Nervous After the HAFNIUM Attacks? It’s Time to Fight Back.

Katie John

If you missed the recent news, there has been a significant nation-state attack on Microsoft Exchange on-premises servers this year. This hack affected both on-premises and hybrid environments. However, customers who were fully operating in the cloud and utilizing Exchange Online were protected. If you have completed the emergency action steps recommended in my last blog post and are now considering how to better protect your assets and data against future attacks within the constraints of your budget and resources, this is a good time to investigate cloud computing. 

Why Change? 

Microsoft has been urging their customers to move to the cloud for a number of years now. But, like so many people, you may be part of an organization that resists change in favor of continuing what has proven successful in the past. So why change now? Personally, I can relate. Deep down I hate change—which is funny since I’ve spent my entire career working in an IT industry that changes and advances by the minute. I gravitate toward timeless things like cardigan sweaters, vintage teacups, and classic novels. I am a power user of all the latest modern workplace technology, yet I still love the tactile feeling of scribbling meeting notes with pen and paper. When changes are announced in my department, it takes me a bit longer than most to learn, adopt, and pivot, because I find comfort in how I’m accustomed to operating. 

During our recent CNXN Live virtual conference, our President of Global, Digital, and eCommerce, Jamal Khan, posed the following challenging question to all of us, “Why should we change when what we’ve been doing has served us so well?” This simple yet powerful question has stuck with me ever since. Despite my aversion to change,I recognize the tremendous value in digital transformation and cloud computing in the era that we live in. 

For all of us who avoid or delay change, we still must recognize that migration to the cloud is absolutely beneficial and vital to modern security. Just because certain things served us so well in the past does not mean that they will continue to serve us well going into the future; this flawed assumption will most likely harm us instead.   

One sad example of this harmful line of thought can be found by reflecting on World War I. In the beginning, military and civilian leaders were slow to adapt their old-fashioned strategies and tactics to the new weapons of 1914. They operated based on previously effective methods, and as a result they suffered enormous losses from modern technology. The constraint of urgent need propelled leaders forward into modern innovation, which helped to turn the tide and end the war.

New Weapons for a New Battle 

Today we find ourselves in a new kind of global battlefield with highly sophisticated modern technology in the hands of nation-state attackers. Their singular focus is bent on exploiting our digital security weaknesses. Will we continue to defend ourselves with security weapons designed for a rapidly fading era of “castle and moat” security? Will we struggle and suffer because we are slow to adapt? 

In every conversation I sit in with Microsoft leaders, field teams, and consultants, they are stressing how important it is to move to the cloud. They urge this shift for many reasons but most importantly for more effective security, so we can defend together against state sponsored modern digital warfare and sophisticated infiltration tactics. We must face the stark reality that today’s bad actors have access to far more resources than any individual business or organization can muster alone. Simply stated, if we resist change and continue to rely on our own hosted security walls that served us well in the past, we will be outgunned. The common claim of on-premises environments being more secure is a flawed argument that has been proven wrong over and over. Why would we keep trying to cobble together our own protection when we could be embracing state-of-the-art cloud security capabilities that Microsoft and others have invested so heavily into building up and scaling out for our use? 

Microsoft invests a staggering amount into developing advanced security solutions around their cloud to protect the data and infrastructure their customers have entrusted to them. Sure, security in the cloud is a shared responsibility between you and your provider, but Microsoft is making sure their part in the equation is state-of-the-art. They have countless security features and building blocks for a new era of zero-trust security, from identity and access management and cloud security to threat prevention and information protection. They are constantly adding new security solutions and recently announced many new additions. 

Overcoming Obstacles to the Cloud 

You may recognize the need for change but are facing challenges that seem insurmountable. Migrating to the cloud is easier said than done, right? Maybe you haven’t even started, or you’ve dabbled a bit and migrated a few workloads but don’t know how best to take a bigger leap. There tend to be five main obstacles that stop companies from completing their journey into the cloud. 

Knowledge

Most terminology used in reference to cloud computing tends to be abstract and unclear—phrases like “journey to the cloud,” or “hosted in the cloud.” Even visual representations typically depict intangible fluffy clouds. No wonder tangible, self-hosted data centers feel safer! The cloud seems like nothing more than a thinly protected mist leaving your data exposed in a faraway sky. Do you want to learn what the cloud really is and how to make it work for your own business growth and transformation? We have dedicated Azure cloud consultants on our Microsoft Customer Success team who will take the time to educate on what the cloud really is: massive physical data centers available for your use in regions around the world, paired up for mirrored redundancy, disaster recovery, and fault tolerance. These data centers also have hardware and security superior to anything an individual organization could accomplish with their own limited CapEx budgets. Our specialists can carefully supplement your existing knowledge to help you build an actionable migration plan based on educated business decisions.  

Cost 

Cost is often one of the biggest causes of hesitance when moving to the cloud, with many companies unsure how to properly scope what it will cost. The good news is there are multiple ways to save money, especially if you already have on-premises Microsoft Server licenses. Between Azure Reserved Instances and Hybrid Use Benefit, you can make sure to implement a cost optimization strategy that will fit your budget. In order to make sure you’re getting the most value out of your migration, we recommend working with a trusted partner. Our Microsoft Landscape Optimization teams are experts in helping you assess your entire estate down to the user level and providing cost analysis, time to value road maps, and recommendations for the most affordable SaaS solution packages customized to your organization to give you a clear and achievable path forward.  

Security

With cyberattacks on the rise, security is a major concern now more than ever. It’s no longer a lone hacker you need to worry about, but actual cyberwarfare. Many companies believe that keeping their data on premises makes them safer. However, if you look deeper, you will find that often less time is invested in securing individual environments. As the cloud is expected to protect thousands of companies, Microsoft ensures that they invest heavily in security to make sure your data is safe from malicious actors. Monitoring that environment is equally important, and we recommend you work with a trusted Azure Managed Services partner. A partner can monitor and manage your cloud environment to make sure your data is not at risk, and you know quickly if something changes. Making sure your security stack is robust and your data is safe is a number one priority. If you need help, our Security Optimization teams can assess your current infrastructure and show you ways to better protect your data in the cloud such as overlaying Microsoft Azure Sentinel onto your existing infrastructure investment, so you won’t have to rip and rebuild. Microsoft even recently announced 30 new connectors for Sentinel to help you integrate with ease. 

Skill and Resources

Migration itself can be daunting. Many businesses do not have the in-house skill or the resources to handle the migration effort. Your IT team has plenty to keep them busy without adding a cloud migration to the mix. You don’t have to go it alone, though. An experienced guide can help you manage and migrate without all the stress. There is no need to pull your IT team away from other important projects. If you’re looking for assistance, our Microsoft Professional Services teams can help you assess what is needed, plan the solution that best works for you, and even perform the migration for your team.    

Managing Bandwidth

Moving to the cloud is tough enough. But if you don’t have the resources to manage, back up, and monitor it once you’ve migrated, your new cloud environment won’t be sustainable. There are real risks to leaving your cloud environment unmonitored. As I mentioned before, cybersecurity is something that needs to be top priority. We specialize in helping companies keep their cloud environment safe. Our Azure Managed Services Team can take that busy work off your plate and manage it for you, so you can preserve your valuable time and resources to focus on development and growth.   

Getting Help When You Need It

Here at Connection, we have so many customers who have started their journey toward change with many of these obstacles. Our Microsoft Customer Success Team has repeatedly helped turn seemingly impossible business challenges into successful outcomes—from small businesses with extremely limited staff and budget, to K–12 school districts with even less budget, and even financial and healthcare institutions with endless regulation and privacy requirements. Behind each one were IT teams who successfully navigated their unique circumstances with our help, moved to the cloud, and were able to continue operating as usual when the news first broke of the Exchange attack. If you want help, our team is here for you too. We will take the time to learn and understand your business, provide excellent guidance, and journey alongside you to make the impossible a reality. Get in touch today to learn more about our cloud services or contact us today. We’re here for you.

Katie is a Senior Product Manager and helps to manage and execute the overall marketing and enablement strategy for Microsoft Solutions at Connection. Throughout her career, which has included various roles in IT sales, Enterprise account management, Microsoft solutions support, and now Product Management, she has been purposefully driven by a love for helping people solve problems—bringing clarity to IT complexity and leading with empathy. In her free time, Katie enjoys reading, taking day trips and weekend getaways with her husband and teenage daughters, and volunteering with non-profit organizations that provide outreach to at-risk children and the foster care community.

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