Flexible Security

Flexible security almost sounds like an oxymoron.  How can you provide the flexibility you need while maintaining security?  In our blog post on 10/14/16 (The Balancing Act of Security), we discussed the need to balance security with the usability of software.  AMS Connect is designed to be flexible enough to adapt to your individual security needs; we offer a variety of features that you can adapt to your specific requirements.

  • Dual-Factor Authentication – This feature, when turned on, requires users to verify their identity through a unique code sent via text or email. This feature can also remember (if enabled and the user selects it) a particular computer/browser so that the user only has to authentic once for a designated time frame.
  • Granular Security – Since its inception, AMS Connect was designed to provide security down to the individual item. Meaning that in order for a user to access a specific item in the software, they have to be granted access.  Additionally, if the user doesn’t have any permissions to an item (even a matter/workspace) the user won’t be able to see the item.  This is perhaps the main feature (in addition to custom branding) that makes AMS Connect stand alone, very few if any SaaS collaboration solutions offer this kind of security.
  • Groups – To ease the setup of new users, an administrator can create a group for each matter. For example, under Client A’s workspace you can have a group called “Firm” for those within your organization, a group called Client A Executives for the executives who need high level access to their information, and a group called Client A Admin for the administrative team at Client A.
  • Password Rules – The AMS Connect software allows administrators to set up customized password rules. Do you want a simple 4-digit pin or do you want a 20 character, upper case letter, lower case letter, special character, etc.?  AMS Connect can match to your password requirements, even setting password expiration and preventing repeat passwords (up to a number of your choosing).   Additionally, AMS Connect allows you to set your account lockout fail number (e.g. user inputs wrong password three times, the account is locked).
  • Password Forget – In the event you have users that have a tendency to forget their password, you can turn on a feature that allows the user to have their password reset automatically. The user simply clicks on forget password and inputs their email address (the one in the AMS Connect System) and their user id.  An email is generated to the user with password reset instructions.

There are many other features that are customizable as related to security.  If you need to step up to the best and most flexible security contact us today.

The Balancing Act of Security

Today, an organization who is holding someone’s trusted data is going to get hacked. Even though we see regular news reports regarding company’s lackluster security policies and getting hacked, the majority of data breaches are never reported.

True foolproof security can only be accomplished one way, don’t write information down, don’t put it in a computer, and absolutely don’t tell anyone else (i.e. keep it in your head). Obviously this is impractical because the only way to get business done is to share information. The problem of course is how to share this information while maintaining the necessary safeguards.

There is two main factors to consider when implementing safeguards. First: Is the method for access too complicated for the authorized user. Second, Is the security methods strong enough to protect the data from unauthorized access.   There is a third factor to consider when dealing with data that isn’t necessarily security but useful for tracking. That factor is access logs.

When deciding on how you are going to interact with your clients or coworkers you will want to take those two considerations into play.   AMS Collaborator’s secure portal (AMS Connect) provides high level security in a manner that makes it easy for you and your clients to use.

The AMS Connect software allows an organization to customize how secure you want your data. In addition to the highest standards for data security we provide organizations options such as customized password controls (simple to complex), dual factor authentication, and cascading permissions (i.e. if a user doesn’t have permissions to a data set, they can’t see it). Additionally, we allow organizations to create customized groups (i.e. users identified as participants in various areas) and security profiles (i.e. roles or permission templates).

You and your clients deserve better than subpar security. AMS Collaborator’s team is here to help you identify the right way to balance your security requirements with users ease of access. Our AMS Connect software is a full featured collaboration extranet that can be set up fast and have you up and running with top notch security in a short amount of time.

Customized Branding

Branding is an important component in the successful management of your business which speaks about who you are and what you offer. Branding is the business practice of telling your customers and employees what they can expect from you, setting you apart from your competitors.

What is your brand?  Elements of your brand include your logo, your color palette, your website, and any marketing or promotional materials.  Any and all of which are used to communicate who you are and what you offer.

An established brand is obviously vital with regards to externally sharing your business (e.g. marketing purposes), but what about your internal branding, resources used by your employees and customers? The AMS Connect software provides our clients with a truly customized extranet that makes your users (including your customers) feel like the site is truly theirs.

No matter your industry, your customers need to know that when they use your site (for purposes such as sharing documents or updating project management databases) their data is secure and that they have complete control. AMS Connect provides this security and assurance, and then takes the application one step further by taking your branding elements such as your logo and color scheme, and incorporating these into the extranet used by your customers on a day-to-day basis so they feel as if they are utilizing your website versus a third party software.

Our secure extranet site can be completely tailored to match your brand and your website, incorporating your logo, colors, images, verbiage, and overall feel so your customers have that sense of security which is a top priority of AMS Connect.

Contact us today to see how we can create a customized extranet site for your organization that matches your unique brand while providing your customers with data security and protection.

Not Your Average Database

The database feature in collaboration software can be one of the most utilized and valuable tools that you will use on a day-to-day basis. Anything that you would use a spreadsheet to track or manage, our database feature can do and then some. Database needs vary depending on the organization and internal/external needs; as such, our resource is designed to assist you in organizing employee or client data, tracking duties and assignments, customizing work flows, and efficiently managing projects.

AMS Collaborator is constantly improving our database tool with the goal of enhancing flexibility, usability, efficient organization, and customization to provide you with a tailored resource with security remaining a top priority. As part of our recent release of updates to the software, the database feature underwent a number of improvements, including:

User Interface Updates

In addition to the general user interface updates affecting the overall look and feel of the database tool, many of the navigation and operational elements within the database feature have been enhanced to create an easier and more intuitive workspace for end users. Complete customization is an element of the AMS Connect software that gives our clients the ability to create functional databases for each unique need.

Sortable View Lists

View lists within the database feature may now be assigned a custom sort. This feature controls the way views are displayed, both from the view list as well as when working within a particular database. This update simplifies searching, creating a simpler overall process.

Display Options

Additional options have been added to further control what displays within a database view. Similar to the sortable view lists update, this update created a more streamlined visual effect in addition to providing you with ability to securely manage who views what within your database.

View Record Scrolling

Record lists that display more data than can fit on the screen will now contain list scroll bars so that records can be viewed without scrolling away from other page elements such as navigation controls, paging, and record operations.

The modifications made within the database feature of AMS Connect have created a more user-friendly, simplified, and functional resource. Contact us today to see how the AMS Connect team can help you efficiently restructure and manage your database and online collaboration needs.

Is Your Document Accessible yet Secure?

How do you share documents with your clients and colleagues? Are you certain that the individual you give access to your document is the only one? Most online document sharing solutions scan your documents for their own gain (marketing, etc.) or worse, you email the document which provides little to no security.

With this in mind, how do you ensure you maintain control over access and security? Organizations that use AMS Connect already know. AMS believes that your data is entirely yours and you should have full control over not only who has access to that data, but how you organize and maintain those secure documents.

AMS Collaborator continually improves and enhances one of the most secure document collaboration tools available. While maximum security is always our priority, some of our latest updates are also designed to increase usability and the efficient organization of your documents. These updates include improvements to:

Folder Loading – A feature allowing for efficient organization of documents utilizing folders and subfolders, the “folder tree” has been redesigned to handle much larger data sets. Rather than loading the entire list of folders when a user opens the Documents feature or navigates to a new folder or page of documents, the folder tree loads only what is needed to display, and continues to load additional content as the user expands each subfolder.

Color Coding – Another update promoting the organization of your content, folders and documents can now be color coded. The selected color will be displayed in the folder tree and the document list.

View As – This feature expands on the existing “View in Browser” option to allow the user to select how the document will display: In the original file format (which may trigger a download if the file is not supported for viewing in the browser); as Html; or as a PDF. Note that converting the file to Html or PDF is limited to files compatible with Microsoft Word or Excel.

General UI Improvements – AMS has made a number of additional improvements to enhance usability and update the customizable look of the extranet site. These improvements include: the consolidation of hyperlinks into buttons, the ability to resize the space and sizing of the folder tree when working with the documents feature, and the addition of quick links to folders that can be added to document lists.

Just a few of the recent updates AMS Connect has recently applied, the modifications ensure ease of use and maximum efficiency when navigating through the site and securely storing documents. Contact us today to see how we can improve your current document sharing needs.

Intranets vs. Extranets – Which to Use?

Intranets are designed to be secure from the outside world, but rarely offer any differentiating security once inside since they are designed for sharing information. An extranet though, is designed explicitly for sharing information with others outside the organization. These could be clients, business partners, shareholders, key vendors, or any other entity where secure communication is required. Because the audience may widely vary, the ability to securely manage the content on a granular and role-based level is critical. For example, an executive may want to manage content that a business partner can view, but the business partner should not have rights to make changes to that content.

As software continues to become more sophisticated, the lines between these two begin to blur.  Software packages that began as intranet solutions now provide limited extranet functionality; some major Document Management Systems fall into this category, as does Microsoft SharePoint*. However, there are some major considerations that need to be looked at before using an intranet tool to provide access to outside users:

  • First, and perhaps the most important, is that as an intranet solution, these software packages reside within your local network. In order to share information with outside users, access to the local network must be granted.
  • Second, the management for intranet solutions assumes security is based on the network. This means that even if external access is possible, it either means adding external users to your local network — with all the security concerns that implies — or bolting on some form of external user management tool along with the extra management and configuration that it requires.
  • Third, the management and configuration of an intranet solution often depends on server administration rights and tools. For example, to create portals in SharePoint*, a network administrator must login to the server and create the portal, configure and customize it for the specific users, then assign it to the user to manage the content.

Extranet systems on the other hand, are designed from the ground up for external access:

  • User management and configuration is integrated and not dependent on any external system.
  • Configuration and management is designed to be performed from within the software, eliminating the dependency on network administrators and complex network authentication requirements.
  • Finally, the extranet solution can be hosted completely outside the company network, eliminating many of the security concerns raised with a locally hosted application.

Picking a solution

Intranet and extranet solutions both provide invaluable services that can be used by virtually any organization — particularly as security and access control concerns have increased in the last few years. However, it is also important to understand the distinctions between these two solutions, and the strengths and weaknesses each provides. For local access with tight integration with network security, an intranet is the best option. For securely sharing and controlling access to data with outside users (whether business partners, vendors, or clients), a dedicated extranet solution is a better choice than opening your network to outside access.

*Microsoft and SharePoint are Registered Trademarks of Microsoft Corporation

Intranets vs Extranets – What is the Difference?

Everyone has heard of the internet. In fact, we all use it nearly every day, and even our cell phones can be used to access content from the internet on a daily or hourly basis. While virtually everyone understands what the internet is, most of us get confused or wonder if someone needs to learn how to spell properly when we see the words “intranet” or “extranet.”

What is an Intranet?

Wikipedia describes an intranet as “a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol technology to securely share any part of an organization’s information and network operating system within that organization.” The key words here are “securely” and “within that organization.” This means that only members of the organization have access to that particular set of electronic files.

The concept of intranets first appeared a few years after the public introduction of the internet and the World Wide Web in the early 1990s.  They are in wide use today, providing a familiar environment for employees and executives to access company information.  Security is usually managed through the network, requiring some form of local authentication.  Information is often proprietary and strictly pertinent to the company.  Perhaps the most widely known intranet software solution is Microsoft SharePoint*.

What is an Extranet?

While an extranet has many similarities to an intranet, an extranet performs a very different function. The Wikipedia entry for an extranet describes it as “a computer network that allows controlled access from the outside for specific business or educational purposes… an extranet is similar to a DMZ in that it provides access to needed services for channel partners, without granting access to an organization’s entire network.” Here we see some key terms: “securely” and “access from the outside.” While both intranets and extranets differ from the internet in general because of the “security” component, the key differentiating factor between intranets and extranets is this: Intranets are designed to communicate within an organization and extranets are designed to allow for communication outside the organization.

Read along in our next post as we discuss how to determine which to use (an intranet or an extranet) in what situation, depending on a variety of factors and needs.

How Secure is your Cloud?

Ask this question, “Where does my file go?” Can the provider provide an audit trail—not just to the individuals with whom you have chosen to share your file, but perhaps more importantly, individuals and organizations you have not chosen to share with. When a file is deleted, is it gone? What surprises may be found six months from now—or six years? Even if the file is not directly shared, what about the content? Providers routinely scrape file content so that full-text searching can be performed. But other purposes can be applied to that scraped content as well: tagging and matching files, recommendations to related services (advertising), and even notifications.

For most service providers, file sharing and collaboration is nothing more than a commodity service. Accessibility trumps security. It is easier to answer the question, “Can I access I my files?” than it is to ask the question, “Who else can access my files?” If the provider cannot or will not answer that second question, then seriously consider what information you are willing to post.

Articles are becoming increasingly common raising this question. Virtually all of the major providers have undergone some form of review and critique. With a commodity service, agreements are limited and often in the favor of the service provider. Some providers have admitted to back-end sharing of data. Some scan the content of all files posted to provide additional services such as directed advertisements and connecting interested parties.

Any service provider that offers “free” or “freemium” service is likely making up the cost through one of these methods. Careful review of the service agreement often demonstrates exactly what rights to security and privacy the end-user is giving up when posting content to these providers.

What’s in a Cloud?

Today, sharing data has never been easier. You drop your files into a special folder on your computer, phone, or tablet, and those files become available to all your devices anywhere you need them. For anyone who has suffered a hardware failure and lost data, or forgot to bring a copy of that critical file needed for a presentation, these new services have become invaluable.

The next step in online storage has become collaboration. Now, instead of just centralizing your personal files (providing access wherever you go, and with whatever device you choose) you can go one step further and provide access to your friends, colleagues, and even clients. Drop the file into the right folder, and someone else can view it.

Major software and hardware companies including Apple and Microsoft, in addition to Google and Dropbox, have recently embraced this capability. The step from personal files anywhere you need them to collaborating with clients is a logical move. Now, instead of dealing with the complexities of physical transfer or email, the file is simply accessible anywhere at any time.

But, where does that file go? Recently, many of these service providers have undergone scrutiny for privacy concerns. The balance between security and accessibility can be difficult to maintain. While providing access to anyone anywhere is very compelling, security becomes important with the simple question, “Who else can access my data?”

For most service providers, file sharing and collaboration is nothing more than a commodity service. Accessibility trumps security. It is easier to answer the question, “Can I access I my files?” than it is to ask the question, “Who else can access my files?” If the provider cannot or will not answer that second question, then seriously consider what information you are willing to post.

With security of confidential data being a top concern for many organizations and individuals, collaboration software is a popular option. Providing your business with a secure location for the data that you manage, both in-house and with external clients, AMS-Collaborator is a solution that meets those private, collaboration needs. Contrary to other popular data sharing sites and software, AMS-Collaborator allows you ownership of your data, with a primary goal of sharing and protecting your data.

How does AMS-Collaborator secure your data in a way that Cloud computing does not? Tune in for “Securing Your Cloud” to learn how this collaboration software protects your data while allowing private interactions and collaboration with your clients.