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Why encryption can be a double edged sword

Encryption is great. Once a laptop or PC is encrypted anyone who steals them can’t access your files by simply pulling out the hard drive and plugging it into a different system. Unless you know the password you are stumped. This is the main reason I tend to encrypt all my clients systems.


But there are some pretty big limitations when using encryption on a system which I have found over the years.  These observations are based on using Truecrypt and might be different with other products.

1. You can no longer access a system at boot.  You need to type the encryption password when the system starts and this can be a pain when you are remotely supporting a system. Unless there is someone physically on site you will not be able to gain access.

2. Forget doing a system restore on an encrypted volume on a Windows system.  I tested this one yesterday on my own systems as I need to restore a clients system to a point before the encryption was put on and this is something I have never needed to do.  I now have a nice shiny brick in the form of a laptop sitting on my desk.  I have also seen system restores that would not have affected the encryption that have still caused issues on Windows systems. You have been warned!!

3. When you come across a Windows system that will not boot you will have to decrypt the system first before you can do anything.  This can takes hours (have seen one laptop take 7 hours to decrypt a 160 GB hard drive before).

4. What happens when you don’t do backups and the hard drive fails? You can’t really call this a limitation of encryption but rather a failure on the part of the user or company to see the value of backups.  If your hard drive starts to fail and you can’t decrypt it in time you will lose all your files. I never implement encryption unless I am happy there is some form of backup strategy in place.

5. Finally what happens if you forget your encryption password? You lose access to all the files that have been encrypted, for ever.

If you weigh up the pro and cons of using encryption the advantages would usually still win. If you do implement encryption though be aware of the limitations.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

 

 

Bring Your Own Device – good or bad?

There are two main phenomena sweeping through the IT industry at the moment – The Cloud and Bring Your Own Device.  Having already spent time discussing The Cloud today I will discuss Bring Your Own Device instead especially the pros and cons and what it could mean for you.

So what is Bring Your Own Device?  Basically employers are starting to give employees the choice of what hardware (and in some cases software) they carry out their daily tasks on. Thats right you could decide to use an iPad for your work.  Cool hey? You would however have to go out and purchase said iPad yourself.

So what are the Pros and Cons then?

Advantages:

1. Management does not have to spend thousands of pounds on IT hardware to give to its employees.

2. Employees get to work on whatever system they choose.  If you want to work on your new iPad then so be it.

3. In some cases the employee not only gets to choose the hardware but also the software too.  If you don’t like working on Windows then you might decide on a Mac or Linux instead. If you hate Microsoft Outlook you could choose Evolution, Windows Live Mail or Mozilla Thunderbird instead.

4. Better productivity and flexibility.  Happy employees are more productive employees – fact.  Employees would not have to sit at a  desk in the office all day to do their work.  They could now be mobile and work from home, coffee shops etc (any place that has wireless).  This is of course assuming that they were working with desktops previously.


Disadvantages

1. This now becomes an IT administration nightmare.  IT departments would now be expected to support operating systems, software and hardware from any number of vendors. Your IT staff might only be trained in Windows so would not have a clue on how intergrate Linux or Macs into your existing network.  Have you ever tried to fix a broken iPad?

2. The employee would have to buy the harware (and possibly) the software they want to use.  Some employers though are offsetting this by giving employees some of the money as a grant.

3. Security breaches. Imagine the scenario where an employee now gets all their work emails to their smartphone.  Everything is working smoothly until the phone is stolen.  All that corporate data is now out in the open.  How do you mitigate for this?

So there you have it.  Personally I think Bring Your Own Device is a good thing which will motivate employees (and by default make them more productive), however IT departments are going to need to come up with a new way of thinking in regards to securing data and administering enviroments which could contain a jumble of tablets, desktops, laptops and smartphones from different vendors.

So what do you think?

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

What is encryption?


Today I shall talk about encryption, what it is and the different types available on the market.

Encryption is basically taking a computer algorithm and applying it to a piece of data and making it unreadable to a third party. In essence the only person who can read that data is the person who has the key to decrypt it.  If you had data on your hard drive which was sensitive (e.g financial records etc) then you could encrypt it so no one else could read it.

What are the different types?

There are loads of different types of encryption and which one you use will depend on if you want t0 encrypt transmissions, databases or files / folders.  I am going to concentrate on files / folders because that is what most people will be looking for – making files unreadable to third parties.

This is where I shall introduce you to two of the most popular pieces of encryption software, TrueCrypt and Bit Locker both of which work on Windows.  Truecrypt is open source while Bit Locker is proprietary software from Microsoft.  Both can encrypt and decrypt a hard drive and both are virtually unbreakable (at time of print!!).  TrueCrypt is easy to set up and does not require repartitioning of your hard drive, whereas Bit Locker does.  Bit Locker requires a 1.5 Gb partition to be set up prior to installing the operating system.  If not you will have to repartition your hard drive and restore Windows from a backup.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of encryption?

Advantages

1. Data is safe as no one else can read it without the decryption key.

2. Once set up it requires little or no user input.

Disadvantages

1. If you lose the encryption key you will not be able to read your data EVER.

2. Uses more system resources (ie CPU)

3. If Windows becomes corrupt and will not boot you have to decrypt your files before you can recover them which takes time (I recently had to decrypt a 160Gb hard drive encrypted using TrueCrypt which took 8 hours!! Only then could I recover the user files and restore the system)

Hopefully this has given you an insight into encryption and the advantages and disadvantages of using it.  Just remember don’t lose the key!!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients throughout Stirling, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more!!

 

Virtualization

What is Virtualization?

Virtualization is the creation of a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, such as an operating system, a storage device or network resources. For example you can run a virtual Windows operating system within an actual Linux system, thereby giving you two working systems on one set of hardware.

Advantages

  • Less hardware is required to run the same amount of software, therefore saving in hardware costs. You could happily run all your applications on one server while running four virtual servers inside it performing other roles.
  • Data recovery is simplified. If your virtual server becomes corrupted then you just delete it and restore from a virtual backup.
  • Allows you to test different software configurations on different platforms before you deploy it.
  • Reduces energy consumption.
  • Improved system reliability and security. Virtualization of systems helps prevent crashes due to memory corruption caused by software like device drivers.


Disadvantages

  • Magnified physical failures. If your main hard drive (or raid configuration) containing all your physical and virtual data goes down you would have to restore all your servers (physical and virtual).
  • Virtualization requires more memory and processing power. This would need to be factored into any virtualization strategy.
  • Training. Administrators might not have the skills necessary to administer a virtual environment.
  • Complex troubleshooting when things don’t work. Is there a issue with the virtual machine or some other problem?

Virtual Software choices

There is a multitude of companies offering their own flavour of virtual software. The main ones are detailed below:

VMWare www.vmware.com

Oracle Virtualbox www.virtualbox.org (ComTech uses this software for both our clients and our own systems)

Microsoft Hyper V www.microsoft.com

Citrix Xen Software www.citrix.com

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

The Cloud

What is the cloud?

The cloud is basically offering computing as a service with all data stored on remote servers which can be accessed over the internet. Take google mail as an example. You access your email through a web broswer or email client with all data stored online on googles servers.

Advantages

  • Pay as you go. You pay a monthly subscription to access the software online instead of buying individual licences.
  • Accessibility of software. As long as you have an internet connection you can access the applications that you require.
  • Installation, troubleshooting and upgrades are all provided by the service provider meaning you no longer require dedicated onsite IT support.
  • Overall cost of hardware. You don’t require the latest quad core with 10 Gb of ram to access applications online. You don’t need on site servers either.
  • Easy implementation of applications. The structure is already there online and so can be rolled out to companies quickly.


Disadvantages

  • Security concerns. Service providers claim that they can implement tighter security protocols than individual companies could. Some data (eg MOD) can not be kept on servers in certain counties either.
  • Control of your data. If you delete a file online how do you know if the service provider has actually deleted the file.
  • Costs could actually spiral out of control if usage turns out to be far greater than anticipated.
  • The whole setup doesn’t work if you can’t connect to the internet.
  • Security updates could change security settings, change privileges etc
  • Legal issues (ie who actually owns the data?)
  • Communication with peripherals and connected devices. Would your end devices (eg printers) work with cloud applications?

Who provides this service?

More and more companies are jumping on the bandwagon to get into providing services for the cloud. For a full breakdown go to

http://nanospeck.hubpages.com/hub/Best-Cloud-Service-Providers

Overview

There are many benefits making entry to the cloud look quite attractive, however, at least for some the negative issues will far out-weigh this. Companies who are used to hosting their own applications may find it very hard to give that up. In the long term the cloud is likely to complement rather than replace existing traditional systems despite claims to the contrary. We’re not about to experience a cloud revolution with everyone putting all their data in one big basket.

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

 

 

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