SD-WAN – Simple, Dynamic Networking

It’s been a challenging year for IT. The pandemic has reshaped everyone’s working habits. Businesses first had to adapt to remote working, almost overnight in some cases. More recently, we’ve seen a move to hybrid working, with employees returning to the office when permitted, and working from home on others. And things continue to be fluid.

It was through this run of events that some businesses found out exactly what their network could and couldn’t do. Those that had already prioritised agility and mobile working found themselves in a better position to cope with rapid change and make a success of business continuity. Others have been playing a tricky game of catch up, and many IT teams are still feeling the pressure of this.

Make a positive move

What these events have highlighted is that organisations need to be a step ahead on networking capabilities. And the move many are choosing to make to improve agility and security is the move to Software-Defined Wide Area Networking. SD-WAN is particularly relevant for SMBs with multiple branches. Whether you have 200 employees or 2,000, SD-WAN can help you improve the performance of cloud applications, boost user experience and cut costs. 

What’s wrong with traditional WAN?

Traditional WANs weren’t designed for cloud services and SaaS applications, such as Office 365, Salesforce, Slack and Dropbox. Typically, traditional WANs require backhauling all traffic from branch offices to a hub/data center for security. The delay hinders application performance, which in turn causes a poor user experience, denting productivity and morale. This set up can also mean you’re paying more than you need to for the traffic flowing across your network. 

Why is SD-WAN the answer?

In essence, SD-WAN is a highly secure, software-based approach to wide area networking, that provides greater flexibility and control over connections between multiple sites in an organisation. It can use any mix of connectivity – broadband, 4G/LTE, FTTC and MPLS – letting you control how traffic is directed and prioritised across multiple uplinks. It enables your network to adapt instantly and intelligently to changing performance conditions and maintain quality of service. With SD-WAN solutions able to provide security and intrusion protection, cloud-destined traffic doesn’t have to be backhauled from each branch to a central hub. It can flow from branch to cloud safely and securely, delivering improved application performance. Real-time performance monitoring makes it easy to spot and fix issues across the network, often before quality of service is affected. 

What does this mean for business?

SD-WAN can overcome legacy issues associated with MPLS, deliver cost savings, simplify management and boost agility. Businesses can make cost savings by directing traffic along the right connectivity option. For example, you can steer traffic away from MPLS and onto cheaper broadband where quality of service isn’t an issue. More expensive MPLS can be reserved for latency-sensitive traffic, such as VOIP. Smarter routing improves application performance wherever employees are working – in-branch or remotely. 

With SD-WAN technology, you have centralised control via a user-friendly dashboard. Changes can be made quickly and easily in minutes, whether they are part of the company’s strategic vision or in response to unforeseen circumstances. This increased agility strengthens the business’s ability to take future events in its stride.

Lake District National Park Authority – a real-world example

We recently partnered with the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) to bring their network infrastructure up to date. They have 12 offices spread over 900 square miles, with a mix of connectivity solutions – SDSL, ADSL, fibre to the premises and radio, plus VOIP and homeworkers on VPN. There were a number of factors driving the need for change – ageing firewall, limited functionality on VPN routers, no redundancy and security concerns. After considering a number of solutions, Cisco Meraki was selected. 

Happy, confident customers

By using Cisco Meraki, we were able to deliver a reliable SD-WAN solution that ticked off all required outcomes – WAN Failover with Auto-VPN, no dependence on fixed IP, PCI compliance, improved malware detection, support for more nodes and remote access VPN. It was efficient to implement, with downtime for some sites as low as 10 minutes. LDNPA now has a platform that’s secure, easy to manage and ready to be built on as needs arise.

A flexible solution to fit your business

What this example demonstrates is how SD-WAN overcomes many legacy issues and limitations with minimum effort. Cisco Meraki is a particularly powerful solution as it offers a complete cloud-managed IT portfolio with single pane of glass management. Integrated hardware, software and cloud services deliver simple, secure, optimised connectivity. You can manage it in-house or take advantage of our managed service option. 

Trust TruStack to get you future-ready

At TruStack, we’ve put SD-WAN in place for many different customers, and we can offer the upfront expertise and ongoing support that creates an end-to-end solution for businesses small and large. If you’d like to understand what SD-WAN could do for your business, please get in touch with us. 

Contact us via our form available here.

Hacker warning for businesses with employees working from home

IT security experts are warning businesses to take steps to combat hackers as working from home becomes more common during the Covid-19 pandemic.

TruStack, based in Cramlington, specialises in Agile Working Solutions and Cybersecurity and has enabled hundreds of organisations to work from home during the recent lockdowns.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics show a quarter of all employees are currently working from home (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/coronavirustheukeconomyandsocietyfasterindicators/latest#social-impacts-of-the-coronavirus-on-great-britain), but this number could increase if more areas are put under tighter regulations in the coming months.

Now TruStack’s experts have warned that many businesses may not realise the full security implications of its employees moving from working in an office to working from home.

Technical Director Russell Henderson said: “Business data of all types is of value and anybody can be a target, with methods of stealing this data more sophisticated than ever.

“Continuous scanning to find vulnerabilities in businesses security and to exploit threats occurs, and it is likely attacks will become more frequent as well as more complex, so no matter your business size you need to be focused on keeping your data as secure as possible.

“Home networks tend to be far more open, with so many devices – e.g. smart speakers, internet games consoles, smart phones, smart TVs, doorbells, home alarms – potentially sharing a network and broadband with work devices.

“All of this increases the possibility of a piece of malware, or ransomware, finding a weakness and exploiting it, potentially allowing it to find and spread in the local network.

“Remote workers need strong security and those systems need stringent monitoring to protect the business’s data.”

It is predicted globally that companies will spend more than $137 billion in 2020 to protect against cyber threats.

Meanwhile technology research company Gartner has predicted the global cost of security attacks on businesses will be around $3.9 trillion.

Mr Henderson said there are many steps businesses can take to shore up security but that a multi-layered approach is needed to keep data safe.

He added: “No business can rely on a single product, platform or device to protect its data but there are some key steps to take to give your business the best chance of protecting against cyber attacks.

“These include having a quality firewall, implementing a quality antivirus platform for user devices and servers, carrying out security patching, having a multi-factor identification process and investing in a robust backup and recovery solution.

“These are just some of the protection measures that TruStack consults around. Ultimately, businesses must have a security-first mindset, from bottom to top, where protection of data is an absolute priority, as we transition towards a largely agile workforce.”

TruStack provides end-to-end managed IT services and specialises in Cybersecurity, Unified Communications and Agile Working solutions.

Amongst its many clients it counts several of the North East’s Top 200 companies – including Muckle LLP and Collingwood Business Solutions – as well as big names across the UK such as the Natural History Museum and Vertu Motors.

It has enabled many of these clients to work from home recently, and has also been following its own advice with almost all of its workforce undertaking agile working.

Netwrix 2020 Cyber Threat and Cybersecurity Report

In June 2020, our partner, Netwrix surveyed 937 IT professionals from all over the globe to learn how their threat landscape and priorities have changed due to this massive shift to remote work.

The findings, which are presented in the report below, will help organisations re-assess their security risks and identify new security gaps.

If you need any advice or have any questions on anything in the report, please do not hesitate to get in touch by clicking here or you can view our Cybersecurity services here.

Updates from Microsoft Ignite!

Some of you may know that every year Microsoft holds its Ignite conference for developers and IT professionals. Fresh from the announcements last week, resident Pre-Sales Consultant, Ian Sanderson picks a few of his favourite new features for Teams meetings.


New Together mode scenes
Together mode re-imagines meeting experiences to help participants feel closer together even when you are apart. With new Together mode scenes coming this year, you can transport your team to a variety of settings that can help set the tone and create the experience for your meeting, whether it be an auditorium, a conference room, or a coffee shop.

Custom layouts
Coming later this year, custom layouts allow for a more dynamic content viewing experience and enable presenters to customize how content shows up for participants during a meeting. For example, when a presenter is showing a PowerPoint slide, participants will be able to see the presenter’s video feed transposed onto the foreground of the slide they’re showing.

Breakout rooms
Coming in October, breakout rooms will allow meeting organisers to split up meeting participants into smaller groups to facilitate brainstorming sessions or work group discussions. Presenters can choose to hop between breakout rooms, make announcements to all breakout rooms, and/or close the breakout rooms that then bring everybody back into the main meeting.

Meeting recap
Meeting recaps help teams stay on track and keep work moving forward after a meeting for both participants and for those who were unable to attend a meeting. Coming this year, a recap with the meeting recording, transcript, chat, shared files and more will be automatically shared in the meeting Chat tab and viewable in the Details tab for each meeting. The recap will also be available in the meeting event in your Outlook calendar.

Webinar registration and reporting
For more structured meetings, such as customer webinars, meeting organisers can use event registration with automated emails to make it easier to manage attendance. And after the meeting, view a detailed reporting dashboard that will help understand attendee engagement. These new features are expected to begin to roll out by end of year.

For more new features being released by Microsoft for Teams, you can read the full blog here https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/microsoft-teams-blog/what-s-new-in-microsoft-teams-microsoft-ignite-2020/ba-p/1665600

For help or advice on collaboration tools or unified communication, please email us on [email protected] or call 0191 2503000.

TruStack Celebrates First Year!

When IT company TruStack was formed following the merger of three well established IT businesses in September 2019 nobody could have predicted what the next twelve months would bring.

However, a year later , having faced the challenges of merging three business, adapting to Coronavirus and fundamental changes to the way businesses work, TruStack has emerged as a success story from the North East IT industry.

The company, which provides end-to-end managed IT services and specialises in Cybersecurity, Unified Communications and Agile Working solutions, is celebrating its one-year anniversary achieving an impressive turnover of around £9m.

It has increased its workforce by 20 percent from 44 to 53, as well as increasing the number of apprentices employed from two to five, as the company looks to invest in regional young talent.

TruStack’s Commercial Director Phil Cambers said the company’s impressive figures were due to the business’s ability to continue to provide the same exceptional level of service during a year of lockdown and restrictions caused by COVID-19.

Mr Cambers said: “When we launched TruStack a year ago following the merger there was no way of knowing the challenges that we and almost all other businesses would be facing in the coming 12 months.

“However, thankfully we have been able to adapt to the change of working conditions and continued to provide the high level of service our clients expect from us.

“This has not only been reflected in our revenue figures but also in the fact that we have been able to grow our company.

“Importantly, we have been an integral part of enabling our clients to continue doing what they do, by providing them with the infrastructure and support they need to work effectively during the pandemic, and enabling them to work remotely in a safe and secure manner.

“Who knows what the next 12 months will hold, but I am confident that the expertise and dedication of our staff will help us overcome any challenges that may be thrown at us.

“Hopefully we can continue to see success and a continued growth in the business, and help fellow North East businesses to see the same.”

TruStack was formed following a merger of three IT companies – SITS Group, PCI Services and Pivotal Networks.

It has since completed hundreds of projects, working with several of the North East’s Top 200 companies – including Muckle LLP and Collingwood Business Solutions – as well as big names across the UK such as the Natural History Museum and Vertu Motors.

TruStack prides itself on being able to remove the burden that supporting IT systems can bring and adds a level of on-demand IT expertise to help businesses by either augmenting their current IT team or outsourcing it completely.

Support services are one of the many services it offers – after installing a client’s infrastructure, its experts are always on hand to manage and monitor operations, enabling clients to focus on the day-to-day running of their business.

Importantly, it has enabled the vast majority of its hundreds of active clients to work from home during the recent Covid-19 pandemic.

And TruStack has also been following its own advice, with almost all of its workforce undertaking agile working, which is has actually benefitted the company.

Mr Cambers added: “We have encouraged agile working for years – I have always said that work is something you do not somewhere you go.

“We have taken on several new staff since the Covid-19 crisis began, all of which has been made possible by using the technology that we sell, carrying out our interviews, company inductions and training online.

“It goes to show how the world of work is changing, and we are there to help businesses across the country to enable their agile workforce and maintain the same levels of productivity from anywhere.”

TruStack, which has its head office at Northumberland Business Park, Cramlington, and a branch office at the Evolve Business Centre, Houghton le Spring, has also done its bit for charity.

Despite the pandemic, TruStack has managed to raise around £2,500 for its charity partner Tiny Lives, which supports premature and poorly babies and their families at the Neo-Natal Unit at the RVI Hospital, Newcastle.

For more information on TruStack go to www.trustack.co.uk or call 0191 250 3000.

Blog Post – Are you getting the most value out of your Multi-Factor Authentication solution?

When choosing our multifactor authentication product, it is important to understand our thought process when evaluating the marketplace for a product and more importantly why we were looking.

In the last few years, we have seen a massive swing when it comes to business priorities in IT.

You will often find that IT directors and managers mark security as their number one focus on IT spending, and with good reason. Each day we create more and more data which is the lifeblood of many organisations.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication?

Multi-factor authentication and access management is an important part of a multi-layered approach to securing business assets. A common attack vector is credential theft. Think about what a malicious actor could do if they had access to a corporate Office 365 account or similar. Multi-factor authentication means that even if a user does fall victim to credential theft, it would be near impossible for the malicious actor to use those credentials as each login request would require a unique one-time passcode to login with. Similarly, with access management, having strong scenario-based policies in place around who is accessing what, when, and from where, ensures an extra layer of security in an ever-changing working environment.

With that in mind, we set out to find a solution that met a set of criteria. Something easy to use, has a rich set of features, is SaaS-based, and offers value for money.

We looked at offerings from Microsoft, DUO, and others which all have their good points, but none of them offered everything we wanted, apart from Thales.

Who is Thales and what is SafeNet Trusted Access (STA)?

SafeNet Trusted Access (STA) is a combined MFA and access management service that centrally manages and secures access to web based, on premises and cloud-based applications. STA simplifies user experience whilst also being simple enough for IT admins to implement and moderate. STA not only features flexible risk-based policies, but also single sign on portals, universal authentication policies and protection of all SAML-based applications.

If you have not heard of Thales before, part of their organisation is the business they acquired when they bought Gemalto in 2019. The name Gemalto may sound familiar, they specialise in products like Passports with the RFID chips, card readers for online banking systems, and importantly, they make their own physical One Time Passcode tokens.

STA allows business to scale as they move into the cloud, take more applications on premises, or a hybrid of the two whilst ensuring that the business meets compliance.

How can Thales and Microsoft complement each other?

When looking at Thales and Microsoft, the main differentiator between the two products is that Thales can protect all applications, whether they are in a Microsoft environment or not. Microsoft will only protect Microsoft applications being accessed, such as O365.

It is also good security practice to split your security provider from your virtual infrastructure provider. That’s why many companies prefer to select a 3rd party provider for their security solutions, rather than relying on just the one vendor.

The key differentiators between STA and DUO

When looking at MFA provider DUO, the Thales STA product also provides superior features. For example, STA provides a lower total cost of ownership.

Because Thales produce their own physical One Time Passcode tokens, these can be added to the MFA service, typically at no additional cost. With vendors like Duo, it is often an extra. It is important to understand why we think this is a differentiator. Many organisations that would like to roll out MFA may not want a software token installed on users’ personal devices, or indeed the user may not want any corporate software on their personal device. Having the option to hand out a physical token for those use cases, without incurring an additional charge represents excellent value.

Other superior features include, granular reporting, ease of deployment and more robust multi-factor authentication, all of which is all included the price of the license. There isn’t a “buffet-style” approach to their license model, the one license covers all features within the SafeNet Trusted Access consol.

Choosing your Multi-Factor Authentication product

This is not just about enabling MFA and access management policies, but about looking at the bigger cybersecurity picture. To do that we have to have robust conditional access policies that you can integrate with all applications, not matter where they live, be that in the cloud or on premises. It also must be delivered by a name that you can trust, such as Thales and with simplified operations for IT staff.

Are you getting the most value out of your Multi-Factor Authentication solution webinar can be found here.

For more information on STA or our security solutions, you can get in touch with us by emailing [email protected] or by calling 0191 250 3000.

Webinar Recording – Are you getting the most value out of your Multi-Factor Authentication solution?

More organisations are shifting to a remote working framework for the foreseeable future, therefore it is more important than ever to ensure your teams and business assets are safe from opportunistic hackers.

With nearly 60% of organisations sensitive data being stored in the cloud, and over 71% of deployments experiencing at least one compromised account each month; implementing access controls that evaluate risk profiles and implement strong authentication is crucial.

Watch our webinar to hear from Ian Sanderson, Presales Technical Consultant at Trustack and deep dive into the competitive advantages of using Thales STA (Safenet Trusted Access) for your multi-factor authentication security needs.

In the session you will hear about:

  • How Microsoft and Thales Access management solutions can complement each other and enhance your security strategy.
  • How Thales compares to Duo when meeting your access management needs.
  • Real-life use cases to demonstrate how Thales can simplify multi-factor authentication
  • Opportunity to ask those burning questions with Ian Sanderson, Trustack presales Technical Engineer.

For more information on anything you have seen in the webinar, or our security services and agile working solutions, please contact us here.

TruStack Focus On… Support Services

Businesses have enough to think about.

In these testing times, with Brexit, a global pandemic and recession to deal with, businesses have never been faced with such uncertainty.

At TruStack, however, we pride ourselves on being able to remove the burden that supporting IT systems can bring and add a level of our own IT expertise to help businesses through these times and prosper moving forward.

Support services are one of the many bespoke services we offer to clients. When it comes to IT infrastructure, we believe that a shared ownership model is the most efficient way to manage the delivery of applications to staff and customers, providing as little or as much as the client needs. We are essentially an extension of a client’s IT team.

After installing a client’s infrastructure, we are always on hand to manage and monitor operations, giving our clients peace of mind and enabling them to focus on the day-to-day running of their business.

As well as enabling constant monitoring and optimisation of their IT infrastructure, by having us on board it means clients are more prepared for future ‘bumps in the road’, with our team of experts there to forecast problems before they become a major issue that will negatively impact them.

Importantly, our dedicated team of analysts are available 24/7, 365 days a year, for high-priority incidents – a constant safety net in case things go wrong.

A lot of time has been spent over the past few months helping manage clients’ transition to agile working in the new world in which we find ourselves. Flexibility is going to be key moving forward, and as such will remain a key part of the support service we offer.

In turn, many businesses agile working transformations were brought forward by the impending lockdown caused by COVID-19.

One such company that we have supported in this transition is law firm Swinburne Maddison:

‘As I pack myself off from the office I would like to say a big “Thank you” to all the people on your support desk for the help they have been to me over the last few weeks in the run up to our evacuation. You have all, without exception, provided me with invaluable support and treated all my questions and requests with respect and professionalism.

‘Thanks once again – and hopefully reversing the process will prove to be somewhat less of a headache for us all! See you soon – and keep safe!’
William Dobson, Office Manager – Swinburne Maddison.

Elsewhere, CDS Security & Fire contacted TruStack for assistance in implementing a secure remote solution to allow staff members to work from home. Having previously had a limited capability for home working, it was essential that this was set up quickly, efficiently and securely.

We ensured that all of CDS Security & Fire’s devices were equipped with the correct technology needed to enable the end users to access all of their files and documents as if they were working in their normal office environment.

‘Without the support services from TruStack, we would not have been able to continue serving our customers during the pandemic. TruStack were on hand every step of the way to ensure that we had everything set up correctly so that our customers felt minimal, if any disruptions. We would not hesitate to call upon TruStack again as they responded to our requests with professionalism and speed during an unknown event.’ Rosie Abbott, CDS Security & Fire.

Ultimately, when a company invests in TruStack’s support service, they are not just buying IT support – they are investing in peace of mind. Our clients know they have that IT safety net in place, with some of the industry’s most knowledgeable experts there to help them with whatever they need.

To find out more about what TruStack can offer your business contact us on [email protected] or call us on 0191 250 3000.

You can also view our managed monitoring service by clicking here, and our data centre offerings by clicking here.

TruStack Focus On… End User Devices

End points and end user devices are any devices a staff member may use to carry out work, e.g. laptops, thin clients, tablets etc. This blog will address the importance of choosing the right end user devices, including adapting to the rise in agile working requirements.

Why are endpoints so important?

Many organisations invest heavily in the right staff, high performance infrastructure, networking, connectivity and applications to enable their business to deliver for its customers.  They then support this with the correct endpoints, assessing staff needs on a regular basis to ensure their equipment supports them to deliver in their role.

What are the endpoint challenges?

At TruStack we often see customers working on legacy or pre-used machines. However, these machines may not fit the end user’s role, their environment or the application stack the end user needs to access. This may be a commercial decision or have other justifications, but ultimately the wrong endpoint can affect employee productivity, engagement and business output.

We are sometimes asked to provide businesses with the same devices for all end users, who may all work in different ways and environments, with different applications. It’s like giving F1 champion Lewis Hamilton a Ford Focus, because it is the same car his Mechanic uses, and still expect him to win the next Grand Prix.

What about the agile working challenge?

Desktops have traditionally been the device of choice for businesses. However, as the UK lockdown hit, businesses needed endpoints that could enable agile working, often laptops or microform desktops with WIFI capabilities, with access to bespoke applications and files on the corporate network.

Stock disappeared overnight with long lead times on agile style devices. Some end users had no choice but to take large desktops home, with corporate monitors and long patch leads to reach from the home router to the desktop, which is ultimately not practical to do.

Agile working has since become the norm for many businesses, and now additional considerations need to be applied to any refresh.

What does agile working look like for your business and employees?

Agile working for every business and every individual user within that business will be different. Therefore, the types of user devices and peripherals each user requires will be different. There are several factors to consider, including:  

  • What does their agile environment look like? Trains, planes, cars, meetings rooms, environment etc should all be thought about.
  • What is available in that environment? Power, space, ergonomic set up, lighting, internet connectivity, business application access, security etc.
  • Does the environment change the technology needed for day-to-day working productivity and would any peripherals support in each location? For example, extra monitors, docking stations, WIFI and 4G/5G connectivity, anti-glare, privacy glass, webcams, 2-in-1 flexibility, noise cancelling headsets and many other options.
  • How much local compute power and resources do they need, processing cores and speed, RAM allocations, graphics capabilities and additional interface ports?

Does the Desktop still have its place?

It isn’t always about providing ‘a laptop’, it is about providing the equipment most suitable to that individual. As such, desktops can continue to be the right choice for many organisations; it could be a shared workstation, or a desktop which offers easy upgrades, hard drive flexibility, multiple connection availability, graphics capability or lower price points.

We fully understand it isn’t easy to undertake an endpoint refresh on any scale. At TruStack we offer free consultations to find out exactly what it is you require and often provide demonstrations and trial kit to customers.

You can get in touch with us to arrange this via your account manager, by clicking here or call us on 0191 250 3000

TruStack Focus On… Remote Desktop Infrastructure

By Technical Pre-Sales Consultant, Ian Sanderson.

Is 2020 finally the year of VDI?
If you have been in the IT game for a while you may have heard the long-running joke that this year is finally the year of VDI. 2020 Could be when this becomes true.

What is VDI?
VDI or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is a mechanism that allows a business to deliver corporate desktop images to any device, be that a thin client, a computer, tablet, or smartphone. All desktops are managed from a central location and can be delivered from public, private, or hybrid cloud. I heard a great analogy, imagine that the cables on your keyboard and mouse are just really long and they connect to a desktop somewhere else. Not the one in front of you.

What is it used for?
There are several use cases for VDI. The dominant one at the moment is to grant end-users access to their corporate desktops whilst working from anywhere during the global pandemic. It eliminates the use of a VPN and brings users closer to the data they need to access, making for a great end-user experience.
Did you know you can publish physical desktops and connect to them using the same infrastructure used to access a virtual desktop? Many organisations are adopting this approach to allow people to connect to their corporate devices in the office when they are working from home.

Why would you use it?
It is important now more than ever to secure access to data. A VDI solution can make this task easier as you are moving the entry point for an attack from the end-user device to the VDI estate. With appropriate policies and security in place, no data should be able to traverse the endpoint to the VDI session. From a management standpoint, IT only needs to worry about updating a handful of desktop computers rather than all desktop computers.

Who is it for?
Anyone can make use of VDI. Organisations with many desktops that are the same such as call centres, housing associations, or hospitals to name a few and businesses looking to offer additional flexibility for their users.
A VDI desktop can be accessed easily from anywhere in the world with an appropriate internet connection. If data gravity is a concern, a VDI solution can bring those users closer to the data they need to access.

If you would like anymore information on VDI or Remote Desktop Infrastructure, please do not hesitate to contact us by clicking here.