is not a justification! 

Physical Access: Locked Rooms and Restricted Areas  

It goes without saying that the physical protection afforded to any office, data centre, server room, or workspace is critical to the implementation of reasonable security standards. It is also critical when we think about how we stop the bad actors from gaining entry to well-digitally protected systems. This is often an area where IT teams pass off the reasonability to facilitate or disregard interest in site management, but this should never be the case. 

Secure physical spaces prevent unauthorised entry. You need to ensure that every server room door is locked, that all data centres have restricted access, and that access control mechanisms are deployed around your business with the correct level of entry and authority for all users, roles and responsibilities. This should be paired with CCTV and a valid security system. 

Pharma IT Support

Network Security: Fortifying the Digital Perimeter  

This usually is where most IT professionals and business owners think cyber security starts and ends. This is simply not true. This is a big part of the puzzle, but at this point, we have already broken through two layers of the onion, and we are dangerously close to risking it all.  

You need to consider the breadth of the solutions you choose when it comes to this layer, as we need to cover all points of ingress or lateral movement and not just consider the edge of the network. We will often see people think about the edge too much, forgetting the dissolving edge following the pandemic and moving to remote and hybrid work. 

Local Area Networks (LANs): Secure switches, routers, and firewalls; this is the physical network. I would expect to see a robust firewall or SASE solution tied into a single well-respected vendor for switching with your internet provider in most cases offering you a robust router which is secure and outside of your DMZ and the direct risk profile of your business. 

Wireless Networks: WIFI, it is all about Implementing strong encryption and access controls. You need to ensure that your WIFI does not allow access to business systems or devices that are not trusted. In this regard, you should use a well-known vendor, have at least user-based authentication, separate SSIDs for staff and guests, and have appropriate ACLs in place backed by your LAN. 

Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS): In most cases, this will sit on your firewall and detect and block suspicious network activity. However, when you move into the medical, pharma or bio-medical space then, you need to consider that you may require IPS internally in your network also to prevent insider lateral spread. 

Remote Access Servers: There is always a case where someone needs to gain access to the system for legitimate reasons from outside your business. Implementing a tool like Azure Virtual Desktop or Windows 365 to provide secure and controlled access is critical. 

Network Operating Systems (OS): If you want to be protected, you need to keep them updated and hardened. It goes without saying that if you are an ISO 27001, Cyber Essentials or CE Plus certified business, then this should be second nature to you. Once a device loses support from a vendor, this is a risk and must be removed from the system. There is no excuse for running a legacy operation system in 2024; you can use tools to virtualise legacy platforms, isolate them from the network and remove the underlying OS risk. 

Voice Security: Protecting Communication Channels 

This is often forgotten about. IT professionals on legacy will have passed the phone system to a 3rd party or another team. However, with the integration into tools like Teams, this becomes a thing of the past. 

Private Branch Exchange (PBX), Voice Gateways and Voice Mail Services: Secure legacy phone systems by removing them from your core network and placing them on ACL-controlled VLANs with restricted access and locked-down ports. Using a solid network that uses Voice VLANS can go a long way to removing this risk. If your phone provider doesn’t know about this or how to do this, then they are stuck in the past. Security is key. All of this still applies if your phone system is hosted or running on someone else’s physical kit. 

Unified Communication: Secure real-time communication with relevant user controls, physical restrictions and tools like conditional access and multi-factor authentication (MFA/2FA). You do not want a bad actor making calls from your platform and tricking your customers into thinking it’s you. 

Endpoint Device Security: Covering All Devices  

One of the most significant devices you own will be lower risk. Most, if not all, will have a strong Anti-virus and Anti-malware product in place that contains a Zero Trust approach and offers real-time protection. But this goes beyond simply slapping anti-virus products onto your laptops. 

Printers, Scanners, Desktops, Laptops, Tablets, and Smartphones – each device needs protection; this should be two-fold. It should be enrolled into an MDM, restricted on the network in terms of its access and then protected by your AV tools and, if you can, protected by a 24/7 Managed Detection and Response service.  

Planet IT Cybersecurity Team

Server Security: Safeguarding the Heart of IT 

Then we get to the core of it, where your data sits and where the risk is highest. This applies if you are on-premise, in a data centre or in the cloud. You need to manage the risk and ensure that the core functions and protection and that you maintain good heart health! 

Operating Systems (OS): Regular patches and security configurations. As I said above, this goes without saying. You need to have the protection in place, and this starts with regular patching. Even a 24/7 business needs to have downtime windows to ensure systems and patches are up to date. If you can’t do this then the architecture of your environment is wrong, and you need to look at role load balancing and expanding your operational system to allow for proper updates and patching. 

Applications: You need to know not only what you are running but also who it is from, and when developing internally, use secure coding practices. Applications tend to be the weak link on a server and often are the gateways that threat actors use to enter a system. Having a regular patching cadence and reviewing who you are buying applications from is critical. 

Databases: If you are storing data, it should have encryption, access controls, and auditing as a minimum, with the protection that is afforded to the data being as high as it can be without implementing tooling that prevents data access. 

Why the Onion Approach Matters 

Hardening the Target: By forcing intruders to navigate multiple security controls, we make it harder for them to reach our data. This will prevent them from getting the easy win. The more we can build breadth and depth in our defence, the less risk you have. 

Risk Management: Balancing both security and performance is crucial. Too restrictive security affects flexibility, while leniency invites risks. However, no one has stood following a breach and said, “We had enough protection”, so look at the risk profile and really understand if you think you can accept a risk and how likely it is that a threat actor will see that risk as an open door. 

Acceptable Risk Level: Evaluate the impact of vulnerabilities and the probability of events. The onion approach helps find the right balance but is not the complete answer. You will need to review, access, develop and grow your business. 

In the complex realm of IT security, thinking of cyber security like an onion can guide you. Look to build layer by layer to develop a robust defence strategy and ensure your data remains safe. 

So, embrace the onion approach—because cybersecurity is complex, just like Ogres, and at the end of the day, it’s for protecting what matters most. 

Remember, security is a journey, not a destination, so keep building those layers! 

If you want to talk to one of our experts about how we can help your business secure itself and the benefits the Onion approach could have for you, please call 01235 433900 or email [email protected]. If you want to speak to me directly, you can contact me via DM or at [email protected]. 

The Cyber Observe Orient Decide OODA and Act Framework

Microsoft Copilot for Security: Empowering IT Teams with AI-Driven Insights

copilot for security

Organisations all face an uphill battle against sophisticated and ever-changing threats. As adversaries become more cunning and leverage AI and ML to deliver more complex attacks, defenders need innovative tools to stay ahead. This is where Microsoft Copilot for Security, a ground-breaking solution that combines the power of artificial intelligence (AI) with security expertise to enhance threat detection, response, and overall cybersecurity security posture, comes in. On the 1st of April Microsoft releases, to all Microsoft 365 customers, the ability to gain the intelligence of a threat analyst at the press of a button.

Understanding Microsoft Copilot for Security

What makes up Microsoft Copilot for Security? The product is built from Microsoft’s Copilot platform, leveraging their bespoke blend of the Open AI engine and the threat data they have from the world’s largest endpoint dataset, but it is so much more than that; here are some of the key components that makes Microsoft Copilot for Security different.

The Fusion of Language Models

At its core, Microsoft Copilot for Security is a fusion of two critical components: an advanced large language model (LLM) and a security-specific model. This unique blend allows it to understand and address security challenges effectively but without losing the human and natural level compute understanding gained via an LLM. By leveraging the vast amount of data generated daily (approximately 65 trillion signals) that Microsoft has access to because of its Defender, 365 and Windows platforms, Microsoft Copilot for Security distils relevant insights for you as a defender.

Guided Insights and Actionable Recommendations

Microsoft Copilot for Security acts as a trusted advisor, providing actionable guidance to security teams. Here’s how it works:

  • Signal Interpretation: The solution processes an array of signals, including threat intelligence feeds, network logs, and endpoint data. It identifies patterns, anomalies, and potential threats.
  • Contextual Summaries: Instead of drowning defenders in raw data, Microsoft Copilot for Security generates concise summaries. These summaries highlight critical events, vulnerabilities, and emerging risks.
  • Threat Prioritisation: Not all threats are equal. Microsoft Copilot for Security prioritises incidents based on severity, impact, and relevance. It ensures that defenders focus on what matters most.
  • Step-by-Step Playbooks: To empower junior staff, Microsoft Copilot for Security offers step-by-step playbooks. These guides simplify incident response, ensuring consistent and effective actions.
  • Reduced Response Time: With Microsoft Copilot for Security, response times shrink from hours to minutes. Defenders can swiftly investigate, contain, and remediate threats.

IT can save you money

Integration with Microsoft Security Solutions

Microsoft Copilot for Security seamlessly integrates with the vast array of Microsoft security products, which many of you will be using or will have access to:

  • Microsoft Defender XDR: Prevents and detects cross-domain cyberattacks using AI-driven insights.
  • Microsoft Defender for 365: Pulling threat data from Microsoft Graph and your 365 environments to provide AI-driven insights.
  • Microsoft Sentinel: Collects security data from diverse sources (cloud, on-premises, and hybrid environments) and correlates alerts.
  • Microsoft Intune: Protects devices, enforces compliance, and mitigates threats across endpoints.
  • Microsoft Defender Threat Intelligence: Exposes suspicious infrastructure and provides dynamic threat feeds.
  • Microsoft Entra: Safeguards identities and secures access to resources.
  • Microsoft Purview: Ensures governance, protection, and compliance for data.

Empowering Defenders at Scale

Microsoft Copilot for Security democratises security expertise and puts it in the hands of all, regardless of your experience of exposure to the threats your business is seeing:

  • Natural Language Interaction: Defenders can converse with Microsoft Copilot for Security using natural language. It feels like having an AI-powered security expert by your side. This gives you the quickest route to the information you need while using the language you know rather than throwing logs at you.
  • Efficiency and Consistency: Junior security analysts benefit from guided playbooks, while senior experts offload repetitive tasks. The result is a more efficient and consistent security team.
  • Cloud-Based AI: Microsoft Copilot for Security operates in the cloud, enabling real-time updates and scalability. There is no agent to install, and no extra tools to host. This is all delivered as SaaS.

Microsoft Copilot for Security isn’t just a tool; it’s a force multiplier for IT Teams. By harnessing AI, contextual insights, and expert guidance, organisations can proactively defend against threats. As the threat landscape evolves, Microsoft Copilot for Security remains a steadfast ally, empowering defenders to protect their digital assets and maintain cyber resilience.

Remember: In the battle against cyber adversaries, having a Copilot can make all the difference.

If you want to talk to one of our experts about how we can help your business secure itself and make the most of AI and Microsoft Copilot, please call 01235 433900 or email [email protected]. If you want to speak to me directly, you can contact me via DM or at [email protected].

 

Microsoft 365 Copilot What's New

 

HOW TO FIND YOUR 365’S DATA RESIDENCY AND WHY IT IS IMPORTANT

Data imagePlanet IT

As digital transformation continues to reshape every industry, it’s important to understand the often-overlooked concept of Data Residency as it has wide-ranging implications for any business.

Data Residency refers to the physical or geographic location where an organisation’s data is stored at rest. The location of an organisation’s data presents certain legal and compliance implications. For this reason, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the concept to ensure the privacy, compliance and security of personal and business data.

Businesses must comply with regulations and failing these regulations can cost hefty fines, a loss of reputation and customer trust.

What is Data Residency?

As mentioned, data residency is a physical and/or geographical location where an organisation’s data is stored. This includes on-premises, in the cloud or in a remote data centre which poses certain legal and compliance implications. Below is an explanation of Microsoft Cloud location storage.

Microsoft separates your Office 365 Data into seven categories, detailed below:

Separated Office 365 Data into seven categories,

Microsoft separates your Office 365 Data into seven categories.

When possible, Microsoft will store your Office 365 Data within the country of your business’s operation. If Microsoft does not operate in that country, it will be stored in the closest Microsoft data centre available.

Most Microsoft 365 customers will be eligible to purchase the “Advanced Data Residency(“ADR) add-on which allows greater control and flexibility of your DR. This will allow you to store data in set regional data centres such as UK West, Instead of UK South. The main feature of this add-on is the ability to control purview-controlled data and its data residency location. You can mark data through sensitive labels and determine the location of its storage. It is a great feature for businesses operating in the UK and the EU!

Where is your 365 Data stored?

To see your current DR you will need to access the Microsoft 365 Admin Portal (Admin.Microsoft.com). On the left-hand pane select “Show more” then drop down the “Settings” option. Select “Org Settings” and on the top row “Organization Profile” then select Data Location.

Where is your data stored?

Dashboard of Microsoft 365 Admin

Where is your Microsoft Exchange Mailbox Data Residency stored?

Different user Mailboxes can be stored on different exchange servers. For example, your Exchange DR might be in the United Kingdom, but your mailboxes will be spread between UK South and UK West Data centres. To view individual mailboxes you will need to use the PowerShell command:

Get-OrganizationConfig | Select -ExpandProperty AllowedMailboxRegions | Format-Table

This will return all mailboxes broken down by Mailbox Region which can be exported as a CSV.

 

If you’re looking for greater control of your Microsoft 365 Data Residency or are interested in the ADR license, please get in touch with Planet IT!

 

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How IT Can Save Your Business Money and Make It Work Better

How IT Can save your business money

Technology is an essential part of any modern business, but it can also be a source of frustration, inefficiency, and risk if not managed properly. You need a reliable, trustworthy IT partner to help create and implement a strategic IT roadmap that aligns with your business goals and needs.

We know that IT is essential for modern work, to communicate via email, messaging, video conferencing and apps such as Excel, Adobe and others to enable our businesses. But an IT roadmap is so much more than that. It can allow your business to improve, drive forward, and save you money while doing it.

Let’s explore how…

AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of machines to perform tasks that usually require human intelligence, such as reasoning, learning, and decision-making. AI can help your business improve productivity, quality, and customer satisfaction by automating repetitive and complex tasks, enhancing data analysis and insights, and providing personalised and intelligent services. For example, you can use AI to:

Streamline your workflows and processes. 

Use chatbots, virtual assistants, and robotic process automation (RPA) to handle customer inquiries, bookings, invoices, and other administrative tasks.

Optimise your operations and performance. 

Utilise machine learning, deep learning, and natural language processing (NLP) to analyse large and diverse data sets, generate forecasts and recommendations, and detect anomalies and patterns.

Innovate your products and services. 

Tools such as computer vision, speech recognition, and natural language generation (NLG) to create interactive and engaging experiences, such as face recognition, voice assistants, and content creation.

Used correctly and responsibly, AI can save your business money by reducing labour costs, increasing efficiency, and minimising errors. It can also make your business better by enabling you to offer faster, more innovative, and more personalised solutions to your customers and stakeholders.

The next big thing in AI? – Microsoft Copilot. Those lucky enough to use it this early have already seen how it can revolutionise our work. And this is just the start. Copilot is just going to get better.

 

Cloud Technology

Cloud technology delivers computing services, such as servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence, over the internet (the cloud). The Cloud can help your business improve scalability, flexibility, and collaboration by allowing you to access and share resources on demand, from anywhere, and on any device. For example, you can use cloud technology to:

Expand your capacity and capabilities. 

Use cloud infrastructure, platform, and software as a service (IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS) to host your applications, data, and systems on the cloud without investing in and maintaining your hardware and software.

Enhance your agility and responsiveness. 

Cloud orchestration, automation, and integration can help manage and coordinate your cloud resources, workflows, and processes and adapt to changing business needs and demands.

Empower your team and partners.

By using cloud collaboration, communication, and productivity tools, you can work together, exchange information, and deliver results regardless of location, time zone, and device.

Cloud technology can save your business money by reducing capital and operational expenses, optimising resource utilisation, and leveraging economies of scale. It can also improve your business by enabling you to access and leverage the latest technologies, innovations, and best practices in the cloud.

Our cloud platform of choice is Microsoft Azure. Azure provides 1000’s of products and cloud services, including the latest in AI. This allows businesses to choose the tools and frameworks that best fit their needs. Whether developing new applications, managing existing workloads, or exploring cutting-edge technologies, Azure offers a flexible cloud-based ecosystem.

 

IT can save you money

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity can help your business improve reliability, reputation, and compliance by ensuring your IT assets and information’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

The right protection can save your business money by avoiding or reducing the costs and losses associated with cyberattacks, such as downtime, data breaches, fines, lawsuits, and reputational damage. It can also improve your business by enabling you to build and maintain trust and confidence with your customers and stakeholders.

A 24/7/365 Managed Detection and Response (MDR) service covering your organisation keeps you protected by a team of experienced threat hunters and saves you the cost of hiring your own managed Security Operation Centre (SOC). As a bonus, your Cyber insurance costs will be dramatically reduced as MDR satisfies many of their policy requirements.

 

Unified Endpoint Management (UEM)

UEM or Device management is the administration and control of your IT devices, such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, and printers, used by your staff and users to access and use your IT resources and services. UEM can help your business improve security, efficiency, and user experience by ensuring your IT devices’ proper configuration, maintenance, and support. For example, you can use device management to:

  • Secure and protect your devices using encryption, remote wipe, and lock to prevent unauthorised access and data loss in case of theft, loss, or compromise.
  • Manage and update your devices using inventory, provisioning, and patching to keep track of your device assets. You can assign and distribute devices to your staff and users and install and update software and firmware.
  • Support and troubleshoot your devices by using device monitoring, diagnostics, and helpdesk to monitor the performance and status of your devices, identify and resolve issues and problems, and provide assistance and guidance to your staff and users.

Device management can save your business money by reducing device downtime, waste, and theft and optimising device performance and lifespan. It can also make your business better by enabling you to provide a consistent and seamless device experience to your staff and users.

At Planet IT, we use Intune to manage our devices and recommend them to most clients. If you want to know more about Unified Device Management, check out our detailed article here: https://www.planet-it.net/uem-unified-endpoint-management/ 

IT Strategy

Software Licensing Management

Software licensing management can help your business improve compliance, quality, and value by ensuring the proper acquisition, deployment, and usage of your software assets and solutions.

Comply with software laws and regulations. 

Software license management can make auditing and reporting easier by verifying and documenting your software entitlements, installations, and consumptions and avoiding software piracy, infringement, and penalties.

Optimise your software investments.

Use software licensing to optimise, consolidate, and negotiate. Evaluate and select the best software license models, types, and terms for your business needs and budget to reduce software costs and complexity.

Enhance your software capabilities.

Managing complex software license subscriptions, renewals, and upgrades is a fine art. You can access and benefit from the latest software features, functions, and improvements and maintain software compatibility and interoperability.

Software licensing can save your business money by avoiding or reducing software over-licensing, under-licensing, and non-compliance and maximising software utilisation and value. Furthermore, it can improve your business by enabling you to leverage the best software solutions for your business processes and outcomes.

By working with a high-level partner like Planet IT, we can secure you better licensing pricing than most other IT companies.

 

IT processes, systems and methodology can save your business money and improve it in many ways. However, managing IT can be challenging and complex, especially in today’s dynamic and competitive business environment. That’s why you need a trusted and experienced IT support provider to help create and implement a strategic IT roadmap that aligns with your business goals and needs.

Speak with James Dell today to find out how we can help you transform your business with IT – [email protected] or reach out on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/delljames/

The Cyber OODA Loop Explained: Enhancing Cyber Defence with Rapid Decision-Making

The Cyber Observe Orient Decide OODA and Act Framework

If you follow the world of Jocko Willink or listen to his podcast, especially the one with Andrew Huberman, then you will have heard about the Observe, Orient, Decide and Act (OODA) loop.  

Willink used this model during his time in the Navy Seals to help him overcome challenges. This article explores how the OODA loop can be utilised in cyber response, especially in highly stressful situations, to enable you to see the woods from the trees. 

What is the OODA loop? 

Observe

The first step in the OODA loop is observation. In the context of cybersecurity, this involves actively monitoring our network, systems, and external threat intelligence sources. Key activities include: 

Security Bulletins and Advisories: Regularly track security bulletins and advisories from trusted sources. Stay informed about vulnerabilities and emerging threats. 

Threat Intelligence: Gather information on adversary tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). Understand their modus operandi to anticipate their moves. 

Incident Detection: Implement robust detection mechanisms, including network intrusion detection systems (NIDS), firewall logs, and user behaviour analytics.

Orient

Orientation is about making sense of the observed data. Here’s how it applies to cyber defence: 

Assess Applicability: Evaluate how the observed threats align with your organisation’s assets and operations—Prioritise based on criticality. 

Operational Issues: Consider operational constraints, resource availability, and potential impact. What can realistically be addressed? 

Risk Assessment: Quantify the risk associated with each threat. Understand the potential consequences of inaction.

Decide

Decisiveness is crucial in the face of cyber threats. Make informed decisions: 

Prioritise Remediation: Decide which vulnerabilities or incidents require immediate attention based on your risk assessment. Create a remediation strategy. 

“Duelling” OODAs: Recognise that adversaries also operate within their own OODA loops. Act swiftly to disrupt their plans.

Act

Execution is where the rubber meets the road: 

Rollout and Monitor: Deploy patches, updates, and security controls. Continuously monitor for any “breakage” caused by changes. 

Active Defences: Implement active defences such as honeypots, sinkholes, and application whitelisting. Deceive, degrade, and disrupt adversary actions. 

Continuous Cyber Loop

Remember that the OODA loop is iterative. As you act, new observations emerge, leading to further orientation, decisions, and actions. Adaptability and agility are essential. 

Organisations face an ongoing battle to protect their digital assets in the volatile landscape of cyber threats. Initially developed by military strategist Colonel John Boyd, the OODA loop provides a robust framework for decision-making and response. Let’s explore how this loop can be applied to enhance our defences against cyber-attacks. 

In an outbreak or live cyber-attack, it can be challenging to remain calm whilst taking the first steps to deal with the situation and do the right thing. We recommend taking time to run an OODA loop model in your mind. In doing so, you can find a better, more effective way to tackle the challenges.  

Those of us who are often in a position where a decision needs to be made fast, risk missing alternative more effective ways due to time pressure. However, this model will give you the best chance to see a clearer picture, so you can make more informed decisions.  

Application Of the Loop in Cyber Security

The first step is to observe the incident and analyse your data:  

  1. What has happened?  
  2. Calmly analyse the facts and the unknown.
  3. Assess the worst possible scenario and the potential impact on your business.
  4. Think of your next steps.  

Once facts have been established, decide on the action and how you will proceed with the informed decision. Hopefully, the decision stemmed from the Observe and Orient model. 

The Act is the last step which puts the plan into action. At this point, you should also be planning to perform another OODA loop to cover the previous loop; sometimes, you may even be running multiple loops at once. The ability to place a cognitive weight on having time to make the right decision is key in a high-pressure scenario. 

If you are looking for further reading, then you can also look at the following: 

Mandiant APT1 Model: Map control implementations to the adversary model. Identify opportunities to detect, deny, and disrupt attacks. 

MITRE ATT&CK Matrix: Align techniques with tactics. Understand where defences are effective and where gaps exist. 

By embracing the Cyber OODA loop, organisations can transform reactive responses into proactive defences. Rapid decision-making, continuous adaptation, and a deep understanding of the threat landscape empower us to stay ahead of cyber adversaries. Remember: in cyberspace, surprise favours the prepared mind. 

If you want to talk to Planet IT experts about how we can help you with your cyber security, planning and innovation, then please call 01235 433900, or you can email [email protected], or if you would like to speak to me directly, you can reach out to me via DM or at [email protected]. 

 

Cloud Security Posture Management, Why you need it!

Cloud Security Posture Management

It’s time to discuss the importance of moving to an Opex model, the drive towards consumption-based usage and the impact on technologies like Microsoft Azure, as well as the importance of protecting Cloud resources and security when you move resources to the cloud. This article looks at how we put these principles into practice in Cloud Security Posture Management.

What is CSPM And Why Is It Important

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) is critical for any business moving its infrastructure to Microsoft Azure. CSPM helps organisations identify and remediate security risks in their cloud environments, to ensure their data and applications are protected. This rather preventative approach helps avoid any disasters!

When moving to the cloud, businesses must ensure that their security posture is robust and able to withstand the unique challenges of the cloud environment. Once you move to the cloud, you are placing only some, but not all, of the responsibility for the service provided.

In this shared responsibility model, the level of understanding of your risks is critical. This is why CSPM tools are so essential. They provide a comprehensive view of the security posture of an organisation’s cloud environment. It allows them to identify and address vulnerabilities and misconfigurations that could expose their data and applications.

Automation and Benefits Of CSPM

One of the greatest benefits of CSPM is the ability to automate the process of identifying and remediating security risks. Taking the human out of the equation often results in a better, faster, and more secure platform in the long term.

This is particularly important where the scale and complexity of the environment make it difficult for businesses to keep up with the constantly evolving threat landscape. CSPM tools can automatically scan the cloud environment for vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. This alerts security teams to potential risks and provides the information needed to take action.

CSPM also gives businesses greater visibility into their cloud environment, allowing them to monitor activity and detect unusual or suspicious behaviour. With the correct visibility, you can trust that the systems you have in place are configured and protected to the required standard.

The dynamic nature of the environment can make it difficult for businesses to keep track of changes and activities. CSPM tools provide real-time visibility into the cloud environment, allowing security teams to identify and respond to potential threats quickly. Being able to see who has made changes, what risks you have, and the overall nature of your cloud posture is invaluable.

Complying with Standards and Regulations

Many businesses are subject to strict regulatory requirements, and failure to comply can result in significant fines and reputational damage. CSPM tools can help businesses ensure that their cloud environment complies with relevant standards and regulations, reducing the risk of non-compliance. If your business needs to hit Cyber Essentials, ISO 27001 or PCI-DSS, then CSPM is the way to go

In summary, CSPM is essential for businesses moving their infrastructure to Microsoft Azure. It gives businesses the visibility, automation, and control they need to ensure their cloud environment is secure and compliant. By implementing a robust CSPM solution, businesses can protect their data and applications from threats, reduce the risk of non-compliance, and maintain the trust of their customers and stakeholders.

If you want to talk to one of our experts about how we can help your business secure its cloud environment and the benefits a CPSM could have for you, please call 01235 433900 or email [email protected]. If you want to speak to me directly, you can contact me via DM or at [email protected].

 

Microsoft 365 Copilot What’s New For 2024

Microsoft 365 Copilot What's Newhttps://www.planet-it.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/Copilot-post.jpeg

In today’s fast-paced business environment, staying on top of your workload can be challenging. That’s where Microsoft 365 comes in. This AI-powered productivity tool is designed to help businesses of all sizes work smarter, not harder.

With the removal of the 300-user gap in January, this tool is now available to businesses of all sizes and will allow SMEs/SMBs to engage in the world of generative AI.

What is Microsoft Copilot? 

At its core, Copilot 365 is a sophisticated processing and orchestration engine providing AI assistance. The software combines the power of large language models with data from your Microsoft Graph and the knowledge of the internet to help you work more efficiently. Something that no other tool can currently do. For instance, ChatGPT needs access to business data or the internet hence why the results are limited.

What is new in Copilot? 

Since there has been so much change in January alone for Microsoft 365 Copilot, we list the top 10 list of features which transform the way, you work.

1. Intelligent search

Copilot 365 can help quickly find the information you need, whether it’s in your emails, chats, or documents. With its advanced search capabilities, you can quickly locate the information you need, even if it’s buried deep within your files. You no longer need to be a search wizard to break down the barriers of document locations.

2. Summarisation

Copilot 365 can summarise long documents or emails, so you can quickly get the gist of the content without reading through everything. It saves so much time getting to the core of the text and avoiding all the white noise.

3. Email drafting

Copilot 365 can help you draft emails, saving time and effort. Its advanced natural language processing capabilities can generate well-written emails that convey your message effectively.

4. Document generation

Copilot 365 can help you create documents, such as reports or presentations, using data from your Microsoft Graph. This can save you time and effort, allowing you to focus on more critical tasks. This is so powerful if you are in any role where you often produce reports which require a presentation, Copilot takes the work out of doing it.

5. Task management

Copilot 365 can help keep track of your tasks and deadlines, so you never miss an important deadline. With its advanced task management capabilities, you can easily organise your workload and stay on top of your responsibilities.

6. Meeting Scheduling

Copilot 365 can help you schedule meetings with your colleagues, considering everyone’s availability. With its advanced scheduling capabilities, you can easily find a time that works for everyone without going back and forth with multiple emails. With options like Follow Meeting and Copilot-driven notes, you get so much more from meetings!

7. Language Translation

Copilot 365 can translate text from one language to another, making communicating with colleagues or clients who speak a different language easier. With its advanced translation capabilities, you can easily bridge language barriers and communicate effectively. This is great for working with international partners and clients.

8. Voice commands

Copilot 365 can be controlled using voice commands so that you can work hands-free. With its advanced voice recognition capabilities, you c

an easily interact with the tool using your voice, allowing you to work more efficiently.

9. Personalisation

Copilot 365 can be customised to suit your needs and preferences. With its advanced Personalisation capabilities, you can tailor the tool to your specific requirements, ensuring it works how you want it to.

10. Integration with Microsoft 365

Copilot 365 is fully integrated with Microsoft 365, so you can use it seamlessly with the other tools in your productivity suite. This allows you to work more efficiently, easily switching between different tools without wasting time. No other tool can do this; this is where the power exists

In conclusion, Copilot 365 is a powerful tool that can help businesses of all sizes work more efficiently and effectively. With its AI-powered capabilities and seamless integration with Microsoft 365, it’s a must-have for any business looking to stay ahead of the curve. Whether you’re a small business owner or the head of a large corporation, Copilot 365 can help you work smarter, not harder.

If you want to talk to one of our experts about how we can help you get Copilot Ready, please call 01235 433900 or email [email protected]. If you would like to speak to me directly, you can reach out to me via DM or at [email protected]

 

 

 

 

Unleashing The Power Of Microsoft 365 Copilot

Copilot for Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft Copilot for 365  is a chat-based tool that integrates into other 365 applications such as Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and SharePoint. It can learn and understand data from these locations, giving it the ability to answer questions, summarise documents, and more. Copilot is also integrated into the applications, allowing you to use it in real-time to draft emails, summarize emails or Teams chats.

 

Watch our webinar about unleashing the power of Copilot for your organisation

 

How will Copilot change the way we will work?

Microsoft Copilot for 365 won’t be coming after your job anytime soon.  Copilot 365 is there to help make your job more efficient and effective by cutting down the time you would have spent reading unimportant emails or messages, drafting base documents and emails and so on.  It will help you improve your time management skills, professionally write emails and recap your entire working days.

The security and compliance around Copilot

However, Microsoft Copilot 365 poses new security and compliance challenges for businesses as it has access to so much data.  Examples of risk can involve data leaking to the wrong user or a compromised user which could be could be devastating.

Currently, Copilot has inbuilt rules and compliance policies to stop certain actions such as users requesting sensitive data like payslips or contracts. It also has built-in security to only show data that the user would be able to access natively.

It is on Microsoft’s roadmap to integrate this policy into Purview to allow IT admins greater control over copilot security.

If you are eager to harness the full potential of Microsoft Copilot 365 to elevate your business through AI integration in your daily operations, then please call 01235 433900 or email our team of experts at [email protected]. As your trusted Microsoft Solution Partner, we seamlessly guide you through every step – from licensing to integration – ensuring that your investment not only meets but exceeds expectations.

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