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Cloud Etiquette 101

Horrible house guests, we’ve all had them. Whether it be that annoying family member that over stays their welcome, or that old college buddy that leaves beer cans and potato chip crumbles all over your couch, we have all experienced those discourteous visits. If you thought that was bad etiquette, you’ve yet to see the worst…

Imagine coming home and finding that your current work has gone missing, your valuable data has been completely disorganized and all your important files have been put in the trash, what would you do? I’m not referring to your terrestrial home, I am talking about the virtual home most businesses today share – the cloud.

Cloud computing has its own essential and unwritten code of ethics. As a cloud user, you must be courteous of others you share the cloud with, no one appreciates an ill-mannered cloud partner. For those reasons we have put together a few etiquette tips to help you be the best house guest possible when visiting the cloud.

Keep emails and subject lines concise and to the point. If you find yourself four paragraphs in and still haven’t gotten to your point or asked your question, it’s time to pick up the phone.

Subject lines, keep them short, useful and specific! “Do you have a minute to chat?” is too vague and doesn’t really explain the contents of the email. Instead try, “Let’s meet to discuss the new BDR solution and pricing.” Use words that people would reasonably search for. Instead of “Please review the attached,” include what they are reviewing: “Cloud Etiquette 101 blog draft for review.”

Compress your files, please. There is nothing more irritating than receiving an email that takes 10 minutes to load because of a 50 MB attachment. Be sure to always compress files before hitting send. If a file cannot be compressed any further, you can also use a cloud-based storage solution with shareable links such as Dropbox or WeTransfer.

Maintain accountably. Cloud computing works best when there is accountability. Everyone need to be made aware that sometimes there will be many individuals working out of the same project. Because of that, it is always important to communicate all changes made to any folders or files in the cloud.

Ask before you delete! When deleting from the cloud, the files aren’t just deleted from your computer – they’re deleted from everyone’s computer whom you’ve shared the with. Make sure to never delete files from folders without asking.

Don’t pick stupid names. Try and be as specific as can be when naming a file or a folder on the cloud. The file-naming convention that your business uses needs to be understood by everyone in the cloud.

Don’t overfill folders. Be aware of the size of your files. Don’t add a massive 3 GB mega-file that’s going to take up all of that folders storage space. Also, be sure to keep your data organized to avoid annoying others with unnecessary clutter.

Together is the only way we can make #thecloud a better place. Don’t be that person no one wants to share their cloud with. Put these cloud etiquette tips to use and you will surely be invited back into the virtual home.

Data loss is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when – and it happens to every company, big or small. More than half of businesses locate their disaster/backup systems in the same physical location as their primary system – red alert! If you only have one copy of your system’s backup at your office, and your hardware fails or a breach occurs and all your data is stolen, then a backup was completely useless to begin with. In a bit of irony, it turns out that the safest place to be during a storm is “in the cloud.”

Cloud computing not only offers back up protection against system malfunctions or natural disasters, it also keeps businesses safe against cybertheft, ransomware, malware, viruses, phishing, cross-site scripting, employees, and the list goes on. It’s not that businesses don’t recognize the importance of having a disaster recovery plan in place. It’s just that they simply have it in the wrong place.

So, let’s say you’ve finally agreed that it’s time to move to the cloud – where do you start?

Here are some recommendations that can help you though the process:

While the road ahead may be tough, with these tips in mind, you can begin moving your business processes to the cloud safely and efficiently.

Everyone is talking about cloud computing these days and for good reason. The cloud is revolutionizing how computing power is generated and consumed. Cloud refers to software and services that run on the Internet, instead of locally on your computer. When tech companies say your data is backed up “in the cloud,” it has nothing to do with those white fluffy things in the sky. Your data isn’t actually up in the cosmos or floating around in space. It has a terrestrial home. It’s stored someplace – lots of places, actually – and a network of servers find what you need, when you need it and deliver it.

Cloud computing, if done properly can make your business much more efficient. However, a cloud solution is only as good as the quality of the research, the implementation, and the follow-through. So, how do you know if moving your business applications and data to the cloud is the right answer for you? There are few things you need to know about the cloud first.

What exactly is the cloud? This is a tricky question in and of itself. Just like the clouds in the sky, there are many clouds when it comes to technology. In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and applications over the Internet instead of your computer’s hard drive. It is using a network of computers to store and process information, rather than a single hard drive.

Public vs. Private vs. Hybrid? Not all clouds are the same. You have options with public clouds, private clouds, as well as hybrid clouds. Choosing the right options for your business comes down to the needs and the amount of control you would like to have.

HaaS or Saas? Just like there are different types of clouds, when it comes to cloud computing, there are also different types cloud services. Most commonly used cloud services fall into two categories: HaaS and SaaS.

Is it safe and reliable? As mentioned before, cloud computing is the way of the future. We know it is easy and inexpensive – but, is it safe and reliable? What good is saving money and switching to a cloud solution if it will bring additional risks to my business? Most cloud service providers offer encryption features such as service-side encryption to manage your own encryption keys. So, in reality, you ultimately decide how safe your solution is. As far as reliability goes, in many cases, cloud computing can reduce the amount of downtime right down to seconds. Since there are multiple copies of your data stored all throughout the cloud, there is no single point of failure. Most data can usually be recovered with a simple click of the mouse.

In the end, though, companies shouldn’t make decisions entirely based on what they are comfortable with, or what with what is cheapest. What should be most important is deciding whether or not transitioning into the cloud will work for your business.

To cloud, or not to cloud? The choice is all yours. Do your research and ask the right questions.

You can have every piece of security hardware in the books: firewall, backup disaster recovery device, anti-virus; but your employees will still be the biggest vulnerability in your organization when it comes to phishing attacks. How do you mitigate as much risk as possible?

  1. Create and Strictly Enforce a Password Policy: Passwords should be complex, randomly generated, and replaced regularly. In order to test the strength of your password go to this site. (This is a perfectly safe service sponsored by a password protection platform that tells you how long it would take a hacker to decode your password.) When creating a password policy, bear in mind that the most prevalent attacks are Dictionary attacks. Most people utilize real words for their passwords. Hackers will typically try all words before trying a brute force attack. Instead of words, use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. The longer the password, the stronger it is. While it’s difficult to remember passwords across different platforms, try not to repeat passwords. This will protect all other accounts in the event of a breach on one of your accounts.
  2. Train and Test Your Employees Regularly: Educate your employees on how they can spot a phishing attack. Then, utilize penetration testing (a safe phishing attack orchestrated by your IT company to see how employees respond) to see how well they do. If employees fall for phishing attempts, send them through training again. We recommend doing this on a quarterly basis to ensure that your employees stay on their toes, and you always provide education on the latest attacks.
  3. Create a Bring Your Own Device Policy and Protect all Mobile Phones: You can safeguard as much as humanly possible on your network, but your employees are all walking in with a cell phone. Are they allowed to get emails on these phones? What about gaining access to the network remotely? Cell phones create a big black hole in security without proper mobile device management and mobile security.
  4. Perform Software Updates Regularly: Make sure that your software is up-to-date with all the latest security patches. Holding off on updates means that you’re leaving yourself open to vulnerabilities that have been discovered and addressed.
  5. Invest in Security: Security is not something for cost savings. Home-based hardware is not sufficient, and you at the very least need a quality firewall and backup device. Invest in your employee’s training, ongoing security updates, and maintaining a full crisis/breach plan.

There are two things that aren’t going away in any business, employees and security threats. Make sure that you’ve taken care of everything you can to avoid falling victim.

Would you know if you were the subject of a phishing attack? Many people claim that they’d be able to tell right away if they received an email from an illegitimate source. If that were the case, there wouldn’t be 1.5 million new phishing sites every month, a 65% increase in attacks in the last year, and hackers would have moved on to their next idea for swindling people out of their identities and money.  How do you spot a phishing attack and avoid falling victim yourself?

Look for these red flags:

  1. Sender Email Address: Always check to make sure that the email address is legitimate. Amateur hackers will send things from Gmail or Hotmail accounts and hope you don’t notice. More sophisticated hackers will closely mimic an actual email domain, like amazonprime.com rather than amazon.com. Double check the email address before responding, clicking, or opening, even if the from name appears correct.
  2. Discrepancies in Writing Format: If the attack is coming from overseas, you’re likely to notice some small issues in writing format, like writing a date as 4th April, 2018 rather than April 4, 2018. While this is subtle, it should be a red flag.
  3. Grammar Issues: We all fall victim to the occasional typo, but if you receive an email riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes, consider the source. It’s likely a hacker, especially if the email supposedly comes from a major organization.
  4. Sender Name: This one is also difficult to track, but phishing emails will typically close with a very generic name to avoid raising suspicion. You should recognize the people that send you emails, or at the very least, clearly understand their role at the organization.
  5. Link Destination: Before you click on any link in an email, hover over it. The destination URL should pop up. Check out the domain name of this URL. Similar to the sender email address, make sure that this address is legitimate before clicking.
  6. Attachments: Is it realistic to expect an attachment from this sender? Rule of thumb, don’t open any attachment you don’t expect to receive, whether it’s a Zip file, PDF or otherwise. The payload for a ransomware attack often hides inside.
  7. Email Design: A cooky font like Comic Sans should immediately raise red flags if you don’t clearly recognize the sender.
  8. Links to Verify Information: Never, ever click on a link to verify information. Instead, if you think the information does need updating, go directly to the website. Type in your email and password, and update your information from the Account tab. Always go directly to the source.
  9. Odd Logo Use: Hackers try their best to mimic the site’s look and feel. Oftentimes, they get very close; but they won’t be perfect. If something feels off, it probably is.

While there is no fool-proof method for avoiding falling victim to a phishing attack, knowing how to spot likely culprits is one step in the right direction. We’ll cover other protective measures to reduce your risk of falling victim to phishing attacks in our next blog.