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Striving for 100Gbps: The Move to Modernise IT Networking

100 gbps it infrastructure

The pulse of any business lies within its IT network infrastructure. Businesses voyage through the digital terrain, searching for swifter and more dependable connectivity. Consequently, transitioning from 1 Gigabit to 10, 25, and 100 Gigabits per second (Gbps) is crucial for backbone networks. 

The demand for bandwidth continues to skyrocket due to data-intensive applications, cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT). Traditional networks, constrained by their limited capacity, require assistance to match this exponential surge.  

Subsequently, high-speed backbone networks, operating at velocities of 10, 25, and even 100 Gbps, became essential lifelines for seamless digital connectivity among devices, applications and users. 

Whether streaming high-definition content, conducting real-time analytics, or supporting pivotal operations, the need for velocity has never been more critical.  

The Imperative of Modernisation  

Modernising IT network infrastructure is not merely about staying abreast of current trends; it’s about safeguarding the future of your enterprise. Primarily because outdated technology and insufficient bandwidth in legacy systems impede progress and growth. By embracing 10, 25, and 100 Gbps backbone networks, businesses can unleash the full potential of their digital ecosystems. 

Fuelling Productivity and Efficiency  

Firstly, a vital advantage of a contemporary network lies in its capacity to boost productivity and efficiency. With accelerated data transfer speeds, employees can access information instantaneously, collaborate seamlessly and execute tasks briskly. This enhanced agility augments operational efficiency and empowers teams to respond swiftly to market dynamics and customer demands.  

The Emergence of Power over Ethernet (PoE++)  

Concurrently, with the shift towards high-speed networks, there’s been a surge in demand for Power over Ethernet (PoE) solutions. PoE technology powers networked devices like IP cameras and wireless access points via Ethernet cables.

The advent of PoE++ (IEEE 802.3bt), capable of delivering up to 100 watts of power per port, heralds a new epoch of connectivity wherein devices are not solely interconnected but also powered via the network infrastructure. This convergence of power and data streamlines deployment, reduces costs, and lays the groundwork for a scalable network ecosystem. 

 

IT network, high speed 100gbps

The Cost of Inaction  

While the merits of modernising IT network infrastructure are abundantly clear, the consequences of inertia can be dire. Organisations that neglect to invest in high-speed backbone networks risk lagging in the digital race. Outmoded systems are susceptible to outages and hardware failures and suffer from performance bottlenecks that can stymie innovation and impede competitiveness.  

Furthermore, in an era where downtime translates to financial losses and reputational damage, the potential toll of network failures can be staggering. From disrupted operations to tarnished brand image, the repercussions of a faltering network extend far beyond mere inconvenience, underscoring the urgency of proactive investment in IT infrastructure.  

In Summary  

The significance of modernising IT network infrastructure cannot be overstated. As enterprises navigate the complexities of the digital age, the necessity for high-speed backbone networks has become indispensable. By embracing 10, 25, and 100 Gbps networks, harnessing the potential of PoE++ and proactively investing in modern infrastructure, organisations can chart a course towards a connected future characterised by agility, efficiency, and innovation.  

If you are reviewing your Network, then feel free to reach out to one of our experts at 01235 433900 or via email at [email protected], who will be able to help you understand how proper network design takes place. Alternatively, you can contact me directly via DM or at [email protected]. 

Read more… The Crucial Role of WI-FI Design

Abstract image of WI-WI Network

The Crucial Role of WIFI Design

Abstract image of WI-WI Network

Connectivity is the lifeblood of business operations and the importance of a robust WI-FI network in business environments cannot be overstated. From facilitating seamless communication to supporting critical business applications, a well-designed WI-FI infrastructure is essential for ensuring productivity and efficiency in the workplace.

However, achieving optimal WI-FI performance requires more than just installing a few access points haphazardly throughout the office space. I have seen my fair share of this over my time auditing sites. It demands careful planning, strategic placement and meticulous configuration. A lack of structured planning can indeed lead to pitfalls. It’s essential to approach the process methodically to ensure optimal performance and security.

The Pitfalls of Poor WI-FI Design

Deploying or upgrading WI-FI networking without proper design considerations can lead to many issues that impede productivity and frustrate users. Here are some common pitfalls associated with inadequate WI-FI design:

Dead Zones and Coverage Gaps:

With proper planning, specific areas within the office may be able to handle better coverage, leading to dead zones where employees struggle to connect or experience slow speeds. Likewise, these coverage gaps can hinder mobility and limit the flexibility of workspace utilisation. Modern devices make this even worse, as they are super sensitive to poor WI-FI signals or need help with roaming when the signal is not maintained.

Interference and Congestion:

In environments with multiple WI-FI networks and other wireless devices and electronic equipment, interference and congestion can degrade signal quality and throughput. This interference can result in unreliable connections, dropped packets, and sluggish performance, especially during peak usage hours.

Security Vulnerabilities:

A poorly designed WI-FI network may inadvertently expose sensitive corporate data to security risks. Weak encryption, inadequate access controls, and misconfigured settings can create vulnerabilities. This can pose significant security risks including cyber-attacks.

Scalability Challenges:

As the organisation evolves, an inadequately designed WI-FI infrastructure may struggle to scale effectively to accommodate increasing users and devices. This can lead to bandwidth limitations, network congestion, and degraded performance over time.

What is SASE?

The Benefits of Proper WI-FI Design

On the other hand, investing resources into proper WI-FI design yields a multitude of benefits that enhance the user experience and support business objectives. The Benefits of Proper WI-FI include:

Optimised Coverage and Performance:

WI-FI designers can determine the access points’ ideal placement and configuration by conducting a thorough site survey to ensure comprehensive coverage and optimal performance. This minimises dead zones, reduces signal interference, and delivers consistent connectivity across all areas. Planning for both coverage and density is key.

Coverage refers to the area where Wi-Fi signals are available. It’s essential to provide adequate coverage throughout the facility. Likewise, consider the physical layout, including walls, floors, and obstacles. Adjust access point (AP) placement to minimise dead zone. Finally, think about “high-traffic areas” such as conference rooms and lobbies that require strong coverage to accommodate users.

Density relates to the number of devices connecting to an AP. High-density areas need careful planning to ensure that the deployed technology meets the end user’s needs in that location. For instance, Conference Rooms require high density during meetings but may be empty at other times. Whereas, open workspaces need high-density coverage due to the numerous users.

Improved Reliability and Stability:

A well-designed WI-FI network employs advanced techniques such as channel optimisation, band steering, and roaming assistance to mitigate interference and maintain stable connections. This enhances reliability and ensures seamless roaming for users moving between different office areas.

Enhanced Security and Compliance:

Proper WI-FI design incorporates robust security measures, including strong encryption protocols, authentication mechanisms, and access controls, to protect against unauthorised access and mitigate security threats. By adhering to industry best practices and compliance standards, organisations can safeguard sensitive data and mitigate the risk of data breaches.

Scalability and Futureproofing:

A scalable WI-FI design anticipates future growth and technological advancements, allowing the network to expand seamlessly to accommodate evolving business needs. Organisations can future-proof their WI-FI networks and avoid costly redesigns or upgrades by implementing scalable architecture and infrastructure components.

A reliable and high-performance WI-FI network is essential for driving productivity, collaboration, and innovation in today’s digital workplace. Organisations can mitigate the risks associated with poor connectivity and deliver an exceptional user experience to employees, clients, and partners by prioritising proper WI-FI design during deployment or upgrade initiatives. From optimising coverage and performance to enhancing security and scalability, the benefits of investing in proper WI-FI design are clear: a connected workforce empowered to thrive in the digital age.

If you are reviewing your Network and Wireless, then feel free to reach out to one of our experts at 01235 433900 or via email at [email protected], who will be able to help you understand how proper WI-FI design takes place. Alternatively, you can contact me directly via DM or at [email protected].

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WormGPT

The Top 5 Reasons Cloud Migrations Fail

Abstract image of cloud migrations fail

The notion that public cloud costs are exorbitant and prompting a mass return to on-premises solutions is a prevalent topic in cloud migration discussions. Yet, this assertion doesn’t align with reality. Contrary to the narrative, AWS and Microsoft have observed substantial increases in their subscriber bases over the past year. 

The driving force behind these claims often stems from particular interest groups. Hardware vendors and private data centre owners, keen on safeguarding their market share and relevance, may be behind this narrative.

In the digital age, the appeal of the public cloud is indisputable. It presents scalability, flexibility, and efficiency, fundamentally reshaping organisational operations. Nevertheless, many businesses need help with their cloud adoption journey despite its potential, leading to frustration and setbacks. From insufficient planning to cost mismanagement, there are numerous challenges organisations must navigate when venturing into the public cloud. 

 Common Challenges in Cloud Migrations

1. Inadequate Planning:

Rushing into cloud adoption without a coherent strategy often results in chaos and inefficiency. Organisations must assess their existing infrastructure, understand their business needs, and outline their objectives before migrating to the cloud. Please do so to avoid disjointed deployments, incompatible systems, and heightened complexity.

2. Insufficient Security Measures:

Security remains a top concern for organisations contemplating cloud adoption. Overlooking or underestimating the importance of robust security measures can leave sensitive data vulnerable to breaches and cyber threats. While public cloud providers offer various security features, organisations must implement additional layers of security, such as encryption, access controls, and regular audits, to mitigate risks effectively. 

3. Poor Cost Management:

Effective cost management is often overlooked during the transition to the public cloud. While cloud computing promises cost savings through pay-as-you-go models, it also introduces the risk of overspending. With adequate monitoring and optimisation strategies, cloud costs can stay manageable. Factors like resource overprovisioning, idle instances, and governance lapses can significantly inflate the cloud bill. Organisations must implement robust cost management practices to avoid cost overruns, including usage monitoring, resource optimisation, and leveraging cost optimisation tools.

4. Vendor Lock-In:

Vendor lock-in poses a significant concern for organisations relying heavily on a single cloud provider. This dependency can restrict flexibility and impede innovation. Additionally, rapid advancements in cloud technologies may leave organisations locked into outdated or incompatible systems. Organisations should consider adopting a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud approach to mitigate vendor lock-in risks, allowing them to leverage services from multiple providers and avoid reliance on any single vendor.

Pharma and Life Sciences IT Support Your Trusted IT Partner for the Pharmaceuticals, Clinical Research organizations, Biotechnology and Medical Device companies

5. Skills Gap:

Successful cloud adoption necessitates skilled personnel proficient in cloud technologies and best practices. However, many organisations need help to recruit or train personnel with the requisite expertise, leading to difficulties in managing and optimising cloud infrastructure. Inadequate expertise can result in costly mistakes, performance issues, and underutilisation of cloud resources. Investing in training and development initiatives for existing staff or collaborating with experienced cloud service providers can help address this challenge.

Summary

In conclusion, while the public cloud presents numerous advantages, organisations must approach cloud adoption with meticulous planning, robust security measures, and effective cost management. By addressing common pitfalls such as inadequate planning, security lapses, and cost mismanagement, organisations can fully harness the potential of the cloud to drive innovation and growth.

For personalised guidance on transitioning your business to the public cloud, contact one of our experts at 01235 433900 or via email at [email protected]. Alternatively, you can contact me directly via DM or at [email protected].

Read more… Microsoft Azure 

image with Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop logo

Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop to Modernise and Revolutionise Your UX

In today’s fast-paced digital world, delivering a seamless user experience remains a top priority for IT Managers. The surge in remote work, BYOD and multi-device policies have increased the demand for efficient and secure virtual desktop solutions. This demand is a direct consequence of the shift toward a decentralised workforce. Enter Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) by Microsoft—an innovative cloud-based service. It revolutionises how organisations manage their desktop infrastructure and applications. By removing the complexities and challenges associated with legacy products. With a cloud-first approach, Microsoft assumes the responsibilities, leaving you to get on with your job!

 

Azure Virtual Desktop To Revolutionise Your UX

Gone are the days of grappling with the complexities of on-premises desktop management, or battling Remote Desktops, XenApp/ XenDesktop.

AVD brings forth a new era where desktops and applications are hosted in the cloud. This enables the users to enjoy a consistent and personalised experience from any location or device. Whether corporate-owned or a personal device, this centralised approach simplifies administration and offers scalability and flexibility to suit business demands.

Flexibility: AVD empowers users to access their desktops and apps remotely, fostering collaboration and productivity. Each user gets the same experience regardless of the device. This means that you can push applications and experiences to users on devices previously excluded from accessing your system, i.e., Apple iPads and Chromebooks.

Performance: Leveraging the robust infrastructure of Microsoft Azure, AVD ensures high-speed access to applications, regardless of the workload demands. This means you are leaning on one of the biggest providers in the cloud space.

Security: With features like Azure Active Directory integration and multi-factor authentication, AVD strengthens data protection, mitigating security risks associated with endpoint devices.

Management Simplicity: IT managers can centrally manage and deploy virtual desktops through the Azure portal, streamlining administrative tasks and reducing overhead. Leveraging tools like Nerdio to wrap around your AVD deployment can simplify this.

Cost Optimisation: By adopting a pay-as-you-go model, organisations can eliminate upfront hardware investments and optimise resource utilisation, resulting in long-term cost savings.

Real-World Applications Azure Virtual Desktop for UX

Across various sectors and organisations are leveraging AVD to transform their user experience:

Education: AVD facilitates seamless access to educational resources, enhancing the learning experience for students and faculty alike. If your education provider is looking for a BYOD, this is a great way to remove the hardware dependence on the process.

Healthcare: Healthcare providers rely on AVD to ensure secure access to patient records and critical applications, even in remote settings. Using Zero Clients from 10Zig, you can access the desktop experience quickly and securely, and it indeed follows users around.

Finance: Banks and financial institutions use AVD to enable remote work while maintaining compliance with industry regulations. Challenges around compliance and regulation have often been a barrier to progress, but not with Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop leveraging the secure framework Microsoft Azure is built on and the protection of AVD, you can truly drop the legacy systems.

Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop

 

Best Practices for AVD Implementation

To ensure a successful AVD deployment, you should look to adhere to these best practices:

Assessment and Planning: Conduct a thorough assessment of infrastructure and user needs to design a tailored deployment strategy. Planet IT can help with this through our Free assessment of your DaaS solution and asses how to get you ready for the cloud.

Pilot Testing: Evaluate AVD performance and compatibility through a pilot program before full-scale deployment. This is best done with around 5% of your workforce, which includes users from across the spectrum of skills, roles, and use cases.

Security Measures: Implement robust security protocols to safeguard sensitive data and ensure compliance with regulations. Working with our team, we can understand your needs and translate them to Microsoft’s compliance and protection.

User Training: Provide comprehensive training and support to help users adapt to the new virtual desktop environment. This can be done via workshops, 1 to 1 sessions, training videos, and so much more. With a team of experienced trainers, we can help you maximise the experience and get all users ready to work.

Continuous Improvement: Monitor performance metrics and user feedback to optimise the AVD environment over time. This is critical with all aspects of Azure, and even more so when you are looking to make the most of Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop.

To Conclude

Azure Virtual Desktop offers a compelling solution for organisations seeking to modernise their desktop infrastructure and enhance user experience. By embracing AVD and following best practices, you can unlock new opportunities for innovation and productivity while ensuring a secure computing environment for your workforce.

If you want to talk to our experts about how we can help your business review its environment and plan to move to the cloud. To find Out how Azure Virtual Desktop could make all the difference, 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].

 

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Cloud Security Posture Management

Cloud Security Posture Management

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) is both a practice and a technology designed to detect and prevent the misconfigurations and threats that lead to sensitive data breaches and compliance violations.

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/

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