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The Case for a Three-Year Workstation Refresh Cycle

This article first appeared on ThinkFWD


It’s not about hardware – it’s about achieving your peak performance

Competitive businesses stay that way, partly by affording themselves a consistent technology advantage. But, the question is: what’s the most cost-effective way to sustain that advantage?

Workstation refresh cycle of up to three years can easily pay for itself in performance gains, improved reliability, and new levels of flexibility. Three years is the expected useful life of a typical workstation, especially in a growing business environment that consistently places new and more complex demands on its IT resources.

Here are five sensible reasons for instituting a three-year refresh cycle with Lenovo ThinkStation®workstations.

1. A workstation refresh can pay for itself

A new workstation, like a Lenovo ThinkStation P-Series can deliver up to 73% greater performance over a comparable three-year-old device.1 Beyond performance, the added reliability of an entry-level Intel®Xeon® processor-based workstation can deliver significant savings in the form of reduced downtime and fewer costly onsite repairs. Together, improved performance and reliability add up to an investment worth making.

2. A refresh provides the flexibility to fine-tune capabilities.

As businesses evolve, so do their workstation requirements: the entry-level model that handled tasks with ease three years ago might be lagging under vastly increased workloads and more complex demands. A scheduled refresh cycle enables businesses to anticipate future needs – not react after systems are already overstressed.

3. A refresh keeps star producers at peak productivity

If businesses invest in standout engineering or design talent, it makes sense to provide those high-value users with workstations that enable them to perform at full potential. And it reduces employee frustration with aging workstations that may be holding them back.

4. A refresh is preferable to half-measures that may not deliver.

It might be tempting to defer a workstation refresh in favor of additional memory, an upgraded graphics card or other improvements to existing systems. But, doing so deprives users of important performance gains made possible by the latest Intel Xeon processors

5. In the end, it’s all about the ROI

Ultimately, the case for adopting a three-year refresh cycle, like any other acquisition, comes down to one determination: can it deliver a LENOVO THINKSTATION® P SERIES compelling return on investment?

For example, a new workstation that can triple performance might speed products to market sooner than the competition, providing an important first-mover advantage. Or, a new workstation that reduces the need for physical prototypes by half could make a significant impact on the speed and cost of the product design cycle.

Consider this: A Lenovo ThinkStation workstations render CAD and handle complex 3D designs almost twice as fast as comparable 3 year old systems.2

That means CAD professionals can nearly double their productivity, accruing more billable hours in half the time it used to take for projects to render. These are just few possible scenarios that can come from refreshing your engineering resources with new Lenovo workstations on a sensible three-year cycle.

Businesses that live or die on the speed and capacity of their technology tools are already preserving their advantage profitably with a prudent workstation refresh cycle; shouldn’t you keep up, too?



1. According to internal testing using SPECwpc benchmark. Comparison between D30 (2x Intel Xeon E5-2687W Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro Q6000) and P900 (2x Intel Xeon E5- 2687Wv3 Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K6000).

2 According to internal testing using SPECwpc benchmark. Comparison between C30 (2x Intel Xeon E5-2690 Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro Q5000) and P700 (2x Intel Xeon E5-2690v3 Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K5200).

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Reduce digital overload with the right strategy

There’s certainly no shortage of apps and digital products that promise to make our businesses more efficient. But so much choice has its drawbacks in a digitally distracted workplace. Implementing a digital strategy can reduce wasted time and money spent on redundant or inefficient technology.

The trick is managing the products that come through your door and only permitting those that contribute to the core business. After all, apps and programs are just tools and will not replace the need to communicate, manage and prioritise.

So why are some businesses overloading themselves with software and actually damaging their productivity as a result?

Why businesses are losing money to digital

The plethora of software fighting for attention in our personal lives has spilled over into our work lives. But is the introduction of all this technology really improving efficiency, or simply creating new distractions?

Too often, technology is interrupting our days with unnecessary information. In fact, a University of California study found that workers were more productive when cut off from email. They multi-tasked less and spent longer focusing on a single task.

With software rapidly evolving, today’s most cutting-edge app can quickly become outdated – especially combined with a business that outgrows the capability of the software. It’s important that IT teams have their finger on the pulse of the digital technology market so they can prevent their software from lagging behind.

Preventing excessive software spending

For senior management and executives, getting the software right is important for the profitability of the company. Licensing costs can be expensive, and the ineffective use or wasteful overlapping of software can be a drag on technology budgets.

The solution? Don’t rush in. Let a dedicated IT team devise and implement a digital strategy that tracks the business’ existing software products and act only when a pain point emerges. Ask others in your industry what software works and what doesn’t.

Remember however that excessive spending is almost as detrimental as limited spending. To truly capitalise on software, you need to invest in a product that adds enough value to your business to not just cover its own cost, but exceed it. If you’re unwilling to upgrade outdated software, then you’re unlikely to grow your business as much as you could.

Similarly, selecting an app because it’s cheap will only cost you in declining productivity further down the track. Updating evolving technology can be expensive, but your software should grow with the company. These upfront costs can prove challenging for cash-strapped start-ups, but the alternative is the risk of falling behind more technically capable competitors.

Combining processes and functionality

New technologies should be used to complement existing workflows or create valuable new ones. You’ll need a thorough understanding of your business processes, and your focus should be on minimising complexity and boosting productivity.

One such example is the app Zapier, which combines up to 500 apps and completes a variety of automated tasks before informing you that new work has arrived. For example, it will move an attachment from Gmail into Dropbox and then notify you that the document is ready.

Getting the digital strategy for your business right before you invest is the first step in improving workflow, reducing inefficiency and potentially saving you money as a result.

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Top five apps for home workers

With more of the workforce seeing the benefits of working from home or on the move, digital tools are popping up to replace your traditional scanner, accounts ledger or diary. In fact, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) one in three employed Aussies spend at least some time working from home, either as employees, freelancers or small business owners.

If you fall into the latter two categories, you’re likely working unpredictable hours that don’t neatly fall into the nine-to-five time bracket. And for those without a dedicated HR, accounts or IT department, you’ll also need to find time for any day-to-day admin on top of your workload.

Thankfully, there’s a host of digital tools available to help manage your time and boost your productivity. We take a look at five must-have mobile apps for home workers to make your life easier.

DocuSign

Best for: Fast digital approvals.

Benefit: If you can sign documents without printing them out, you don’t need a printer – or the costly toner top-ups that come with it. Check and sign documents securely from any internet-connected device, or share them with others who need to add their signature. Not only will this app give you back the office space that would’ve gone to a printer, it will also help remove the clutter of unsigned contracts sitting on your desk.

Wunderlist

Best for: Organising your tasks.

Benefit: It’s an intuitive digital diary. Log and track your to-dos, manage multiple projects and collaborate with others. You can also send reminders, turn pressing emails into to-do items and access them from any connected device. This app is convenient for those who work on the move and rely on their phones to track and manage multiple tasks.

Scanbot

Best for: Scanning documents.

Benefit: Turn your smart device’s camera into a scanner that functions pretty much the same as the real thing. With clear imaging and optical character recognition, Scanbot can even turn scanned items into editable digital documents.

Toggl

Best for: Tracking your time.

Benefit: Do you struggle keeping track of your hours to make sure you’re not spending too long on tasks? Then Toggl is the app for you. Track your time with ease, as this digital timer records how long you spend on each task. Even when your work doesn’t require you to log hours, it’s still useful to see how you spend your time to identify areas where you could manage it better.

SugarSync

Best for: Storing your stuff online, securely.

Benefit: While Google Drive is a popular choice for storing documents on the cloud, SugarSync is different in that it also allows you to back up your existing file structure. You can then access this data across any device. SugarSync even lets you sync files via email.

Take advantage of the digital tools out there to make the most of your valuable time so you can focus on growing your business.

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The elevation of security

THE CHALLENGE

DATA SECURITY IN A CHANGING WORLD.

We live in the era of digital disruption, when always-on connectivity, a mobile workforce and globalization leave us more vulnerable than ever to cybersecurity assaults. In this brave new world, keeping customer and company data safe is a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

 

PROACTIVE PROTECTION

DATA, DATA EVERYWHERE.

Feel like you’re drowning in a sea of data? You are. We create about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day. To better comprehend just how much data that is, the earth is thought to contain 7.5 quintillion grains of sand.11

 

GREATER RISKS

THE EVER PRESENT THREAT OF A DATA BREACH.

Threats are increasing, but some IT admins are stuck in the security paradox.

 

EVOLVING THREATS

WHY THE WALL WON’T PROTECT YOU.

Data everywhere, overwhelming security threats, hackers seeking vulnerabilities – paralyzing alarm fatigue and paradoxical viewpoints are natural responses to a problem that exploits the weaknesses (and underdeveloped strengths) of the modern workforce.

 

CHANGING HABITS

SECURITY IN THE DECENTRALIZED WORKPLACE.

Today’s workforce is in a state of flux. Work habits considered standard just a few years ago are growing outdated, with emerging trends – including cloud-enabled anytime / anywhere work schedules – disrupting traditional practices.

 

CONCLUSION

REFERENCES AND CREDITS.

Learn more about how HP can help protect your company.

Visit HP.COM/GO/HPSECURE

 

 

The Security Evolution.

In today’s changing employee environment, where numerous entry points are spread across a decentralized workforce, it’s critical to adopt new, holistic approaches to data security.

Holistic security allows workers to connect when and where they need to, via secure connections that authenticate users accessing the network. And it empowers IT professionals to tackle cybersecurity threats regardless of their origin. A security ecosystem complements – not conflicts with – how work gets done.

That’s the paradox antidote.

An ecosystem of protection delivers endpoint security when and where it’s needed.

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The smart office you want to live in

Google first showed us offices could be fun. But between the playground slides and the ping-pong tables, the tech giant’s interior can be a little daunting for those not accustomed to a fun-filled office space.

Fortunately, office design has matured. Research and tech are now coming together to make intelligent, beautiful, surprising and comforting office spaces that boost productivity, while keeping people happy and healthy. It’s the office you actually look forward to visiting. Less campus, more comfortable.

We take a look at some of the most popular office design trends.

Trend 1: Design for healthy movement

Office work is fundamentally unhealthy. It’s sedentary and the spaces are notoriously poorly ventilated. Design for healthy movement promotes human activity and air flow. Both have a huge influence on productivity.

The World Green Building Council’s (WGBC) 2014 report on Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Officesmakes a strong case for investing in better air flow with research suggesting that good indoor air quality can boost productivity by up to 11 per cent.

Stairs, flexible work stations and smart stand-up spaces can also boost efficiency and wellbeing. They accomplish this by giving people the freedom to move about, encouraging socialisation and providing the option to work from a quiet corner of the office. Diversity and choice are key when it comes to positive work environments.

Take for example, Facebook’s sprawling office in Menlo Park, California, which boasts the largest open floor plan in the world. This freedom for the staff to move about and keep active is also complemented by a 3.6-hectare rooftop park.

Trend 2: Think like home

Think about your home. Your morning coffee in the sunroom. Your book in bed. Your late nights in the study. Your Netflix binge while glued to the couch. You’re doing different things in different places, and each space is designed to make you most comfortable while doing it. That’s the future of office design.

“This is particularly evident in European workplaces where designers are combining elements of residential architecture and home comforts, predominantly through the use of textiles, with functional office solutions to create relaxed commercial spaces,” says RIBA Journal.

Airbnb has taken this ‘residential inspired’ approach to the next level by designing its San Francisco HQ meeting spaces after its various residential listings.

Ambient computing has a role to play in residential-styled offices too. Deloitte University Press put it succinctly: “Companies are exploring the IoT [internet of things], but some only vaguely understand its full potential. To realise that potential, organisations should look beyond physical ‘things’ and the role of sensors, machines and other devices as signals and actuators.”

Businesses can embrace ambient computing by designing spaces that perfect lighting, air temperature and airflow through sensors and signals. Comfortable people work better. It’s that simple.

Trend 3: Be inspired by nature

Nature-inspired commercial design goes hand-in-hand with emerging residential influences. Textures, lights and colours that help reproduce an outdoor setting can sooth urban employee stress.

Airbnb Tokyo extensively researched what its staff wanted before starting its latest office redesign. “In response to employee feedback, nature was heavily incorporated into the new design to create a peaceful working space where employees can escape the chaotic urban environment of the local area in Shinjuku,” says the Australian Design Review.

The WGBC’s 2014 report also pointed to several studies showing productivity was connected to proximity to windows, especially where views offered a connection to nature.

Trend 4: Design for healthy employees

The physical health of employees is taking centre stage in commercial design. The communal work table, height-adjustable desk, lounge space, breakout space, stairs and more flexible working spaces are all designed to get people moving.

But designing for employee health lends itself to healthier social spaces too. Moreover, open break rooms, cafes and foyers that allow for casual conversation when people cross paths can boost the social capital of your office space. These chance encounters help take talk offline and inspire cross-team collaboration and break down the walls of the traditionally siloed department.

Take LinkedIn’s New York office, for example, where the employees can use a number of communal areas for socialising and open-spaced meeting areas. This is designed to not only keep workers engaged, but also to encourage teamwork and interaction.

Even making just a few of these workplace changes could ultimately make a big difference to the productivity and morale of your team.

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What’s the future of management?

Business management in the digital age

When automation transformed the manufacturing sector across the Western world during the 1980s and ’90s, many white-collar workers were nonplussed at the wave of job losses. But now artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies have come knocking for their jobs – and managers and skilled workers alike will need to fashion new tools to survive.

With new technologies increasingly able to perform complex cognitive tasks, office managers will face a glass half full or half empty, depending on your view. Some only see job losses, while others see opportunity. Like or if not – the office of the future is changing today.

Engaging with customers

Managers will have to learn to approach their customers in entirely new ways. AI and machine learning are taking over many functions once performed by humans, like staffing showrooms and call centres.

This requires evermore sophisticated algorithms, business models and engagement tools. So, while the old jobs may go, new ones will emerge to supply the technologies, processes and insights needed to keep businesses running.

In particular, the nuances of human behaviour will need to be captured and coded. For example, how does a robot show compassion? Or respond to a customer’s frustrations? How does it detect a customer’s humour or the meaning of vocal inflections? Managers will lead this learning.

Communicating with customers has always been at the heart of the sales process, but now it needs to be much more finely tuned. Building customer engagement will also become a more precise science.

Encouraging creativity

Creative thinking will be another essential tool for the managers of tomorrow. Being flexible, responsive and adaptable to changing technologies will keep them fresh and open to new challenges and opportunities.

‘Innovation’ is the key word here. Managers who can spot a gap in the market, develop a solution and then realise it will become indispensable in tomorrow’s offices. Along with creativity and a clear vision of the path ahead, good leaders will need to encourage innovative thinking among staff to ensure their businesses become the disruptors – not the disrupted.

Boosting productivity

Technology in the workplace almost always helps cut costs and increase margins. While the short-term impact of technology might mean a drop in prices, low prices often fuel demand. This means that it all evens out in the end. Knowing where to find savings and create new demand then, is another tool for tomorrow’s manager.

For all the doom and gloom about technology taking our jobs, there is equally an argument for technology replacing our jobs with better ones. On the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the outcomes of three other revolutions suggest this will indeed be the case.

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Is your technology holding you back?

This article first appeared on ThinkFWD.

In an environment of fast change and constant innovation, businesses can’t afford to let old technologies slow them down. Modern businesses that are agile enough to adopt the latest productivity-enhancing technologies gain significant advantages over their legacy-laden competitors.

A recent Harvard Business Review feature emphasized the useful distinction between ‘economic’ obsolescence (when an asset reaches the end of its accounting life) and ‘functional’ obsolescence (when an asset doesn’t help its owner remain competitive).

Unsurprisingly, businesses that plan to replace assets when they’re functionally obsolete are generally more competitive than those that replace them only when they’re economically obsolete.

This may sound esoteric, but most workers intrinsically understand that they need the right tools to do their job. Ernst & Young’s 2014 Australian Productivity Pulse report found that “35 per cent of workers reported being hindered by issues with legacy IT systems, while 70 per cent said their productivity would improve if they had faster access to more accurate data and analytics allowing them to make better business decisions”.

We understand that change can be difficult – expensive, uncertain and even intimidating. But businesses can’t let themselves fall behind their competitors. Technology startups have eagerly adopted mobile, cloud and other lightweight technologies that are funded from operational, not capital, budgets. This helps remove the problem of economic obsolescence and allows them to adopt competitiveness-enhancing new technologies. Their less agile competitors, meanwhile, are stuck with their existing investments in hardware and software while they wait for the clock to run out on their depreciation schedules.

Staff morale can also be negatively affected by frustration with obsolete systems, which in turn contributes to reduced productivity and increased staff turnover. This reduces business competitiveness – it’s not just a theoretical or HR problem.

According to a Vanson Bourne survey, most IT departments (86 per cent) are fielding complaints from users about legacy applications. These obsolete technologies cause staff members to feel “bored, frustrated, ambivalent and restricted” and are considered a problem by nearly half (44 per cent) of all IT managers surveyed.

Business agility is largely about adaptability, and workers know what’s at stake – Ernst & Young’s survey found that 33 per cent of Australians believe their role may not exist in 20 years because of emerging digital technologies and automation. Australia’s economy is changing and services of all kinds are taking over from traditional sectors like manufacturing, mining and agriculture.

Knowledge workers will drive growth and productivity in the new economy. They need to keep on learning new skills and adopting new technologies. Businesses that want to retain their skilled workers and their competitive advantage thus need to provide the latest tools and technologies to boost productivity and retain their staff’s trust and engagement. Only then will they thrive.

Whichever way you look at it, it’s a simple equation: old technologies are less efficient, are a drag upon the workforce and reduce your business’s competitiveness. The good news is that the reverse is also true: new technologies are more efficient, are a boon to the workforce and increase your business’s competitiveness. And with the current low cost of software, hardware and services, there’s never been a better, easier or more important time to upgrade your business tools.

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Investing in technology boosts productivity and growth

This article first appeared on ThinkFWD

Australian research confirms the link between business investment in new technology and productivity growth.

It’s well understood that optimising technology in your business can lead to improved productivity, efficiency and profits. So it’s nice to hear that Australian research confirms the link between business investment in new technology and productivity growth.

A nationwide cross-sector survey of CEOs found more than a third of businesses that invested in new technologies in 2012 reported improved labour productivity, compared to just 16 per cent of businesses that did not invest.

That’s consistent with long-term trends, with Australia’s ICT-intensive businesses showing labour productivity gains of around 45 per cent in the last decade, compared to the average across industry sectors of 13 per cent.

How the productivity gains were realized

Employee knowledge and skills had the most significant influence on the productivity gains that businesses realised from investment in technology, according to the Australian Industry Group National CEO Survey.

Of businesses that reported productivity growth, “40 percent said the main contributing factor was increased staff skills and capabilities, followed by process improvements (29 percent) and capital investment (17 percent). These findings suggest that skills, innovation and technology investment will be critical to lifting business productivity over coming years.”

Supply chains were the most common source of information on new technologies. Over 50 percent of businesses learn about a new technology from a client or supplier, with demands from supply chain partners and customers providing the impetus to invest in technology.

High-speed broadband network gap

Despite bipartisan support for high-speed broadband in some form, less than half the companies surveyed were ready to take advantage of the opportunities broadband will provide.

Most businesses cited improved collaboration as the key benefit of access to high-speed broadband, with other advantages including lower transaction and communications costs.

Businesses also expect broadband to provide better support for cloud computing, video conferencing, remote monitoring and sending and receiving large files.

Technology investment has flattened since 2008, with the outlook for business conditions still the biggest influence on decisions to invest in technology. However, for Australian businesses to grow and remain globally competitive, investment in technology and staff training will be essential.

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Cloud vs hardware: What’s right for your business?

Article sponsored by ThinkFWD – www.thinkfwd.com.au

This article first appeared on ThinkFWD

 

The cloud is touted as a technology that, along with mobile and analytics, will usher in a new age of limitless, on-demand computing for everyone. According to a Telesyte study,1 total market value for public cloud services is tipped to reach $775 million by 2019, with infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) enjoying the biggest spending increase in 2015.

But is the cloud always the right choice for the small to medium business (SMB)? There are a few important deciding factors to consider when choosing between cloud services and on-site server hardware.

Features

A major selling point of the cloud is its flexibility. Typically, businesses will purchase a monthly plan that includes a bundle of features that meet their needs. As the business grows or changes, it can move between plans. For example, you might choose to start with a basic data storage, CRM and email management plan, and move to one that includes advanced data analytics later.

Your business model will be the deciding factor. Are your employees working from a static location, or remotely? If it’s the latter, there can be less chance of data loss or duplication with the cloud. Are you unsure where you’re going, or confident that things will remain fairly static? If you don’t expect to scale quickly, it may be more cost-effective to purchase your own entry-level server outright. Choosing a solution that’s easily upgraded will mean you’re well placed for future growth.

Cost

For a small business with 10 employees, we compared the price of a Microsoft Azure cloud solution with a comprehensive on-site server option.* With everything taken into account – including two virtual machines for network storage and applications – the cloud solution could certainly be more cost-effective upfront, but over time the subscription costs begin to add up. Over three years, an on-premises server could save you more than 50% compared to a cloud solution. According to IDC business data, the optimal server replacement cycle is three and a half years.2

Although there are ongoing costs associated with hardware – such as upgrades, power and troubleshooting – the cost of a physical server over such a period rarely adds up to the cost of cloud services. This is despite the cloud appearing cheap on a month-to-month basis compared to the higher initial costs of physical hardware.

In general, the flexibility and scalability of cloud may make it attractive for larger companies – but smaller businesses are unlikely to use the full range of cloud features they are paying for in their monthly fees. It’s also worth noting that your own hardware may be counted as a business asset, which has tax benefits.

Security

Some of the risk of using cloud relates to data security and privacy. In Australia, it’s important that SMB cloud users are aware of their rights in relation to the Privacy Act (1988),3 which states that cloud providers must take “reasonable steps” to protect personal data from unauthorised disclosure, misuse or archiving. Australian Consumer Law also applies to cloud providers, although penalties can be difficult to enforce if they are based overseas.

When comparing cloud providers, find out whether they offer personalised encryption and data backup that protects your information if there is a breach or hardware failure. Also be sure to ask where they store their data, as privacy laws vary by country.

A physical in-house server will typically keep you protected from all but natural disaster and physical interference. Like all ICT systems, it’s a matter of weighing up the benefits while managing the risks.

Physical location and data bandwidth

To varying degrees, all cloud services will be subject to the congestion and unpredictable latencies of the public internet. This can be more of a problem for rural businesses that lack the reliable internet connection and bandwidth needed to consistently run cloud applications.

Another important factor to consider is data transfer limits. Cloud services usually allow you to upload an unlimited amount of data to the server (on your own bandwidth dime), but are less generous when it comes to downloads – services like Amazon EC2, for example, are capped at 1GB free outbound data per month.

The cloud can still be viable for SMBs that have a highly mobile workforce, want the freedom to scale up and down quickly, and can accept the risks of having their data handled by a third party. There is also the hybrid option, where non-critical business data is stored and processed using low-cost or free cloud plans. For many SMBs, however, maintaining their own on-site servers remains a more cost-effective and secure strategy.

 


 

1. https://www.telsyte.com.au/announcements/2015/7/21/australian-enterprise-cloud-spending-to-approach-800m-by-2019-as-organisations-move-more-business-critical-server-storage-and-network-workloads-off-premises

2. http://www.lenovo.com/images/products/server/pdfs/whitepapers/IDC%20Whitepaper%20246755.pdf

3. https://www.communications.gov.au/sites/g/files/net301/f/small-business-privacy-factsheet.pdf

*Azure configuration

  • D1 VM, single core, 3.5GB RAM, 50GB storage.
  • D2 VM, dual-core, 7GB RAM, 100GB storage.
  • VPN Gateway, incl. 100GB each inbound/outbound traffic per month.
  • 1TB file storage.
  • Costs based on pricing from Azure as at 21/11/2016.

On-site configuration

  • Lenovo TS450 tower server with 3 years 24/7 4-Hour Response Warranty, Intel Xeon E3-1245 v5 CPU, 32GB RAM, redundant 450W power supply.
  • Tape backup drive with 5 x 1TB cartridges.
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard Multi-Language.
  • Windows Server 2012 User CALS.
  • 1.5kVA UPS.

 

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How to stop ransomware attacks in 2017

In May 2017, an ominous message greeted workers in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS): “Oops, your files have been encrypted!”

This is how malware known variously as WannaCry, WannaCrypt or WannaCryptor 2.0 announced itself to the wider world. With systems locked and critical files encrypted, doctor’s surgeries had to close and hospitals turned patients away from essential treatments.

How did this happen? Security experts believe an NHS user clicked a link or opened a file they shouldn’t have. Others pointed the finger at the NHS’s network of antiquated hardware and unsupported software as the main factor that facilitated the spread of WannaCry.

The worm spreads

Distributing ransomware isn’t hard. This type of malicious software is easy and cheap to spread. In the case of WannaCry, and its related variants, it can infect connected systems without any user interaction, much like a worm that continually replicates itself. The victim then has a powerful incentive to pay up and, if they don’t, the criminals’ investment has been minimal.

The victim then has a powerful incentive to pay up and, if they don’t, the criminals’ investment has been minimal.

Why is healthcare vulnerable to ransomware?

Hospitals and other organisations in the healthcare sector are attractive targets, specifically because of the:

  • Ageing hardware, software and security systems that they often run.
  • Misconfigured systems, specifically security software that is easy to bypass.
  • Valuable data they hold, including sensitive patient health records and personal information.

Should you pay hackers a ransom?

Cybersecurity experts advise against paying a ransom to hackers.

In the first instance, there is no guarantee you will gain access to your encrypted files. An Australian study found that close to a third of affected organisations who did pay failed to recover their data. Paying may also encourage the criminals to continue their activities, and they could even re-target your organisation.

How to stop ransomware infecting your organisation

Like any infection, prevention is better than cure, especially when it comes to the security of your network. Even if you are dealing with a tight budget, skeleton IT staff and minimal cybersecurity expertise, you don’t necessarily have to spend big to ensure your network remains free of malware like WannaCry.

Your users should be the first line of defence. If employees don’t know what to look for, how can you hope to remain malware free? As a matter of priority, you need to:

  • Train your staff so they know how to identify phishing attacks that could contain malicious ransomware.
  • Ensure your organisation is running updated software with the latest security patches.
  • Regularly back up your systems to physical sources and the cloud.
  • Have a clear email security protocol that discourages users from clicking on suspicious links, attachments or emails.
  • If a computer is infected, isolate it from the network and alert all staff.
  • Invest in hardware that’s up to the task of warding off threats.

Ransomware is constantly evolving, so it’s a case of mitigating the threat to ensure your networks, data and reputation aren’t compromised.

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