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Getting QWERTY with Password Management

Getting QWERTY with Password Management

Before the Time Runs Out!

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Riddle Me This, Dear Reader,

What Do These Little Threads Share?

qwerty

password

12345

iloveyou

111111

54321

I’ll tell you in a minute. A secret. A code. A…  12345. Uh… password.

 

I’m lucky to work with a team of password management rockstars because I’m about as QWERTY as it gets when it comes to password history. One of my network admins once scolded me for choosing “password” to access a vulnerable system, and I’ve depended on multi-factor authentication and other cybersecurity tricks ever since. If you’re shaking your head at me over my password management talents, then let’s take a quick look at the most common passwords of 2018: 123456, password, 123456789, 12345, 111111, 1234567, sunshine, qwerty, iloveyou.

 

 

Security

iloveyou2

 

Password proliferation has become the norm. With every new app, website and device that we commandeer, there’s new access information created. Moreover, many of these systems require a periodic reset. Keeping track of all of these passcodes can be likened to taking a mnemonic census of an anthill.

 

Archimedes once said that if only he had a solid rock on which to stand, he would move the earth.

 

If you assume that your passwords are a firm footing, prepare to have your assumptions rocked. It is believed that up to 80% of common hacking activities are due to compromised credentials, mostly in the form of stolen usernames and passwords. Worse still, IT Managers report 73% of all passwords used are duplicated in multiple applications.

 

When people use the same password for multiple systems, having one password exposed may compromise the whole network of applications. Luckily, password management doesn’t mean you have to buy a walk-in safe to store your password diaries. To keep it simple, here are a few tips to memorize as a starting point for improved password management:

  • Never use the same password twice
  • Never write down your passwords
  • Never share your passwords with anyone else
  • Never use real words or known information about yourself in your passwords
  • Avoid commonly used passwords

 

The last bullet is especially salient—50% of all attacks involve the top 25 most used passwords, proving there are risks involved in “getting qwerty” with your password management procedures.

 

 

Need a more sophisticated password management plan?

Shield

Let’s talk password management solutions and multi-factor authentication, two great ways to prevent getting hacked.

 

Password Manager: A password manager solution, such as SolarWinds’s PassPortal, allows you to store all of your passwords in one place. This makes managing and remembering all of them much easier. Make sure your password manager solution is itself password protected, preferably with multi-factor authentication.

 

Multi-factor authentication: Multi-factor authentication is the use of additional forms of authentication in conjunction with a traditional password. This most often takes the form of a shared key, sent to a separate device, or calculated through a common authentication application. This makes it difficult for a compromised password to compromise the application. Enable multi-factor authentication wherever possible, but make sure your secondary authentication source is equally secured with a strong password—failure to do so is like having a biplane write your shared key in the sky.

 

qwertyiloveyou2!

 

Random password generators can also help create passwords, but the results are often long random jumbles of characters and quite difficult to remember. Unless you can recite the longest word in the world from memory, you might want to use these password management tools in conjunction with a password management solution.

 

If you’re a business owner trusting dozens or hundreds or thousands of employees with sensitive information, then a managed IT solution that includes password management will definitely be the safest way to interact with the millions of letters, numbers and characters that are involved in the multitude of passwords that access the data of your systems.

 

 

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IT Services in a 1 + 1: 4 Signs You Need Managed IT

IT Services in a 1 + 1: 4 Signs You Need Managed IT

The word “outsourced” makes some business owners curious and others nervous when it comes to IT services. “MSP” is another term floating around, and you might also come across “IT-in-a-Box” when you go looking for help with your systems. Managed IT (our favorite code phrase) can mean a lot of things. If you’re a manufacturing or distribution company, then IT services might mean, among other things, industry-specific Cloud or Hosting platforms.

IT Services

When Nobody Sees the IT Stop Signs

 

When it comes to your ERP and IT systems, you need effective stop signs that work both internally and externally. Your cybersecurity infrastructure can keep your team safe and productive while also keeping the bad guys out. Cybercrime is a 1 + 1 relationship. If you didn’t have a team to be hacked, then you wouldn’t ever need to worry about adding a hacker to your network. 

  • Stop Sign 1: Your company’s IT services need to ensure that your employees are traveling through safe pathways and that they know when to stop before falling into the webs of ransomware or other destructive malware.
  • Stop Sign 2: Your team’s mobile devices, laptops and desktops all make friends on a daily basis. This is essential for business growth. Because of this, IT services ideally provide a clear STOP sign for potential trespassers—a bold indication that cyber tricksters will not be tolerated, even on the fringes, and will not be unknowingly welcomed in by your team.  

A Wanted Man or a Wanted Spam?

 

But how do you know if your system has a “Most Wanted” sign that’s attracting criminals rather than telling them you already know they’re the lawbreakers? When it comes to business, you’re continually building relationships, and hopefully these become lifelong friendships. You trust your most valuable data to your IT talent. When it comes to managed IT services, business owners and other decision-makers might squint at the cyber lineup and not know whom or when to choose.  Here are 4 signs your staff would benefit from a partnership with a managed IT and cybersecurity firm:

  • High-value IT projects, best done internally, are distracting your key players or forcing them to work long hours.
  • IT operations are unpredictable or unreliable, causing project or system failures, yet you don’t want to grow or change your employee pool.
  • IT costs are variable or steep, and you’d like a more predictable budget.
  • Security and compliance issues are overwhelming your team.

 

Every second of the day you rely on experts to protect you. The meteorologists warn you of bad weather. The firefighters alert you when it’s a fire risk to roast a s’more. The doctors warn you of heart attack predisposition. In regard to IT, the challenges you face include ransomware that could destroy the business you’ve worked so hard to build. This holds true whether you’re a DoD manufacturer, a medical clinic, an accounting firm, a lollipop distributor, a small-town bank… the list goes on. Because the hackers are always available to friend you, you’re always risking adding them to your inner circle, making your 1 + 1 relationship one of IT enemies, rather than friends. A 1 (your team) + 1 (EstesGroup Managed IT services team) relationship will keep your IT math simple, your budget profitable, and your company safe.

 

Private Cloud Owners Regress with Egress Expense

Private Cloud Owners Regress with Egress Expense

Private cloud deployment is changing the way manufacturing and distribution companies install applications and store information.  While this is an exciting move for any business, the step from on-premise to cloud infrastructure can come with unexpected costs.  Many companies expect, and easily budget for, typical costs associated with the move to private cloud, but hidden expenses often blur into the fine print of the original pricing model.  Thus, it’s important for a manufacturing or distribution business to budget wisely when moving from on-premise to private cloud infrastructure.

 

Cloud costs vary according to several different factors, and data comes into play at all levels.  A company is its historical data applied to its future, or potential, data.  Private cloud protects the data of a business while also utilizing it in real-time, and this cloud data normally exists in one of three states:

 

  • Data moving in.  This is data as it moves into the storage location or as it is being uploaded.  This process is also known as data ingress.
  • Data moving out.  This is data as it moves out of the storage location or as it is being downloaded.  This is sometimes referred to as data egress.
  • Data “at rest.”  This can be data residing in a static manner in the storage location and not in transit on the network.

 

 

Data In, Data Out

 

Not surprisingly, costs are tailored around these types of data.  Storage budgets are related to the costs of data that is physically being held at a location.  Normally, the storage of “at rest” data receives the most attention, as cloud providers offer various pricing structures based on how much data is stored, where the data is located, how often it needs a backup, how often it tends to be accessed, and how quickly it needs to be retrieved.

 

Many cloud providers do not charge customers for data upload or ingress, and the reasoning is obvious:  the more data you upload, the more you get charged for “data at rest.”  But one of the most significant hidden costs of the cloud relates to data egress charges—the charges leveled by your cloud provider for accessing your own data.

 

Think of your old phone bill before the cell phone revolution—each call outside the local area was billable, and the costs varied according to the duration of the call and the location to which the call was made.  Egress charges work similarly and are based primarily on the amount of data transferred.  Over time, this becomes a matter of dialing for dollars.  Should the data transfer increase, the charges will follow.

 

At its worst, this could become a situation of data rationing, where users are instructed to minimize their pulls from the data source, to minimize costs.  This is akin to a mother in the 1980s locking up her new push button phone, out of fear that her toddler, enamored with the button tones, might mistakenly dial Hawaii.

 

Data rationing is hardly the outcome that one would expect from a move to the cloud, yet egress pricing models put companies in a precarious position.  This poses a challenge for companies new to the cloud.  Customers accustomed to comprehensive local area networks do not always realize the amount of data that leaves one area of the network to be consumed by another, and thus may be unaware of their ultimate egress requirements.  Also, companies may have difficulty in predicting spikes in usage.  Without understanding when data use may increase, manufacturing and distribution companies will have trouble predicting expenses.

 

 

Data Grows on Trees

 

Companies using applications that operate in a client-server manner may be similarly challenged when they choose to host their server in the cloud.  The data requirements of private cloud can be as surprising as they are significant.  A client-server application like Epicor ERP, for instance, is a rather chatty application, as it frequently performs “get” calls to refresh data, in relation to other transactions.  In such a case, each “get” would entail a “give” in the form of cold hard cash.  For companies utilizing manufacturing execution systems in which users are routinely downloading work instructions and product schematics, in support of manufacturing operations, the costs would further compound.

 

The complexity involved in manufacturing and distribution requires the innovation of private cloud technology.  To transition from on-premise architecture, Epicor ERP customers looking to host their application in a private cloud need predictable costs and reliable budgets—a pricing model that does not involve surprise charges linked to the amount of data traveling into or out of the cloud hosting environment.  Egress can cause a budgetary mess, but you have the option to choose a pricing model that doesn’t watch your every download move.  Your company can have the reliability and innovation of private cloud without any of the hidden data egress costs that currently abound in the fine print of the cloud market.

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for help moving your business to the cloud?  Check out our private cloud environment:  EstesCloud Managed Hosting (ECHO).  We don’t have ingress or egress charges—your data is your data, and you are entitled to it!  

What Are My ERP Private Cloud Options

What Are My ERP Private Cloud Options

Not All Clouds are Created Equal: Reviewing Your ERP Private Cloud Options

 

It’s no secret that cloud computing has been increasingly finding its way into businesses by providing reliable solutions to increasingly challenging problems.  But for ERP customers with complex environment maps, an unmitigated move to the cloud might feel risky.  For this reason, some customers look for middle options between full cloud deployments and on-premise installations.  Private cloud hosting is one such midpoint, and it’s not uncommon for customers to approach the opportunities of cloud computing in search of a private solution.  But will this option leverage the obvious benefits of the cloud, while effectively providing the necessary support for your complex ERP ecosystem?

 

Your ERP installation is rarely an isolated entity—it is part of an integrated ecosystem of applications and processes, with various third parties, bolt-ons, and in-house applications interacting with the core ERP system.  As such, an ERP system is not always easily extracted from its ecosystem, as such an extraction is something akin to major surgery.  If you’re looking at handling this complexity with private cloud ERP deployment options, there are basically two management directions you can take.  You can build a private cloud using AWS, Azure, or Google, or you can work with an already established team of experts in private cloud hosting.  Let’s explore these options in greater detail.

 

Private Cloud in AWS/Azure/Google

 

The big players in cloud computing entered the application hosting game a while ago – Amazon, Azure, and now Google.  The option here would be to build out your virtual machine architecture within one of these clouds, and install your applications within this architecture, while working in turn to integrate your company-specific application ecosystem with the new ERP infrastructure.

 

While this eliminates the hardware investment of an on-premise install, you are still responsible for all the administration activities, at the server, application, and database levels.  And if your Epicor Admin should win the lottery, you are left scrambling for options.  If you lack the internal resources and need to bring in assistance in the administration of the application, you are now adding another party to work within this ecosystem.  Moreover, to your monolithic cloud provider, you are still just a number, and the service levels you can expect to receive will indicate as much.  Will the hosting company be responsive and listen to your apps and your business needs?  Is there a human voice to reach out to when issues occur?

 

Private Cloud Through the Estes Group’s ECHO Managed Hosting

 

EstesGroup’s EstesCloud Hosting, or ECHO for short, is our hosting platform. For one monthly price, we include all the functionality and support you need to keep your hosted applications running properly for your business.  While providing the access level that companies look for in private cloud solutions, we also provide the support and expertise that a big box store cloud partner can’t provide.  One phone call puts you in touch with our support team.  Well-versed in Microsoft’s full stack, we cover your servers with 24x7x365 EstesCloud Monitoring.  We cover the backups and disaster recovery, and we protect your users with EstesCloud identity management under the security of EstesCloud-managed Firewalls.

 

We have experience in moving many customers to a private cloud environment, while working with them to integrate their hosted ERP platform with their family of related applications.  With this experience comes the knowledge in working with protocols, networks, VPNs, and database connections, and we leverage this knowledge when engaging a customer.

 

In summary, some of the benefits of the EstesGroup’s ECHO Private Cloud Hosting solution include:

  • Known monthly expense, with no large capital expenses
  • Growth with your business supported by continual and customized service
  • Proven backup and disaster recovery playbooks
  • Easy, secure access from anywhere you wish
  • No Server Maintenance
  • No need to upgrade or repair hardware

 

When it comes to deploying your ERP architecture, there are clearly a number of different options, and the implications of the decisions made will have a lasting effect on your company’s future.  Are you considering spinning up your own private cloud to host your ERP application?  Drop us a line first, and let us help you explore your options.

Interested in learning more about Managed Hosting for Epicor ERP or Prophet 21 ERP?

 

Visit our Managed Epicor ERP Hosting page

Visit our Managed Prophet 21 ERP Hosting page

Epicor MRP Keeps You On-Time and Customers Happy

Epicor MRP Keeps You On-Time and Customers Happy

ERP!  ERP!  How do I love thee?  Let me Count the Ways: A Robust Materials Resource Planning ( MRP ) Engine

 

 

One of my favorite movies growing up was The Wizard of Oz.  One of my favorite scenes was when the “Wizard” was exposed as the “man behind the curtain,” pulling levers and revealing the secrets of the kingdom.  In the business world, this phrase has morphed into meaning a person who elusively controls the intricacies of a large enterprise—and no one really knows the who, what, when, or how of the magic behind the success.  MRP (Materials Resource Planning) is like this “man behind the curtain.”  Incredibly powerful, MRP manages the forces of supply and demand, keeping everything under control.

 

 

There are basically three questions that a manufacturer has, and MRP answers:

  • What does the customer want?
  • How many do they want?
  • When do they want it?

 

While those three questions seem relatively simple in nature, executing them in an efficient and profitable manner can become an extremely daunting, or even impossible task if you don’t have the correct tools.  Fortunately, the Epicor MRP Engine is a highly sophisticated but user-friendly process that can help companies increase on-time performance, lower inventory and improve efficiency.  MRP takes all three of these questions and looks at them holistically, to manage all variables that can occur on a shop floor.

 

What product does the customer want?

 

To answer this, MRP first looks to see if the part is purchased or manufactured.  At the core of the system is the type-attribute of the part.  Epicor defines a part in three ways: purchased, manufactured or sales kit.  Purchased Parts can have a defined lead-time and are used in determining when product can be available if stock is not available.  Manufactured Parts are built-up with routings and bills of materials.  MRP will take into account the time it takes for each operation, dependent on the quantity and material availability, to determine when the product will be available to ship, based on capacity on the shop floor.  Sales kits can be a combination of purchased and manufactured Parts and will use either or both types of logic to determine availability.

 

What quantity does the customer need?

 

Based on demand from forecasts or actual Sales Orders, the system looks at the current inventory level.  If there is insufficient inventory, it will suggest to the Purchasing Department to buy some if it’s purchased or will suggest to the Planning Department to create a job to make some, if it’s manufactured.

 

What is the customer’s timeline?

 

This is where the Epicor MRP logic will take the first two questions and analyze two things: If we don’t have it in stock, can we buy it in time to deliver it, or do we have enough material and resources available to build how many they want?  And it does this by taking into account not just one particular Sales Order, but all of the Sales Orders, and all of the inventory stocking levels and Job demands within a plant.  Obviously, this is a very tall order, and in a dynamic manufacturing environment, things are often changing on a daily, if not hourly, basis.  Because the MRP process can be such an intensive hardware resource demand, Epicor can be configured to run on a schedule (often times at night), either by looking at net change (to only work on those things that have changed since MRP was last run) or by being regenerative (to recalculate all demand).

 

Epicor also has the ability to run MRP for a specific part.  Have a customer that needs a part ASAP?  Now instead of having to wait for MRP to run, management has the ability to see the potential status of a job in a matter of minutes, and not hours, as MRP only has a single part to analyze.  The MRP process can also be limited to a plant, product family, or commodity class—reducing the time and resources required to generate the needed supply records.   Epicor MRP also supports multi-level pegging, which gives users the ability to trace the supply to each discrete source of demand.  This process also drives the projected Sales Order shortages and is an incredibly powerful tool to manage customer satisfaction.

The Epicor ERP system, in conjunction with its versatile and powerful MRP process, allows your organization to “see behind the curtain” at an organizational level, revealing what the current demands for your products are and if you have the necessary supply to meet demand in a timely and profitable fashion.

 

There are lots of things to love about Epicor’s E10 ERP application.

 

Want to know a few more?  Read our “ERP! How do I love thee?” series and give us a call with any questions you may have. 

Do you want to learn more about Epicor ERP and MRP? Download the Manufacturer’s information packet.

In-House Hosting vs. Cloud Based Hosting

In-House Hosting vs. Cloud Based Hosting

If you’ve recently decided to implement an ERP system like Epicor ERP at your company, you have a couple of options for where to deploy the system. You can either have it hosted on your in-house server or it can be hosted on a cloud server. Here is a look at each of these options.

In-House Servers

In-house servers are a more traditional route to providing the software your team needs to get its job done. The server is physically located at your place of business. Some of the reasons why this is still the best answer for many companies include:

  • You maintain complete control of the server. You are not reliant on the cloud for your security, but rather are able to find a custom solution to handle your security needs on your own
  • You can upgrade your system any time you’d like without paying additional hosting fees
  • All of your critical data remains in-house, with no access by third-parties

Unfortunately, there are some downsides to in-house hosting as well, including:

  • A large upfront investment in hardware and infrastructure
  • Space for your server room is required, as well as IT support
  • You have no guarantees regarding uptime or the time it takes to recover your data
  • You are responsible for backing up your data and you may be more likely to suffer data loss if there is a disaster in your area

Hosted Cloud Servers

Hosted cloud services allow you the opportunity to have access to the same software you would use with an in-house server, yet the software is accessible in the cloud. The benefits of host-based cloud services include:

  • The ability for your staff to access files even when they’re out of the office. Cloud-based services are available anywhere where there is an internet connection
  • You avoid the stress and expense of maintaining an in-house server, including the expense of having IT staff
  • Your host provides security, a disaster recovery plan, and an uptime guarantee
  • Hosted cloud services are scalable, meaning you pay for the services you need, when you need them, rather than shelling out money for services you don’t need simply because they were available in your big-box solution
  • You can initiate backup and restore processes from anywhere. Data on the cloud can be backed up in intervals as short as every fifteen minutes, which minimizes the potential for data loss
  • Your host will provide upgrades when they become available, ensuring that you’re using the newest technology available

The downside to hosted cloud servers includes:

  • The inability to access your files if your internet is down
  • You must pay a monthly hosting fee for the service
  • You may be limited on the amount of data and files you can store due to storage availability and cost

Which is Better?

Which solution is best for you depends greatly on the size of your business, the potential for growth, and the industry you’re in. If you have limited funds for investing in IT staff or infrastructure, or you don’t want the stress of maintaining your own server, a hosted cloud server may be the ideal solution for you. However, if you wish to be in control of your server, or if you deal with a lot of sensitive information — such as customer health records or financial data — and don’t feel comfortable with allowing a third-party to access that information, you may fare better with hosted services in-house.

Conclusion

EstesGroup is pleased to provide expert assistance in determining whether your business is best served by hosted cloud services or hosted services on your in-house server. Contact us today so we can begin exploring your options with you.

 

Download our Epicor ERP On-Premise (In-House) vs Cloud Hosted Calculator by filling out the form.