Head In The Clouds: 3 Ways cloud file sharing can boost productivity

Head In The Clouds: 3 Ways cloud file sharing can boost productivity

Why distributing documents via the Cloud is a boon for your business

When it comes to modern technology, many organisations have their heads stuck in the sand.

Especially when it comes to things like the Cloud.

According to Small Business Trends, 84% of businesses still rely on manual, paper-based, and outdated digital processes. For some? It’s because keeping pace can be difficult. Advances in software, hardware, and mobile devices come and go daily. For others? It seems they’ve checked out of the race entirely.

The stats make it clear that many organisations are yet to embrace the benefits of newer technology. It’s easy to ignore the advances beyond your four walls – or above the roof, so to speak – but if you want to maximise productivity, it’s time to revisit the Cloud.

What is the Cloud?

Broadly speaking, the Cloud is a term that covers anything that is not local computing.

At its heart, it simply means storing and accessing data via the internet.

This includes:

  • Software as a Service
    SaaS is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. This gives you access to software that is always up-to-date and doesn’t need to be continuously upgraded or swapped out for ‘the next big thing’.
  • Platform as a Service
    PaaS provides a platform allowing customers to develop, run, and manage applications without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure themselves.
  • Infrastructure as a Service
    IaaS is internet-based computing that provides shared processing resources and data to computers and other devices on demand.


Ignorance is bliss costly

Cloud-based tools are nothing new. They’ve been taken for granted by businesses and individual users alike in recent years as they’ve become more ubiquitous in the boardroom, workplace, or on the salesroom floor.

Up until recently, countries like New Zealand have seen substantial cost blowouts in the public and private sector in implementing new computer systems. So it’s only natural that questions would arise around the expected return on investments in Cloud computing.

The problem is, many of the questions being asked today are outdated, especially in this modern, connected era. Integrated, Cloud-based solutions have come a long way in recent years, but the assumptions about their benefits are still based on an old way of thinking.

Business as usual is bad business

Up until recently, many studies suggested that an increase in IT spending didn’t necessarily increase organisational productivity or workflow. These observations are deeply flawed, in that they are often couched in terms such as Return on Investment or Total Cost of Ownership.

To operate without the Cloud is to pass up huge time and operational savings.

The cost of not? It’s staggering:

Did you know?

  • McKinsey & Company found that employees spend an average of 9.3 hours per week searching for – and gathering – information (Source).
  • CIO discovered that an average of $14,000 worth of productivity is lost per year, per worker due to their inability to find the proper data they require for the job at hand (Source).
  • A report from the American Council for Technology (ACT) and Industry Advisory Council (IAC) found that outdated, legacy systems across federal agencies ate up around 75% of operations and maintenance funding (Source).

The Cloud has been around long enough now that it’s time to step back and evaluate its benefits.

What you find might well surprise you.

The competitive advantages will have you floating on Cloud nine

The benefits offered by the Cloud

Today’s numbers show that the Cloud is increasingly associated with boosts in productivity.

The reason? It’s simple. Cloud computing is different from the costly IT systems and resulting support infrastructure of the past because it is the ultimate shared resource. With a comprehensive platform at your fingertips, it’s easy to manage and securely distribute data. Plus, the reliability of a transparent licensing model makes it that much more straightforward to control costs.

The fact that Government is now starting to move data into the Cloud is just another vote of confidence in the benefits on offer. And they’re not the only ones. According to a report by m-hance, the majority of businesses they surveyed “have adopted some form of cloud solution or hosted service in an effort to simplify their daily tasks, lower costs and give employees always-on access to information and applications.”

When you take a look at some of the advantages below, it’s easy to see why:

1. It’s easy to set up, and even easier to manage

Cloud-based services usually require no management personnel, and often run at close to 100 percent up-time. Amazon Web Services (AWS) started in 2002, and since that time AWS and other Cloud providers such as Microsoft and Google have continued to develop their technology to make it more powerful and reliable (high profile outages such as the one that struck Amazon in March 2018 notwithstanding).

So what does this mean for you and your organisation? It means the staffing component of using the Cloud is more like maintaining a phone system than a computer network. It’s usually ‘plug-and-play’, which means staff can spend more time doing what they’re good at and less time maintaining or working with unreliable systems.

    m-hance found that 80% of those surveyed said “they’re saving money, seeing more productivity, and better security,” as a result of using a Cloud approach (Source).


2. It’s future-proof, and continuously updated

In addition to this, you receive constant hardware and software upgrades when working with the Cloud. Unlike standard on-site equipment or software packages, you don’t need to purchase new versions every year or commit to yearly upgrades. You can work freely without struggling with old or ageing hardware that makes accessing, editing, or sharing files and information a complicated, time-consuming process.

    According to Trackvia, “59% of companies that use the cloud are more likely to see productivity benefits.” (Source).


3. It’s easy to collaborate with access anywhere, anytime, on any device

As organisations continue to decentralise, Cloud-based platforms are redefining the way they operate. The resulting need for a comprehensive tool-set that brings staff, board members, and sales teams together only increases, whether someone is working remotely or while on-the-move.

With the right platform, organisations can now access information anytime, anywhere, on any device, freeing up staff and management alike to work at their best with everything accessible with the touch of a button or tap of a screen.

    A Forbes Insight Survey found that “58% of total respondents report that Cloud-based collaboration has the potential to improve business processes”, while 64% said that “Cloud-based collaboration tools help businesses execute faster than would be possible otherwise.” (Source).


It’s time to send your productivity sky-high

Stellar has been a massive proponent of the power of the Cloud since the beginning, which is why it’s exciting to see more organisations embracing the technology.

Achieving these kinds of improvements in productivity and workflow was once a mere dream, but with the power and reliability of today’s Cloud infrastructure, it’s a reality.


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Security In A Mobile World: Keeping mobile devices & data, safe

Security In A Mobile World: Keeping mobile devices & data, safe

How to securely use iOS, Android, and other mobile devices.

The recent uptake of mobile devices extends beyond having something to take with you on the road.

This move away from paper is a further sign of the shift towards digital solutions within the government and corporate sectors. It’s an effective way to keep in touch, access and share information, and boost productivity.

Some of New Zealand’s government departments, for example, are doing away with desktop computers altogether, with all staff “hot-desking” and using powerful tablets from Microsoft, HP, Lenovo, Dell, and others as the basis for workstations.

It’s also presenting new issues, many of them relating to security.


Striking the security vs accessibility sweet spot

Mobile and tablet devices

Mobile security has become a much more significant challenge in recent years.

The increased adoption of mobile devices, as well as digital, cloud-based solutions, has seen organisations having to devote a more substantial portion of the IT budget towards data mobilisation.

In turn, the amounts devoted to data security to keep this information safe has also risen.

Did you know?

  • 2016’s BYOD & Mobile Security Spotlight Report found that 35% of those surveyed have invested in additional IT resources to manage security incidents (Source).
  • 30% of respondents to that same study said that their budgets for mobile security would increase over the next 12 months.

In the corporate world, high-level network security tools can be used to secure the growing number of mobile access points (many of them potentially unverified and unsecured) that arise when enterprises make volumes of company data accessible via the cloud.

However striking a balance between access and security remains a struggle, especially for many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) attempting to manage this process. For SMEs, there are mobile device management tools available, but for a lot of New Zealand organisations, these can be overkill.


Missing the mark puts your information at risk

Finding the right balance is tough.

Too far one way and a lack of robust security measures mean your information is easily accessible by board members, staff, as well as unauthorised third-parties. Too far the other way and the productivity benefits are lost as security protocols slow things down.

Insecure mobile devices are vulnerable to hacks, attacks, or otherwise being compromised by users with malicious intent. This is particularly true of cases where staff bring their own devices into the workplace, even if it’s explicitly forbidden regardless of internal policy.

They are also just as easily lost or misplaced. Imagine the repercussions of leaving a mobile device on the back seat of a taxi, in a cafe, or airport lounge. Either way, you’re putting your information at risk.

Did you know?

  • 72% of respondents to the 2016 BYOD & Mobile Security Spotlight Report cited data leakage and loss as their top security concern (Source).
  • The same report saw 21% saying that mobile devices had been involved in security breaches in the past, including:
    • 20% Data loss or leakage
    • 17% Unauthorised access to corporate data and systems
  • 14% found that it took them more than a month to recover from a mobile security breach.


Ten steps for keeping mobiles and sensitive information, secure

Personal and work mobile devices

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is an organisation that is devoted to protecting privacy.

They have provided some essential suggestions for protecting your mobile and its data:

1. Set up password protection

Password-protect your device – or use another means of authentication – and configure it so that it automatically locks after a set period. All devices should be secured in this manner, even ones at home.

A secure password could buy you time to update account login details in the event your device is lost or stolen. It will also allow you to remotely wipe and revoke access if you use a business platform with these features.

2. Use unique passwords

Use strong, unique passwords and change them regularly.

3. Disable Bluetooth

Turn off Bluetooth when you aren’t using it.

If your device is always Bluetooth-discoverable, you expose yourself to added risk.

4. Use trusted security software

It is a common myth that mobile devices are immune to risk, so only use trusted software.

5. Only download apps you trust

39% of those surveyed said that mobile devices had downloaded malware in the past, so beware of downloading unfamiliar apps that may provide unauthorised third-parties with access to your device. To maximise security, only download applications via trusted sources.

6. Install software updates.

Keep up-to-date and ahead of the latest threats by keeping your device’s operating system – as well as any apps – up-to-date.

7. Don’t blindly click on links

Err on the side of caution when someone messages or emails you a link or attachment. Even if it comes from a trusted source, there is a slight chance their account may have been compromised. If you’re unsure, then ask.

8. Avoid public Wi-Fi networks

While they may be a modern convenience and save on your data plan, you should assume that others can see anything you do on an open network.

24% of those surveyed admitted that devices have connected to a malicious Wi-Fi network in the past.

9. Check your privacy settings & permissions

Check your device’s privacy and security settings, as well as app permissions. Settings will vary by device and operating system, but keep up to date on security issues related to how your device is configured.

10. Back up important data

The files on your devices are copies of those on your organisation’s central repository, so it’s essential to keep these backed up for easy access should you lose or misplace your device.


Securely using your mobile device doesn’t have to be complicated

Since the outset, Stellar’s focus has been on the security of data in the cloud while it’s being transmitted to or from a given device. This is the point where most information is intercepted and a significant weakness in many of today’s solutions.

To circumvent this threat, the team identified the need for a central business platform that features multi-level security protocols and unique, industry-leading Ghost File software encryption technology.

The ability to ensure files and information is invisible without the platform, almost impossible to hack, and impossible to read provides peace of mind for organisations to operate with confidence.

As for the device itself? The ability to instantly revoke access ensures that while the increased use of mobile devices is inevitable, a breach or loss of information doesn’t have to be.


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E-mail or E-fail? The dangers of sharing sensitive information

E-mail or E-fail? The dangers of sharing sensitive information

Why hitting ‘Send’ on that next email isn’t as simple as it seems.

Email has fast become the go-to form of communication in the digital era.

When you consider just how busy, and increasingly disparate boards, trusts and enterprises are these days, it’s easy to see why. In mere seconds, you can draft an email to a member of the board, staff, or clients anywhere, at any time. Simply attach the relevant file, and hit “Send”.

It’s little wonder the average office worker sends over forty emails per day.

The problem? Emails and attachments sent in confidence might not actually be confidential.


Email – A necessary evil in the early digital era

Email security flaws

In our earlier post on the potential causes of a data breach, email topped the list. There’s a good reason for that. The speed at which organisations have had to transition away from aging, analog processes has seen many embrace insecure digital solutions that is leaving their sensitive information vulnerable to an attack.

Avatier reported in 2017 that there were some 6,789 email data breaches globally in the space of just two years. So while it may be easy to use, the simplicity of sending an email belies a communication channel that’s inherently insecure.

Here’s why:

1. It’s insecure and easily intercepted

Whether you use private services or public, consumer-grade options like Gmail, emails are vulnerable to a range of attacks that put what should be private conversations at risk of being read by third parties.

Certain viruses, DNS Redirects, and Sniffers are just a few of the present-day threats that can work their way through email servers and to your sensitive information. Often without you even knowing.

2. Encryption isn’t as secure as you might think

Most organisations rely on encryption as a fail-safe, as it’s meant to ensure data is protected by scrambling an email’s contents so that only the recipient – with the requisite authentication – can see, read, and download.

That said, most encryption solutions are far from foolproof. In fact, it’s that false sense of security that can often leave you most vulnerable to attack. If your email services aren’t taking advantage of industry-leading encryption, there’s no guarantee they won’t be cracked.

3. There’s no accounting for human error

When we talk about security, the focus is always squarely on technology.

The fact is, it’s often the mundane issues that prove to be an organisation’s undoing. The strongest security protocols in the world can’t account for user error or typos in the “To:” field, let alone the 69% of employees who willingly bypass security and privacy policies to access work emails on insecure personal devices.

4. Email servers are prone to attack

Emails pass through many hands on their journey from sender to recipient, often seeing them stored in the cloud – or on servers – which themselves are at risk of malicious attacks. In many cases, attackers are able to get in, access this information, and then get out long before anyone is aware of the breach.

5. Files sit on the sender & recipient’s device

Once an email is sent, it’s stored in your Outbox and the recipient’s Inbox. That’s why a laptop, mobile device, or just about any piece of technology left on – and logged in – is an easy ingress point for partners, disgruntled co-workers, or even rogue employees who are looking to access this information.


The security stats? They’re sobering…and so are the costs

The cost of email breaches

If the above examples don’t have you reconsidering composing that next email, then these facts, stats, and figures really should. Email’s convenience comes at a cost. Quite literally:

Did you know?

  • In 2004, AOL lost upwards of $400,000 following an internal data breach which saw the details of some 92 million AOL accounts sold to spammers by one of the company’s former software engineers (Source).
  • Yahoo’s $4.8 Billion sale to Verizon almost fell through in 2016, after the company revealed all 3 Billion of its users’ accounts were breached across 2013 and 2014 (Source).
  • Back in 2017, 2.2 million Wishbone user email addresses were exposed (Source).
  • In that same year, 36,000 Boeing employees’ email addresses as well as personal information were compromised after a staff member emailed the file to their spouse for help with formatting (Source).

Consider the fallout if the last email you sent containing sensitive information, IP, or important data was accessed by an unauthorised third-party. What would the fallout be? Information could be leaked online, sent to the press, or even held for ransom.

There’s the legal and financial ramifications to consider, too. New and existing legislation such as GDPR is placing increased responsibility on the shoulders of those who deal with sensitive data to keep it safe, with hefty fines already being handed out for “…inadequate technical and organisational measures to ensure the protection of information security.


It’s time to say ‘sayonara’ to insecure communication channels

The revelation that email isn’t as secure as it seems often leads to one of two outcomes: organisations either shun digital solutions entirely in favour of analog processes from ‘the good old days’, or they shrug their shoulders and continue with business as usual as they lack a more effective solution.

Early on, Stellar identified this need to be able to securely access and distribute sensitive information while circumventing emails entirely. In order to do so requires a comprehensive business platform that doesn’t store files on user devices but, instead, harnesses the power of the cloud to provide anytime, anywhere access on any device.

When coupled with industry-leading encryption, the ability to revoke access on the fly, and ghost file technology that ensures documents are completely invisible without prior authorised access, boards as well as trusts and enterprises are finally able to share without the fear of becoming yet another statistic in a long line of email breaches.


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Data Breaches: Keeping documents secure in the digital era

Data Breaches: Keeping documents secure in the digital era

Why your documents are under threat, and what you can do about it.

Not long ago, Credit Card details were the prime target of cyber attacks around the world.

Nowadays? Things are a little different. Data and information including board documents, medical records, and valuable intellectual property are an increasingly sought-after commodity. In this digital era, information is valuable. Very valuable.

If you don’t know why this should scare you, chances are you haven’t been paying attention. Boards, trusts, and enterprises are fast becoming the new hub of sensitive data, insider secrets, as well as confidential information.

Opportunists, insiders, or even state sponsored hackers have a new target in their sights: you.


Is it secret? Is it safe?

Working on sensitive documents

Dive a little deeper, and it’s easy to see why.

With a wealth of valuable information at its fingertips, your organisation, its executives, and even senior staff are now the prime target for a cyber attack. Managing Director of the Information Security Forum – Steve Durbin – talked to CIO’s Bob Violino in 2018 and had this to say on the topic:

“…it is no longer restricted to the boardroom. Personal assistants, systems admin staff, pretty much anyone who has the ability to provide access to the determined cyber criminal on the hunt for valuable information are now in play.”

This access to valuable data has cyber attackers knocking on your door, but it’s your insecure processes that leave it unlocked. How so? Many organisations rely on insecure digital solutions as they transition from a paper based world or, as is the case with many, remain in limbo between digital and analog.

It’s only a matter of time before these stop-gap solutions put your data at risk.

As we’ve discussed in the past, a cyber breach is a matter of “When”, rather than “If”. Could your organisation confidently say at this moment in time that it’s doing everything it reasonably can to protect clients and the data it has access to?


Your information, for sale to the highest bidder

Your sensitive files

The repercussions of a data breach can be catastrophic.

Recovering from the loss of valuable data as it’s destroyed, stolen, or sold to the highest bidder is difficult enough, let alone the potential financial and legal ramifications if it’s found you neglected your responsibility to keep this data safe. As highlighted below, those costs are only increasing:

Did you know?

  • In 2018, data breaches cost $654 Billion and exposed over 2.8 billion data records including usernames and passwords, banking information, and personal health info in the US alone (Source).
  • According to IBM the costs associated with a data breach have risen 12% over the last 5 years, now sitting at an average of $3.92 million (Source).

If you want to make it easy for attackers to access your valuable data, then by all means continue with business as usual. But if you’re serious about keeping data secure, it’s time to consider changing the way you do things.


Three sensible strategies for staying secure

1. Stop sending sensitive information via email

Email is fast, familiar, and convenient. It’s also highly insecure. Despite what you write in the “To:” field, there’s no guarantee that the intended recipient is the only one who’ll be reading the message you send or, more importantly, the files you attach.

Giants of the industry like Yahoo and Gmail have both suffered massive breaches in the past, proving that even the most secure systems can fail. In order to keep data safe, you should switch to a solution that allows you to securely share files without leaving important documents sitting in email inboxes.

2. Use cloud based solutions that prioritise encryption

Not all cloud-based solutions are created equal. Services like DropBox or Google Drive make it easy to collaborate, store, and share files, but if recent security concerns and data breaches are anything to go by, they might not be as secure as you think.

They’re convenient. Sure. But they also provide limited functionality and control. Others? They fall back on weaker security protocols to ensure they’re not ‘getting in the way’ of the end-user. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Relying on these services as your ‘digital’ solution is a case of one step forward, two steps back. Instead? Look for specialised solutions that prioritise multi-level security protocols and AES 256-Bit Encryption, as well as keep files hidden to those without access to the platform.

3. Strictly monitor the use of personal devices

It isn’t uncommon for time-poor staff or board members to take their work home with them. Trouble is, the work and home environment are completely different from a cyber security perspective. One is strictly monitored by your IT staff, while the other uses insecure connections, outdated systems, and is at a greater risk of phishing, malware, or viruses.

If you can’t live without out-of-office access, then you need to switch to a solution that allows users to access and work on documents safe in the knowledge you can instantly revoke access if devices are lost, stolen, or compromised.


The right solution makes keeping documents safe, simple

Over the years, Stellar has found that few business platforms are able to tick all of the boxes, let alone the few we’ve outlined above today. This leaves many organisations having to compromise in order to get their work done.

With the right solution, though? Stellar has seen countless organisations finally able to operate with complete confidence, taking advantage of the anytime, anywhere promise of the cloud while being able to share files away from insecure channels.

It’s the best way to keep data safe from the ever-increasing range of cyber-security threats

Paper Trails: The unseen costs of an analog approach in the digital era

Paper Trails: The unseen costs of an analog approach in the digital era

Why working with paper is destroying your productivity

Does your organisation still work with paper?

In this digital era, it’s more common than you might think. Technology is all well and good, but for those that have spent years using paper, it can be scary. It also isn’t always the easiest to set up, use, or understand.

Yes, you know paper can be costly. There’s the annual cost of ink, toner, and storage. But this is a price many organisations such as yours are willing to pay in order to retain the familiarity of an analog approach. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…right?

You may think you know the costs…

…but it’s the drain on time, resources, and visibility that could be costing you more than just ink.


Familiar, yet fallible

Working with paper documents

Paper may not be broken, but it is breaking.

Analog processes like paper were never designed to cope with the sheer amount of data modern organisations are currently having to manage. It’s a logistical nightmare. As a result? Your organisation’s time, money, and valuable data is slipping through the cracks.

Let’s use a single board document as an example. Preparation alone sees secretaries wasting time searching through paper documents strewn across desks, stuffed into filing cabinets, or archived in boxes stacked ceiling-high. That’s before documents are printed, or distributed.

Did you know?

  • Software Advice found that staff in analog-based workplaces spend an average of six hours per week searching for paper documents, and over 8 hours a week manually creating reports based on information compiled from paper documents (Source).
  • A 2018 survey by Nintenx found that 39% of those interviewed observed broken document management and sales processes within their organisation. This includes (Source):
    • 49% have trouble locating documents
    • 43% face difficulties with document approval requests and sharing
    • 33% struggle with document versioning

Now, say that information changes, updated sales figures come through, or the agenda shifts at the last minute. What happens next? You can’t update a multi-hundred page, printed document on the fly. Let alone the copies now in the hands of board members.

Changes need to be made manually, which means editing, re-printing, and re-distributing. Again.

Once the meeting is over, you’re left chasing the paper trail as updates or amendments have been scribbled in the margins. These now need to be collated, tracked, and then worked back into a new revision. That’s assuming none of them are skipped or simply missed in the process.

Surely there’s a better use of your time.


Time flies when you’re working with paper

The cost of paper processes

If time is money, why are you wasting so much of yours on paper?

Consider the time, energy, and money spent in our earlier example. Now extrapolate that cost across multiple documents in a given day, and then multiply that by days in the week, weeks in the month, and months in a year.

You get the idea.

As for the literal cost? The team at PA Life crunched the numbers and what they found is staggering:

“Offices across the UK are so disorganised they are losing over one million hours a week searching for misplaced documents, that’s seven days a year for each worker and is costing UK businesses £20 million a year in wasted time.”

This hit to your organisation’s productivity and bottom-line should be reason enough to embrace change, but that’s peanuts compared to the potential costs associated with the increased risk of misinformation, misdirection, and general mismanagement as vital information falls through the cracks.

There’s no clear idea as to which version of a document is the most up-to-date. There’s no guarantee that everyone’s notes and changes have been worked through, let alone seen. And there’s no way to speed up the process, because you’re working with paper.

If you’re committed to minimising costs and maximising productivity, you need a better solution.


Save time and money with a digital solution

Earlier on we highlighted just how hesitant many organisations can be when it comes to embracing digital solutions. We get it. It’s not always easy to make the switch. That’s how we identified the need for a solution that allows for a seamless transition away from a paper-based environment that’s as easy to set up as it is to use.

By removing the usual hurdles that trip up many that look to make the switch, Stellar has found that organisations are far more likely to ditch the paper documents in favour of a centralised business platform that improves their flow, efficiency, and productivity.

With the right solution you’ll boost visibility while saving time and, in turn, money.


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Stellar is a secure business platform for mobile devices such as tablets, laptops and smartphones. Our intuitive, cloud-based software gives you complete control and visibility of all the confidential, operational and sensitive data for your organisation and simplifies workflow, irrespective of industry type.

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