Home security and why I chose the Ubiquiti Dream Machine

Ubiquiti Dream Machine

We all know that over the last 12 months the U.K. has moved from a office based working approach to a working from home model. This has meant a shift in approach to day to day business life. However, something that has slipped through the gap is security, and more importantly what security looks like in a home or “untrusted” network.

I am aware that for many people they are going to instantly say we use a VPN. To that I say this is a great step but only deals with part of the overall security risk of having your users working from home on their 3rd Party WIFI network provided by their ISP provided combination router/modem/access point. Much of this tech will be out of date, unsecure and ultimately “fine” for your day to day home user but not suitable for your business.

I am more aware of this problem than many people and have been asked the question over the last 12 months numerous times; “What should we do doing to secure our users at home?”. For the most part I had the technical answer which is to install an enterprise firewall, dedicated wireless network and wired network. The stumbling block I always hit was how do we manage these as a business, and the honest answer I had was I am not sure I have the solution. As an IT professional I had a stupidly complex home network featuring a server, wireless access points multiple managed switches and enough complexity that when there was an issue my wife would simply wait for me to fix it rather than knowing what to turn on or off. So about 4 months ago I began a process to simplify this process down and working out what is the best business grade solution, which I would happily spend my money on.

The Shortlist

After a few months of back and forth looking at Mesh WIFI systems (I will get on to why this is important for me) , home firewalls from security vendors and cloud managed switches. I came across a few solutions the first being Cisco Meraki Z3 , the second being Ubiquiti Dream Machine and the final being the Sophos XG86 all of these devices should have been able to solve the issue of how do I secure my home working environment as well as ensure that my family can safely use the network as the same time without too many issues.

I decided to go for the Ubiquiti Dream Machine for two reasons; there are no on going licence costs. Unlike the other two devices where they both require a licence to access most of the features with the Dream Machine once purchased you own it. This extends the longevity for me and the investment in the solution. The second reason was the ease of expansion.

Modern Homes and Mesh WiFi

Now, this leans into my Mesh WiFi issue, living in a modern build house steel has been used to reinforce the build, however this means that WIFI suffers when you step between the two sides of the house, this has always been an issue for me, so therefore a new solution had to support multi access points to essential have WIFI both sides of the steel. This was achievable with Ubiquiti with the deployment of a UAP-AC-LITE as part of a mesh set up.

From the point of the product some key points come to mind, the Dream Machine itself is a 4 port managed switch, an enterprise grade 4×4 MUMO 802.11ac Wave 2 access point with support for WIFI up to 1167Mbps and is a network protection device including a firewall, intrusion protection and attack mitigation. All of this is managed either locally or via the Ubiquiti cloud management platform (which is free) and can manage multiple devices from a single pain of glass. If you want to read more about the specification of the Dream Machine you can read here (https://eu.store.ui.com/collections/unifi-network-routing-switching/products/unifi-dream-machine) and for more information on the access point (https://eu.store.ui.com/collections/unifi-network-access-points/products/unifi-ac-lite)

When the unit arrived it ultimately was easy to set up and left me with a very basic working set up in less that 15 minutes, once this was done I spent an hour tweaking the set up to get me “work ready” before spending the rest of the afternoon moving devices on the SSID’s which I had set up for either work or personal depending on the device use, this is important as items like my Sky Q box need to be treated differently to the more intense set up I was deploying for my business devices.

The Techy Bit

If you don’t want to know the ins and outs of the solution feel free to jump over this paragraph.

My home broadband is provided by Sky and comes into a very standard router (which cannot be removed as its not supported by Sky) therefore the final solution for me was to disable the wireless on the Sky router, turn off IPv6 DHCP and turn the DHCP scope for IP4 down to a single address, this would be issued to the Dream Machine which would connect via 1Gbps connection. This connection leaves the Sky Router and connects to the WAN port of the Dream Machine. During the set up the unit creates an internal NAT which routes all connected traffic across to the Sky unit via it’s own address allowing me to publish two address pools from the Dream Machine a /24 for both home devices and work devices across two SSID’s which cannot see each other sit on separate VLANs and do not ever cross. For the second AP due to the layout of my house, I cheated and used a PowerLine unit rated a 1Gbps so connect from port 1 on the managed switch in the back of the Dream Machine to my upstairs via the house electrics. At the end of this I simply places the POE injector that came with the UAP-AC-LITE and wired it in, once the unit had an IP address I was able to adopt it with in the Dream Machines built in management system and deploy the same wireless networks. In testing across the house the blanket coverage is now a 800Mbps regardless of location and the hand off is seamless when you move around the building.

For a high-level design you can see the below layout of my network.

Home wifi network

 

When all is said and done, this solution is robust, fast and ultimately secure and takes my existing VPN connection to the next level in security, now this is important because while VPN traffic is secure anything that is happening on your home network may not be, it might be your teenage child downloading content on their laptop from questionable sites a home smart device which has a known comprise or simply an unprotected device that your neighbour has (who has happened to get on your WIFI). Because of all of this risk exist and a set up like the one I have just deployed removes this risk as not only does it provide great intelligence on what is happening to my network it clearly separates the devices which are critical to my working day and deal with intellectual property, customer data and business data everyday.

home Home wifi network

The ultimate bonus to deploying a solution like this for myself is I can say, I know it works and is scalable for businesses of all sizes, whether it is to protect your CEO or key workers or if you need to ensure that as your business spends 2021 working from home that you have proper protection, it can all be deployed and managed remotely with little disruption to the end user and the aesthetics of the devices means it doesn’t look hideous, as well as easily being able to out perform any Mesh WIFI system that a home user may be looking at to resolve the dreaded Zoom dropouts.

If you want to talk to me about how you can deploy home security for your remote working staff then please call 01235 433900 or you can reach out to me via DM or at james.dell@planet-it.net.

 

Should you be working with the Cloud? Michael Davey answers the key questions

Cloud Backup

This year brought many new challenges, yet drew out more of the same questions I get asked every day from businesses thinking of making the move to the cloud…

  • How can I make sure my backups are being safely taken off-site if I’m not in the office?
  • Is my data secure in the cloud?
  • Should I be migrating my data off-site?
  • Which is better, Private or Public Cloud?

I wanted to look at some of these questions and give my thoughts on how your business can use the cloud to help strengthen your infrastructure and automate your disaster recovery processes – which, let’s be honest, is a key requirement given the business landscape at the moment.

1.     Why backup to the cloud?

There are a number of benefits to using the cloud as part of your backup & disaster recovery plan. Some are general features that are applicable to mostly everyone, whereas others can be more specific.

Objectively, the cloud is physically separate to your infrastructure, it’s someone else’s hardware (that you don’t have the responsibility of maintaining, upgrading or monitoring), and it’s very scalable.

When applying this to a backup environment, it provides an off-site backup and ensures that in the event of a local physical disaster, you have a copy of your data from which you can recover. It also grows with you without having to worry about running out of space. Most providers allow you to scale your storage up or down to meet the requirements of data growth and consolidation without needing to worry about new hardware, backup file migration and restore point integrity.

More specifically for those using tape or disk rotations, cloud repositories offer an automated solution to getting your data off-site, meaning you don’t need anyone on-site to swap disks/tapes and worry about storing them securely in another location. This has been a particularly relevant point this year!

2.     There are a lot of options, where do I start first? Should I look at Private or Public Cloud?

Whilst it is true that there are more cloud storage providers now than there ever have been, you first need to work out if you want to work with a Private or Public Cloud provider.

Microsoft Gold Partner

Typically, Public Cloud providers such as AWS or Azure have options for lower cost storage with additional costs for importing and exporting data to their platform, utilising bandwidth and long term retention. The storage cost in these instances typically scales with their performance, the slower the disks, the lower the cost. This is important to look at as it can significantly impact the performance of your backups. On the other hand, these providers are also among the most compatible, regardless of your backup system, and are easily integrated to most systems. There are also options with Public Cloud Providers for immutability which protects your backups from being compromised by malicious attacks.

Private Cloud storage typically means that you are either renting storage space from an independent provider or renting physical space for your own storage in a datacentre. These instances are more often tailored to your specific requirements and/or backup product but will provide more transparency in costing (though also commonly slightly higher cost than Public Cloud), more consistency in performance and more control over the environment.

Veeam Silver Pro PartnerA specific example of this, would be Veeam’s Cloud Connect offering that allows you to mount a storage repository that is presented in the same way as local storage, hosted in the cloud, as a target for backup copies. Whilst very specific, this solution allows for seamless integration of your backups to a cloud location with minimal setup and complexity.

Ultimately, both options provide unique advantages, but in order to avoid losing your attention before point 3 of this article, I’ve tried to keep this condensed!

3.     What about services we already have in the cloud? Are they safe?

There is a common misconception that once you have something hosted in the cloud, it’s safe and no longer needs to be backed up. The thought often stems from the fact that the hardware is assured by the service provider and the associated risk of hardware failure is no longer present. Whilst this (for the most part) is correct, there are more things to take into consideration, such as:

  • Malicious external attack against yourself or the service provider
  • Internal errors such as mistaken data deletion
  • Malicious internal attack or intentional data breach/deletion
  • Associated devices becoming compromised (home devices especially that are not governed within the corporate network)

We would all like to think that the above scenarios “would never happen to me” and for the most part, thankfully this is often correct, there is however still a risk present. We have found that following the global push to work remotely or work from home in the last 12 months, cloud services and non-corporate devices have become the honeypots for malicious attacks, they are often taken advantage of as many companies are still in the early stages of adopting and understanding this technology within their business.

Cloud Readiness Report

With this in mind, you are most certainly safeguarding yourself from hardware and physical threats when adopting cloud technologies. You should however always be aware of the disaster recovery principles of your cloud systems and work to safeguard them to the same level as your on-premise solutions.

Moving to the cloud, whether it be your entire infrastructure, or just some core services, can be equally exciting and daunting. At Planet IT, we work hard to remove the guesswork and de-mystify the associated technologies to make sure you and your business can grow and develop without worrying about the security and safety of your data systems.

If you would like to know more, please do get in touch, our experts are always on hand to help you achieve your IT goals and stay in control of your IT integrity and security.

Similarly, if you would like to book a no obligation, FREE cloud readiness assessment, to gauge which solution is correct for you, PLEASE BOOK ONE IN HERE

2020 – The Technology Winners & Losers

Technology Winners

We all know that 2020 has been a challenging year for businesses and it is no surprise to anyone at this point late in the year that the digital landscape is very different to what it was 12 months ago.

So today, rather than a simple review of the year, I am going to look at some of the technology winners and losers of 2020.

Winners

 

Microsoft Teams and Zoom

Well obviously, right?

These two companies have enjoyed a dramatic rise to relevance as businesses moved (were forced) to an all-digital approach this year.

The reason these two thrived where others struggled is what makes them winners: both platforms offered the services for free for most of this year as part of their COVID support packages. Because of this they now have thousands, or even millions of new customers who won’t leave them in 2021. Teams and Zoom are now critical to many organisations and are part of their business models moving forward.

Not only was this smart marketing by the companies it has allowed both parties to learn at speed about what features we all want from these tools, I think this is clear when you see the number of changes that Microsoft have made to Teams this year, it’s certainly not the clunky product we were trying in 2017 anymore!

Microsoft Teams

AMD

AMD came out the gates swinging this year and they certainly had no intention of holding back. With the Ryzen 3000 series they have cemented their return to relevance making their CPU’s affordable and, in nearly all cases, faster than those coming from Team Blue (Intel).

However, this year they would go on to show why the 7nM process is so important and why Intel still pushing an 10nM process was going to cause them issues, this came in the form of Ryzen 5000 series, which wiped Intel off the top spot in nearly every scenario, and it did so a month after Intel announced their “best processor yet”.

This position was made even stronger when AMD managed to get both Dell and HPE to add their AMD EYPC processor to their server ranges giving customers the choice when looking to buy new servers. This is not only a win for AMD but also for consumers and businesses. We now have a better variety to choose from and can finally start to move away from Intel’s dominance, where the price point or performance does not make sense.

 

Apple Silicon

Continuing on the theme of CPU’s, Apple closed the year off by showing us all what can happen when you own an end-to-end process with the release of the M1 processor and the new range or M1 Apple devices.

This product, born from the legacy of the A Series mobile chip found in iPhone and iPad, is Apple’s first desktop processor since the days of PowerPC (Let’s not talk about it!). The important thing about M1 is not only is it built on the 5nM process but is also mind-blowingly powerful for a CPU which seems to simply sip on power rather than drain your battery in minutes. This, of course, is in part due to the fact that Apple own the eco system and can simply optimise every single instruction set to be smarter by working the CPU with the OS in the exact way they want, but they still have to be considered winners for this…

Also, who doesn’t want to run iPad apps on their Mac?

Apple Silicone

Public Cloud

Another rise to relevancy this year came in the public cloud drive, as customers seeking a solution to closing their offices and working across the country and the globe looked to the once distrusted Public Cloud as a saviour.

I have long believed the future was public cloud and 2020 was maybe the wrong way to prove a point, but we have seen a dramatic uptake in public cloud services. A huge number of large business are moving across and an even larger number of companies are planning through 2021 to close their datacenters and server rooms and put their workloads with Microsoft, Amazon or Google instead.

This move has co-existed with the drive by the big three to make the platforms more affordable and reduce the work to onboard to the platforms. This is only going to continue now as we slowly move away from onsite systems.

 

Losers

 

Intel

Now I already mentioned the bad year Intel is having in passing when coming up against AMD, but this year has been an all-round kicking for team blue.

This year also marks the beginning of the end of the Intel based Mac, which while only a small part of their revenue is sure to shake the foundations of what they are doing with other system integrators and device creators – not least Microsoft, who this year pushed AMD surface devices ard ARM based Surface Pro X devices.

Intel is not having a good year, but they need to learn from that their dominance in the CPU sector was on legacy born from innovation. Since the launch of the Broadwell generation of the i3-7 line up they have slowed down sticking until this year with 14nM for nearly all of its processors and simply looking for ways to push the clock speed on the devices. Now this year we reach the point where pushing clock speed is of less and less benefit and in 2021 we know Intel are going back to the drawing board to try and refine the 10nM and move to a smaller die process.

Good luck in 2021 Intel, otherwise it’s going to be another Team Red year!

Intel

Apple iPhone

Now the iPhone isn’t a looser in 2020 just because I left and moved over to the Android side!

This device is a looser because it lost to a phone half its price in a photo shoot-out between the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the OnePlus 8T in a blind test run by MKBHD . Now, the importance of this test is massive as it shows that you don’t get perceivably better images by using an iPhone as Apple would have you believe,. It also shows consumers in a very tight financial year that you can get a great camera for less than half the price.

Will this change people’s minds about buying a new iPhone? Maybe not. But it hopefully will make Apple sit up and think as both the iPhone SE and 12 didn’t make it through the first stage of the process, showing that the issue may be with the way Apple handles the images and less about the quality of the camera. Either way the iPhone (13) or whatever it’s called needs to make improvements on this and be a big step forward for Apple in 2021 as their dominance is slipping and the Android market is out for their crown.

 

Onsite Infrastructure

The office has taken a bit of a beating in 2020. It’s becoming, for many businesses, a way to spend money for space you are not using,. This has caused a number of businesses to decide now is the time to change the way they interact with office space we have seen a massive increase in businesses looking to either move to co-location or into public cloud.

This has meant that the days of the larger projects for onsite deployments have slowed, so I think it’s fair to say 2020 has been a bad year for on-premises solutions but a great year for anything cloud!

 

There have been many more winners and a lot more losers than I could cover in this article, however I think the major take away for 2021 is that the IT landscape has changed far more in 2020 than in any year prior to it, as an IT professional I don’t expect business to slide back into old habits and things to switch back as we slowly return to more normal times.

Whatever 2021 brings I am excited to be at the forefront of matching our customers to the latest and greatest technical solutions.

Wellbeing at Home

Wellbeing at home

Back at the start of the first national lockdown, none of us knew what to expect. Most of us packed our laptop and went home to face several months not seeing our friends and colleagues, not able to go gym, not able to socialise or relax in bars restaurants and cafes… it was a strange feeling to say the least.

We say it a lot, but Planet IT is one big family, so not seeing our colleagues everyday was a serious shock to the system.

Step in Sarah Boys, our fantastic HR manager! Sarah produced a fantastic Wellbeing at Home guide that we shared with all the team. As well as tips on how to build a routine and be productive while working from home, there are tips on how to exercise at home, how to be more mindful at home, links to free online cooking, painting, yoga classes and tonnes of suggestions on how to keep your body and mind active, as well how to relax too.

We shared this on our social media channels in March, and even though we’re not facing the same uncertainties as the last time we locked-down, we thought it would be a good idea to share this fantastic resource again for anyone who needs it.

You can download the wellbeing guide here

Application Control

Application Control

In my last article I wrote about malware-free attacks…

This time I wanted to mention something you probably already have, but just don’t know. And that can help with those types of attacks.

I work with a lot of customers who have Sophos Central. Amazing product, with so much more to it than most people realise.

Application control is one of these features that I rarely see used. Why, because initially it can cause some issues. Suddenly Jill in Marketing cannot use Adobe Illustrator anymore. And Sam in IT has 10 scripts that can no longer run. Quite often, yes there is a need for a 10-minute conversation, but maybe they really shouldn’t be using that software, or there is a better way of doing things. There can always be exceptions made if it is a tool needed for their role.

How it works; you can block all sorts of day to day programs. Or, allow applications but still detect them. As the screenshot below shows, having blocked those encryption applications would make it a little trickier for Mr Bad Guy to run an encryption program on your server. And if the software isn’t on there that you want to block, it can be added quite simply, ask us at Planet IT if you need assistance.

If you would like any further information, please get in touch. If you want to go over features that you probably aren’t using but should be please contact SecurityServices@Planet-IT.net

MEET THE PLANET HERO’S – AGA ULANOWSKA, PLANET OFFICE MANAGER

Aga planet hero

I don’t even want to imagine a Planet without Aga!

If you want something done… ask Aga… it gets done.

In the 2nd Meet The Planet Hero’s feature, we talk with Aga Ulanowska, our HQ Office manager. Aga has been with us for 5 years and has seen lots of changes and exciting growth in that time. It’s scary how much work Aga takes care of, and it has become even more evident in recent months with everything going on around us.

Today we find out a little bit more about Aga. Why she enjoys being part of the Planet Family. What makes her tick, why change in business is a good thing and discover her secret passion for gardening…

 

You’re not from these shores. What brought you here?

That’s right, I come from a city in south-eastern Poland called Zamość.

It’s a beautiful place, but since I graduated and got the degree in English, I knew what to do next.

After months of planning, I took a big leap of faith and moved to UK.

It was the most difficult, but the best decision I made in my life. I lived in gorgeous Edinburgh for few months, then moved to Oxfordshire where I found Planet IT, or shall I say Planet IT found me?

Planet found you?

Yes, it was actually Planet IT that reached out to me.

It’s still a bit of a mystery, as I hadn’t even applied for the job ?

One day I received a call asking if I’m interested in a temporary position and that was it – I started the next day.

It was only meant to be for a few months and here I am 5 years later!

 

The business has changed so much in your time here. What do you think has driven those changes?

Looking back to when I first joined Planet IT, it’s undeniable that things have changed.

What I’ve learnt within those 5 years so far, is that you can never stand still, especially in the IT industry.

Changes are good if done for the right reasons and Planet IT did just that.

Every aspect of the business has improved and the drive to be better and more efficient with improved work processes etc. was the key to successfully make it happen.

What has been your favourite Planet memory?

I have so many great memories with Planet – it’s impossible to choose only one.

Some of the best memories was cruising on a snowmobile in the middle of the Icelandic glacier on Planet IT Christmas party, team-building 10-kilometre Tough Mudder runs that break us all every time!

and how can I forget receiving my first “MVP of the year” award! ?

Hopefully many more great memories still yet to come.

 

If I ask about your favourite parts, I have to ask about the opposite side too – what challenges do you face in your role?

I think every job comes with its challenges and my role is no different.

Certain tasks involve more thought and time investment, but it’s important not to shy away from it and take these tasks head on with a positive and “can do” attitude.

 

If you want something done… ask Aga… it gets done.

 

In your role, you talk to and deal with lots of businesses outside Planet IT, during this time of Covid – what business habits have you seen emerge? What has impressed you? What has shocked you?

That’s true, the initial weeks of the lockdown had a significant impact on most UK businesses. Customers and vendors I’m taking to are telling us that the connectivity and technology are absolutely vital to them at this time. It’s always been important, but who would have thought it would be this critical to keep businesses functioning at this time.

What shocked me is that we are also seeing a noticeable increase in malicious behaviour, as scammers and hackers try to take advantage of people working from home.

What advice would you have for businesses right now?

My advice would be to focus on what you can control and set yourself reasonable expectations.

We’re in this together and throughout this crisis people are doing the most amazing things to help each other, so stay connected.

 

 

Outside Planet IT – what makes you tick?

I don’t want to sound like a pensioner, but I really enjoy gardening! Especially now, it’s been my little escape from what’s currently happening in the world.

On a flipside believe it or not, I enjoy a bit of online gaming! It’s a great way of spending some time with my friends, especially those that are far away.

Dog person or Cat person?

100% dog person.

We’ve always kept dogs in my family and I’m planning to keep the tradition here in UK.

However, as small dogs are out of the question, I might need a bigger house first… ?

 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Chocolate and coffee, definitely.

There’s no way I can start a day without a nice cup of coffee, although I must be going though litres a day…?

And who can resist a lovely bar of chocolate!

This is all about Planet Heros – if you were a real life superhero, what would your superpower be?

Good question…?

I think I would like to have the ability to control time. Life moves way too fast and to be able to slow it down, pause or even go back in time would be amazing!

 

If you were to give advice to a 14 year old you – what would it be?

I would say to believe in yourself more and ignore people’s opinions. The only opinions that really matter are that of your family’s.

Also, don’t stop playing piano just because you didn’t get to the music school. You will later regret it.

 

If you were to give advice to a young person looking ahead at a career like yours  – what would it be?

Just make sure you do something you enjoy doing.

Also, keep learning new skills, you will never know when it might come in useful.

 

Aga Ulanowska is our office manager here at Planet IT. If you’re one of our clients, you’ve probably spoken with Aga a few times! She is typical of the personality and work ethic of our team. If you’d like to work with Planet IT or think you need one of our services, then give the team a call on 01235 433900 or email enquiries@planet-it.net

MEET THE PLANET HERO’S – MICHAEL DAVEY, BACKUP & DISASTER RECOVERY SERVICES MANAGER

Michael Davey

Meet Our IT Hero’s – Michael Davey, Backup & Disaster Recovery Services Manager

We have a saying here at Planet – “In Davey We Trust!

Welcome to the first of our Meet The Planet Hero’s features! We always talk about our people being our greatest strength. We have a huge team of experts here at Planet and we’re great at talking abut their technical ability. But what makes them tick? Why do they do what they do? What’s important to them other than their key roles at Planet IT?

First up in our series is Michael Davey. One of the big characters in our office (or on Microsoft Teams right now I suppose). Mike has been part of the Planet Family longer than most and today heads up our Backup & Disaster team. He’s a key member of the technical team but outside Planet he’s a family man, grows a great beard and has one hell of a guitar collection… but we’ll come to that…

 

Firstly Mike, Why IT and then why Back-UP & DR?

To tell the truth, I was looking for a stable career industry having recently started a family at the time. Regardless of the organisation, everyone has some level of IT infrastructure and that is only going to grow. I had similar motivations when it came to specialising in Backup & Disaster Recovery, it’s something that every organisation needs to have and there is a great sense of assurance and comfort in knowing that you’re a part of that safeguarding process.

 

What’s your favourite Back-up tool or hack?

It’s no secret that I really like Veeam. As a tool it has multiple points of entry depending on your skill level and has a very simple and intuitive model in comparison to other solutions I’ve worked with. With regards to hacks? Mapping your user profile folders into a cloud enabled service like OneDrive is really handy. It makes moving around on devices a lot easier.

 

What emerging technologies most excite you?

I am really excited to see more mixed reality concepts come to life in the commercial market. With so many smart assistants and virtual reality products now in the market, the ability to combine those in a tangible real world environment (through personal devices) is a very cool and exciting area for me.

What current tech can’t you wait to see improved or made redundant?

I think we are truly blessed with the tech that is available right now throughout the world. Honestly, the rate of improvement in almost all areas is already staggering, I would however really like to see these technological improvements be made more widely available so their benefits and “smart” functions can help everyone. When it comes to redundancy, it has to be physical connectivity. Having to manage 4-5 different (and often proprietary) connections for powering, connecting and extending devices can be annoying. A better adoption of industry standard alternatives (USB-C being a great example) would be nice.

 

During this time of COVID – what business habits have you seen emerge? What has impressed you? What has shocked you?

I’ve noticed a considerable rise in software as a service options. Removing the need for on-premise solutions and VPN connections with cloud services has been a very big deal. I’m impressed I’ve stayed sane working from home with 3 kids running around! Equally, I am shocked my Fiancé hasn’t tried to kill me in my sleep yet!

 

In Davey We Trust

 

What advice would you have for businesses right now?

Make sure your backups are working properly, especially for cloud services like Office 365, AWS and Azure. Times are hard enough already without having to deal with a Disaster Recovery nightmare. Office spaces and server rooms aren’t necessarily getting the same wear and attention right now, and I hate to say it, but malicious exploits are only getting higher as people take advantage of the many vulnerabilities people are dealing with. Always have a plan B – and don’t neglect it!

Planet IT – what’s it like to work there?

Planet IT is like a family. I don’t think I have ever met a more hard working team with such pride in the work they do. I’ve been with Planet IT for over 7 years now and I couldn’t be more thankful to everyone I’ve worked with. Some of the best experiences of my life have only been possible thanks to Planet IT. We set the bar high across the board and everyone is looked after. I am very very lucky to be a part of this family.

Outside Planet IT – what makes Mike tick?

My biggest motivation is my family of course. My 3 sons keep me going no matter what and are far and away the best source of comedy in my life. For myself? I love music, I love video games and I love food! That’s my trinity right there. If I have a guitar, a controller or a spatula in my hands, I’ll be smiling! Oh also my cat, I love my cat, she’s a total weirdo and hates the world but she’s the best.

 

 

Just for you, we need to ask about guitars – Just start jamming and tell us why you play?

Haha! Well I’ve always loved music. My parents always had great music playing when I was a kid, be it Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Bluetones (I could go on here….) and my Uncle is a fantastic singer and guitarist so I used to always watch him play. He taught me how to play guitar when I was about 13 and the rest as they say is history. At the minute I am relishing every moment I get to play my vintage 1978 Sierra Sunburst Fender Telecaster, my first guitar (A Yamaha F-310 gifted from my Uncle) will always be my favourite, but this Telecaster is something else!

 

If you were to give advice to a 14 year old you – what would it be?

1. Buy some bitcoin around 2009/10 and hold onto it until around December 2017!

2. That bald patch will get bigger, but it’s ok, you grow a beard and shave your head so it’s fine.

3. Do more things that scare you. They’re always the most fun.

 

If you were to give advice to a young person thinking of entering the world of IT – what would it be?

Push yourself. The industry is huge and it’s unlikely anyone will have a real understanding of their ability and/or preference areas from the get go. Just find a good employer with a good team and push yourself every day to learn or try something new, ideally somewhere just outside of your comfort zone. I firmly believe that the more you know, the more fun you can have and the more doors you can open. So push yourself and grow as much as you can.

 

Michael Davey is our Backup & Disaster Recovery Services Manager and an expert in Veeam, VMWARE, Microsoft Azure, Zerto, Microsoft 365 and many more. He and his team will simply blow you away for the level of detail and care they will show for your backups giving you the peace of mind it is taken care of. If you’re interested in talking about any of his services, he loves a chat – give him a call directly on 01235 425219 or email michael.davey@planet-it.net

How to spot Phishing and prevent being a victim

Phishing Planet IT

The Coronavirus pandemic and the resulting changes in the way we now work and live has lead to a feeding frenzy among Cybercriminals.

Phishing attacks have ramped-up by over 667% in March alone and scammers are finding more and more creative ways to prey on vulnerable victims.

In the UK, we have all received a text from the NHS or government, urging us to follow the guidelines, stay home and stay safe. Many of us have also received a very similar text or email, telling us exactly the same, but with a suspicious link promising a monetary rebate or extra tips on how to stay protected. If you’re reading this, you already know what I’m going to tell you – this is a scam and somewhere there’s a hacker attempting to steal from you.

But how do you spot these threats? How can you be sure what is genuine or what is a scam?

I’ve put together some pointers for you to help spot the warning signs.

1. If there is ANY uncertainty, don’t open. 

If it’s that urgent, they will chase you. If it’s genuine, you will either be expecting the email or message to arrive. You’ll also get a reminder or a phone call from the real person or organisation when they don’t hear from you. If you don’t, and you still think it might be genuine. Go to their website, find their contact phone number and call to ask

2. Sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Come on… be real… nobody wants to just give you free money. And you didn’t enter a competition to win a Ferrari, so why would you think that you’ve won one? Be sensible and think if it could be someone trying to take advantage you.

3. Looks legitimate? Check the details

Look at the senders name, their e-mail address and any links. It’s easy to change a letter to a number. My email address for example; Kelly.Ilbery@planet-it.net could be changed to Kelly.Ilbery@p1anet-it.net (1 instead of l).

Is the email addressed to you? e.g. “Dear Kelly”. Or is it addressed “Dear Client”. If you are a customer, they’ll know your name. If it’s a scam sent to thousands of people, they may use client or customer in place of your name.

Here’s a real world example that’s very relevant at the moment and one that has been received by thousands in the UK over the last few weeks. Many people have had their working circumstances change recently. People are on furlough, small business owners are due grants and many are unlucky enough to find themselves unemployed. There’s a lot of change and it’s confusing to know exactly what you might be due and when. A text like this might be exactly what you’re waiting for.

However, look at the link. Genuine texts from the government come from gov.uk. And their official website for the crisis is: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus. This text tries to mimic that in some way with https://uk.covid-19.

However they are using this as a subdomain of webdirect.org – not an official website. If you clicked on the link, you would have been redirected to a website that even looks like an official gov.uk website asking for details. This is exactly the thing they do and what you need to look out for. As you become more vigilant, you will get better and better at spotting this.

In general terms, big organisations, banks or the government tend not to include links because they’re told that it’s exactly what hackers will do. They’re more likely to tell you to log into your account, encouraging you to separately go to their website, not linking form an email or text. so if you get an email from your back asking for details and not encouraging you to “Log-on to your online account”, it’s probably a phishing attack.

4. And if you still really want to click it, go directly to the web address instead. 

If it’s a link that states it will take you to the WHO website, and you’re interested in seeing what the WHO are saying, go to it yourself by googling WHO, don’t use the link! If it’s important enough for them to email or text, then you’ll be able to find details on their website. Can’t find the details on their website and you still think it’s real – call them using the number on the website.

5. Ask

If all else fails, and you’re still not sure – just ask. My team and I are on the side of the good guys (Yeah I know the bad guys might say that too!). Our careers are based on fighting scammers and helping protect people from being tricked. So if you’re in doubt, or if you think you might already be a victim, give us a call and we’d be more than happy to guide you in the right direction – 01235 433 900 or email SecurityServices@Planet-IT.net

The 6 Tech Trends of COVID-19

Technology trends Covid 19

Since the start of lockdown in March, the business landscape has dramatically changed, the pull to virtual spaces, new technologies and accelerated upgrade plans. As an IT service provider we have been inundated with requests, projects and new developments, and it now seems the time to look at these changes and talk about the top trends that COVID-19 has brought upon the business world.

1) The office is dead. Long live the virtual space!

February this year feels like a long time ago and for most businesses it was unimaginable that less that 6 months later nearly all businesses would be working from home, with flexible working relying so much on virtual meeting technologies like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Cisco WebEx – and not to only operate but to socialise, keep in touch and continue to build that company ethos. For some businesses this was a challenge. For others they have adapted and grown with the change. One thing is certain for many senior managers and business owners however: the future looks like one where less people visit the office and more are working from home.

2) Do I really want my servers in my office?

With the trend of moving over to virtual spaces another question that has seen itself thrust into the forefront of IT management is server locales. Previously IT managers and senior management would strive to keep their data close to them, with spaces from corners of offices, cupboards and full-blown data center rooms being constructed, powered and cooled with-in businesses existing spaces. However, when the tables turned and staff where out of the office connecting back to critical data via VPN technology, it became very clear that this set up may not be optimum. As such we have seen a huge increase in business interest for private cloud datacenters like our PlanetCloud service, or customers looking at public cloud or even a hybrid solution. The main driver being to remove that single point of failure and connectivity and drive performance and the ability to work anywhere.

3) The device refresh is here and we need it now. 

Just as many businesses where not prepared for the move to virtual working, many where sitting on legacy IT equipment which was either due a refresh this year or the business was trying to extend into 2021, however with the need for equipment that can support your users while working at home it has become critical that they are working on fast, safe and secure devices. As such we have seen many business moving forward their device refreshes opting for Device as a Service offerings which allow them to spread the cost over the term of the product and turns CapEX into OpEX expenditure.

4) Cyber criminals don’t care about pandemics 

One thing this pandemic has taught us is that cyber criminals have no morals and they will use any situation to manipulate and scam you. This has never been more apparent. During this crisis phishing attacks have gone up 400% and all of these attacks in some way link back to COVID-19, either posing as HMRC, the WHO or informing you that you have COVID-19 and to ring a premium rate number. The level of villainy and lack of humanity these criminals have never ceases to amaze me and my colleagues in the cyber security world.

This also raises the question of how we protect against these attacks and the honest answer is training. No product will be 100% perfect every time but if you invest in your human firewall then you can overcome the ever changing threat of these criminals and protect your business.

5) Broadband is key, but why is my home wifi so slow? 

If like me you have been working from home while your family consume Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney + . You will have no doubt been dealing with slow connections, overload and sometimes even calls dropping out on Teams, Zoom etc. Well this is for a good reason, aside from the fact the whole broadband infrastructure has been heavily loaded, home broadband circuits are not designed with the same level of protected overhead as business lines. This is in part due to the contention ratios that are allowed on home circuits vs the guaranteed head room on business lines. With this we have seen a number of business purchasing broadband for their staff and having them put into their homes as dedicated business lines, the cost is low and the service is guaranteed. This allowing your family to stream away without effecting your meetings.

6) Board room procrastination has to stop, and businesses need to upgrade, adapt and move forward now. 

From experience I know that the boardroom is often where IT projects go to die. Long have the powers that be, procrastinated on an upgrade for it to never see the light of day. This was a common theme in businesses across the U.K with senior management favoring investments elsewhere to IT for their perceived value. In the last 4 months this has changed dramatically with the focus being more on IT now than ever before.

With companies choosing to invest now and heavily, knowing that it iss IT that has kept them operating over the last few months. Directors now realize that technology is critical to the business long term success. We have worked with a number of business who have revived, accelerated or even created IT projects that were previously on the long finger but now urgently brought into a 2020 timeframe on the request of the board.

With all of this said, it is important to remember the positives that we have gained from this experience and the level of transformation this has forced upon businesses, it is by no coincidence that many attribute COVID-19 as the biggest driver of change in their business over, IT managers, CTO and Technical Directors.

The reason for this is simple, businesses have been forced to adapt or disappear from the business world. The importance now is to ride the tsunami of change and not be washed away by it. If you continue to drive forward and innovate you won’t be left behind and you won’t be left vulnerable to cyber criminals and technology weakness that comes from standing still.

If you would like to discuss with myself or any of the 60 IT experts here at Planet IT about how you can better protect your business, should that be with new technology, strategies or even better backups, you can reach us using the contact details below;

Contact me at – LinkedIn Message James Dell or Email: james.dell@planet-it.net

Call 01235 433900 or Email: enquires@planet-it.net

Our Top Tips To Be Secure When Using Public Wifi Hotspots

work from home

The popularity of working in public locations like coffee shops, hotels and co-working spaces has exploded in recent years.

Stronger wireless internet signals are now common place in public spaces and we are all grateful when we see a ‘Free Wi-Fi’ sign, when looking for a spot to catch up on some work while out of the office.

Many people connect to a public wi-fi wireless network without giving it much thought. But with cyber security threats consistently increasing in volume and complexity are we safe using public wi-fi?

The short answer is no. But there are some steps you can take to minimise your risk.

There will always be risks associated with connecting a device to any form of public network. It is difficult to establish whether the relevant security principles required to maintain protection levels have been maintained by the wi-fi provider.

At Planet IT our technicians have dealt with cases for clients of devices being hacked and infections spread from public wi-fi. Such cases usually stem back to the user connecting to a wireless network named something like “FREE WIFI” or “The Cloud”.

here are two common ways in which a hacker can use this to their advantage. The first is to simply connect to the network as well and if the provider has not secured the local connection scan and attack any devices connected to the wireless network

The second and more sophisticated method is commonly called ‘The Man in The Middle Attack. In simple terms the attacker impersonates the wireless network with a device they bring with them and you connect to the network and use it. In the background they can then intercept all of you traffic and pass it on.

Developers have started making changes to their systems to protect against the second type of attack. The threat has been reduced by moving from http to https connections, which means traffic sent is encrypted. However, with the right knowledge and technology hackers can still obtain information.

The first type of attack is more common and continues to pose a risk. However, if you need to use public wi-fi, there are a few simple steps you can take to reduce your risk to exposure of being hacked.

1. Connect to a secured public network whenever possible. If you’re unable to connect to a secured network, using an unsecured network would be permissible if the connection requires a login or registration.

2. Have up to date anti-virus and anti-malware software installed on your devices – if you have the latest updated antivirus on your laptop it will prevent any inbound attacks getting onto your device and spreading.

3. Have your firewall turned on – on both Windows and MacOS there is a built-in software firewall designed to stop inbound traffic from unwanted sources reaching your devices, ensure this is turned on and only the ports you need open are open.

4. Never use internet banking, send business critical e-mails or access systems including financial information, intellectual property or sensitive information while connected to pubic wi-fi. If you would be at risk if the data was lost, stolen or leaked then don’t access, send or receive any sensitive data while connected to public wi-fi, to reduce your risk.

5. If you have access to a Remote Desktop connection or Citrix then use them instead of public wi-fi. This will be able to shield you from interception.

6. Monitor your Bluetooth connectivity. Leaving Bluetooth on while in public places can pose a huge risk to your cybersecurity. Bluetooth connectivity allows various devices to communicate with each other, and a hacker can source open Bluetooth signals to gain access to your devices. It is advisable to keep this function on your devices switched off when you leave your office, or home.

If you need advice on how to keep your data safe and how best to apply cyber security best practice to your business, then you can contact one of our security specialists on 01235 433 900.

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