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5 Questions to Ask Before Going to the Cloud

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What should you ask a potential cloud services provider before signing the dotted line? While a provider can seem like they have their ducks in a row, don’t forget to vet them for how they will treat you as a client. Asking the right questions can help you reveal whether or not a provider will meet, and hopefully exceed, your expectations as you experience the transition to cloud computing.

Ask potential cloud services providers these five questions to ensure they will give you the best client experience for a successful transition:

1. Do I need a cloud storage or cloud computing solution?

This is more of a question to ask yourself, but it’s first on the list because you’ll need to clarify whether your business needs a cloud storage solution like DropBox or an enterprise-level IaaS cloud computing service with network, server, and storage resources for your application.  

Cloud storage solutions are used for basic data storage and backup while cloud computing allows you to run applications in the cloud—a huge leap beyond cloud storage. IaaS Cloud computing allows you to access and run applications or programs through the Internet rather than through a physical computer or server. If you only need to store some files, you can stick to a cloud storage solution, but if you’re ready to put your business applications in the Cloud, then you’re ready to look for a cloud computing provider.

Cloud computing offers benefits like scalability, flexibility, cost savings on capital expenditures, the ability to remotely access and transform your data, plus so much more. A cloud computing provider may also offer increased protection for your data, both physically and virtually, thanks to data security and disaster recovery capabilities.

2. Are you a reseller or do you provide cloud services directly?

Some providers resell cloud services while others provide cloud services directly. The problem with resellers is that they not only have a lack of contact with the services they’re selling, but if you have a downtime issue it can be costly not knowing whether to call the software/hardware OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), the hosting provider, or the VAR (value-added reseller) for support. Finding where the problem started can prove to be an expensive headache.

When you work with a provider like LightBound, we’re not resellers of these products—we actually provide these services directly to you. This means we are able to provide a better customer experience for you because we customize the solution for your business, handle all the project management, installation, and implementation. We also support your business with a dedicated Technical Account Manager, a 24×7 NOC, and a team of Tier 3 and Tier 4 Engineers if things go bump in the night. All of these compliment our resource pools and ensure a smooth and trouble-free customer experience.

 

3. What are your service hours?

Technology doesn’t wait for “office hours” to malfunction, and things tend to go wrong in the middle of the night when you’re least expecting it. Will your provider be there for you when you need them most?

Some providers limit the hours when you can actually reach them for assistance, which can mean increased downtime for your business, frustrated employees, unhappy customers, and halted business operations.

Choose a provider like LightBound that offers always-on, always-available service designed to solve your problems with lightning speed. We are there for you day or night and will work hard to get your services back up and running if there’s ever an issue. Your bottom line will thank you!

4. Who answers the phone when I call?

When you call for help, will you be speaking to an answering machine, robot, third-party assistant, or a personable and ready-to-help expert? Will they know what they’re talking about and be able to help you, or end up wasting your time?

When something goes wrong, having an experienced professional on the other end of the line makes all the difference in getting your problems solved. When you call LightBound for help, one of our expert employees will be ready to assist you 24/7/365, and you’ll be able to put names to faces with our team.

 

5. Who’s responsible for what?

Who’s responsible for the services you receive and who owns the datacenter? Will they be accountable for monitoring and ensuring uptime? Know what your provider promises and what their responsibilities are, only choosing a provider you know you can count on to have your back, make you a priority, and solve issues directly.

If your services will be handled by separate parties, it will be more difficult and time-consuming to resolve issues. This is because, in addition to not knowing where your problems are rooted, you may not be able to get any party to take responsibility for solving them or even care that you’re experiencing downtime.

This is yet another reason it’s important to choose a provider that offers you services directly rather than a reseller that can’t ensure the success of your cloud services all the way through. At LightBound, we are your single-source solution for cloud services, so you have only one phone number to call and we are accountable for your uptime.

Need help choosing the right cloud services provider for your business? Contact us today for direction!

5 REASONS TO UPGRADE TO NGFW FROM TRADITIONAL FIREWALL

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Years ago, the only traffic on corporate networks were business applications, threats, or email. But technology has come a long way since then, and a multitude of applications like Skype, Dropbox, and Slack have flooded the business world.

Increased application use has been helpful, even essential, for maximizing employee productivity and improving business practices, but these applications can carry viruses, malware, and other threats with them.

Traditional firewalls are unable to see or control all of these applications, meaning increased vulnerability to threats. Thankfully, the next-generation firewall (NGFW) was born, filling a much-needed gap in modern security needs.

 

Why Upgrade to NGFW from Traditional Firewall Security?

NGFW works better and faster than traditional firewalls to control the traffic that can enter and exit a network. While traditional firewalls are behind the times, next-generation firewalls provide increased control, improved security, and other essential features.

In this blog post, we’ll cover five main ways NGFW is superior to traditional firewalls and why, if you haven’t already, your business should upgrade to NGFW.

1. Single Device Functionality

If your current security provider is adding new devices to your firewall, that’s a red flag. It means unnecessary complexity and added cost for you. Plus, it increases the amount of oversight needed to keep your network secure while slowing down response time to threats.

NGFW integrates enterprise firewall capabilities, intrusion prevention system (IPS), and stateful packet inspection into one device. Traditionally, these would have been done on separate devices, but this integration allows for improved performance and accessibility.

  • Intrusion prevention system (IPS): detects and prevents vulnerability exploits by examining traffic flows
  • Stateful packet inspection (SPI): monitors the state of active connections to determine which packets to allow through a firewall

2. Better Security

Traditional firewalls block forbidden packets by protocol or port, while NGFW takes security even further by inspecting packets all the way down to the application layer. NGFW improves security in many ways, including:

  • Protection across the entire attack continuum: a growing number of application attacks are taking place on layers 4-7 of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) network stack, which next-generation firewalls are designed to help prevent.
  • Multilayered protection: to get multilayered protection traditionally, businesses would have to buy many different solutions from different vendors. Having an integrated solution means less complexity and smooth functionality so threats can be better spotted and stopped.
  • Advanced malware capabilities defend and safeguard against emerging and unknown threats
  • Faster response time from automated security
  • Limiting traffic to approved applications only, reducing risk

3. Simplified Management

NGFW reduces the number of manual tasks necessary with automated security features and integration, which also improves remediation speed. You can centrally manage security policies, service orchestration, monitoring, and reporting.

 

4. Improved Visibility and Control for Safe Application Enablement

Traditional firewalls have blind spots, but NGFW has superior visibility into all network traffic to detect and prioritize threats. With the multitude of applications out there today, NGFW’s application-level control, which allows you to see and control what applications are being used on your network, is key for today’s businesses.

Rather than having a policy asking employees not to use Facebook, you could not only have the option to block it completely, but you could set a policy nuanced enough to allow employees onto the site while blocking parts of it like Facebook Messenger or Candy Crush.

NGFW’s identity awareness integrates with application awareness to enable you to apply security policies more granularly using corporate directories. Now you can let your marketing team access social media sites while blocking employees that don’t need it, or only allowing partial access.

5. Lower Costs

Integration, security automation, and management simplification reduces complexity and the work necessary to respond to and remediate from security incidents. You save money and that’s a good thing.

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Implementing and Managing NGFW with LightBound

Upgrading your business security solution to the next-generation firewall is a smart move in response to today’s increasing security vulnerabilities. With the increased power, features, and functions that NGFW offers, it’s not easy to implement, so it’s more important than ever to ensure proper set-up and ongoing management.

There are many NGFW services on the market but look for a provider that’s experienced and is there for you before, during, and after implementation. LightBound has the expertise necessary to implement and manage next-generation firewalls across your network, and we’ll be there for you every step of the way. Contact LightBound today to get started, or learn more about our Choice Network.

 

5 Qualities to Look For in a Cloud Provider

Cloud computing is growing exponentially, which has unfortunately led businesses with little to no Cloud computing experience to jump on the bandwagon. Any Cloud provider can promise you “we can do that,” but the truth is that a lot of them are new to the field, unequipped, or unqualified to give your business the proper service that a successful migration to Cloud computing requires. This leaves you doing all the research and evaluation before choosing a provider, which is crucial because your provider can make or break your business.

Why Does Your Provider Matter?

With the right Cloud provider, your business can solve real problems, create internal economies of scale, and receive the full benefits of switching to Cloud, while the wrong provider can mean the exact opposite. We all have choices. The beauty of Cloud computing is it’s easy to adopt, but don’t make the mistake of trusting an unqualified provider when it comes to adoption.  

How do you determine which Cloud providers are worth their salt? We’ve broken down five key qualities to seek out.  

5 Qualities to Look for in a Cloud Provider

1. They Have Experience, Expertise, and Availability

Knowledge and experience make all the difference. Watch out for companies that only look good on paper. Likewise, just because they are a dominant player does not necessarily mean their solution is appropriate for you and your business. Your business could be different from all their other users. Be sure to ask questions and request references or evidence of how the vendor has solved your specific problems. Do they have the experience with this particular application you are hosting? The right tools and technical skills? Equally important is making sure they have the availability, time, and willingness to support your business model.

2. They Have a Full Cloud Portfolio and Are Compliant with Industry Standards

Your provider should offer complimentary services that are appropriate for you, and have demonstrated that their services are core to their offering, rather than simply offering it on the side. Trustworthy Cloud providers should also be compliant with industry standards, including HIPAA, PCI, SOX, and FISC, which also shows your provider has invested in being a Cloud provider over the long haul. After all, these compliance requirements aren’t going away.  

3. They Take Security Seriously and Have a Disaster Recovery Plan

As the internet of things (IoT) grows, it’s increasingly important that policies and procedures are in place, especially with regard to the security of your data. Ask providers about their own disaster recovery plan. While you’re at it, make sure they have options for not only production hosting, but disaster recovery for your production hosting. How does the provider protect and secure data? A good provider will also have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan that is tested on a regular basis and can help you recover from downtime quickly with no data loss. Ultimately, they should be able to prove they have been through the strictest of security audits, not just a logo on their website for show.

4. They Offer Flexibility and Carrier Options

Find out if your provider offers plans that can change as your business grows. They should have multiple carrier options, as well as interconnects with all major carriers, including international, and should offer new choices to satisfy the demands of your applications and users as your business changes. You may find that your application has needs more in line with the network or internet. In that case, most Cloud providers will expect that you have that expertise internally. Somewhere down the road, you may find yourself in a very compromising situation.

5. Their Customer Support is Top Notch and You Trust Them

How is their customer service program? Provider support is a key part of Cloud services, and you never want to be in a situation where you’re unable to get in touch with your provider. At the end of the day, it’s about more than competence—it’s about trust. You want to trust that your provider knows what they’re doing and can take away the stress of managing your Cloud so that you can get back to business and what you do best.  

LightBound as a Trusted Provider

LightBound demonstrates all five qualities you should look for in a Cloud provider, and more. Some providers today are just now dipping their toes into Cloud computing, but at LightBound, we have the knowledge and experience to be a trusted and qualified Cloud provider.  

That’s why we’re a leading Indianapolis-based provider of internet, voice and data solutions. Everyone from Lucas Oil Stadium to the State of Indiana trusts their data, voice and internet service to LightBound. Contact us today to learn more about our Cloud portfolio and how we can help you make the switch to cloud.  

How to Find and Optimize Wireless Access Points

Today’s companies rely on fast, reliable Wi-Fi to function successfully, ensure employee efficiency, and satisfy the expectations of customers and guests. No company wants to hinder employee productivity or have their wireless system fail during a sales call. Poor Wi-Fi can lead to frustrated end users, damaged brand perception, and a negatively impacted bottom line.

If your company is dealing with weak or spotty Wi-Fi, then locating, mapping, and determining a plan to optimize the placement of your wireless access points (WAPs or APs) could be the solution you need.  

The Important Points

WAPs make it possible for wireless devices to connect to a wired network and are an essential part of any Wi-FI system. LightBound’s service enables you to do the following: 

  • Ensure that all WAPs are properly installed
  • Create an inventory or map of WAPs  
  • Discover unaccounted for WAPs or rogue (unauthorized) WAPs 
  • Update or install a new wireless system  
  • Optimize your wireless system: be able to evaluate the current network design to determine if changes to the number of WAPs or location of WAPs needs to be made  

How to Locate Wireless Access Points

In order to optimize your wireless system, you must first have an accurate inventory of all WAP locations. Ideally, your company would have an accurate and up-to-date diagram, map, or list of WAPs across your building. Unfortunately, this is often not the case.

If you don’t have map of WAPs, you can also search for them physically by looking around your building or site. However, this method can be inaccurate and time-consuming, especially if you have a large area to cover. Wireless APs can be tricky to find, hiding anywhere from the end of a hallway to the corner of a ceiling, and you might accidentally skip over an access point or be unable to locate one entirely.  

Unless your company is small and has all its access points lined up in one spot, you’ll likely need a more accurate and efficient method. This is why you should seek an enterprise-level solution. An enterprise-level company like LightBound uses specialized heatmap technology to help companies locate and map their wireless APs accurately and efficiently.  

Optimizing Wireless Access Points

What about optimizing access points once you’ve found them? Successful optimization requires not only knowing your current WAP inventory and layout, but being able to analyze it in-depth, find weak points, and design the best solutions moving forward, which can quickly become complicated. Troubleshooting could end up making things worse and isn’t a good plan for the long haul.  

Wireless solutions aren’t a matter to be taken lightly. In fact, proper WAP optimization requires specialized technology and knowledge, which is another reason why it’s best to seek out a trusted enterprise-level solution. A company like LightBound has the technology and expertise necessary to find and optimize WAPs, in addition to the knowledge and skills to create the best solution for your company.  

LightBound’s Discovery Heatmap Solution

A homegrown approach to finding and optimizing WAPs can’t come close in quality to the enterprise-level solutions available from experts. At the end of the day, your wireless system can make or break your company, meaning strong Wi-Fi is non-negotiable. That’s why it’s best to trust something as important as your Wi-Fi to proven enterprise-level solutions.

LightBound is equipped with the specialized knowledge, skills, and technology to efficiently and accurately locate and map WAPs  in your company’s building. From there, LightBound can help your company accurately determine the best design for optimized WAP placement.  

Contact LightBound today to get started in creating a rock-solid Wi-Fi solution for your company with LightBound’s Discovery Heatmap Solution.

Is Your BC/DR Solution the Best for a Virtual Environment?

The virtualization of data centers was a huge leap forward for IT, and organizations gained increased flexibility, control, and cost savings. Yet, the full benefits of virtualization aren’t realized by many organizations because most application technologies for Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery (BC/DR) initiatives are tied to the physical environment, explains a Zerto white paper. While these solutions work in the virtual environment, they aren’t optimized for it, which is crucial to receiving the full benefits and capabilities of virtualization.  

Physically-bound BC/DR solutions including array-based, guest/OS-based, and appliance-based replication each present problems to a virtual environment.

Array-based Replication Offers Insufficient Granularity

Array-based replication products only work with the specific storage solution already being used, effectively locking organizations into a single vendor. It requires multiple points of control, is inflexible, and is unable to “see” virtual machines and configuration changes. The constantly-changing, complicated mapping between virtual disks and array volumes leads to management challenges and additional overhead.   

Guest/OS-based Replication is Impossible to Scale

Guest/OS-based replication solutions are more portable and manageable than array-based solutions. However, they are unfit for high-scale enterprise environments because they have to be installed on each individual physical and virtual server, limiting scalability and the making it impossible to implement and manage. In addition, a guest/OS-based solution is incapable of protecting full multi-server enterprise applications because they are designed to only replicate single servers.

 

 

Appliance-based Replication Means More Moving Parts

While appliance-based replication solutions are more flexible than array-based replication solutions and do not consume array resources, they are still hardware-based and locked into a single platform. The replication code runs on an external, physical appliance rather than inside the storage arrays. This solution lacks granularity and requires dual points of management. Worst of all, this solution introduces more moving parts, meaning more management complexity and inevitably more hardware bottlenecks.  

Why Hypervisor-based Replication is the Best BC/DR for Virtual Environments

Physical BC/DR solutions for virtual environments prevent the full benefits and capabilities from being received. Thankfully, there is a solution that is optimized for virtual environments without any of the detriments of physically-bound solutions. LightBound’s hypervisor-based replication solution delivers enterprise-class, virtual replication, and BC/DR capabilities for the data center and the cloud.  

Hypervisor-based replication offers several features and benefits:

  • Granularity: the virtual manager, installed directly inside the virtual infrastructure is able to tap into a virtual machine’s IO stream, making it more efficient, accurate, and responsive than prior methods
  • Scalability: continuous replication with zero impact on application performance
  • Ease of management: no guest-host requirements or additional hardware footprint
  • Server and storage motion: quickly move virtual machines around from one physical server or array logical unit (data store) to another
  • Hardware-agnostic: fully agnostic to storage source and destination, able to replicate to anything from anything   
  • Application-centric protection: enterprise applications are recovered with consistency, regardless of underlying infrastructure at a virtual level for both storage and server locations
  • Superior Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO): achieves RPO in seconds and RTO in minutes

How Hypervisor-based Replication Helps Your Business

LightBound’s hypervisor-based replication technology ultimately means the best efficiency and bottom line for your business. It is specially designed for the virtual environment, positioning your business for growth and optimizing your business continuity and disaster recovery activities.   

Don’t let your BC/DR solution hold you back. Contact us today to learn more about our Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solutions, including hypervisor-based replication, and our full Cloud portfolio.