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Is a hybrid cloud solution right for your company?

Over the last decade, many companies have been shifting IT responsibilities to the cloud, a solution that allows various users and hardware to share data over vast distances. Cloud programs frequently take the form of infrastructure as a service. A company that can't afford in-house servers or a full-sized IT team can use cloud solutions to replace these hardware and personnel limitations.

Large companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Google are all behind cloud services, propelling the space forward and innovating constantly. However, there are still limitations when it comes to cloud adoption. For as convenient as theses services are, they are designed for ubiquitous usage. Organizations that specialize in certain tasks may find a cloud solution limited in its capabilities.

Those businesses wishing to support service-oriented architecture may wish to consider a hybrid cloud solution, a new service becoming widespread throughout various enterprise application. As its name suggests, a hybrid cloud solution combines the power of a third-party cloud provider with the versatility of in-house software. While this sounds like an all-around positive, these solutions are not for every organization.

"Before businesses discuss a hybrid solution, they need three separate components."

Why technical prowess matters for hybrid cloud adoption
TechTarget listed three essentials for any company attempting to implement a hybrid cloud solution. Organizations must:

  1. Have on-premise private cloud hardware, including servers, or else a signed agreement with a private cloud provider.
  2. Support a strong and stable wide area network connection.
  3. Have purchased an agreement with a public cloud platform such as AWS, Azure or Google Cloud.

Essentially, before businesses can discuss a hybrid solution, they need all the separate components. An office with its own server room will still struggle with a hybrid cloud solution if its WAN cannot reliably link the private system with the third party cloud provider. And here is the crutch. Companies without skilled IT staffs need to think long and hard about what that connection would entail.

Compatibility is a crucial issue. Businesses can have the most sophisticated, tailored in-house cloud solution in the world but, if it doesn't work with the desired third party cloud software, the application will be next to useless. It isn't just a matter of software. Before a hybrid cloud solution can be considered feasible, equipment like servers, load balancers and a local area network all need to be examined to see how well they will function with the proposed solution.

After this preparation is complete, organizations will need to create a hypervisor to maintain virtual machine functionality. Once this is accomplished, a private cloud software layer will be needed to empower many essential cloud capabilities. Then the whole interface will need to be reworked with the average user in mind to create a seamless experience.

In short: in-house, skilled IT staff are essential to successfully utilizing a hybrid cloud solution. If businesses doubt the capabilities of any department, or question whether they have enough personnel to begin with, it may be better to hold off on hybrid cloud adoption.

Without being properly installed, a poorly implemented solution could cause delays, lost data and, worse of all, potentially disastrous network data breaches.

Cloud technology has been designed to keep business data secure. Poorly installing a hybrid solution could weaken this stability.Cloud technology has been designed to keep business data secure. Poorly installing a hybrid solution could weaken this stability.

The potential benefits of the hybrid cloud
However, if created the right way, a hybrid cloud solution brings a wide array of advantages to many enterprises, particularly those working with big data. According to the Harvard Business Review, hybrid cloud platforms can bring the best of both solutions, including unified visibility into resource utilization. This improved overview will empower companies to track precisely which employees are using what and for how long. Workload analysis reports and cost optimization will ultimately be improved as organizations can better direct internal resources and prioritize workers with stronger performances.

Overall platform features and computing needs will also be fully visible, allowing businesses to scale with greater flexibility. This is especially helpful for enterprises that see "rush periods" near the end of quarter/year. As the need rises, the solution can flex right along with it.

Hybrid cloud services are also easier to manage. If implemented properly, IT teams can harmonize the two infrastructures into one consistent interface. This will mean that employees only need to become familiar with one system, rather than learning different apps individually.

Companies processing big data can segment processing needs, according to the TechTarget report. Information like accumulated sales, test and business data can be retained privately while the third party solution runs analytical models, which can scale larger data collections without compromising in-office network performance.

As The Practical Guide to Hybrid Cloud Computing noted, this type of solution allows businesses to tailor their capabilities and services in a way that directly aligns with desired company objectives, all while ensuring that such goals remain within budget.

Organizations with skilled, fully formed IT teams should consider hybrid cloud solutions. While not every agency needs this specialized, flexible data infrastructure, many businesses stand ready to reap considerable rewards from the hybrid cloud.

Why phishing is so dangerous

As 2018 begins, the total number of cyberattacks continues to rise. Data from the Identity Theft Resource Center and CyberScout showed there were 1,579 successful data breaches in 2017. This figure represents a nearly 45 percent uptick from the year before. The numbers turns especially troubling when broken out by industry.

On the whole, most sectors are tightening their security measures and reporting fewer breaches. Health care, government, education and financial industries all reported a continued decrease in successful data breaches. While this is good news, there is one market that more than made up for this gradual decline: business. In 2017, the business sector accounted for nearly 60 percent of all breaches. This trend has been steadily increasing since 2013, according to the report.

Part of this is the pace of cyberattack evolution. Businesses invest heavily in methods to prevent one type of cyberattack, only to have hackers change their strategy within months. At that point, the organization has already spent its budget in information security and may be scrambling to allocate more. However, data suggests that one of the simplest forms of cyberattack is still among the most effective: phishing.

"Less than half of all executives understand their company's information security policies."

False sense of safety
While ransomware and other, more elaborate types of cyberattack routinely make the news, phishing has been flying under the radar. Many equate it with stories of foolish people falling for schemes from a Nigerian prince or believing that they had suddenly acquired millions from the government – fantasies that businesses tell themselves they would never fall for.

Data from a couple years ago may also have looked hopeful. A 2016 Symantec report concluded that the overall email spam rate was falling and that fewer phishing bots were being used. This information, likely the result of email server providers like Gmail and Outlook stepping up their sorting technology, may have given a false sense of safety to business executives.

Compound this will another major problem in the business sector: Most executives are in the dark when it comes to understanding cybersecurity concerns. A cybersecurity survey report from BAE systems in 2016 found that less than half of all executives claimed to understand their company's information security policies.

This same survey found that only 60 percent of companies had formal cybersecurity training sessions in place, and that 70 percent of that number only had training roughly once per year. Given how rapidly cyberattacks change and adapt, this strategy would leave companies exposed to vulnerabilities – perhaps more so than other organizations because of the misplaced sense of safety.

"Cyber criminals now create fake websites that look legitimate."

Phishing is getting smarter
Part of Symantec's data – the decline of phishing bots – should not have been received with good news. Especially when, according to Comodo Threat Intelligence Lab data, the overall number of phishing attacks continues to increase. Bots are, for lack of a more proper term, dumb. They follow predictable formulas that can be easily filtered into spam boxes and out of employees' vision.

However, phishing has gotten smarter. One of the new methods outlined in Comodo's report is called "clone phishing." In this scenario, hackers intercept an authentic email communication, typically from an executive, and recreate it nearly flawlessly. The fake email is then sent to the employee in the hopes of getting a response.

In addition, the practice of spear phishing is on the rise. Most early phishing was a mass attack – the same email or recorded message sent to many people, hoping to snag a minority of those contacted. Spear phishing is more precise. This phishing tactic learns of the victim's personal information and uses it. This means that the phishing message may include real names, dates and relevant organizations – all factors that will make the communication look more genuine.

Phishing has also gotten more complex in the sense that it has evolved past emails, phone calls and text message. Cyber criminals now create fake websites – similar to originals – that look legitimate. However, these malicious sites often betray themselves in the domain name, which is typically longer or more complicated than it needs to be. These website forgeries will almost never use common domain names like .com or .org.

Everyone is a target
According to the Comodo report, 50 percent of employees will open an email from an unknown sender if it lands in their inbox. This number alone explains the increasing amount of phishing attacks, as well as why they are such a prevalent method. Every employee is a potential target.

Phishing stresses the need for comprehensive employee training at every level. Even one person being compromised can put an entire organization at risk. For example, if an entry level analyst is targeted and successfully breached, the hacker or malicious group may be in possession of the network passwords, meaning that they suddenly share his or her level of access. This can be used to install ransomware or other harmful programs. 

Every employee who receives corporate emails on a professional or personal device is the potential victim of phishing.Every employee who receives corporate emails on a professional or personal device is the potential victim of phishing.

Training to beat phishing
Information shows that training sharply decreases the likelihood of phishing success. A PhishMe report concluded that susceptibility fell to roughly 20 percent after relevant sessions on improved cybersecurity practices occurred.

Even these newer, smarter methods of phishing have telling signs. CSO stressed that malicious emails are usually more threatening or urgent than typical office communication. This is part of cyber criminals' strategy, as panicked employees are less likely to think clearly if they legitimately believe their job is on the line.

Employees should also be advised to carefully check the sender's name. If it is an unknown sender, all emails should be double-checked with the supervisor before response. Spelling and grammar are also more likely to have mistakes as cyber criminals have no corporate standard or editing department.

Business companies should be willing to partner with the experts to ensure the best training and prep programs for their employees. IT service providers like ISG prepare cybersecurity compliance as part of our extensive product portfolio. Consult with us today to find out how we can help secure your company against future data breaches.