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Office 365 Security. Can You Really Trust Microsoft With Your Data?

Office 365 Security – Can You Really Trust Microsoft With Your Data?

If you’re considering migrating to Microsoft Office 365, then chances are you have one thing on your mind: security.

So, can you really trust Microsoft with your data?

The thought of moving something as valuable as your corporate data outside of your company walls and entrusting it to a third party, can be a frightening one – even when that third party is a household name such as Microsoft.

If you’ve read all about the benefits of Microsoft Office 365 but still have some questions regarding cloud security, then in this article we’ll be providing the answers!

We’ll be tackling all the tough questions organizations ask us, when they’re considering migrating to the cloud – including whether Microsoft own your data; where your data will be physically stored; and what exactly happens if you decide to cut ties with Microsoft, after handing them all your precious corporate data.

Along the way, we’ll also be taking a quick look at Microsoft’s history in the security sector (the good and the bad!) And, if you do decide to switch to Microsoft Office 365, then we’ll be answering the most important question of all: is there anything I can do, to help Microsoft keep my data safe?

Microsoft security: From worst in class, to best in class 

When it comes to security, Microsoft’s reputation hasn’t always been the best. In fact, in 2007 working for Microsoft Security was considered one of the worst jobs in science alongside researching whale feces and spending your days scuba diving in toxic sludge! However, this changed dramatically when Microsoft pledged to invest $1 billion every year, into improving the security of their products. 

On top of this $1 billion investment, Microsoft spent the next few years snapping up a string of security-focused firms and integrating their technology into Microsoft products, including cloud and enterprise security startups such as Aorato, Secure Islands and Adallom.

This investment has paid off, with Azure Government CISO Matthew Rathbun recently revealing that Microsoft successfully fend off 7 trillion cyber threats every single day.

Today, security specialists have high praise for Microsoft, including the chief research officer for Finnish security company F-Secure, who recently stated that Microsoft have “changed themselves from worst in class to the best in class. The change is complete.” 

If you’re eager to experience the benefits of cloud computing, then Microsoft have proven that they’re committed to continuously improving the security of their cloud-based products and services, and we believe there’s no better time to make the switch to Microsoft Office 365.

Migrating to the cloud: Answering your top security concerns 

At Systems Assurance, we have extensive experience helping businesses migrate to Microsoft’s various cloud offerings, and over the years we’ve noticed that many organizations have the same questions: 

1. When I upload my data to Microsoft services, where does it go? 

For many businesses, where their corporate data is being stored can be a huge cause for concern.

Microsoft stores your raw data in physical data centers that are protected by a number of security measures. Firstly, the location of these data centers isn’t public knowledge, and Microsoft have automated their service operations to require minimal human interaction, to the point where even the employees working at these data centers cannot access your data.

To further prevent unauthorized access, Microsoft’s data centers are guarded by outer and inner parameters with increasing security at every level, including perimeter fencing, biometric scanners, locked server racks, multi-factor authentication, integrated alarm systems and 24 hour video surveillance. Access to your data is also logged, with Microsoft and trusted third parties performing regular audits to confirm that no unauthorized access has taken place. 

2. Will other Microsoft customers be able to access my data? 

Most Microsoft business cloud services are multitenant services, which means there’s a chance that your data will be stored on the same physical hardware as another customer’s. 

For many potential cloud users, this raises concerns about their data “leaking” into another organization’s data, but Microsoft uses logical isolation and specialized technology to segregate data storage and data processing, for each individual customer.

Microsoft will also overwrite any storage resources before reusing them, and will purge or destroy any decommissioned hardware. Even if you cancel your Microsoft subscription or upgrade to an entirely new set of hardware, you can be confident that your data will not be combined with any other customer’s data, via hardware reuse.

3. Will Microsoft own my data?

Both the Microsoft Trust Center and the Microsoft Services Agreement make it clear that Microsoft do not claim ownership over any of the data or content you upload to their services.

4. Will Microsoft still have access to my data, if I cancel my subscription? 

If you decide to cancel your Office 365 subscription, then Microsoft will retain all of your data for 90 days. This gives you some breathing space to download or copy your content to a new server, or even change your mind and renew your Microsoft subscription before your data is lost forever.

Following this 90 day data retention period, Microsoft will automatically disable your account(s) and purge all of your data, including all caches and backups, so you don’t need to worry about Microsoft hanging onto your data indefinitely.

5. Do Microsoft share my data with any third parties? 

As explained over at the Microsoft Trust Center, Microsoft do not share your data with third parties, including advertiser-supported services. They also do not mine any of your data for marketing or advertising purposes.

6. Is there anything I can do, to make my accounts more secure? 

If you make the switch to Microsoft Office 365, then it’s important to recognize that your own employees represent your biggest cloud security threat. The potential for insiders to wreak havoc within an organization is widely known, and has even been acknowledged by the FBI, who published a report stating that: 

“A company can often detect or control when an outsider (non-employee) tries to access company data either physically or electronically, and can mitigate the threat of an outsider stealing company property. However, the thief who is harder to detect and who could cause the most damage is the insider—the employee with legitimate access.”

The good news is that there’s plenty of steps you can take, to help Microsoft keep your data safe.

Help Microsoft Keep Your Data Safe

01 Audit your account privileges.

 

When you think about unauthorized access, chances are you imagine some mysterious hacker, maliciously bypassing your security features in order to gain access to confidential corporate information. However, according to McAfee’s “Definitive Guide to Cloud Threat Protection,” 57.5% of all unauthorized access is caused by authorized users, who simply have the incorrect account privileges.

 

Perhaps you’re working to a tight deadline and give an employee “temporary” admin access so they can work without your input, or maybe you don’t rush to archive an ex-employee’s user account. On the surface, these actions may seem relatively harmless, but they represent one of the biggest security threats to your organization, with McAfee reporting that the average enterprise experiences 3.3 privileged user threats every single month.

 

To secure your data against privileged user threats, you should perform a complete audit of your Microsoft Office 365 user base at least once every six months. 

02 Remember to revoke ex-employee access.

 

Hopefully, you’ll part ways with all your employees on good terms. However, every time a current employee becomes an ex-employee, there’s a chance they might sabotage your corporate data, including deleting important documents or client emails. 

Don’t fall into the trap of keeping an account active “just in case.” In order to protect yourself against ex-employees who might steal, damage or delete your data, you’ll need a clear process for archiving and deleting old user accounts.

 

It’s also important to create a unique login for every user. While it may be convenient to have a default password that’s automatically assigned to new employees, this is also a great way to ensure that ex-employees can continue to access your data, even after you’ve deleted their user account.

Want more tips and tricks, on how to ensure your Office 365 data remains private? Then checkout our Top 7 Ways to Secure Microsoft 365 post, where we cover Multi-Factor Authentication,Mobile Device Management, and more.

Claim Your One Month FREE Trial of Microsoft 365 E5 Today.

Speak to a member of our team today 0114 292 2911 or email sales@systemsassurance.com if you need any assistance.

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10 problems Office 365 can solve right now?

Whether you have 5 or 5,000 users, you need affordable and professional IT tools. Microsoft Office 365 gives you and your employees access to popular productivity applications, including Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint anytime, from virtually anywhere. You can also take advantage of built-in enterprise-grade services such as high-definition video conferencing, business-class email, and portals for file sharing.

File Access: Do you currently operate VPN access where you work? Is it slow, cumbersome, device dependent? With sync features included in OneDrive, SharePoint and Teams, all you employees files are available and synchronised everywhere on any device. You also solve the multi edited and version control problems to boot!

Email Overuse: Email has evolved into a conversational service rather than just a content delivery system. Inboxes are growing at an astonishing rate, Email wasn’t designed for this. Wouldn’t it be nice to reduce email with a dedicated enterprise messaging client; look at Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams.

Untested Backups: When was the last time you performed a test restore of your data… 3 months…6 months…12 months!! Cloud-connected devices are continually backed up and data synced to multiple locations. Add in our prefered cloud backup service Acronis Cloud Storage and you have a complete business continuity service for your users and your servers.

Outdated Software Licenses: Office 365 & Microsoft 365 subscriptions are continually updated behind the scenes; This happens in a very subtle way as not to disrupt the user. All users are up to date all of the time! Added to this, a saving on the pocket and cash flow as you won’t have mass upgrades every 5 years with inevitable vulnerability in between.

Lost Files: Ever had this…you save a document… somewhere? With a large workforce, the number of places to save files grows incrementally. Office 365 offers over 50Tb of shared storage. Each file is tagged to the user and full history and versioning stored in the metadata of that document.

Document Versions: I love saving documents with a version number, it keeps things organised; unfortunately, others don’t! Having five different versions of the same document, emailed to everyone in a team of 5. That’s 25 copies of the same document. Office 365 delivers versioning, drafts, published etc all within SharePoint’s advanced versioning features.

Video Conference is Expensive: It’s free with most Office 365 and Microsoft 365 subscriptions. Its called Skype for Business and includes instant messaging, screen sharing, instant files sharing, a pretty advanced suite in itself.. oh and you can use it for desktop support with control features built in!

On-boarding New Employees: Free training videos are included in the office 365 suite, easily accessible by everyone with a subscription. It gives your employees the tools and infrastructure to carry out their own training on any of their devices connected to their subscription (up to 5). This can include home computers, laptops and mobile phones. The Enterprise data protection built into 365 means you can control these devices or at least the corporate data on saved/synced on them.

No Infrastructure costs: That’s right! We recently migrated a business with a typical full legacy complement of equipment into Azure and Microsoft 365. Left on site apart from user devices were printers, switches and a router. How’s that for a clean break!

No More Licensing: Ever had that feeling you’ve done your homework long before it needed handing in? We are a SAM (Software Asset Management) consultancy as well as a cloud service provider. We’ve heard from countless IT Managers on the dread they feel well a vendor summons them for a license audit. Well that’s taken care of, you’re fully licensed as long as you pay your subscriptions. Phew… just that alone has got to be worth it!

Unlike a traditional Microsoft Office installation, Office 365 allows you to:

Use your Office apps on almost any device including PC, Mac, tablet, and smartphone. That’s because your license is connected to you rather than to a specific workstation. Establish a professional presence with built-in enterprise-class tools that make it easy to host HD web conferences, create a website, and set up business class email.
Choose to store your data locally and/or in the cloud, so you can increase data control, access, and sharing—and simplify regulatory compliance. Stay focused on customers and growing your business because we manage the servers, software updates, and malware protection.
Collaborate with co-workers and clients using services not available with standard Office licenses, whether you’re in the office or on the go.

Why not ask one of our Cloud Architechs to take a look at your infrastructure and see if this is something that would benefit your company? Get in touch with our team on 0114 292 2911 or Email Us

Our Success Stories…

"Systems Assurance spent time getting to know our systems and culture before suggesting a way forward. Thank You!" Peter Herbert,
They delivered a first-class service. Systems were knowledgeable and really helpful, getting to know our processes beforehand. Matt Bell, IT
Using Systems for years, why look outside when you can use someone you trust and who have never let us
"With the right balance of technical ability and user experience - they were just what I needed to deliver the

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Thinking about the cloud?you should be thinking about Azure…

Is it time to wave a final goodbye to those dusty, energy-consuming old servers? The requirement for their own dedicated storage space, security from theft and ventilation certainly brought a certain amount of inconvenience, not to mention the continual upgrades and the cost of maintenance. These are just a handful of reasons why organisations are welcoming the migration to the cloud.

With a more convenient way to store our data and host our systems, it’s no wonder so many manufacturers have been keen to embrace the change. It is estimated 66 per cent of global manufacturers are using public cloud storage for two or more enterprise applications, according to recent data from IDC Research.

Manufacturers today care about integrated digital and physical systems. They want to connect equipment and factories and leverage data from the factory floor to the customer call centre to improve every aspect of their operations. Cloud hosting can facilitate not just this, but plenty more besides.

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that it is working with the OPC Foundation to ensure that the millions of devices and applications that are already compatible with the OPC UA standard are also compatible with Windows devices and the Azure cloud. This open standard enables virtually any industrial IoT scenario, including those built with decades-old equipment, to be developed on Microsoft Platforms.

Microsoft has also worked with General Electric (GE) to give users access to its industry-leading Predix platform on Azure. This will make it easier for Predix users to integrate their data into their Azure applications like Office 365 and Power BI, as well as offering them a host of advanced functionalities on Azure, such as natural language technology (Conversation as a Platform), artificial intelligence, advanced data visualization, and enterprise application integration.

What are the key benefits that manufacturers can expect from Azure?

Increase operational efficiency

Azure offers a modular cloud-based infrastructure that allows a complete move to the cloud, or integration with on-premise servers. The ability to scale up or down when needed drives greater efficiency and reduces expense. 

Enable worker productivity 

Giving employees efficient technologies can free them to achieve more. Microsoft Azure and its associated tools enable workers to become more collaborative, more informed and work more flexibly, without sacrificing trust or security.

Expand customer engagement

Smart cloud technology from Microsoft Azure can help manufacturers of any size deliver a connected and personalized customer experience. Microsoft tools provide insights about your customers that allow you to build more profitable, loyal relationships. 
Learn more about how Microsoft Azure could help your manufacturing business become more efficient with our Azure Jump Start Services. Call Systems Assurance today on 0114 292 2911 or email consult@systemsassurance.com.

Why your organisation needs to be Cyber Essentials Certified

New research released in 2017 shows that over half of all UK companies experienced a Cyber-attack in 2016, costing businesses as much as £30 billion.

Phishing and viruses were the most common threats, affecting nearly a quarter of those surveyed, while 18 percent suffered a hack or data breach. Although ransomware claimed fewer victims – 388,000 as opposed to 1.3m for phishing attacks – it cost firms a lot more: £7.3 billion versus £5.9 billion. Even public service organisations failed to escape, with the taxpayer having to pick up the tab.

With larger firms most at risk of attack (because of their broader attack surface and willingness to pay a higher ransom to recover their data), this makes the manufacturing sector a prime target. Throw into the mix the international nature of the supply chain and this exposes further vulnerabilities.

What can you do to prevent a cyber-attack on your company?

The Cyber Essentials self-assessment questionnaire is a good place to start and will give you an evaluation of your current systems and policies.

Cyber Essentials is a government-backed scheme that is comprised of five strategies which work together to actively prevent cyber-attacks. Presently, all organisations and suppliers that deal with secure government data are required to hold a Cyber Essentials Certificate, and they want to build upon this to encourage more businesses to also take the time to put processes in place and become Cyber Essentials Certified.

The benefits of becoming Cyber Essentials Certified

Increase security within the supply chain

Manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors: these different organisations within the supply chain all share and access certain sensitive information. Without sufficient levels of security, each different stage carries its own security risks. Working exclusively with suppliers and partners who are Cyber Essentials Certified ensures that the highest levels of security are consistently maintained.

Greater customer trust and data protection

Cyber Essentials means that organisations can prove to their customers and other stakeholders that they maintain the highest data protection levels. This gives companies a competitive advantage over others within their industry, since they can offer unparalleled security and lower risk solutions to their clients.

Reduce costs and bolster regulatory compliance

Being Cyber Essentials certified means you could save money in other areas of your business. For example, insurance can be cheaper since you can prove that measures are in place to optimise security and reduce the chance of a cyber attack. The certification also goes hand in hand with ensuring that you are compliant with regulations such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation and the UK Data Protection Act 1998, as the steps it requires also help you to meet checks for these regulations.

Improve awareness of cyber threats

As the government pushes companies to become Cyber Essentials Certified, it is also self-fulfilling in that it also increases the overall awareness of cyber threats and the need to protect against them. This means that internally they can also put measures in place such as delegating responsibility for data management, disposal and more.

For more information about how Systems Assurance can help you resolve any weaknesses in your online security, take a look at our dedicated internet security page.

https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/news/cyber-attacks-cost-uk-firms-30bn/ 

Managing Permissions in the Information Jungle

GDPR now makes companies accountable for the personal data they hold and process with breaches of the law carrying fines of up to 20,000,000 euros.

WHERE THE CHALLENGES ARE:

  • Where is that personal data across my organisation?
  • How do I secure it?
  • Who has access to it?
  • How can I lower the risk of being breached and penalised under the GDPR?
  • How can I continue to demonstrate to the regulators and my clients that we handle personal and other data in a compliant way?

Systems Assurance’s Data Access Management Service has been designed from the ground up to comply with Cyber Essentials (UK government information security initiative) and the GDPR.

Our service will satisfy a number of GDPR articles including being able to demonstrate that appropriate and proportionate information security controls are in place to protect personal data; restricting access to personal data to lower the risk of a breach, validating where personal data resides to enable compliant rights management; and is the first step towards a Data Protection by default and design environment for the organisation.

WHY SYSTEMS ASSURANCE SERVICES?

  • Highly experienced consultants qualified to the highest industry standards across multiple vendors.
  • Our Pre Sales, qualification and design consultancy deliver turnkey, end to end Server, Storage and Virtualisation Services
  • GDPR Practitioners and Cyber Essentials Assessors
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Companies get a simple, single pane view of all permissions – across all systems and locations, leaving no threat undiscovered.
All changes to user rights and group memberships are documented and auditable. Anomalies can be quickly spotted to avoid employees having any unauthorized access to confidential and sensitive company data.
Using traditional measures, an IT team will take many weeks to analyse data access controls for compliance, audit and regulation. Systems Assurance’s Data Access Control services provide immediate answers to demonstrate to senior management that proactive data security controls are being maintained.
  • Minimise the risks associated M&A, joiners and leavers
  • Defend your sensitive information to reduce risk
  • Allows your IT resources to stay focused on their core tasks and priorities
  • Ensures ‘best practice’ in line with HM Government Cyber security initiatives
  • Real world experience of maintaining data governance solutions
  • Professional advice to improve performance and obtain maximum results
  • Fully documented solution
TARGET AUDIENCE
  • This service has been designed for customers who:
  • Have sensitive data
  • Are subject to compliance requirements
  • Are using Active Directory
  • Have large amounts of unstructured data
PREPARATION
  • A scoping call will be scheduled to ensure that your requirements and any pre requisites are understood by both parties. From this we will produce a scope of work setting the objectives and timescales for the review.
For more information contact our Services Team on 0114 292 2911 or email consult@systemsassurance.com

Mainframe Applications to the Cloud? YES, even better!

As the majority of today’s public sector organisations face the challenge of cutting costs across the board to meet government spending targets, one area that is coming under increasing scrutiny is IT infrastructure. As a result, cost-effective distributed IT platforms and services are being considered as an alternative to the costly proprietary mini-computers and mainframes on which many government organisations have relied for so long.

Today, many public sector organisations’ critical legacy IT applications sit on mainframes, which come with comparably high annual maintenance and upgrade costs. This has been the case for many years as it has always been seen as the most stable and secure environment for applications to be hosted upon, and to manage the large volumes of data. 

This view is now starting to shift as ‘IT agility’ also becomes a focus for many, as a mechanism to accelerate delivery while also reduce expense – to do more with less. To become ‘agile’ means moving away from closed environments, modernising applications and moving to new platforms, hosted off the mainframe.

The Cloud is one of those new platforms and is a hot topic in all organisations’ IT departments, from the public to the private sector, with many in the public sector looking to move their IT applications to the Cloud. There has been a lot of speculation around the move to a government Cloud platform, the G-Cloud , and whether it will or won’t happen.  

It seems that despite the hype surrounding the return on investment and overall efficiency that the Cloud will offer IT departments in local governments, there is still a lot of perceived risk. Questions still remain relating to the Cloud and legacy applications which have been used for decades. But, migrating to the Cloud does not have to be difficult and this process can be executed without compromising application performance or data integrity. We now have the ability to migrate these legacy applications, which have years’ of organisational value and are heavily relied upon in day-to-day operations, to the Cloud without losing any of this value or performance. 

It is estimated that moving these applications off the mainframe can reduce operating costs by around 60-70%, and utilising the Cloud can go further – a huge saving. So what is the best way for organisation to move to the Cloud ?

1. Identify Critical Applications
Technically, a legacy application is one that could have been written as recently as yesterday. There is a considerable legacy around so called modern applications and the languages they are written in. It is important to use application portfolio management tools when modernising legacy apps for the Cloud so that those most crucial to the business can be easily identified, the amount and value of change required, and therefore the time when savings can be delivered. 

2. Prioritise Applications for Migration
Before modernising legacy applications and moving them to the Cloud , it is important to prioritise which ones need to be modernised vs. which you would like to be updated. 
In order to do this, all applications should be evaluated and charted according to organisational value, cost, impact and use cases. The applications that are of the utmost importance in terms of value and impact but also carry a high cost are the ones that should be migrated to the Cloud first. As this charting commences, it is important to remember that the IT department should work with business departments to ensure that the technology and application roadmaps are on par with the organisation’s needs.

3. Old Applications are Good to Go
Contrary to popular belief, 20-year-old business IT applications written in older languages such as COBOL are in fact suited to run in the Cloud . These applications were designed to run on server based environments supporting many hundreds of users, managing complex transactions securely and with adequate performance, and being accessed through remote interfaces. These characteristics mean there is less architectural change needed to Cloud enable these applications than any other type.
In fact, the hardest applications to move are those written for client-server models during the 1990’s. All this means that the mainframe applications that are core to the organisation and represent the critical business processes and therefore house great value, can be migrated without concern.

4. Don’t Tie Yourself in to a Particular Cloud Hosting Platform
Working with a vendor neutral migration specialist will make re-hosting your applications to an alternate Cloud platform a lot easier should you wish to make a change. Portability should be built into the applications themselves, rather than at the hosting level. Surely this is what is meant by ‘agile’ as it means IT can be modernised and moved, benefiting from more costly or efficient platforms.  The ability to be agile can have huge future cost implications.

Migrating from mainframe to Cloud – the benefits
The migration of all applications from the mainframe can take between nine months for an average government installation to a possible three years for the very largest, so following these steps and migrating at a sensible pace is the key to success. Once complete it gives the opportunity for a better user experience (and internet access) and the sharing of data in a much more efficient way. Ultimately it will mean any chosen user can directly access the department’s IT applications from any device. 

There are huge benefits to be sought by moving away from a mainframe environment to a more agile and efficient platform and, while it may take time, all government organisations should consider a path to migrating their applications. The only alternative is to see public sector IT costs continue to escalate. 
Stuart McGill is CTO at MicroFocus

Microsoft ends support for Windows Server 2003

Microsoft will end support for Windows Server 2003/R2 on 14 July 2015. For some this is purely another headline in another tech mag, for others this means a great deal of work.

We explore the issues and questions you should be asking either your IT team or your IT provider; And provide some options and an overview of how we like to do things.

Key Questions

Applications:

  • How will my workload and applications be impacted?
  • How do I keep my firmware and drivers up-to-date?
  • What options do I have?
Infrastructure
  • What is the fastest, most risk-free way to move to Windows Server 2012?
  • How do I make sure the entire infrastructure is supported?
  • How can I optimize the performance and cost of my Windows Server 2012 environment?
People:
  • Does my in-house IT have the skills and knowledge needed to:
  • Safely migrate my WS 2003 environment?
  • Cost effectively assess, transform and migrate my WS 2003 environment
Business
  • How will my business remain competitive without support?
  • How will we maintain a high-quality customer experience?
  • How will we continue to acquire and retain customers with an unsupported OS? 
Doing nothing is not an option!!
  • Windows updates – including security updates – will no longer be available
  • Regulatory issues such as FDA that require platform certification
  • High cost custom support agreements (CSAs) first year est. £200K+
  • Existing physical hardware may be 5-7 years old, expensive to maintain
  • Must transform infrastructure and applications
  • No direct upgrade path to Windows 2012
  • Incompatible with modern IT infrastructure and management tools
Using Systems Assurance to help with the Migration path…

Our Approach
Advise
Using a client workload migration tool. the CWM-03 Readiness Workshop helps identify each applications migration method and develops a common understanding of the desired future state for each app.

Activities: Collect Application and Server Data – Determine migration readiness

Assess
The assessment provides detailed target application analyses and determines “best fit” placement within the hybrid delivery model.

Activities: Define optimal workload placement

Strategy 
The assessment results in a detailed migration

strategy outlining the optimum target platforms for the apps, scope and work it will take complete the migration.

Activities: Develop migration strategy

Transform
Develop and execute a step-by-step plan for your transformation journey.

Activities: Migrate applications & infrastructure servers – Baseline test – Integration testing – User Acceptance testing – Production Deployment Planning

Manage
Confidently, consistently and securely support and manage old and new technologies in its current state, in transition and in its future state in a hybrid environment.

Activities: Deploy applications – Implement operational


processes

The perfect time to consider Cloud Migration 


Migrate your Windows Server 2003 hardware to the cloud now with…


HP Helion Managed Cloud


What is it?

  • 100% dedicated, managed, complete IaaS solution (compute, storage, network, backup, security, facilities, portal, operations)
  • Choose from running in an HP, 3rd party, or your data center
  • Standard, base (and scale-out) infrastructure and service options
  • Consumption-based service configured to meet your needs
  • Standard self-service Customer Portal supports multi-tenancy
  • Complete “system-level” SLA for enterprise-class applications

What makes it different?


  • Purpose-built, pre-integrated solution using market leading HP hardware, software and services
  • Provides greater levels of security options, data placement preferences, and support locations
  • 1000s of experienced cloud consultants and IT experts with 1000+ CloudSystem implementations and nearly 200 Managed cloud clients
  • 50 years of experience managing complex IT systems and 1000s of IT transformations
  • Manage 350,000 servers globally (including 140,000 virtual servers) for 100s of enterprise clients
  • Service delivered from award-winning HP Data Centers globally


Reasons for moving your existing infrastructure to the cloud











Cloud computing compliments traditional IT

Could Brexit spell a revival for the UK manufacturing sector?

A Perfect Storm

Could Brexit spell a revival for UK manufacturing?

Whilst the London fat cats might be trembling in their boots over Brexit, UK manufacturers shouldn’t be. The fallout from our EU divorce could provide the perfect conditions for us to become global leaders in production once again.

Turn back the clock to May 2016, and who would have expected us to be where we are now? We’ve certainly experienced a rough ride since the outcome of the referendum on 24 June 2016. Add to this the turbulence that followed after an equally unexpected general election vote, and it is little wonder so many businesses have remained on tenterhooks in contemplation of a future that seems so uncertain.

But whilst Bremoaners have been quick to focus on the negatives, a review of our position since the Brexit vote reveals a different picture. The UK economy grew by 1.8% in 2016, second only to Germany’s 1.9% among the world’s G7 leading industrialised nations i. Official figures also show that in 2017, British factories notched up the longest run of expansion for at least two decades, with December seeing producers of investment goods experiencing the sharpest increase in orders since 1994. Employment too, is at an all-time high. In September, the ONS reported that 75.3% of the UK population is now in employment, the highest number since records began in 1971.

So, with Brexit negotiations now underway, isn’t it time we focussed on how Brexit may actually help, rather than hinder the British manufacturing industry?

Leaving the single market

EU membership has been a great benefit to the manufacturing industry, giving us a trade agreement that allows tariff-free access for imports and exports throughout the single market. However, unless the UK can forge new trade agreements, we could see the application of tariffs that will make our exports less appealing and imports more expensive. This would mean the cost of imported goods would rise for UK customers (as the tariffs would be added to the selling price) but on the plus side, could see our 65 million inhabitants move towards buying more British-made products, opening up new opportunities for manufacturing in the UK.

Adopting a world trade model is being viewed as the preferable way forward. A report by the Economists for free trade – based on the trade and macro models of the Cardiff University Macroeconomics Research Group – shows the UK adoption of global free trade would create an additional long-term GDP gain of 4% for the UK and a fall of 8% in consumer prices compared to remaining in the Single Market. Additionally, this 4% GDP gain does not include any benefits gained from other aspects of leaving the EU such as decreased regulation and no longer having to contribute to the EU budget, which would also work in our favour.

More opportunity to export outside the EU

Whilst 43% of Britain’s exports go to the EU (£240bn out of £550bn) the remaining 57% are already being exported elsewhere in the world ii and our exports to the EU have been on a continual decline since 2009. The UK had a trade deficit of £82 billion with the EU in 2016 but a surplus of £39 billion with non-EU countries iii.

The rise and progression of developing countries has also meant that the EU’s share of the world’s economy has been continually falling, with China now taking first place. Representatives from the UK manufacturing sector have argued that Brexit will provide greater flexibility for UK businesses to position themselves with lower-cost suppliers in countries like China, giving us a stronger competitive advantage.

Lower exchange rates will make us more appealing

The exchange rate against both the US dollar and the Euro has declined by an average of around 13% since the referendum result was announced iv, but this has not necessarily been a bad thing.

A weaker currency gives us greater global competitiveness as our exports become cheaper for overseas buyers who find that their money affords them greater purchasing power. In March 2017, British car manufacturing enjoyed its best month in 17 years fuelled by demand for vehicles from abroad v. 2016 also saw a return of cotton-spinning to the country for the first time in a generation. With rising salaries in Asia and increased shipping costs, textiles could be set to boom once again in the UK as it becomes more economical to manufacture on our own shores. In 2016, The Alliance Report stated that 5,000 new jobs had been created in the UK textile manufacturing sector in 2015 and that a further 15,000 new jobs could be created by 2020vi. The desire to ‘Buy British’ is also becoming an increasing trend, with an uplift in demand for UK products that have a strong British association. British branding, authenticity and the tradition of well-made products are seen as a mark of exclusivity, both overseas and in the UK.

With a year to go until we finally leave the EU, there are certainly a number of challenges we’ll still have to face. But by making the right investments in people, training and technology now we can strengthen both our workforce and our capabilities for what lies ahead.

Who knows where we’ll be in 10 years’ time? Hopefully, we’ll be living in a leaner, stronger and more prosperous Britain and one that’s found a renewed strength in manufacturing.

i https://www.theguardian.com/world/blog/2017/feb/23/germanys-gdp-shows-19-rise-over-last-year

ii https://fullfact.org/europe/uk-eu-trade/

iii https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7851/CBP-7851.pdf

iv http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/consumer-affairs/mapped-pound-has-fared-against-currencies-around-world-since/

v https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/27/uk-car-industry-has-its-best-month-in-17-years

vi http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/12/26/made-britain-will-brexit-spell-march-makers/

Cyber security and the latest attack on the NHS?

A large scale cyber-attack took place on Friday 12th May. The attack targeted health organisations worldwide, impacting nearly 150 different countries, including 48 organisations in the UK alone. Over 230,000 computers were infected. Despite fast reactions and following disaster recovery plans, 16 of these companies had to completely shut down their systems, with 6 still unable to recover by Saturday evening.

The impact on the NHS

Although the attack was stopped, it had a huge impact on the NHS as treatment and operations had to be postponed and cancelled in many cases due to patient records not being accessible during the recovery time. It is unclear as yet whether any patient data has been lost, although the NHS is assuring people that there has been no evidence of this being the case.

What is WannaCry Ransomware?

WannaCry Ransomware is malicious software that works by encrypting files and consequently blocking access to data before demanding a ransom payment in order for it to be unlocked again, although even then it is not guaranteed that data will be given back. Ransomware gets onto a machine through tricking victims into clicking on a link, website or opening an email containing the software, which can then get to work encrypting the files, usually one-by-one.

Ransom is often demanded in Bitcoin, which is a digital currency (worth around £230 per Bitcoin) which allows private and anonymous transactions to take place. Hackers utilise this to make it impossible for the money to be traced and linked back to them as the perpetrators of the attack.

Why did the attack happen?

The main reason that is being suggested for the attack being successful is that organisations like the NHS were working using outdated operating systems like Windows XP. This means that they have missed out on crucial security updates which help to protect against attacks like this, compared to more recent operating systems which are more up-to-date and less vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Other organisations that fell prey to the attack may have been using more recent operating systems but failed to apply security updates, leaving them vulnerable.

Preventing future attacks

In order to prevent future attacks, organisations must be prepared. Microsoft has responded by releasing updates for older operating systems such as XP, however it is always recommended that you upgrade to newer systems where possible. This offers greater security but also greater functionality, efficiency and performance too. It is vital to also have disaster recovery plans in place in order to reduce downtime in the event of a data breach.

If you’re looking for help supporting extra resources for a particular project or setup, give Systems Assurance a call on 0114 292 2911 or email our team at consult@systemsassurance.com or contact your account manager.

Is it time your datacentre had an upgrade?

Data Centre Modernisation

Is your data centre using technology that is no longer supported? Don’t wait too long before reviewing your options.

Migrating away from old technology is never an easy task, but it is a necessity. Dated infrastructure can throw up all sorts of problems, especially when it comes to supporting new systems and hardware. Using old servers can also present a potential security risk. If the idea of migrating to new server(s) is filling you with dread, don’t let it. With the right IT partner, a server migration will be a lot less painful than you expect.

Through its expertise in data centre planning and management, Systems Assurance were able to come to the aid of a Sheffield manufacturer who had been using outdated technology for data processing and storage. The client had been maintaining thousands of Windows Server 2003 workloads which had past the end of life support date in 2015.

System Assurance were brought on board for the assessment project, which involved the analysis and documentation of all workloads still running on Windows 2003. Refresh IT’s “Refresh Insight Servers and Applications” (RIS&A) software was used to collect and collate this information, allowing Systems Assurance to provide the customer with a detailed report. The report outlined the server and applications infrastructure and the most appropriate replacement for these services, utilising either Microsoft Azure or on-premise deployment of Windows 2012 R2, or a hybrid combination of both.

The report gave precise Azure sizing in terms of both IaaS and PaaS models, as well as options for upgrading to new on-premise servers. Applications compatibility for moving the customer’s apps to modern platforms was also analysed, allowing the customer to cost all options for migration. This detailed report could then be shared around the key stakeholders in the business, giving them complete clarity on the steps involved, timelines, risk mitigation and capex and opex costs.

If it’s time for you to review your infrastructure, why not get in touch with Systems Assurance for an initial consultation? We can help reduce the pressure and workloads on your existing IT team and provide you with expert and impartial advice on your migration options.

If you wish to discuss how Systems Assurance can help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 0114 292 2911 or email consult@systemsassurance.com.