Mind the gaps in your remote working software

In Ireland the SaaS suite of choice is Office 365, but regardless of the brand you have to watch out for pitfalls

24th October, 2020
Mind the gaps in your remote working software
Michael Conway, director, Renaissance

Of the many significant changes the business world has seen in recent years, the managed subscription service model is one that has helped transform the very idea of work.

This Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business model is now the way we consume software and applications.The move from buying a licence outright to buying as you need, per month, and per user, has transformed numerous industries and has taken a foothold in how we access and use important business services.

SaaS models used by the likes of Office 365, and G Suite have become a key component for many organisations as remote working continues to be relied on during the pandemic, and especially considering how easy it is to sign up to these services.

Granted, Office 365 may be the first type of service we think of, especially since it’s seeped into even regular home usage and for Renaissance director Michael Conway, it creates an interesting dynamic.

Irish SMEs have embraced Microsoft’s services in particular, which is evidenced in the way meetings currently operate.

“It’s the first time that businesses have been willing to give all communication and typical office functionality to be led by the one company,” he said.

“What we see now is Microsoft owns the whole office infrastructure. It is much more prevalent in Ireland than in other countries, where you see G Suite usage and so on. Here you just don’t.”

While its uptake has accelerated thanks to the pandemic, businesses need to be mindful of some elements. While the barrier to entry has never been lower, that can be a downside as some businesses may not read the small print.

For smaller entities which don’t have the resources to do this properly, problems can be missed until they start to have an impact.

A good example involves backups: businesses might assume these are done automatically but the service-level agreement may say there are only 30 days’ backup provided. Such features may be extended for a price but a business may not realise that when signing up.

Usually, said Conway, the problems end up coming from either a lack of understanding from businesses or the trade promising too much.

“To some extent, this is being mis-sold by the trade,” he said. “They made promises to customers [who] were told this increased price would include everything and what they [needed was] wrapped up. There’s a challenge there.

“The question I’d ask any Office 365 person is: what areas are not being addressed but need to be addressed. Maybe it’s something they’ve forgotten about like spam filtering, plug-ins, backup, or compliance. It’s important as all of this needs to be managed in a proper environment.”

To help clarify this situation, three vendors are taking part in the panel discussion. It includes Bluedog, which provides cybersecurity monitoring for businesses, including Office 365 security monitoring, Censornet which uses Defence365 to provide ultra-modern, multi-layered email security and Altaro which provides award-winning and easy to use solutions such as backup for Office 365.

The lead facilitator for the panel is executive business adviser Redmond O’Leary whose technical background and decades of experience gives him a strong grasp of the overall landscape and how it has evolved.

Alongside overlooking the small print and backup, the two main problems businesses face in this field are security and disaster recovery according to O’Leary.

Security is crucial considering how many workers are operating from home and therefore using home wifi, personal devices, and endpoints not designed for enterprise use. Also, disaster recovery is essential as services going down or failing isn’t a matter of if, but when.

“When I look at tools like Office 365, there’s always an assumption that they’re always going to be there,” he said. “A company wants to know is it secure enough and just being the likes of Microsoft isn’t necessarily good enough, it’s how do you validate that.”

O’Leary said some SMEs might falsely believe they are in a comfortable place and not realise exactly where the gaps are.

Elements like establishing a foundational identity, access and privilege management strategy, increasing user awareness, and application and device protection are important measures to protecting a SaaS environment like Office 365.

The landscape is complicated but it’s crucial that businesses analyse and examine their needs as this model is here for the long-term.

“The rapid adoption of these kinds of SaaS tools means that businesses have to rethink their governance and security,” said O’Leary. “They have got to pay some attention to that so they’re not putting anything at risk.

“Businesses need to look to the future because there is more automation needed. AI is coming bundled with what you do and they have to continue to grow . . . go in with your eyes open and know where you need to get to, and the path you need to follow.”

Meet the vendors presenting at Working with O365

Bluedog

Bluedog provides powerful and affordable internal network monitoring, cloud-based monitoring and threat detection that can be combined with security services or existing systems. These services support and enable the fast detection, diagnosis and resolution of network issues that could lead to harmful cyber security attacks. Bluedog offers businesses of all sizes the type of advanced network protection that previously only large corporates could afford. With cost-effective services and a real team of cyber experts, the company is working to revolutionise the cybersecurity market by offering enterprise-grade security at an entry-level price. Its solutions include Microsoft 365 security monitoring, managed detection and response, vulnerability scanning, virtual CISO service and more.

Altaro

Altaro develops award-winning backup solutions for managed service providers (MSPs), IT resellers and companies. With global offices and over 50,000 customers in 121 countries, 10,000 partners and 2,000+ MSPs, Altaro provides affordable enterprise-class functionality coupled with outstanding 24/7 technical support. Its products cover all backup and recovery needs with solutions for all key areas of a network, including Hyper-V and VMware virtual environments; Microsoft Office 365 mailboxes, OneDrive and SharePoint; roaming and on-premise end points such as network desktops and laptops; and physical Windows servers. A monthly subscription program is available for MSPs, enabling them to manage different types of backups from one central multi-tenant console, across all their customers.

Censornet

Although Office 365 offers protection against established threats such as spam, traditional pattern matching technologies are almost entirely useless against modern email attacks.

To help keep organisations safe while using Office 365 for email – and more – Censornet has created Defence365, an ultra-modern multi-layered email security for your entire organisation from known, unknown and emerging email security threats enabling you to stop large-scale phishing, targeted attacks, CEO fraud and malware in their tracks with a comprehensive, cloud email security solution.

Censornet Email Security incorporates multiple technologies to ensure enterprise class threat detection rates with very high accuracy, over and above what single engine solutions can provide. Censornet has collaborated with some of the cloud and security industry’s most prominent thought leaders to bring you expert advice, no matter where you are on your journey to O365.

Always-on computing: the foundation of your crucial castles in the air

The back-end support for constant access may not be as glamorous as cloud services, but without this foundation such services wouldn’t function

When we talk about constant access, attention is usually directed at Software-as-a-service (SaaS) and other cloud services.

Yet the services underpinning that, always-on computing, tend to be overlooked as the back end and therefore less exciting. The impact of Covid-19 has been the greatest accelerator of this as working from home measures have placed greater importance on SaaS products.

It’s a broad area reflected by the vendors in this panel, whose expertise highlight just how wide-ranging the whole industry is.

“The challenges we’ve seen with always-on are well represented by the specialist vendors in this business stream, and involve elements like performance and load-balancing,” said Renaissance director Michael Conway.

The vendors cover a wide range of areas. For example, Firstwave delivers a partner programme which allows telcos and service providers to easily integrate and deliver cloud security solutions to their services.

Arcserve brings enterprise data protection solutions to businesses. Unisys boast a multi-cloud security software portfolio, featuring advanced analytics, cloud services, and industry solutions for high-intensity enterprise computing. Finally you have Kemp – rated 4.9/5 in application delivery controllers by Gartner – which is built for the multi-cloud pioneered virtual load balancers and continues to lead the way with broad hypervisor support and unique cloud products.

Elements like load-balancing – where incoming network traffic is distributed across a group of back-end servers in an efficient manner – is a crucial area for sectors like education and online learning at the minute. And, with everyone relying on remote accessibility of our systems and data, they will only become more important as time goes on.

As always, much of what businesses need comes back to what their priorities are, how they’re being delivered, and being flexible enough to update when needed.

“It’s prioritising and deciding what our must-haves are and what is nice to have, and it will continue to change,” said Conway

“Don’t forget a person isn’t necessarily in the office. They’re logging into systems from anywhere they are, so you’ve no idea who’s looking at what. Managing all of that is a huge challenge.”

As there’s a significant overlap between always-on computing and cloud services, a business needs to understand what is being offered by the provider.

The chief executive of Rits Information Security, Sean Reynolds, warns that businesses need to look at the small print and figure out what gaps need to be filled and how to do so.

“Typically it’s provided if you want to pay for it. And even if they do have it, when it comes to remediation and investigation, you’re probably on your own,” said Reynolds. “When we then look at the broader term of IoT, general consumer-type apps, and what’s getting plugged into their network, there’s no sort of visibility on what’s going on in the background with those.”

Part of the problem can be that the expectation and the reality don’t often match up. Larger organisations may already have the expertise available to them but for smaller businesses, such resources will be a luxury.

The work and due diligence that may be done by a department in a large organisation may fall on one individual in a small business which is already under pressure with the current climate.

Having good security in place isn’t just down to the technology but also the contracts that you sign with providers. The endpoints are more diverse than ever and it’s vital to ensure that devices used at home are able to protect themselves as well.

It’s important not just for security reasons, but also from a data protection and control perspective. You have to worry about the end-user, their home networks, your communications channels, the provider among others.

“I’ve heard examples of people in some organisations being allowed to use their own computer. They’re allowed forward it to their own email addresses which is all really bad from a control perspective,” said Reynolds. “Potentially you run into other issues like GDPR.

“For the big organisations, some of those factors are well dealt with but for the smaller organisations, that’s a nightmare. They probably don’t know they need to do this, they hadn’t thought about it and it’s only when they come unstuck that it really comes into focus.”

Meet the vendors that are presenting at Always-on computing

Kemp

Kemp has reinvented the load balancer with a focus on simplifying and reducing the cost for providing an optimal and secure application experience for end-users. The firm is disrupting the unreasonably high-cost and complexity that legacy ADC vendors traditionally offer. Using the industry’s most flexible deployment and licensing options in the form of optimised hardware, virtual, cloud-native, and per-app models, Kemp provides perpetual, subscription and metered licensing options that map to your business requirements. Its success in this area has made Kemp the world’s most popular virtual load balancer with more than 100,000 deployments.

FirstWave

FirstWave democratises enterprise-grade cybersecurity-as-a-service. The firm offers an automated orchestration and management platform for service providers and distributors that integrates enterprise-grade email, web and firewall security services from Cisco and Palo Alto Networks. It can readily on-board and integrate innovative, new security technologies as they become available. The platform is easily integrated into the service providers’ operational and billing systems, allowing customers a cloud-delivered, subscription-based, low cost expanding range of services to provide smart digital perimeters for all SMBs, enterprises and governments.

Unisys

Unisys is a global information technology company built on 145 years of innovation. Its high-performance, security-centric solutions are designed with high-demand organisations in mind. Unisys offerings include its multi-cloud security software portfolio featuring advanced analytics, cloud services, digital transformation, workplace services, industry applications and innovative software operating environments for high-intensity enterprise computing. Unisys is dedicated to managing and building better outcomes securely for clients across the government, financial services, and commercial sectors.

Arcserve

Today’s businesses need a partner in data protection that never lets down its guard. With over 35 years’ experience in disaster recovery solutions, Arcserve pushes beyond backup-as-usual to develop solutions that build a fortress around IT infrastructure, always protecting the data, always protecting what is priceless. Its solutions are aimed at mid-sized and decentralized enterprise businesses and include backups, disaster recovery, continuous availability, migration and email archiving with cloud. From non-profit and governmental bodies to professional services, technology companies, manufacturers and more, Arcserve helps a wide variety of customers around the world.

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