Monthly Archives

June 2017

Important Office 365 Upgrade

By | Managed Service, Managed Technology, MSP, Office

If you wished Microsoft would streamline its Office 365 ProPlus update schedule, your prayers have been answered. The cloud solution, which includes the Enterprise E3 and E5 plans, will be updated twice a year, rather than three times a year. Here’s everything you need to know about the new ProPlus update schedule.

Why the new schedule?

Feedback has almost always been Microsoft’s impetus to make changes of any kind, and this is no exception. The software giant wanted to simplify the update process and improve coordination between Office 365 and Windows, and the new schedule should handle both of those aims.

This is particularly helpful for those using Secure Productive Enterprise (SPE). SPE was bundled with Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus, meaning subscribers had to deal with two separate upgrades prior to the new schedule. Moving forward, things will be simplified as a single update twice a year will suffice.

What else changed?

Microsoft is extending support for ProPlus from 12 months per update to 18 months. This means you can technically update once or twice a year, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.

They’ve also changed the following terminology used in their updates:

  • Current Channel → Monthly Channel
  • First Release for Deferred Channel → Semi-annual Channel (Pilot)
  • Deferred Channel → Semi-annual Channel (Broad)

The Semi-annual Channel (Pilot) and Semi-annual Channel (Broad) describe the twice-a-year feature updates and how they will be deployed: the former to be used as deployment testing and the latter for actual deployment to an organization’s users.

When will the first ProPlus upgrade be released under the new schedule?

The first Pilot channel will be available on September 12, 2017, the same day as that month’s Patch Tuesday. The first Broad channel will be available four months later on January 9, 2018, also on a Patch Tuesday.

The second release will bring a new Pilot on March 13, 2018 and a new Broad on July 10, 2018.

Can you skip a ProPlus features upgrade?

While you can in fact choose only to upgrade once a year, you will eventually have to conduct a second upgrade to get the most up-to-date support. Microsoft is giving you two months of overlap in the next update to do this.

So, say your firm deploys the Broad channel in January 2018, but skips the July 2018 upgrade, you would have to upgrade within the two-month span between January 2019 and March 2019 to be eligible for the latest support.

What happened to the ProPlus upgrade for June 2017?

Microsoft released new Deferred Channel and First Release for Deferred Channel upgrades on June 13, 2017. You will have three months to conduct enterprise pilots and validate applications with this upgrade before the final Deferred Channel release on September 12, 2017. The last Deferred Channel will be supported until July 10, 2018.

Changes to the support life cycle of Office 365 ProPlus will ultimately save you time and reduce the hassles of conducting upgrades. That said, it might take some time getting used to the new schedule and nomenclature, so if you have any questions about Office 365 or the new schedule, just give us a call at 855.476.6347!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Wikileaks details router vulnerabilities

By | Security

When we write about how antivirus software isn’t enough to keep you safe from malware, it’s not just scare tactics. There are so many ways hackers can break into your system that antivirus solutions will never catch. For a real-world example, look no further than the router exploit kit recently leaked from the CIA.

The Wikileaks CIA documents

For several months, the notorious website famous for leaking government data has been rolling out information it obtained from the Central Intelligence Agency. The documents detail top-secret surveillance projects from 2013 to 2016 and mainly cover cyber espionage.

In the most recent release, documents describe government-sponsored methods and programs used to exploit home, office, and public wireless routers for both tracking internet browsing habits and remotely accessing files stored on devices that connect to compromised networks.

Is my router one of them?

According to the documents, 25 models of wireless routers from 10 different manufacturers were being exploited by the CIA. They weren’t off-brand budget devices either; the list includes devices from some of the biggest names in wireless networking:

  • Netgear
  • Linksys
  • Belkin
  • D-Link
  • Asus

Those brands account for over a third of wireless routers on the market, which means there’s a good chance you’re at risk.

After WannaCry used a previous CIA leak to fuel its global spread, you need to worry about more than just being a target of government espionage too. Over the past few years, almost all of these leaks have quickly made their way into criminal hands.

Patching vulnerabilities

Fixing security gaps in hardware is tricky business, especially when they’re mainly used to monitor rather than corrupt. In most cases, there will be no visual cues or performance problems to indicate your hardware has been infected. As such, you should plan on regularly updating the software on your hardware devices whenever possible.

Accessing your router’s software interface isn’t a user-friendly experience for non-IT folks. Usually, to access it, you need to visit the manufacturer’s website and log in with the administrator username and password. If these are still set to the default “admin” and “password” make sure to change them.

Once logged in, navigate through the settings menus until you find the Firmware Update page. Follow the instructions and confirm that the firmware has been properly installed.

The CIA’s router leaks were vague, so we’re not even sure how recent they are. We are fairly certain, however, that all of the manufacturers have since patched the vulnerabilities. Regardless, updating your router’s firmware will protect from a number of cyber security risks. If you’re unable to finish the task on your own, one of our technicians can fix it, as well as any other firmware vulnerabilities, in a matter hours. All you need to do is call us, 855-476-6347!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Why businesses need a UPS

By | Hardware

Power outages caused by utility failure, accidents, and natural disasters such as storms, flooding, or earthquakes are inevitable. There’s very little you can do to prevent any of these from happening, but you can avoid the consequences to your business by using an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS).

What is an uninterruptible power supply?

An uninterruptible power supply is an essential piece of hardware that protects both your computer and your data. It provides a backup power source in case of main power failures caused by electrical current problems such as blackouts, brownouts, and power spikes.

Smaller UPS units can protect individual computers while larger models can power multiple devices or an entire office. Small businesses can opt for individual UPS units, which should be enough to back up critical computers and other devices that are key to business continuity.

Benefits of having UPS

It’s a known fact that power outages can damage or completely destroy electronic equipment, especially computers. Unexpected computer shutdown can cause great damage to your computer hardware and make you lose unsaved data. A UPS ensures you never experience such a scenario.

Here are other ways that a UPS benefits your systems:

  • Uninterrupted power flow during power surges

When you have UPS, the voltage that passes from the main electrical lines to your devices is consistently stabilized. This protects your computers from power surges, which happen when the voltage in other equipment suddenly rises.

  • Refined and filtered power supply

It normalizes power levels so that your computers are protected against dips and spikes caused by lightning or an abnormal power supply that usually comes from restored power after a blackout.

  • Instant power during brownouts

An uninterruptible power supply guarantees your operations’ continuity. In the event of short-term interruptions, it gives you enough time to switch to a larger, more stable power supply such as a generator. But unlike a generator, it provides instant power to your equipment at the exact moment the power goes out.

Does your business need a UPS?

If you’re purchasing new computers for your small business, a UPS is an invaluable add-on. Businesses that require constant power to function such as hospitals, banks, academic institutions, manufacturing companies, and any business for which storing and processing data are critical tasks can benefit from uninterrupted power.

Determining the type of UPS for your business as well as installing and maintaining it may require the expertise of professionals. We have experts who could provide you with information on properly operating a UPS, replacing its battery, identifying devices that should never be connected to it, and other safety tips. Call us today 855.476.6347 … we know how to help!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Bandwidth – What is it, what does it do and why do I need more of it!

By | Business, Google, Managed Service, Managed Technology, MSP, Security, Uncategorized, Web & Cloud
Post by:  Fabienne McGeever

Bandwidth refers to the amount of information that something, like a connection to the internet, can handle in a given time.  Bandwidth calculations consider both theoretical ratings and actual throughput.  It also measures speed for what is being sent out (upstream) and what is being brought in (downstream), explained today as up and down, from each workstation.  Both up and down have a separate and unique speed measurement.  Typical scenarios that are especially sensitive and are noticed around a networked company and is felt throughout include issues like:

  • time to establish a new connection
  • time to load a Web page, and basic browsing
  • time to download an app, patch, or other files
  • ability to stream video content for long periods uninterrupted
  • Processing day to day functions in your specific software package including systems software and application software. Systems software includes the programs that are dedicated to managing the computer itself.  Application software includes personal and business that keep employees and your company running).

Let’s use an analogy to help make bandwidth clearer. In this example, the bandwidth is the number of tables in a restaurant, and web traffic is diners. The math is simple: The more tables in the restaurant, the more patrons can dine there at any one time.  The service however will be affected when there is an overabundance of patrons and not enough service, or a particular patron is over demanding; insistent that he deserves more attention.

Network connections each possess a bandwidth rating according to the maximum data rate it is physically capable of supporting.  Examples are:  wired, WiFi, DSL, (VPN) Virtual Personal Network, (RDP) Remote Desktop Protocol and Ethernet connections are examples.  Fast Ethernet or Higher level network protocols like (IP) Internet Protocol use links at 100 Mbps (megabits per second).  Each of these connections have a distinctive speed rating.  All networks can easily be extended to link entire businesses or office buildings using network bridge devices.  Being cognizant of what ports, switches, routers, tunnels and adapters are also important, but that’s another article!  These devices do play a part in a networks performance.  In the IT world, this can explain why things are not working the way or as fast as you are expecting.  Whether proactive, reactive or both, maintenance is king!  Equipment makes a huge difference and letting your hardware become obsolete is never a good idea.

So how much bandwidth does one need?  Internet usage doubles every 12 months. If you need 10Mbps of bandwidth service right now, next year you’ll probably need 20Mbps.  Businesses need 100Mbps per 1,000 users or 100Kbps (kilobits per second) per user.  Mbps is over 1000 times faster than 1.0 Kbps. Reports project users will require 1Gbps per 1,000 seats or 1Mbps per user.  There are only a few things to consider in purchasing bandwidth through your (ISP) Internet Service Provider.  Who is using the Internet, what are they using the Internet for and when are users actually using it.  Unfortunately, traffic is not a steady trickle of bytes it comes in bursts.  Cost and availability from your provider both limit the bandwidth provisioned to you.  Your ISP will let you know what is available in your area.  Even more important is how your internal network bandwidth is allocated throughout the building.  Throttling is recommended to help prioritize who needs what and how much.  If a few are utilizing all the bandwidth, you can evaluate the necessity and make a business decision to control or purchase more bandwidth and/or put parameters in place for bandwidth distribution.  Setting up this regulator lets you know who is monopolizing your bandwidth.  This doesn’t preclude your ISP throttling you. They may be allowing full speed traffic to benchmarking sites while artificially squeezing anything else to slower speeds.  “Unmetered bandwidth” is also an option; however, unmetered means a hosting plan with unmetered traffic… But unmetered does not mean unlimited.   Unmetered hosting plans are often very limited in the amount of data you can send and receive.  Data is often transferred between your servers and the public web at a lower speed.  Some easy, low cost fixes to increase your speed might include just changing up your web browser, updating your operating system, changing out hardware like your network card, RAM and of course making sure your network is secure!

Fiber optic cable is now replacing copper cable, raising the standard in broadband speeds  from the world of megabit into gigabit speeds .  Your network condition is directly related to production and plays a critical role in the success and growth of your business.

Simpatico Systems, LLC is able to perform a network assessment and advise you on how to get your network in the best condition, in addition to being compliant for best practices and performance.  Call us today – 855.476.6347 opt 1.

About the Author: Fabienne McGeever is a middle child/twin in a family of ten children.  She gained the unique perspective to see both sides and get along with most. She loves snow skiing, the beach “in any form,” and glamping. Fabienne lives in Santa Clarita, CA and serves as a Corporate Admin/Client Relations Liaison for Simpatico Systems.  Contact her directly:  fabienne.mcgeever@simpat.co

NSA-approved: mobile virtualization

By | Virtualization

Server and desktop virtualization have been improving computing efficiency and data security for years. But with all the talk about mobile BYOD policies and corporate data protection on smartphones, the National Security Agency (NSA) believes virtualization is the key to true security. Here’s what you need to know:

US government approved

The NSA maintains a program named Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSFC) that tests and approves hardware to assist government entities that are optimizing security. For example, if a public sector network administrator is deciding which mobile devices to purchase for office staff, CSFC has information about which devices are approved for various government roles.

Offices in the intelligence community usually require virtualization hardware and software as a minimum for laptops and tablets. But until now, no smartphones that included the technology have passed the tests. However, a recently released model of the HTC A9 phone includes mobile virtualization functionality that got the green light.

What is mobile virtualization?

Virtualization is an immensely complicated field of technology, but when it comes to mobile devices the process is a little simpler. Like any mobile device management plan, the goal of mobile virtualization is to separate personal data from business data entirely. Current solutions are forced to organize and secure data that is stored in a single drive.

Essentially, current phones have one operating system, which contains a number of folders that can be locked down for business and personal access. But the underlying software running the whole phone still connects everything. So if an employee downloaded malware hidden in a mobile game, it would be possible to spread through the entire system, regardless of how secure individual folders are.

With mobile virtualization however, administrators can separate the operating system from the hardware. This would allow you to partition a phone’s storage into two drives for two operating system installations. Within the business partition, you could forbid users from downloading any apps other than those approved by your business. If employees install something malicious on their personal partition, it has no way of affecting your business data because the two virtualized operating systems have no way of interacting with each other.

Although it’s still in its infancy, the prospect of technology that can essentially combine the software from two devices onto a single smartphone’s hardware is very exciting for the security community. To start preparing your organization for the switch to mobile virtualization, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.