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How to Boost Your Team’s Efficiency by Automating IT Processes

By Patch ManagementNo Comments

How to Boost Your Team’s Efficiency by Automating IT Processes

Given the demand for timely action in today's business landscape, automation can help organizations and their IT teams operate more efficiently.
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Written by Ashley Leonard, CEO and President at Syxsense

IT teams are responsible for making sure that all technologies and devices used in the workplace work. And, thanks to the widespread adoption of technology by businesses, almost all tasks and processes now require their participation and involvement.

Organizations are shifting many of their workloads to the cloud. So, aside from tending to the on-premises infrastructure, IT teams also have to perform other tasks such as support and monitor access and subscriptions to these cloud services. The explosion of affordable hardware, mobile devices, and the Internet-of-Things is also adding more endpoints to their custody. The prevalence of cyberattacks has also placed added burden on them to secure the network and mitigate threats.

Then there are the seemingly minor daily concerns such as requests for password resets, printer toner replacement, or complaints on slow internet from their colleagues that could pile up. Between 20 to 50 percent of help desk tickets are password reset requests.

IT management has become a monumental undertaking. Fortunately, IT teams are able to manage all these tasks through automation. IT automation is about using tools that monitor the network, watch out for certain conditions, and trigger actions that would readily address issues.

Firewalls and safe email policies can prevent many attacks, but hackers can just as easily gain access to your information through un-patched, out-of-date software. Each of your software tools should be updated regularly to mitigate potential risks. Automating patch deployment can ensure that no update slips through the cracks.

Take the case of software updates. Performed manually, IT staff of a medium-sized organization could be looking at working on hundreds or even thousands of devices. But through automation, these updates could now be configured to download and install as scheduled, minimizing the work for teams.

Most IT processes can be automated and companies should consider leveraging this capability to boost their IT team’s efficiency and effectiveness. Here are other areas of IT management where automation can be used.

Asset Discovery and Tracking

IT can be one of the more expensive investments companies can make. As such, it’s important for IT teams to be able to track all their employees’ digital assets including all hardware, software, and appliances. Knowing the specific assets available to them can help organizations better deploy resources.

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IT management platforms can help quickly build such lists through capabilities such as automated network discovery and inventory. Devices connected to the network are automatically profiled including all hardware specifications and the list of installed software in each device.

Knowing what assets are assigned to staff could also encourage accountability from end users. Hardware loss and theft is quite common. One study revealed that 84 percent of businesses surveyed reported losing laptops. Having a historical record of inventories can also help companies track if certain devices become missing.

Software and Patch Deployment

Keeping software and hardware up-to-date is considered good practice. Application developers and hardware manufacturers periodically release updates and patches to their products which may contain new features and functionalities or address vulnerabilities.

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Deploying software and patches typically requires identifying affected endpoints and installing the updates. Doing this manually can take quite a lot of time considering patch deployment is a time-critical task.

Fortunately, the process can likewise be automated where management platforms can used to automatically check for updates from developers, identify target endpoints within the network, and deploy the patches.

Backups and Recovery

Data is the lifeblood of most organizations these days so working without data backups can be a disaster waiting to happen. Work can be set back months, even years, should company data become lost or corrupted.

Conventionally, backups are done through scheduled remote uploads and redundant storage. However, workplaces are changing. Businesses can generate and process large volumes of data within a day so even scheduled backups may not be enough to ensure data protection. Teams may also involve workers located offsite making on-premises storage inadequate to store data coming from external sources.

New solutions such as continuous data protection (CDP) can be used to automatically detect any changes to work files and folders and back these changes up to a secure location in real time. CDP solutions even keep revision histories of these files so users can revert back to a previous version in case there are issues with their current version. This way, all company data are safely stored. In addition, these solutions can be used with mechanisms that initiate failover and recovery in case of outage or downtime.

Security Monitoring and Response

Cybersecurity has become top a priority for IT teams given how rampant attacks have become. Attacks can happen any time especially now that attackers are also using automation to launch breach attempts.

IT teams now need to actively monitor and respond to threats. Unfortunately, capable security talent are rare and expensive. More than half of organizations claim that there’s a worrying shortage of cybersecurity skills. To bridge this gap, organizations can rely on automation to help them deal with threats.

Automation has found its way to various security tasks. Anti-malware tools not only perform real-time scanning of devices but they can also automatically quarantine or even send samples for analysis. Security platforms like Syxsense can also detect and block malicious traffic from accessing networks. Automation can also be used to take machines offline in cases they are affected by recently discovered vulnerabilities. This way, any potential damage can be avoided.

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Conclusion

Given the demand for swift and timely action in today’s business landscape, automation can truly help organizations and their IT teams operate more efficiently. Automation doesn’t only help accomplish tasks faster but it can also minimize human error where lapses, incompetence, or fatigue, could lead to significant issues. Automation of a wide variety of IT tasks also frees up the team to refocus their efforts on more strategic and creative initiatives.

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How Endpoint Management Can Keep Your Workplace Secure

By Patch ManagementNo Comments

How Endpoint Management Can Keep Your Workplace Secure

Your workplace can be more secure with a solid IT security strategy.
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This article originally appeared on The Hacker News

Workplaces have become highly connected. Even a small business could have dozens of devices in the form of desktops, mobile devices, routers, and even smart appliances as part of its IT infrastructure.

Unfortunately, each of these endpoints can now be a weak link that hackers could exploit. Hackers constantly probe networks for vulnerable endpoints to breach.

For example, systems and applications that are configured using recycled user names and passwords can easily be hacked given the availability of leaked credentials online.

Password management service LastPass noted that 59% of users use the same password for multiple accounts.

Malware and malicious processes may also target workstations. Cybersecurity firm Symantec found a 1,000 percent increase in PowerShell script attacks in 2018. These attacks use cleverly disguised malicious processes that appear legitimate at a cursory glance. This is why the IT security career is quickly evolving into a huge market.

However, because of the number of devices in workplaces, keeping networks safe from hackers has become quite a massive undertaking. Fortunately, organizations now have access to a variety of tools that help mitigate these threats such as endpoint management solutions.

Diane Rogers, Product Manager for Realtime Security of Syxsense, shares:

“It only takes one compromised endpoint to bring a whole network down. Even for smaller businesses, the loss of data, theft of intellectual property, and downtime could cost tens of thousands of dollars to deal with.”

“This doesn’t even include potential losses from government fines and negative publicity. Therefore, it’s critical for administrators to have control over the devices connected to their networks. One way they could do this is through effective endpoint management.”

Here are four ways endpoint management can help secure the workplace’s IT.

1 – Device audits

IT teams should know exactly what hardware and software comprise their infrastructure. But thanks to the surge in the cloud and mobile computing adoption, there’s now what’s called a “shadow IT” in workplaces comprised of unsanctioned applications and devices that workers use.

Using endpoint management solutions, IT teams can automatically discovery all devices connected to the network, their specifications, and the systems and software that run on them.

Having this list allow administrators to review and vet these applications and devices to see if they are free from risks. This way, administrators can then restrict and regulate the use of these technologies.

Audit results can also be collected over time. Audit histories can be used to check and verify the changes that happen to the network including the potential loss and theft of devices.

2 – Process tracking and termination

Hackers continue to use social engineering attacks such as phishing to trick users into downloading and installing malicious scripts to their devices that are designed to steal information, cause disruption to operations, or destroy data across the network.

Users may not be aware if their devices are already compromised as many of these malware are designed to run silently in the background.

By enabling remote access to endpoints, system administrators can review active processes and readily terminate dubious ones.

3 – Automated patch deployment

Fortunately, developers continuously release updates to fix bugs and flaws in their products and services. Previously, administrators have to judiciously keep track of security and update bulletins to know if there are new patches that need to be downloaded and deployed.

Today, endpoint management solutions can automatically detect available firmware and software updates for each device connected to the network.

These patches can also be automatically deployed across devices, including to Internet-of-Things devices. Updates can be performed as soon as fixes become available even during off-hours, minimizing the IT team’s workload and the downtime caused by patching.

4 – Accurate information and real-time action

System administrators must also be able to decide immediately on what actions to take should threats manifest themselves. Endpoint management solutions can reference audit results to identify which endpoints are affected.

By having the most up-to-date information about the system, administrators would also be able to recommend the right actions to decision makers.

For instance, critical vulnerabilities without available fixes may require affected endpoints to be taken offline.

Through audits, administrators and decision-makers would have the information they need to assess the impact on the business end such as the number of potential workstations affected and expected downtime. Knowing these, they could work on contingencies.

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Syxsense, for instance, enhances administrators’ capabilities to monitor and respond to threats.

The platform provides absolute real-time visibility of devices, allowing IT teams to instantly check affected endpoints based on audit histories and timely patch reports.

This way, administrators can perform immediate actions to remedy vulnerabilities.

The platform even features voice and artificial intelligence-powered controls that allows administrators to issue human language instructions which further simplifies threat response.

Covering all bases

These said, securing workplace IT requires more than just endpoint management. This should be combined with other measures such as using firewalls, identity management, and data protection.

Workplaces should also educate end users regarding the proper use of IT resources and how to avoid social engineering attacks.

But by using comprehensive management solutions, administrators would be able to cover the many bases required to keep their workplaces’ endpoints secure.

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