Data Security

Cybersecurity improving Data Security

Cybersecurity: Evolving Technologies in Data Security

Cybersecurity: Evolving Technologies in Data Security 1200 450 Xcelpros Team

Background

Cyber attacks aimed at businesses are increasing in frequency. The days of posting a message bragging of an attack are over. Instead of fame, cybercriminals want money. Specifically, they want untraceable electronic currency such as bitcoin.

Greed is the reason why many cyber attacks use ransomware that locks a network until the money is paid.

Figure: 1Annual number of ransomware attacks worldwide

Global Cybersecurity Attacks

According to PurpleSec, the estimated global damage from ransomware was:

  • $8 billion in 2018
  • $11.5 billion in 2019
  • $20 billion in 2020

The same PurpleSec report states that an attack on a supply chain affected more than 18,000 customers. Fortune 500 companies and government agencies were among the victims.

“Threat actors search for targets that can be easily compromised and have significant monetary value. Attacking a supplier to gain entry to larger organizations is one way to bypass their sophisticated security controls,” PurpleSec states.

Other numbers important to business leaders are:

  • 45%: The number of breaches involving hacking compared to 22% for phishing and 17% using malware (Verizon)
  • 68%: The percentage of business leaders who believe their cybersecurity risks are increasing (Accenture)
  • 86%: The number of financially motivated breaches compared to 10% from espionage (Verizon)
  • 95%: The number of cybersecurity breaches caused by human error (Cybint)
  • 11,762 recorded network breaches from Jan. 1, 2005 – May 31, 2020

Source: Varonis.com

Reducing Cyber Attacks

Companies big and small are rightfully worried about keeping their data secure, especially today. 2020 saw a dramatic increase in the number of employees working from home, many using basic home internet to connect with company networks.

A Dec. 9, 2020 Pew Research study of workers who can perform their jobs at home shows:

  • 20% worked from home before the coronavirus outbreak
  • 71% are working from home during it
  • 54% want to keep working from home after virus-related restrictions end

Many companies store their data in distributed computer server centers collectively known as “the cloud.” The widespread adoption of cloud computing and the internet of things (IoT) IoT systems potentially exposes businesses to cyber attacks. Add to this explosive growth in the number of people working from home and it’s easy to see how much more vulnerable businesses are now than ever before.

Is Cloud Computing Safe?

In short, the answer is yes.

“Information stored in the cloud is likely to be more secure than are files, images and videos stored on your own devices. Why? Cloud companies often rely on far more robust cybersecurity measures to protect your sensitive data,” antivirus company Norton suggests.

Figure: 2Key security advantages of Cloud data storage over using an in-house server

key security advantages of Cloud data storage over using an in-house server

Cloud data storage has four key security advantages over using an in-house server:

  • Limited physical access: Few people have access to warehouses holding the large server farms.
  • Constant security updates: Larger cloud storage companies immediately apply security updates even though they are already using high-grade and more robust operating systems.
  • Distributed computing: Cloud data is not typically stored on just one set of servers in a single location. The data is typically backed up to at least one remote site, preventing data loss should a natural disaster strike.
  • Data encryption: All data is kept secure behind robust firewalls to prevent unauthorized access. Should a hacker make it past the firewalls, they then have to decrypt the scrambled data. Top-level encryption methods include Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA), the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and others.

Data Encryption

Using codes to hide messages from view is no longer limited to spies. Businesses have been using encryption methods for millennia starting with the Spartans in 600 BC.

Note that Microsoft Office 365 lets company IT administrators turn on encryption by default for all emails in Outlook. Individual Outlook users can also send and receive encrypted messages.

Microsoft states that Dynamics 365 encrypts data at rest and in transit. “Microsoft uses encryption technology to protect customer data in Dynamics 365 while at rest in a Microsoft database and while it is in transit between user devices and our data centers. Connections established between customers and Microsoft datacenters are encrypted, and all public endpoints are secured using industry-standard TLS. TLS effectively establishes a security-enhanced browser-to-server connection to help ensure data confidentiality and integrity between desktops and datacenters. After data encryption is activated, it cannot be turned off.”

Encryption and CGMPs

The Food and Drug Administration’s Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) regulations list 188 instances where encryption is mentioned. One frequently used section is the use of electronic signatures for regulatory documents known as SOPP 8116 from the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. Part of this requirement is using secure email to communicate with the FDA. That requires encryption.

Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations covers the FDA’s portion. Many of the CGMPs listed require stored data to be either encrypted or hidden in some way, especially if it contains personally identifiable information.

Using Blockchain with D365

According to Microsoft, blockchain, “is a secure, shared, distributed transaction ledger database that decentralizes data, eliminates the need for trusted third parties and enables the anonymous exchange of digital assets such as bitcoin,”

“It is a replicable database that is immutable, verifiable and cryptographically secure, establishing trust through a network of untrusted nodes.”

An updated version of blockchain, Blockchain 3.0 with cloud servicing, multilayer middleware and cryptlets, is one of Microsoft’s greatest innovations.

An important part of the pharmaceutical business is the supply chain. Microsoft’s blockchain version helps create smart contracts, process micropayments, filing taxes, shipping and logistics management.

The Microsoft Azure platform on which D365 sits can also use blockchain technology to help manage physical assets across the supply chain.

Summary

Any business serious about protecting its data will want to explore cloud data storage. It’s now more secure than many private networks. Cloud computing companies such as Microsoft go to great lengths to encrypt all data, which they keep stored behind robust firewalls.

Additional functionality in the form of blockchain technology helps track and protect pharmaceutical supply chains from raw materials to delivered goods.

Get a free consultation to know-how our cloud solutions can help strengthen your data security.

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About XcelPros

XcelPros is a Chicago-based company delivering transformation through technology. We offer business and technology solutions with deep industry experience in Chemical, Pharma, Life Sciences (including Medical Devices, Bio-Medical & Biotech), Insurance, Discrete Manufacturing, Process Manufacturing, Distribution and Food & Beverage.

XcelPros is a Microsoft Gold Partner, Direct Cloud Solutions Provider (CSP) and a Systems Integrator (SI) offering software licensing, implementation and consulting services for Microsoft Dynamics 365, CRM, Microsoft Dynamics AX, Business Intelligence & Analytics (Power BI), SharePoint, Office 365 and Azure (Cloud, IOT, Microsoft Flow amongst many others).

Our mission is to provide integrated technology solutions that amplify impact and empower our customer’s businesses. We believe technology is the key enabler of exponential growth for us and our customers.

Contact XcelPros today to transform your business.

Call us toll-free – 1.855.411.0585 (or) visit www.xcelpros.com

ERP For Small Business

A Beginner’s Guide to ERP System for Small Business

A Beginner’s Guide to ERP System for Small Business 1200 450 Xcelpros Team

Introduction

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software can help any small to medium enterprise (SME) flourish and grow.

Six key benefits of using integrated ERP in a small business are:

  • Sharing information between different business processes such as inventory management and finance.
  • Enhancing productivity through using a single database accessible to all relevant departments.
  • Improving control and reducing operating costs by reducing data entry errors.
  • Greater flexibility, allowing the company to rapidly adapt to changing conditions such as supply chain disruptions brought on by new Covid-19 restrictions.
  • Boosting sales through tighter inventory control.
  • Enhancing data security when using cloud-based products such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 (D365).

Figure: 1ERP Software for Small Business 6 Key Benefits

Benefits Of ERP software for small business

Upsides and Downsides to an ERP

Updating a small business to a modular cloud-based ERP program like D365 has its drawbacks. They include:

  • Resistance from executives, managers and workers. They don’t understand why they can’t keep using the same old spreadsheets the same old way. ERPs are much more efficient.
  • Cost of licensing and installation, which is generally done with the help of the right ERP consultants. Costs are recovered through increases in efficiency. The ability to respond quickly to customer requests generates more sales.
  • Possible on-site computer upgrades as the primary servers migrate to the cloud. High speed internet connections permit real-time viewing of data regardless of location.
  • A potential reduction in productivity while the new system gets online and the staff adapts to the new ERP. Eventually, users get to the point that small errors like typos or duplicate data entries disappear entirely, further boosting productivity.

These drawbacks are easily offset by an ERP’s inherent advantages, especially when using a modular system like D365. Additional functionality can be added as the business requires. Each module can also be expanded, adding more users and increasing capabilities such as storage.

Among the factors to consider when choosing an ERP system are the willingness of different departments to share data, and more importantly, contribute to eliminating any disintegrated processes. Finance will know what sales has in the works. Sales will know what raw materials Inventory has on-hand. Production will know when the next big order is coming up. Departments need to move beyond the “what’s mine is mine and no one else’s” mentality. A unified ERP such as D365 allows companies to do just that.

For example, sharing access to data means managers and executives have the ability to spot and correct errors quickly. They can also keep tabs on what every connected department is doing. An example is having inventory, production, finance and sales working together ensuring a project is delivered on time and on budget.

Another advantage of using an ERP in a small business is scalability in terms of:

  • Expanding existing facilities
  • Adding potential new suppliers
  • Increasing the size of projects
  • Increasing product lines

Inventory Control or Finance?

Two of the most visible and valuable D365 ERP modules are Supply Chain Management and Finance. Both are appropriate for small and medium businesses updating their systems. Which one to install first depends on the company’s current and future needs.

D365 Finance lets companies of any size, “Assess the health of your business, improve financial controls, and make timely decisions to drive agility and growth using comprehensive, real-time financial reporting, embedded analytics, and AI-driven insights,” Microsoft states.

For example, the artificial intelligence built into the software lets SMBs do a better job of managing business applications. Key elements include:

  • Accurately determine project cash flow
  • Predict customer payments
  • Rapidly provide budget proposals
  • Simplify financial management
  • Automate vendor invoice processing
  • Manage credit risks and collections
  • Provide a unified information source

When the company’s major issue is a lack of accurate inventory management, such as small business manufacturing, then D365’s Supply Chain Management module makes sense as one of the first modules.

One of Supply Chain Management’s critical functions is its ability to improve product deliveries. Functionality like creating barcode labels enhance a business’ ability to track supplies. Labels coupled with hand-held scanners or cellphones indicate where raw materials are in terms of their physical location. They also indicate where they are in the production cycle. Tracking continues from the time items arrive at the warehouse to when they are delivered as finished products.

Tracking incoming and outgoing ships is also a key reason to invest in the Supply Chain Management module. In a world beset by an ongoing pandemic, it’s important to know that raw materials will continue flowing. Last minute delays can make or break a company’s production schedule.

When the Supply Chain Management module ERP is used in small business manufacturing, companies are able to more accurately schedule certain production tasks. This leads to overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) being maximized.

When combined with internal Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, production machines can provide a continuous stream of wear data. Instead of shutting down a production line while waiting for a replacement part to arrive, the part can be ordered in advance so it is on-hand when needed. Production delays are reduced while active working time increases.

The Supply Chain Management module also helps provide advanced knowledge of potential quality control issues before they occur. Instead of wasting raw materials and worker time making deficient products, information from the Supply Chain Management module helps managers know when to stop production and resolve the issue. This boosts efficiency by maximizing raw material use.

Supply Chain Management and Finance are two of the D365 modules. Other Microsoft products cover Sales, Marketing, and the overarching Business Central (ideal for a company that is small)

Data Security

Another issue plaguing businesses worldwide is industrial espionage, also known as data theft. Private and some state-sponsored actors gain access to a company’s data and then threaten to destroy or corrupt it unless a ransom is paid. Even then, proprietary formulas and patent information may be sold to an unscrupulous competitor.

Some small businesses lack the resources to prevent every potential data theft attempt. Using a cloud based ERP like D365 for small business means you have Microsoft’s massive team protecting your data in distributed server farms. Data is safely stored away from company property that can be damaged or destroyed by a fire, flood, hurricane or earthquake.

Information as a Product

Today’s businesses buy, sell and use one main product, regardless of industry: information.

ERPs store information in a central repository, available to anyone with the right access. Older programs tend to silo data: Sales has its data. Finance has its numbers. Inventory has its own database. None of them share what they know effectively or efficiently.

ERP systems configured for a small business let it use its information much more efficiently. Data produced in the factory is immediately viewable by Inventory, allowing that department to order just enough materials to meet expected demands. When potential supply chain disruptions are forecast, Inventory and Finance working together, can quickly determine the best way to minimize impacts on production.

This allows small business’ funds to be used more wisely, allowing the company to make wiser investments as they continue to grow.

Final Thoughts

Modern ERPs like Microsoft Dynamics 365 can help small businesses grow by efficiently using data it produces on a daily basis, and helping remove artificial barriers and data silos, allowing information to flow freely to all departments of a company. Help with selecting the right ERP is best achieved with a team that understands your industry, and supports the best products along with the experience to implement them.

Book a free consultation with our ERP expert to learn more about ERP for small business.

Book Now

About XcelPros

XcelPros is a Chicago-based company delivering transformation through technology. We offer business and technology solutions with deep industry experience in Chemical, Pharma, Life Sciences (including Medical Devices, Bio-Medical & Biotech), Insurance, Discrete Manufacturing, Process Manufacturing, Distribution and Food & Beverage.

XcelPros is a Microsoft Gold Partner, Direct Cloud Solutions Provider (CSP) and a Systems Integrator (SI) offering software licensing, implementation and consulting services for Microsoft Dynamics 365, CRM, Microsoft Dynamics AX, Business Intelligence & Analytics (Power BI), SharePoint, Office 365 and Azure (Cloud, IOT, Microsoft Flow amongst many others).

Our mission is to provide integrated technology solutions that amplify impact and empower our customer’s businesses. We believe technology is the key enabler of exponential growth for us and our customers.

Contact XcelPros today to transform your business.

Call us toll-free – 1.855.411.0585 (or) visit www.xcelpros.com