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How to Weather Cloud Service Outages

When your cloud service goes down, will your company be able to continue doing business as usual?

When you move part of your small business to the cloud, you’re giving the cloud provider control over some of your company’s data. You’re sending your data over the public Internet and storing it on a third-party server. You trust that the data you store on your provider’s network will be safe and remain accessible. At some point, though, your provider’s network will suffer an outage and you’ll be unable to access your data in the cloud for at least a short time.

Outages don’t make cloud computing unreliable or risky; you just need to be prepared. Here are some tips to keep your business running when an outage does occur.

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The Right Network Can Help You Build for the Future

A network built with next-generation technologies helps you stay competitive, save money

Whether you’re building a new network or upgrading your existing one, are you giving any thought to your future needs? A secure, reliable network is a business necessity—not a nice-to-have. If you’re building the right network for your business, your network will not only meet your current requirements but will also accommodate your company’s future needs.

A network that’s built with the future in mind can meet changing demands, such as expanding to new locations, supporting mobile workers, addressing new security threats, and an increasing number of devices. The right network will also support future technologies such as cloud, virtualization, and bandwidth-intensive applications such as video and voice.

The benefits of building a network that can grow with your business are many. For example, building a network with next-generation technologies allows you to focus on your business and can help your company stay competitive, allowing you to better engage with customers and partners. In addition, building your network for the future provides investment protection, helping your company save money over time. Keep in mind: Even though a network built with low-cost point products may provide short-term cost savings, it could end up costing your company 20-35 percent more over a three-year period.

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Staying One Step Ahead of Security Vulnerabilities

Keeping up-to-date on new threats and software updates is critical to maintaining a secure network

You’ve installed a firewall and intrusion prevention system (IPS) to secure the perimeter of your small business network. You’ve configured your protection measures to filter dangerous traffic, secure remote access, and control who can access your network. You’ve added antivirus and antimalware software to every computer and laptop in your organization. Your business is now safe from attackers lurking on the Internet, right?

Well, yes, for now. But if you don’t keep up with the constantly changing world of security vulnerabilities, your network won’t stay locked down for long.

New network vulnerabilities and security attacks are continually cropping up. Technology vendors discover new holes and release patches to their products’ firmware and software on a regular basis. But attackers are moving just as fast to exploit those holes and invent new ways to break into your network.

There are three ways you can stay on top of this moving target. Depending on how comfortable you are handling your network security, you can take a completely DIY approach by following vendors’ advisories, subscribe to a service that will inventory and automatically update your software, or contract with a security professional to manage security updates for you.

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Considering a Cloud Service? Read This Before Signing on the Dotted Line

Look for a contract that addresses service availability, SLAs, and security

If your company is like the majority of small businesses, you probably plan to invest some of your IT budget in cloud computing, if you haven’t already. According to an August report from Techaisle, small and medium-sized businesses will spend $11 billion on cloud computing services worldwide in 2011. There are many advantages to be realized when you move business applications to the cloud, but it’s still an investment that requires careful consideration and thorough research. Before you sign a contract, make sure it clearly states what you can expect from the cloud service and the provider.

Cloud contracts can be, well, cloudy. According to a Yankee Group report, ”…cloud contracts are rife with disclaimers, misleading uptime guarantees, and questionable privacy policies…” The Yankee Group recommended that companies look closely at the claims made in cloud service contracts. The most important of these contractual promises is the availability of the service, the provider’s service level agreements (SLAs), and the security of your data.

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Making a Secure Transition to IPv6

Moving your network from IPv4 to IPv6 can be risky if you don’t close security holes

In February 2011, the last blocks of IPv4 Internet addresses were allocated, highlighting the need for organizations everywhere to plan their transition to IPv6, the next generation Internet protocol. Because the move to IPv6 is happening gradually, applications will support both Internet protocols for some time—and so must your network. During the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 your network could become vulnerable to new security risks, so it’s critical that you phase in the new protocol as securely as possible.

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