5 Best Practices for Cloud Security

How has the cloud impacted your organization’s security? Has it left you wondering – what consequences could we face if a malicious outsider gained access to our cloud environment? Would our clients stay loyal to us if our database was compromised? What can we do to implement cloud security? Our five best practices for cloud security, especially in Azure environments, include areas of IAM, MFA, hardening techniques, monitoring programs, and industry-accepted cloud security tools. These best practices for cloud security work together and sometimes overlap to give your cloud environment the protection that it needs.

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Is BYOD Good or Bad for Your Business?


The way we work is changing. Employees want, or even expect, the freedom and ability to work from anywhere, anytime, on any device. That blurring of lines between home and work life means workers will often use their own devices – whether that’s a laptop, tablet, or smartphone – to conduct business.

Employees often bring personal devices into the workplace too, and while on the surface this might not seem like a big deal, it can create endless headaches for the IT department and the broader organization.

Here we look at some of the challenges that companies face and how they can keep their businesses secure and compliant while affording team members the flexibility to use their personal devices in the workplace.

Top Tips for Making BYOD Secure

Alex Ryals, VP of security solutions at tech distributor Tech Data, offers the following tips for securing employees’ devices:

Encryption of laptop hard drives with a technology such as Microsoft Bitlocker. This ensures that if the device is stolen, the data is safe as long as the thief doesn’t have the encryption key.

The device should be configured to use complex passwords that expire after three to six months to ensure the employee changes their password regularly.

Current anti-virus and anti-malware software, often provided by the company, should be installed and running.

An approved VPN client should be installed and used by the employee any time they are not on the corporate network.

Enable automatic OS updates on the laptop to ensure the device is patched regularly.

A best practice, even for personal devices, is to require the installation of a desktop management application, such as Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager, to catalog installed applications and limit network access for devices with known vulnerable apps installed.

Define a policy to limit the use of acceptable apps and cloud services for the storage of corporate information.

Why Is BYOD so Popular?

BYOD stands for bring your own device and is a term coined to describe the trend of employees using their own laptops, phones and other devices at work. The movement gained traction when people began to find that the consumer tech they used in their personal lives was preferred, easier to navigate, or more efficient than the sometimes-outdated IT they were expected to use at work.

This ‘consumerization of IT’ encourages those using the latest smartphone, device or productivity apps in their personal lives to expect the same level of functionality in the workplace–and if that isn’t an option, they will simply use their own device.

Another factor is an increasingly mobile workforce. A 2017 Gallup study shows 43 percent of Americans spend at least some time working remotely, which means employees today expect to be able to do their job from anywhere, at any time. It’s commonplace to check work email from the couch after hours or work on a presentation at a café, on the train home from work or even while en route to a business meeting at 30,000 feet in the air.

Additionally, there has been a steady increase in the number of freelance workers in recent years, which are expected to use their own devices and software, even when contracted to work on-site at an organization.

So What’s the Problem?

The benefits of BYOD are numerous. Employees tend to show better productivity when they use devices familiar to them and enjoy a personalized experience that increases their satisfaction. It can also save the employer money–notably a reduction in the cost of device procurement, employee data plans and IT management. Plus, hardware upgrade cycles could be prolonged as end users take more responsibility for supplying devices and paying for services, for example.

But while the flood of personal devices into businesses might seem like a natural progression in our consumer-led, IT on demand world, it can cause a host of security and other problems for employers.

“Even with the benefits, such as increased productivity and employee satisfaction, there are security concerns that can pose significant risks to businesses ill-equipped to address them,” Michael Cantor, chief technology officer at Park Place Technologies, which provides third-party hardware maintenance and IT support services, tells Tom’s Hardware. “Lack of oversight, malware exposure, compliance requirements, data leaks and device theft all make BYOD security a big mess.”

For example, employees think little of downloading applications that they think will drive productivity to their devices and often don’t consider the security vulnerabilities they could be introducing to the company network.

Earlier this year network management and security company A10 Networks published its Application Intelligence Report, which noted that nearly a third (30 percent) of employees admit to knowingly using non-sanctioned apps at work, despite incidents such as Google removing 700,000 potentially harmful apps from its Play Store in 2017. Of those who use unapproved apps, 51 percent claim “everybody does it,” while 36 percent say they believe their IT department doesn’t have the right to tell them what apps they can’t use.

“Through careless and sometimes negligent behavior with corporate assets and applications, employees are swinging the cybersecurity doors wide open, leaving their companies vulnerable,” notes the report.

Meanwhile, 33 percent claim their company’s IT department doesn’t give them access to the apps they need to do their jobs. Why not use a WhatsApp group message to communicate with colleagues? Why not store sensitive documents in Dropbox for ease of access?

The answer is that as well as the obvious security risks, IT admins cannot guarantee corporate or user privacy. Individual teams that use competing or siloed technology makes collaboration difficult. On top of that, there are the costs associated with paying for separate software licenses.

Implementing a BYOD Policy

Because of the deluge of personal apps and devices finding their way onto corporate networks, IT teams have been forced to implement BYOD strategies to help monitor and manage personal device use across this increasingly distributed workforce.

“Given that the biggest security risk to any organization are employees and their lack of discipline when it comes to security best practices, BYOD can be a slippery slope if not implemented with a strict set of security policies and controls,” Alex Ryals, VP of security solutions at tech distributor Tech Data, tells Tom’s Hardware.

But where to start? Ryals says it is critical that an organization inspects all devices before allowing them onto the corporate network.

“An easy way to ensure a device is compliant is by placing some corporate services behind a tightly controlled firewall only accessible through a VPN client into the corporate network,” he advises. “This forces the employee to take their device to IT to have the security certificate for the VPN client installed on the employee’s personal laptop and also allows IT the opportunity to inspect the device for compliance to corporate security policies.”

Park Place’s Cantor also maintains that there are steps IT can take to make sure BYOD programs are executed safely and securely.

“For starters, they should perform a comprehensive risk assessment that considers how devices engage with personal and company data and update it regularly. They should also develop a clear policy on how personal devices should be used, implementing tools like mobile device management to help enforce it,” he says. “With device-specific tools like MAC [media access control] address identifiers and identity access management solutions, IT departments can monitor the devices accessing company resources and protect their data from suspicious activity and unauthorized access.”

Just as important as the technology you use to support BYOD, Cantor adds, are the people behind the screens.

“IT personnel should be seen by employees as a key resource when they offer assistance in managing their devices and application settings. Having a positive relationship will enable IT to upskill employees to enacting security measures when needed,” he notes.

The problem of employee-owned devices in the workplace isn’t going anywhere. In fact, the IT department will have an even harder job managing personal devices with the expected explosion of Internet of Things IoT endpoints, including wearable smart devices, hitting the network.

Nevertheless, says Ryals: “The risk of corporate exposure through BYOD devices is great, but by defining clear acceptable use policies for employees who use their own devices, the risk can be mitigated to an acceptable level. However, the employee has to be willing to give up a little bit of their freedom and convenience for the privilege.”

Microsoft Teams is getting new features tailored for more industries and Firstline Workers

Microsoft Teams gets even better with new features coming soon.


Microsoft Teams is getting a huge update with a plethora of new features that are tailored for new industries and Firstline Workers in the field. Included new features include scheduled management tools which allow managers to share scheduled, employees swap shifts, request time off, and see who else is working alongside important announcements and more.

In addition, there are also new features rolling out for those in the healthcare industry. A new patient care coordination solution integrates with electric health records systems, which leverage two new secure messaging features known as image annotation and priorith messaging that let doctors, nurses, and more communicate and coordinate with patients while staying HIPAA-compliant.

The new Firstline Workers features will begin rolling out in October, and the healthcare features are already available in private preview. Also announced today is Yammer and SharePoint integration with Microsoft Teams, which will enable relevant conversations across your organization. Do you use Microsoft teams in your business? Let us know in the comments.

How to navigate a Microsoft Teams migration from Skype for Business

A Microsoft Teams deployment seems inevitable for Skype for Business users. Learn how to prepare your organization, whether you're in the cloud or on premises.

What does a Microsoft Teams migration look like? For many organizations, the path to Teams will be shaped by their current Skype for Business deployments and plans for the cloud.

The Microsoft Teams migration is not simply a rebrand, like the transition from Lync to Skype for Business. Microsoft Teams is an entirely different, cloud-based product. The path ahead will be unique for each organization.

Microsoft announced in September 2017 it would replace Skype for Business with cloud-based Teams as the main communications hub for Office 365. The announcement has left both cloud and on-premises Skype for Business customers wondering how to approach the transition.

Teams is now ready to be a complete replacement for Skype for Business, according to Microsoft’s August blog post with the recent addition of features for Meetings, and an update available for Skype Room Systems that enables them the join Teams meetings. Microsoft's roadmap details their plans for additional functionality to come within the year.

We have put together a summary list of the Microsoft-recommended path for customers looking to make the move to Microsoft Teams, and will continue to feature educational resources to help make the transition more comfortable.

Pilot Teams alongside Skype for Business

Testing Teams becomes critically important when tackling the migration. When running a Teams pilot, organizations should keep a detailed comparison of quality, reliability, usage, and adoption and satisfaction statistics to compare with Skype for Business.

Nearly 70% of Skype for Business users have started using Teams either as a pilot or a complete migration, said Lori Wright, general manager of Microsoft Teams and Skype. Microsoft has encouraged organizations to run Teams parallel to Skype for Business to get the platform running and to get employees used to the Teams experience.

On-premises Skype for Business customers should also start piloting Teams, Wright said. Later this year, Microsoft will release Skype for Business Server 2019, which can support on-premises users. Microsoft currently does not have plans for another server beyond the 2019 release, but would not rule out any future updates, Wright said.

"As we continue to build features, and as [on-premises users are] ready to go from on premises to cloud, Teams will be the place for them to go," she said.

Teams Recommended Path.jpg

How to prepare for Microsoft Teams

Finding the right Microsoft Teams migration

A Microsoft Teams migration will not be a one-size-fits-all strategy for organizations. How an organization has deployed Skype for Business will dictate how to approach the migration.

Organizations that are fully in the cloud and intend to stay in the cloud should start piloting Teams. Organizations planning to move some or all of their users to the cloud can continue with their plans to move users to Skype for Business Online. While Microsoft has said organizations can move to Teams once they're ready, they will more aggressively push organizations to Teams in 2021.

On-premises organizations that are happy with their current setups should delay a Microsoft Teams migration and consider deploying Skype for Business Server 2019. On-premises organizations that don't have a definitive plan for Teams should take time to define their specific requirements for a migration and wait to see if Microsoft delivers on its roadmap.

For more information on Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business, or assistance in the planning or transition, Betach has the experts to assist you. Contact us at (403) 984-2473 or info@betach.com.

Ignite 2018: Microsoft announces new Open Data Initiative in partnership with Adobe and SAP

Ignite 2018: Microsoft announces new Open Data Initiative in partnership with Adobe and SAP

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella kicked off the company’s Ignite 2018 keynote with some major news this morning. Bringing the CEOs of Adobe and SAP on stage, Satya Nadella announced that the three companies had teamed up to create the Open Data Initiative, a new partnership aiming to give customers more control over their data.

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Dynamics 365 Fall Release Highlights for Marketing, Sales and Service

Dynamics 365 Release Notes

Microsoft has published the release notes for the October 2018 update to Dynamics 365. There are 90+ new capabilities being added to the platform, lot's to look forward to. In this post we highlight the new functionality being released to the Marketing, Sales and Service areas of Dynamics 365. To review the full release notes, download the release notes document - Microsoft Dynamics 365 October 2018 Release Notes

Dynamics 365 for Marketing

Account Based Marketing - Allows you to target high-value accounts as a segment and create personalized content and measure the engagement as the campaign is executed.

 New Account Based Marketing functionality

New Account Based Marketing functionality

Social Listening for Campaigns - Add relevant social tags to journeys, events, and other entities enabling you to view responses to campaigns. A social tab will be added to each journey and event. A new dashboard for social insights will also be available.

Marketing Calendar - A mobile-friendly responsive marketing calendar that allows marketers to track marketing activities and events.

 Dynamics 365 for Marketing Calendar

Dynamics 365 for Marketing Calendar

Deep LinkedIn Integration - Run journeys and specify targeting on LinkedIn, leverage interactions for scoring and segmentation

Video Content using Microsoft Stream - Add rich video content to marketing communications

Dynamics 365 for Sales

Playbooks - A new capability to automate sales actions.

Microsoft Teams Integration - Enhanced integration with Teams allows connection of a Teams channel to any Dynamics 365 record.

Who knows whom connection graph - This new feature enables sellers to identify colleagues within their organization who can introduce them to leads or contacts

Predictive Lead Scoring - A machine learning model that scores leads on a scale of 1-100 based on likelihood to become an opportunity

AI for Sales App - The new AI for sales app provides useful insights from sales data in Dynamics 365. The app will help sales managers evaluate and improve the performance of their teams. Examples include currn measurement, pipeline and relationship health scores.

Dynamics 365 for Service

Service Scheduling powered by Universal Resource Scheduling - This is a new service scheduling solution built on the Universal Resource Scheduling tool.

Similar Case Suggestions - Utilizing Microsoft Text Analytics API's the system will suggest similar cases to enable faster resolution

Knowledge Article Recommendations - Also using Microsoft Text Analytics API's knowledge articles will be recommended to help resolve cases

Omni-channel Engagement Hub - A new cloud-based service that enables customers to instantly connect and engage via live chat and SMS

Portal Improvements - Several improvements have been made to portals:

  • Embed PowerBI visualizations

  • Manage SharePoint Documents

  • Simplified customization

Microsoft continues to make big investments in the Dynamics 365 platform. We are excited about the new functionality being released in October! To review the full release notes, download the release notes document Microsoft Dynamics 365 Release Notes