As we experience one of the hottest spells in recent history. A little bit more cloud might be a welcome thing.
Cloud Genius is now approaching its 10th birthday. It was founded in December 2011, but its first Salesforce Implementation at Voluntary Services Lewisham was a little before that, around now! That was in the days when I lived in Hither Green, within a short bus journey of VSL HQ.
The news at Cloud Genius is that in recent months we have taken on two extra folk. Sri and Keerthi help expand our ability to help our clients and do development work. They both have a list of qualifications as long as their arms and are making super-strides in progressing the development of our clients organisations. These include: Resource, Mitzvah Day, Institute of Welsh Affairs and many others.
Shortly we are to announce our new pre-sales engineer. He comes with an impressive line-up of charities that he has helped. Turning their admin nightmares into carefully honed machines… that let them get on with achieving the aims of their organisations.
So, the real question is, ‘How should we celebrate our 10th birthday in December?’
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas.
Spreadsheets are wonderful. I have a load of them. Everything from personal ones that calculate my kg weight in stones and pounds (apologies to US readers) and my BMI through to things that help me calculate budgets and so on.
I even have transient data in them, when I am doing data imports, etc.
I do not run my business on them.
When I say this to fellow small business owners, I often get the response:
Of course you are against spreadsheets, you use CRMs all day.
I then show them my mastery of spreadsheets. For instance, if you have a first name and last name in one field of a spreadsheet there is a (relatively simple) formula to split them into two cells. I have seen people who live in spreadsheets doing this work manually… for thousands of entries.
I then show them how you can copy this formula to their entire spreadsheet with a few clicks.
To finish, I show them how you can autosize all of the columns in your spreadsheet in one single-click and two double-clicks.
I do not claim this as high-level mastery… but it is often what those same business owners are capable of.
They then show me how they keep all their accounts in a spreadsheet
I know that even in my small business, it causes ‘problems’ if I send out two invoices to different customers with the same number. I often use a laptop on the road and a desktop at home. Sometimes the sync isn’t as fast as I would like, so I would risk the spreadsheet getting out of date or corrupted.
Heaven knows what would happen if I had my accountant accessing it at the same time. (Did you know that AT LEAST as far back as 1995 you can put Excel spreadsheets in ‘multiuser mode’. You lose a few features, but you can safely have multiple people accessing it!)
So, for my accounts I use a simple, online accounting system. It auto-numbers my invoices. It automatically sends out my regular invoices. The data is held securely and, even better, my accountant can access it without bothering me.
People who run their business in spreadsheets are keeping personal data on their PC.
Why would this bother me? Well, I can ethically get into a laptop or PC in a few minutes by bypassing the password. There are legal, ethical tools on the internet to enable this.
I can even do this on enterprise servers. How? Microsoft document this process on their website. It is not illegal (as long as you have permission) and the information is freely available.
I have done this for clients when they were stuck. ‘Breaking into’ a corporate server took me about 15 minutes… and I was being slow and careful.
If I wanted the ‘quick and dirty’ way, I would just take the hard disks out and shove them in my disk reader. A process of a few minutes.
There is a preventative measure you can take and that is to encrypt your hard disks. When I ask small business owners, ‘are your hard disks encrypted’ they tend to look at me blankly. Basically, if they lost their laptop someone could be reading their data in under a minute.
This is the ethical, computer tech way of accessing data.
Cyber-criminals attack your computer while it is switched on. Disk encryption is no protection against this type of attack. For recent attacks most anti-virus/anti-malware software is useless. (With certain caveats.)
That is not to say that disk encryption is useless. It does protect against loss of laptop or theft of desktop in a burglary. I does not protect against many types of malware attack.
If this is buzzing way above your head already, then you have answered the ‘why’ of why you should not be storing your business data on your local computer. It is a complicated subject and you do not have time in your business to work on this.
I am not here to convince my potential clients away from spreadsheets!
That sounds like a bold claim, but if people are ‘believers’ that a spreadsheet solution is sufficient then I do not have enough breath or, frankly, will to convince them otherwise. Where I have tried that in the past they tend to be suspicious that I am pulling a fast one to get them into a solution that does not involve spreadsheets. Every decision will have to be justified, repeatedly… and their mate down the pub says that I am just scaremongering.
I am fine with that. They are not in the required state of maturity to become clients.
I know that at every stage they will be trying to circumvent the safety measures I put in place. When they go down, they will be trying to bring me down as well. Like a petulant child they will spend their time trying to prove me wrong. Time that I could be using to help them improve their business processes.
Let me be clear:
I am not against people who use spreadsheets. My opinion is that they are not adequate for running a business.
So, I have usability concerns in terms of accounting. I also have security concerns when handling personal data. Frankly, the most compelling argument is that running a business through spreadsheets is so damned difficult. Keeping track of which spreadsheet holds the latest version of what, following arcane copy and paste procedures to create new invoices.
Why do a twenty stage process where any incorrect step can lead to disaster as opposed to a simple, single-click where the computer will hold your hand and guide you?
The point of online accounting and CRM systems is not that they are there to make things difficult. They are there to make things easy. Even for single-person operations this brings benefits that far outweigh their costs. It also means that if/when you sell your business or expand your business you have solid procedures in place that enable collaboration.
Use spreadsheets to run your business if you want to stay small and vulnerable.
If you have an eye to growth, then you need something better, easier and more robust. You need something that will stand the rigours of due diligence and regulatory compliance. At that stage you need someone to help you take that next step. We are called consultants. When that nagging feeling that using a spreadsheet is not the right tool, come and talk. You will find that we are lovely and helpful. My job is not to convince you that spreadsheets are inadequate. That is your job.
My job is to help you on your journey into a bigger, brighter world.
Let me tell you of an IT company. It had started off small so the director had chosen a favourite password ‘D0neit01‘
This was some time ago, so the fact that it had numbers in made it really secure. It wasn’t particularly long, but it was memorable. Much better than other familiar passwords, like ‘Password01’ or ‘letmein’.
There were five of them working for this company and they were all really good friends. Three directors and two minions. They were working with cleaning companies and whoever would take them on. They realised that their level of service was a cut above everyone else’s, so they realised they could aim higher.
With one of those flashes of inspiration that sometimes hits small companies they realised that they could start working with the finance industry. They already had some contacts in that area of business and, well, those clients had money. It was a sure-fire hit!
Success Breeds Success
A few years later and they had an impressive portfolio of clients. Around a hundred in the bespoke finance industry. Hedge-fund managers, bespoke bankers, investment companies. Their clients loved their high level of service. In part this was because an engineer visiting site knew what the top admin password would be. You’ve guessed it.
By this point about a hundred of their clients were investing more than $1B each. (Yes, 100 x $1,000,000,000 = $0.1T). Which starts to look like a significant part of the UK’s GDP.
Some of the companies demanded ’secure passwords’ with funny characters in. For those companies the password became ‘D0nit01!’. Engineers knew that if the ‘low security’ password didn’t work you could use the high security one. Simples!
One of the managers was tasked with looking for a password manager. This would be able to hold all types of password. It would be able to fill in passwords automatically. You could give different members of the company different levels of access.
It came back with a price-tag of £10,000.
That was a lot of money.
The directors were not convinced that it was necessary.
An Innocent Mistake
One day, one of the directors was logging into a client, let’s call them ‘securefinance’. Their website was ‘securefinance.com’. The director had not noticed that in their speed they had typed ‘securefinance.co’. The website looked EXACTLY like securefinance.com so why would they notice?
Over the coming months they started to notice that some of their clients were failing. In one bad incident a client lost $0.1B in a week! That client immediately started the process of winding down. It was sad – they were a difficult client, but they had been a good payer.
You are probably going to guess what had happened. That fake website had grabbed the entered username and password and was now beginning to use it on lots of websites. They were getting lucky. They were also trying password variations automatically. So they were picking off both the ‘low’ and ‘high’ security clients.
Bad Guys Collaborate
They had also submitted the successful usernames and passwords to a database that is maintained by hackers. (Yes, this really does exist.) So lots of other people were trying these passwords… but they were not using them themselves. They were getting computers infected with ‘malware’ to try them. That IS the job of a lot of malware. If the malware successfully logged in then they would update the database. If the password failed then the bad guys were untraceable. Either way the bad guys win.
By now, clients were getting picked off at an increasing rate.
It was looking very bad.
Several consequencies could have happened, including a significant impact on the UK economy, jail terms and collapse of the IT company. This is based on a true story. The directors were potentially negligent, so could have lost the shirts off their backs.
The Good News
A good password manager is available for FREE. It has greater capabilities than that old software costing more than £10,000.
There is an Enterprise version which has all the granular controls you require for a little bit more.
With a password manager, doesn’t that mean that I am committing all my passwords to a database protected with ONE password? Surely that is a really BAD idea? Yes, it would be UNLESS you set up 2 factor identification. This means that you have a code to type in that is sent to you or generated on an app on your phone in addition to the password. As a hacker will not have both access to your password AND your phone your database is safe. It is also highly encrypted and if you lose your phone or your admin dies there are very secure ways to recover the database.
Here is the manager we use: Lastpass It is not the only one out there, but it is very good. We manage more than 1,500 passwords with it. All our client’s passwords are unique, long and very complicated.
You might not be managing billions of dollars, but you wouldn’t want to lose what you have.
Here are 7 GDPR myths (General Data Protection Regulation) or ’new Data Protection Act’. We hope this is of some help:
1) It only applies to computers. No, it all applies to all records containing personal data, including those stored on scraps of paper and written in quill pen.
2) You can buy a piece of software that will make you compliant. No! It is more about you knowing how you hold and process data and how you have other people hold and process your data. In other words, it is about you having policies.
- How long do you retain a client’s information after they become an ex-client?
- How do you ensure that data is fully deleted if a client requests it?
- How do you gather data together is a client requests a portable, electronic copy of the data you hold on them? (and they are entitled to this.)
- and many more.
3) It will cease to apply after we leave the EU. Wrong! we are committed to upholding the GDPR after we leave.
4) It only applies to large companies. Wrong! It applied to all companies.
5) It only applies to the ‘owner’ of the data. No! This regulation applies to data processors as well.
6) You can continue to direct market to your potential customers. Do you have their informed permission? Was it given within a reasonable time?
7) If your company holds Cyber Essentials Plus certification you are covered. No! Read all the above again.
Here are the promised truths.
Yes, the top fine is €20M or 4% of global annual turnover, whichever is greater!
Yes, you do have to report all data breaches within 72 hours.
We are running a masterclass on Wednesday 22nd November. This will help you sort out the fact from the fiction.
See you at the masterclass to get it all sorted.
How do you know if your messaging solution is fit for the 21st century and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)? If for no other reason than the potential fines, compliance matters.
Historically, email systems just did email and that was good enough. With the new regulations there is significant onus on the owners and processors of data to ensure that it is only used properly and that it is not leaked. Traditional email systems, such as those based around web servers, typically do not cut the mustard. They send out emails with no guarantee that they came from a legitimate sender and can be read by anyone. Perfect for scammers and data leaks.
For information about how Microsoft is hardening its email solutions, check out this link: https://aka.ms/ome2017 on message encryption. A way to ensure that those who are supposed to read your emails can, and those who shouldn’t can’t!
Of course, within any system the weakest link in security is the users. Here is a link to our GDPR master class https://bit.ly/GDPR-MC. In the master class you will find out about many of the requirements of the GDPR and how they will affect your organisation.
Finally, as a Microsoft Cloud Partner, we are able to offer Office 365 solutions to help keep you protected now and in the future.