7 habits for a good IT environment in your office
December and January are times of predictions about the future of Technology, but these forecasts know only two levels: Great amazing future! Or Catastrophe is coming! Some examples are: 201x is the year of mobile, 201x is the end of computers (no, it isn’t – add link of my article), everything on the cloud (we wish!), robots are stealing our jobs, etc. Very few articles try to be useful or set up good practices. Fear sells more than good solid solutions? With this article I do not want to make you dream about the next IT innovation or fear for your future job. My aim is simple: relieve your IT pains in China. We will address 7 typical IT issues that affect businesses and some solutions to tackle them in order to create a solid IT environment for your business in China.
- Email protection
- Web browsing protection
- Office filtering
- Malware and malicious actions
- Backup or disaster recovery
- Full IT documentation
1. Corporate antivirus
When you start a business you want to save money and often you decide to go with free solutions. In China the most famous free antivirus is Qihoo 360. This is a very good solution if you have a tiny office or you want to use it personally, but it is not a great solution for a corporate environment. Here and here you can find more information about 360 and how it affects in a negative way your office.
For solid and reliable AV solutions consider corporate level AV solutions (Symantec, McAfee for example. These are corporate level solutions) that have continuous updates that do their best to protect you in China and can be reliable according to our experience. Kaspersky has discordant reviews in China.
Again, if you find any device “protected” by Qihoo 360, please unplug it from the office network.
2. Email protection
With 1.4 Bn people and a lot using multiple emails, you have high chances to receive Spam in China. Be it from 163.com, QQ.com, 126.com and so on.
So how do you protect yourself from emails that can be dangerous, have a click-and-bait trick or a malware included?
Add an email gateway.
It is an extra layer of protection that uses programs to scan each email for potential issues. All this will happen before you and your employees open the infected emails and stop them from creating issues.
Added features are to:
· block downloads from non-trusted sources to avoid downloading viruses that infect the entire network.
· check if the email providers are blacklisted or not
· check where the emails come from
· check what IPs are they being sent from
On the market there are a lot of very good standard solutions, but the added value is the human touch. A very good email administrator will personally check the reports from the software and keep the client updated to better serve you.
For example, last month we had a discussion with our client that required to have some email addresses from QQ.com accepted even though QQ.com has a not a very good reputation outside of China (read: foreign email administrators do NOT like it!). We checked all the emails and defined which specific email addresses would be accepted moving on.
This is a good stress test for your provider: if they can provide you with this analysis and human touch, keep working with them. If not, start looking around.
3. Web browsing protection
If you browse the web from your office, and especially if your employees have access to the web (even if it is only limited access), then web browsing protection is a vital layer of business security technology. Web browsing protection does many things to protect your network, which includes catching “phishing” websites that mimic popular sites, by blocking potentially unsafe downloads started through the web browser, and much, much more.
Below you can find a list of 5 myths of safe web browsing from Chris McCormack of Sophos (add link to the white paper) that are very useful:
- Myth: A strict browsing policy that only lets users visit trusted sites keeps us safe.
- Myth: Scanning downloaded files for viruses keeps us secure.
- Myth: Using a secure browser like Chrome offers better protection.
- Myth: Macs are more secure than PCs.
- Myth: The only way to protect offsite users is with a VPN or cloud service.
Thus, consider a web browsing protection for your office and put another layer to protect your data and business.
4. Office filtering
Some IP addresses are just bad news. Allowing one to connect to your network – or allowing someone on your network to connect to it – can be detrimental. Fortunately, firewalls can filter out all known bad sources on your behalf, which allows you to stop worrying about those malicious IP addresses. Oftentimes, the database updates itself, as well, which saves you time and effort. Additionally, firewalls keep bad guys out of your office who are scanning to find openings into your computing environment. The advantages are simple:
- Increased security
- Increased visibility of network traffic
- Increased control
Of course it takes time to maintain these filters, but it makes for a safer environment in your office. Ask your IT team if they are doing it and what they are doing to prevent breaches to your office security.
5. Malware and malicious actions
Anti-malware software is another must-have. A malware and malicious activity blocker far exceeds the scope of traditional antivirus, and when you combine the two, you’ll cover all of your bases thoroughly. Make sure your malware software detects threats in real time just like your antivirus software. Otherwise, malware could infect your network before the next scan completes.
4 steps (https://blog.malwarebytes.com/101/2016/04/how-to-protect-your-business-from-ransomware/) in preparing your business against malware:
· Patch your system: update your Software
· Set user IT policies: what can people do online
- Educate users: educate on how to detect phishing, suspicious websites and other scams
- Back-up files (more about it with point 6)
- Invest in layered security
The best solution against malware is great prevention. And it is way cheaper than paying the expenses related in the future.
6. Backup or disaster recovery
Have you read what happened to Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines? They lost a lot of money because of not enough backup and disaster recovery procedures.
Considering you do not want the same thing happening to your business, let’s see how you can protect your business.
You can start with redundancy, backups and clear procedures (which you can write down following habit 7).
Redundancy is key, so make sure you keep a backup of everything with a very safe and reputable company. You can keep your backups in either a physical facility or on the cloud, too, which gives you plenty of flexibility.
Backup and disaster recovery are not directly interchangeable terms; but disaster recovery is not possible without backup in the first place. Disaster recovery is having the tested tools to get systems restored and running as quickly as possible, including the associated data.
Small and medium businesses cannot afford to lose access to their data. Research shows that even brief server failures lead smaller businesses to shut their doors for good. In light of this, any business should develop a workable backup and disaster recovery plan. Protecting data is becoming more and more important and new technologies are making backup and recovery strategies more viable to smaller businesses.
The reasons why you need to have a backup plan are very simple:
- Machines & Hardware Fail
- Humans Make Mistakes
- Nature is Unpredictable
- Customers Want Access 24/7/365
7. Full IT documentation
Your IT is only as good as your documentation – if you have bad documentation, you have bad IT.
When you have cohesive documentation, it allows you the ability to start getting ahead of oncoming issues via proactive maintenance.
Big companies have their own in-house IT teams that prepare full documentation and have very clear and strict procedures. But what about Small and Medium enterprises?
According to Ervis Micukaj, our Managing Director, a lot of Small and Medium Enterprises underestimate the importance of clear and good documentation:
“ It never stops surprising me how many companies know nothing of their IT systems.”
We asked Ervis about the his experience with IT documentation from SMEs in China:
“Based on my observations and work in the last 5 years in China, I would say that 75% of SMEs in China have limited or no IT documentation. It can be either because of legacy procedures or lack of knowledge / expertise / time.”
And who would benefit from good documentation? You.
Your issues would be solved faster – the engineer knows where the device is
- You know all your software / hardware and when is the time to change / update
- Change management – you can see how your hardware / software / people are cooperating and how to improve / augment the results of your company
- Save money – know where the bottleneck is / know when and how to act or react swiftly
Just as you prepare for a cold winter’s day by choosing your layers appropriately, you can protect your company’s network by layering all of the vital types of security technology. When you have all seven of the aforementioned types of protection, your office network becomes a fortress.