Go2Cloud Team Blog

Tips and Tricks from the Go2Guys

How To Secure Your Cloud Server

We hear it again and again:  “Is the Cloud really secure?”

Security

Before we get onto that, please excuse the immediate digression, but I cant help myself:

10 years ago my dad insisted that his data was critically important. So important in fact, that he bought a dedicated workstation which would “…never see the internet!“. I remember him boasting to his mates, “That will keep my data secure!“. He was right. At least until the moment that his well meaning IT guy, decided to do him a favor while topping up the printer cartridges and connected and configured the internal modem.

An hour later all the antibiotics in the world couldn’t have cured the viruses which had infected that machine. Data was a complete mess. On the plus side, the CD drive would randomly auto eject at exactly the right time to act as a handy cup holder. 

What my dad realised that day, is that it’s not about putting blinkers on and hoping that you’re okay. It’s about education and following the necessary steps (all of them) to secure your environment. 

The Cloud is no different.

Besides all the hard work that the Go2Cloud team put in to secure our data centers, at it’s most basic there are three things you need to look at when securing your Cloud Server:

1) Create strong passwords
2) Properly configure firewalls
3) Update your OS and Apps often (yes “apps” includes additional threat management software) 

Let’s look at that in more detail shall we:

Creating Strong Passwords

Structure strong passwords, and don’t share them with anyone. 

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Sounds like common sense, but it happens all too often. Passwords are given up way too easily. In some cases the individual may not have asked you for your password, but spends a little time guessing and trying out a few common options. 

If these individuals get more serious about cracking your password code, they may even use software tools to work through common passwords in an attempts to gain access to your server directly. Remember that you can see these attempts as well as the IP addresses they originate from within the Event Log. 

With your Cloud server, be sure to set the access passwords at both an OS level and inside the Go2Cloud control panel per server. 

Note that Go2Cloud do not broadcast our policies on password choice, but would gladly provide suggestions one to one if you like.

Properly Configure Firewalls

You wouldn’t leave your on premise server “firewalless” would you? Do the same with your Cloud server. 

Inside our control panel we offer you a general software based firewall capability. This allows you to specify which ports you want to enable on your servers. Feel free to treat this as a supplementary security layer if you also have an additional firewall in place. 

Most operating systems, such as Windows, have firewall capability built in. I know that the Go2Cloud technical team often recommend that it’s a good idea to start off by blocking everything and only opening ports when needed. It is also possible to restrict access on certain ports and protocols to certain IP addresses.

For multi-server setups you can take advantage of the private VLAN capability inside the control panel  and have a server acting as a dedicated firewall. All other servers on your VLAN could then have their public nics disabled.

Remember that there are many great firewall software packages out there. ForeFront TMG is good option in the Microsoft space and for Linux we often suggest tools like Untangle.

Update your OS and Apps Often

Ever wondered what happens to those error reports which you so diligently send back to the vendors and community?  Well, they actually go somewhere, get checked out by smart people and result in software updates.

This means that if any threat, loophole or bug is flagged in a current release, the future updates will work on addressing them

We all know that managing updates can be a bit of a pain, but it is a must.

For those Go2Cloud customers running Windows environments, you may have already noticed how quickly these updates download. This is because our smart technical team have done great work to ensure that updates are caching locally rather than having to be drawn from international servers all the time.

FYI – Rebooting and updating servers is “blazingly fast” (quote from an actual customer) on the Go2Cloud platform which should all contribute to making updates easy.

So there you have it, a few basics on how to improve the security of your Cloud servers.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to our team!

Partner with Go2Cloud

The number one request we get from IT service providers is:

“Can we partner with Go2Cloud?” 

The simple answer is … Yes. 

There are already a number of businesses in South Africa who leverage Go2Cloud’s partner/reseller model. Frankly we have been amazed at the innovative ways in which these partners are adding value on top of the Go2Cloud platform for their customers. I guess you could say that they are delivering value added services which are “Powered by Go2Cloud“. 

Powered_go2cloud_logo

“Powered by Go2Cloud”

There is one caveat though. Go2Cloud, does not accept all comers. The team is selective about the partners we work with.

After all, in many cases customers approach us directly in order to request a referral to a specialist service provider, and just as with our platforms “100% uptime guarantee”, we need to feel 100% confident in the partners we work with and refer customers to.

Over the next few months, we will be focusing on sharing some of the fantastic success stories that customers and partners have already shared with us. 

These solutions cover everything from MXiT Games and instant scalability under load, all the way through to CRM, ERP, Mobility and so much more.

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If you would like to find out more about partnering with Go2Cloud’s please email by clicking here.

Access Your Go2Cloud Server from ANY Device! Here’s How:

Yes, that is Windows Server booting on an iPad:

Photo

Windows Server via Jump Desktop on iPad 2

VNC, RDP and SSH are defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as  … 

Just kidding!

Let’s get simpler than that.

Accessing Go2Cloud, whether it is a server or perhaps the awesome new Windows 8 Consumer Preview that you spun-up yesterday after following our blog post (which can be viewed here) can be done as follows.

Deciding which access options you will use, requires that you answer two questions: 

1) What operating system is your server running (Windows or Linux based)?
2) What device are you using to access the server? 

Lets deal with the first point first (usually a good place to start):

When setting up your server for the very first time, regardless of the OS chosen, you will need to use a VNC
(Virtual Network Computing) client. This allows console level access to your server. Think of this as if you were plugging in a screen and keyboard into a brand new computer and watching it boot up for the first time. 

Since you get console level access with VNC, you will be able to follow the set-up prompts during the install and configuration process without any issue.

Once your server is booted up, and ready to use, you may then configure the server to allow an alternative access option which is dependent on the OS you chose.

For Windows servers, RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) and for Linux based servers SSH (Secure Shell).

At this point, you may be wondering why would you even bother using RDP or SSH when VNC looks to work just fine. 

The simple answer is that RDP and SSH allow for richer functionality and better performance when interacting with your sever. For example RDP allows: drive sharing, copy paste, printer connections, sound playback etc.

Second point second:

Depending on your device you likely have a number of VNC, RDP and SSH clients or apps to choose from.

Remember that you can use any option that you feel comfy with, but some of the Go2Cloud teams favorites are as follows:

iOS and Android devices: Check out our friends at Jump Desktop (which supports both VNC and RDP in one app)

MacOS: JollyFastVNC and Jump Desktop (currently in Beta). We have also used Remote Desktop Connection which installs by default with Microsoft Office for Mac 2011

Windows: TightVNC and the Windows Remote Desktop Client built into Windows natively.

Linux: Krdc and Remmina are both recommended by our Linux users.

Once you have these clients/apps in place, all you need is your servers IP Address and Password, both of which you can see inside the Go2Cloud control panel.

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IP and Password easily accessible from the control panel 

Please note that we did not differentiate between paid and free apps. In all cases there are free versions available for your choice of Server OS and device but if you find one that you really like, and will be accessing Go2Cloud often, we can highly recommend purchasing your choice of app.

I hope that you agree, accessing your Go2Cloud environment is really simple, once you know how.

Update – Windows 8 Consumer Preview Available on Go2Cloud

Microsoft’s much anticipated new operating system got one step closer to launch this past week with the release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview. 

As with our previous post entitled “Set up Windows 8 Developer Preview in 8 Minutes“, you have the ability to set up Windows 8 Consumer preview on top of the Go2Cloud platform. 

Windows_8

Please note that there is a slight variance in the process to set up the Consumer Preview. In order to set up this image, be sure to select the “Self Install” option when setting up your server as follows:

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Once making this selection, the “CD” field will allow you to select the Windows 8 Consumer Preview option.

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Accessing the newly created environment will follow the same steps detailed in the previous post, but if you feel like you need a refresher:

Use VNC to gain console level access to your machine. The password is available within the control panel and may be updated if you need to. Once the image is configured, RDP access may be used to access the image until the Consumer Preview or your Go2Cloud trial expire.

When completing your install, you will notice that Windows will require a product key. The FAQ site from Microsoft (which you can view here) provides the following information on this:

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If you would like to copy and paste this key: NF32V-Q9P3W-7DR7Y-JGWRW-JFCK8



We hope that you enjoy Windows 8 Consumer Preview as much as we are! 

Set-up Windows 8 Developer Preview in 8 Minutes

Thanks to the power of Virtualisation and Drive Imaging I was able to set-up and test Microsoft Windows 8 Developer Preview in less than 8 minutes. Even better was the fact that since it took 4 clicks, I had more than enough time to grab a fresh cup of coffee. 

Here is how you can do the same:

Using the Go2Cloud platform, sign up for a 5 day free trial. The current resource promo allows sufficient capability within the trial to set-up Microsoft Windows 8 Developer Preview.

Once signed in the process is really simple:

1

The add new server functionality inside the Go2Cloud control panel

1) Type in a Server Name
2) Select the Windows 8 Developer Preview Pre-Install Option
3) Enter the size of the disk you required (20Gb is needed for the Windows 8 Pre-Install Image)
4) Click Add 

Once you click Add, your server is automatically created and added to your control panel. Now all you do is wait for the Drive to image (which shouldn’t take more than 7 mins)

2

Configure your newly creates server and drive from inside the control panel

Suggestions: What to do while you wait for the drive to Image :

1) Make yourself a coffee
2) Adjust the resources for your Server by Clicking on the “Blue Gears” settings icon.

3

Adjusting the Virtual Server resources and access settings

Change the RAM allocation to 2048Mb and set your VNC password. VNC is needed for initial access to the virtual machine thereafter you can configure Remote Desktop (RDP)
Once your resources are adjusted, click Save.  

As soon as the drive is finished imaging , power the machine up and access it via VNC. Use the IP Address visible in the control panel along with the VNC password you set.

Voila – a new Microsoft Windows 8 Developer Preview in the Cloud in under 8 minutes.

Now where is that coffee … mmm 

PS: If you are looking for a VNC Client and your are running Windows, click here for options. If you are running a Mac, click here for options.

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