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AIS Announces Partnership with Concerto Cloud

AIS Network Solutions is now partnered with Concerto Cloud Services.

Who is Concerto Cloud Services?

Concerto Cloud Services is a fully managed cloud provider for mission-critical applications. Concerto makes IT easy by offering seamless integrations, complete infrastructure management and flexible deployments across virtual private, public and hybrid clouds. The Concerto team helps organizations use the cloud to reduce IT challenges and drive business growth through an application-centric approach and best-in-class technologies developed by Microsoft, Cisco, AWS and other leading providers. Advanced compliance and regulatory certifications, rigorous security protocols and a 99.99 percent guaranteed uptime are part of Concerto’s “Premium Comes Standard” offering and have earned the company recognition as a top global cloud service provider.

What are cloud services?

The term “cloud” is used a lot. It is simply a service where your data or applications are hosted by a third-party provider instead of in your data center. It commonly means that the applications are available from any location, but cloud services can be optimized for both availability and security needs.

Cloud solutions do not inherently mean less security. With Concerto Cloud Services, you can get the private cloud reliability you need without compromising on the security of your data. Don’t start your business down the path of cloud services before speaking with a technology expert.

What Does this Mean for AIS?

AIS now has the ability to quote, sell, and manage cloud solutions for your company. We will put together a private or public cloud option that meets your needs for availability, cost, and security. Our expert staff promises you will get the service that you need, at a price that beats the competition. Watch the Concerto Cloud Difference Video.

Want more information on cloud services for your business? Contact us to learn more.

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How to Protect Against Ransomware

There are many companies that have made the news when it comes to ransomware. Ransomware is any malware that holds your data hostage until you pay the author of the attack to free your data. This type of attack can target any business, small or large. US News cites a report by Cisco that ransomware is the “most profitable type of malware attack in history.” Here are five ways you can protect yourself against ransomware.

1. Implement Internet edge security

Implementing edge layer security such as an Internet firewall, an intrusion prevention system (IPS), and an email gateway are a key first layer of defense against all forms of malware. These protective devices block unwanted communications from occurring and can prevent ransomware from entering your network or connecting back with the attacker.

2. Maintain current patches

Most security vulnerabilities take advantage of known security flaws in Windows, Mac, Java, Microsoft, Adobe, and other software. These security flaws are fixed in update patches before an attacker can exploit the vulnerability. Keep software current to fix security flaw and prevent an attack. This applies to PC’s, servers, appliances, mobile devices and network equipment. You can usually subscribe to security vulnerability announcements from your software provider to keep yourself up to date on security related patch releases.

3. Maintain current backups

In case of an attack, a current backup can resolve the issue without paying the ransom. You can use the backup to restore your data to a recent point with minimal data loss and minimal impact. Consider keeping daily backups for at least a week and weekly backups for at least three months. This prepares you in case a system or group of systems appears to be compromised.

4. Invest in a strong security suite

There are a number of security suite products that scan servers and PC’s for known and potentially malicious software. Keep an up to date suite of security products from a reputable vendor. This ensures your virus and malware software definitions are up to date. This helps you detect compromised systems more quickly, taking them off the network and preventing the malware from spreading to more machines.

5. Disable unused features

Windows and Mac OSX have many features that are normally not used. These include RDP (remote desktop protocol), access to AppData folders where software information is stored, and various data sharing protocols. Disable unused features to prevent them from being used as a security vulnerability.

 

When it comes to ransomware, the worst solution is to pay the ransom in hopes of restoring all your original data. This encourages illegal activity and marks you as a paying victim. Ransomware can also include a back door for the attacker. This makes it easier to compromise your business again even after everything seems normal. Implementing a security-centered approach in your business can keep your data protected, your systems running smoothly, and your business from becoming the next victim to ransomware.

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SIP and the Future of VoIP

Digitization and Your Phone System

Digitization is changing the way that we are doing everything as a society. With each day, more information is changing from being stored on paper in filing cabinets to being stored digitally. But digitization isn’t just affecting how we keep information, it is drastically changing the way we communicate. Voice over IP (VoIP) is not new. Companies like Cisco, Avaya, and Xblue have been making VoIP phone systems for many years. But this technology is also changing, and these changes can affect your business’s bottom line.

Legacy VoIP

For a long time, VoIP has been simply a replacement of your company’s analog phone system. VoIP offers more features and more flexibility. With systems like Cisco’s Communications Manager and the phones Cisco offers, you can even reduce your cable plant by running a single connection to your end user and plugging the phone and PC through the same network jack. This has reduced cabling costs for new businesses and simplified upgrades for seasoned companies.

But these phone systems still required a connection to the analog PSTN (public switched telephone network) so that you could make phone calls out to the rest of the world. These analog connections are still expensive, with costs running $40-100 per line per month, plust more for your individual phone numbers. These lines also offer little flexibility for growth, as entire new cable lines must be installed to increase your capacity.

SIP and Your Business

But technology and digitization is beginning to drastically change this as well. As SIP communication has developed, service providers have begun offering you a digital connection into your digital phone system. These connections offer your VoIP system connectivity over a dedicated Internet circuit through your provider and to the PSTN. This digitization can have a drastic effect on your bottom line.

SIP circuits are often much less expensive to operate. Costs are normally just $10-20 per month per line, and just pennies for each phone number. And while this is a major change to how your phone system operates, it can increase the level of service your phone provider can offer. Systems that come over data circuits offer flexibility such as failover to another location. So you can have one circuit in your main office, and another in a branch office, so your phones will still operate if your main office goes down.

In addition to lower cost, implementing SIP will reduce the complexity of your phone system. All your connections will be digital, reducing the need for expensive equipment to bridge the gap between your digital phone system and the analog world. This is now handled by your service provider.

 

To speak to an expert on how SIP can change your business, contact our office for a consultation. We will work with you and the local providers to help get SIP brought to your office in a way that increases your business productivity and reduces your operating costs.

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Three Reasons to Utilize an IT Contractor

There are many reasons to utilize an IT contractor in your business. Whether you have no IT staff, or are a part of a large company with a well seasoned IT staff, here are three reasons to utilize an IT contractor in your business.

1. Bring in outside perspective

An IT contractor can help bring outside perspective into your company. When a network or system is under the administration of a single person or group for a long time, the potential design weaknesses of that team can lead to problems. An IT contractor can help bring balance to your team’s design. Health-checks can ensure that your team is utilizing technology as efficiently as possible. Contractors also bring the experience of working on many environments with many design requirements. They will pool the working knowledge of many companies to help you design the best solution for your business.

2. Contractors help introduce new technology

IT Contractors work on a wide range of equipment and are often more up to date on the latest releases by manufacturers. Contractors need this knowledge to maintain competitiveness in their field. This knowledge can be to your advantage. When implementing a new technology in your company, look to utilize a contractor for anything from spot-checking your design and integration to having them fully implement the new system and training your staff on how to operate. Utilize a contractor to help you get the most from your new investment.

3. Reduce management of complex equipment

Many of your IT systems require attention only a few times per year. But the complexity of managing those systems requires more detailed documentation and more skilled staff. By removing management of your complex systems from your team and placing them on a contractor, you reduce the complexity your team must deal with on a regular basis. Reducing complexity helps your team run more efficiently and effectively. This allows them to deal with the issues that more regularly plague your end users.
Whether you utilize a contractor to bring in outside perspective, implement a new project, or reduce the complexity of the network you manage, contractors can be a great resource to your business and play a vital role in your network management.
Contact our office to receive a free consultation and see if our team is right for your business.

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Why is IT Security Important in your Small Business

Many large companies have made the news in the last few years related to security intrusions. T-Mobile, Scottrade, Ashley Madison, CVS, and LastPass, just to name a few. And many people still remember the large data breaches suffered by OPM and Target. Millions of people’s credit card and personal information have been stolen as a result of these breaches. But you run a small business. Your company is a small target and no one would ever target you, right?

But being small may make you the easiest target of all.

Here are four reasons for why IT security is important for your small business.

1. Lower your risk of ransomware

Ransomware is an up and coming category of malware. And while you may run a small business and not believe that you are at risk, the average ransomware demand may be as low as $500 – $1000. Many small businesses are targets at that rate because they can afford to pay the ransom and generally don’t have effective IT security. Once a business is identified as a target, ransomware hackers generally go for repeat business. Investing in security will reduce your risk of financial loss.

2. Keep your business’ intellectual property safe

If you store information on your customers, clients, vendors, or you work in a business where you have proprietary methods for doing business, your intellectual property is valuable. Your business should protect this asset to ensure that you maintain your competitive edge and the integrity of the customer information you keep on file.

3. Keep your business operating smoothly

Malware and other malicious software tends to cause your computers and servers to run slower than they should. This bogs down business and frustrates both you and your customers. By protecting your computer systems, you can ensure that they run as effectively as possible. Good security lengthens the life of the equipment and software you use. This makes better use of your investment into a heavy cost in your small business.

4. Protect your company’s reputation

As a small business, your reputation plays a major role in building your customer base. Those you already serve, and those you hope will choose you, need to know that your business is trustworthy. Customers want to know that you are looking out for their best interests when it comes to their personal information. Implementing good security practices prevents you from being featured in the local news and having to apologize to current customers for losing their information.

Contact our office if you are interested in seeing how to implement healthy security practices in your small business. We can help you put together a security plan that fits your needs and allows you to get the most out of your investment in IT security.

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Four Reasons to Move to the Cisco ONE licensing model

Cisco licensing has always been complex. The result is that a business may purchase unnecessary licenses or implement a feature they are not licensed for. They end up correcting their licenses part way through the project and are hit with an even bigger price tag. However, a few years ago, Cisco simplified their UC licensing with the CUWL licensing. But in the last few months, they have been pushing customers towards their Cisco ONE licensing model for new hardware.

 

Here are four reasons to move to the Cisco ONE licensing model:

1. More features licenses included

Cisco ONE licenses are essentially a bundle of licenses. Cisco groups the features that are commonly used together so you don’t waste time or money. If you use most or all the features included in your Cisco ONE tier, you will come out ahead against purchasing all the licenses a la carte.

2. Licenses will persist to new equipment

You can purchase a Cisco ONE licenses for a tier of devices (such as the 4320 routers). According to Cisco, if you replace a device with a new one in the same tier, you will not need to purchase a new license. This differs from the traditional model where a feature license is tied to a specific serial number so it can not be transferred to a new device.

3. Cisco ONE licenses include many management licenses

Another reason to move to Cisco is because it includes many management system licenses that enable your business to get more for their investment. All ONE licenses for routers and switches include a Cisco Prime Lifecycle and Assurance license, which allows your business to add it to Cisco Prime for management and Netflow reporting. You can read more about the use of a software defined networking tool here on our blog. Cisco ONE licenses on access switches also come with endpoint licenses for Cisco ISE, which are the most expensive part of investing into this Cisco NAC and security solution. Cisco ONE licenses help your business get the most of your management tools.

4. Track ONE licenses through your Smart account

Your company’s Cisco Smart account tracks your ONE licenses. Many companies purchase licenses but don’t use them right away. If the Cisco PAK number is lost or forgotten, the licenses end up not being used. When purchased through a Cisco partner, your ONE licenses will automatically be placed in your Smart account. Your Smart account gives your organization insight into what licenses you own as well as which licenses are in use.

Cisco is making efforts to simplify what has in the past been a very complex licensing model. If you would like more information, click here to visit Cisco’s website.  Utilizing Cisco ONE licenses can help your business make their investment last longer, getting more features and services for the same price you previously just purchased hardware.

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How Software Defined Networking Meets Business Needs

Software Defined Networking (SDN) continues to be heralded as the future of networking. Many companies like Cisco, Dell, EMC, and Big Switch are all calling for SDN. However, there are many different products that fall into that category. Like all new technologies, the best way to meet your business needs with technology is to choose a solution that works best for you. Not simply implement the latest and greatest.

Here are three ways that SDN can help you make your business successful:

 

1) Centralize your management

Historically, one of the challenges in network infrastructure has been that each device was managed independently. A business had to maintain a list of IP addresses or names so that each device could be accessed individually. This becomes a hassle when the same configuration change needs to be made across all devices. Creating configuration profiles through SDN solutions like Cisco Prime and Solarwinds Network Configuration Manager (NCM) allow you to make changes across all profiles. This drastically reduces the time to push new policies and ensures that all of your devices are configured. It also allows your IT group to spend more time on other tasks.

2) Create a unified policy

Minor differences in configurations are also another challenge within the network. One device may be configured with an SSH timeout of 30 minutes, while another is unlimited.  SDN simplifies building a unified network policy so that a golden configuration can be created with all business defined standards. Engineers can check the configuration across all devices to ensure their compliance. This reduces the complexity of the network and the time it takes network engineers to troubleshoot problems that arise.

3) Deploy new equipment

The business standard configuration  can be applied to a new device as soon as it hits the network. That means a new switch can be added using DHCP options and Cisco Prime, a new switch can be added to the network in just minutes. For someone to deploy a switch with no configuration guidance can take hours, and lead to errors. Using a text template and configuring on an engineer’s desk may take up to an hour, and still need to be installed. Using SDN, new equipment or replacement equipment can be installed quickly, leaving more time for new projects.

Software-defined networking is growing into every area of the network infrastructure. Solutions like Cisco Prime, Solarwinds NCM, and Logic Vein’s Net LineDancer can reduce your network complexity, simplify troubleshoot, and reduce the time to deploy new equipment.

Click on the links above or contact our office to get more information about an SDN solution that will help your business get the most out of your investment in network infrastructure.

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