2014 Was The Year Of…You Fill In The Blank!

Besides resolving to spend more time with family and friends, getting fit and getting organized, have you made any New Year’s resolutions for the firm or business?

Looking at your current computer network and reviewing your past year’s network support and services, are you saying to yourself, “I’m not going to let this happen again in 2015!” Do any of your New Year’s resolutions include dealing with continually pesky computer network issues?

Do Your Resolutions Look Anything Like This?

• RESOLVED, double pinkie shake, I WILL get my critical company data automatically backed up offsite daily. Whether through fire, natural disaster, tape failure or just human error, I might lose all of my company data, which will cost me plenty.

• RESOLVED, I will take a serious look at cloud computing and all of the business benefits and potential savings the cloud offers for my business.

• RESOLVED, I will not tolerate sub-par security policies or procedures for my company that put it in a high-risk category for being subject to cyber attacks that could cripple or completely wipe out my business.

FREE Technology Business Review gets you on the road to keeping your resolutions and eliminating your day-to-day computer headaches. Fill out the form to the right to get yours!

You don’t need to be a current WAMS client, and this comprehensive, non-invasive assessment will provide you with valuable feedback regarding your network’s security, stability, and overall performance. Get yours now!

NOTE TO MANAGEDCARE CLIENTS: As a WAMS ManagedCARE client, you already get technology business reviews as a part of your IT package, so no need to respond!

 

3 IT Security Take-Aways From The Sony Hack

Any business can become the victim of security breaches on a mass scale, as shown by the debacle which recently eclipsed Sony and forced it to temporarily cancel the release of blockbuster movie The Interview. Beneath the dramatic headlines are lessons for small business owners everywhere in how simple errors in IT security management can have grave consequences. These tips will help prevent your firm being the next to suffer Sony’s fate.

Don’t let basic security habits slip

Our modern-day instinct tells us that the answer to potential security breaches is to install new layers of Antivirus software, firewalls and further encryption systems. While these are all worthy additions to your company’s armor of security shields, they will do little to help if good old-fashioned protective habits are allowed to slide.

Instill a disciplined, security-conscious mentality in your organization and keep the messages simple so that staff remember and follow them. Focus on regularly changing passwords and keeping them secret, being vigilant about avoiding unexpected links in email messages, and limiting network access for the likes of external contractors to that which is absolutely necessary.

One of the ways hackers made their way into the Sony network was by tricking administrators into thinking they had a legitimate need for access: teach your staff to be careful and praise cautiousness even if it turns out access is warranted. Encourage staff to flag up potential security lapses and make sure they know that reports will be followed up and loopholes closed.

Take a flexible and agile approach to IT

IT changes, and so do the ways best suited to keeping it safe. This means it is vitally important to keep your IT systems up to date, and where necessary to do away with outdated practices that could leave your business technology exposed. This involves more than just ensuring that your network is running updated Antivirus software to catch the latest bugs and worms – it means staying abreast of emerging methods to mitigate potential threats from hackers worldwide.

All of this uses staff and resources that your small business might not have – which is where outsourced managed services come in. Using a managed service provider as an add-on to your own IT team can give you extra flexibility and the ability to keep abreast of industry security developments, even when you lack the time to do so yourself.

Equally, know when it is time to ditch data – think of emerging social networks like Snapchat, which set messages to self-destruct after a set time, as your cue to make your data retention policy less permanent, particularly in relation to email. If you no longer have a business need or a regulatory requirement to retain information, then delete it – in the process you can limit the possible damage even if the worst should occur and you fall victim to an external attack.

Backup, backup, backup

The last thing you want in the event of a security breach is for it to hit your day-to-day operations – the potential damage caused by the hack itself is likely to give you enough to worry about. But that is exactly the situation Sony found itself in after its latest hack, with its email system down and staff forced to return to the days of pen, paper and even the fax machine.

As well as ensuring alternative means of communication remain open to your business in the aftermath of a possible attack, it is also vital to make sure that you retain access to the information most critical to your work. Regular, secured backups help ensure that, whatever happens, the show is able to go on and your firm’s productivity and revenue are not unduly hit. Engaging professionals to undertake your backups on a managed service basis also means this can happen routinely and without fail, while you stay focused on running your business.

Want to learn more about how to reduce your IT network’s vulnerability to attack? Get in touch with us today.

Internet Vigilance

Despite constant development in security and stability, the Internet still remains very much a Wild West landscape. You can navigate through it, but you never know when you might encounter a hidden danger. Threats exist on a global scale.

Cybercriminals want information. They don’t care whose information they access and steal, or what damage they do. They want to take what they can get and they want to sell it. There are people who do this for a living. This morning, in the period of one minute, there were hundreds of cyber-attacks originating in China, targeting the United States.

What can you do?

Stay vigilant!

Visit web sites you know and trust: This is the simplest and most effective way to keep safe.

Keep your web browser and computers up-to-date with the latest patches and security updates: While your office computers are kept up-to-date automatically as long as you’re covered by any of our maintenance plans, you still need to keep an eye on updates for your home computer(s). Don’t ignore these updates!

Know web sites you input personal information or credit card information into are secure: Look at the address bar. If you see “https” you are on a secure web page. If you see “http” you are not on a secure web page.

Make web sites you visit more secure: Browser extensions, such as HTTPS Everywhere, help make web browsing more secure. HTTPS Everywhere takes standard “http” web pages and secures them with “https” by automatically directing you to the secure version of the site. It’s not compatible with every web page, but it goes a long way in protecting you.

The maintenance plan we mentioned above is our WAMS ManagedCARE Desktop service. WAMS ManagedCARE Desktop is a low cost, fixed fee solution that proactively monitors and maintains your desktops with the goal of minimizing IT problems you face – leading to lower downtime, higher end user productivity and reduced support costs. Learn more about it here!

Windows Server 2003: Don’t leave your network at risk!

In case you haven’t heard, Microsoft has announced that the end of life for Windows Server 2003 (WS2003) is July 14, 2015.  You can no longer get Extended Support for WS 2003.

If you’re wondering what this means for you, it comes down to this – there will be no patches or security updates, putting your applications and business at risk. New threats won’t be addressed, and your WS2003 systems will become a security risk and compliance nightmare.

Do you have a plan in place to protect your firm? Industry experts estimate that there are plenty of servers still running WS2003 that are soon-to-be stranded.  Especially for those in regulated industries like legal, this will cause a heavy compliance burden. If your IT department hasn’t developed a plan to move you off of the 2003 family of Microsoft products (Server 2003, SQL 2005, Exchange 2003, Office 2003, Windows XP), you had better push the agenda. The hackers of the world are licking their lips, waiting for Microsoft to end support and then launch an attack on the sitting duck servers around the globe. Threats such as CryptoLocker will be much easier for cyber criminals to deploy on an unsupported operating system.

There is still time to put a plan together and plan an upgrade to Windows Server 2012 or even Windows Server 2008R2, but we recommend you start now. The cost of waiting until after the deadline will climb dramatically as few IT providers will want to take on that challenge without a safety net and support from Microsoft.

If you are not thrilled about buying more server licenses or even new server hardware, look into Cloud Computing as an option. It may be the right time to make the switch vs. re-investing in more onsite hardware/software. With Cloud Computing, your firm’s network can be installed on a Cloud platform, such as WAMS Cloud Connect. You don’t have to worry about servers or the ending of support because your Cloud provider is constantly keeping the hardware and operating systems up to date. In terms of investment, you can save the upfront capital expenditure of hardware and software, and instead covert that into a monthly operating expense that is scalable as your firm’s needs grow or retract. Whether Cloud or onsite, the message is clear – make sure you are not still using Windows Server 2003 after July 14, 2015!

5 Changes to Expect from Apple in 2015

It is time to start looking at what is ahead in terms of tech developments in 2015. When it comes to Apple, 2014 was one of their better years, with new versions of nearly everything introduced. While it is still a little early yet to say whether 2015 will be the same, there are some interesting changes and innovations expected from Apple in the year to come.

1. Apple focuses more on business solutions

Early in 2014, Apple announced that they would be entering a long-term partnership with enterprise giant IBM. The idea behind this was that Apple would work with IBM to develop a better way to bring mobile solutions to businesses and whole industries.

Up until now, there has been little announced beyond this initial partnership. However, you can expect that both IBM and Apple are working on big developments that could debut in 2015. One indicator of this is the way many Apple products, mobile devices especially, are being integrated into businesses. Most devices, like the iPad, enter the business via an employee bringing them to the office (BYOD) and using their own device for work.

While this has worked well for many companies, the business side (apps, marketing, company-wide management, etc.) has largely been lacking or unsupported. It is a fair belief to think that Apple will continue to develop products in 2015, but leverage the IBM partnership to make devices easier to use and integrate into business, while also taking advantage of IBM’s wide industry expertise to launch industry-specific apps and services.

2. A larger iPad

Rumors started to fly about Apple developing a larger iPad for release some time in 2015. The word is that they are working on a 12.9 inch device that is supposedly being targeted to be a replacement for low-end PC’s small netbooks. This device could be great for businesses, especially those with employees who are on the road a lot or who work directly with clients. Think about it: A highly portable tablet with enough screen space to run most apps, combined with a subscription to Office 365 or Google Apps, with a possible keyboard case. It could very well be a great solution for many businesses.

We can’t say when or if we are 100% for sure if this device will be released, but signs and rumors are pointing to a likely launch in 2015.

3. Apple Watch

This prediction is pretty much a no-brainer, largely because it has already been announced. Scheduled to be released in the spring of 2015, the Apple Watch should be the wearable of the year. Like most other Apple products, this will no doubt be a popular product with high demand from the domestic market.

At this time however, it really doesn’t look like there will be much use for this product for businesses for the time being. Sure, it provides a convenient way to interact with your phone, but many businesses will likely see it as more of a distraction than a help. That being said, some employees will probably purchase one privately, so you do need to aware of this device, especially when it comes to your BYOD program and if the device is used for business activities.

4. An incremental update to the iPhone

With 2014 seeing the release of both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple brought some high-powered devices to the market that were a big step over even the iPhone 5. In 2015, Apple will likely have a hard time outdoing the iPhone 6, so will likely introduce a small update to the phone instead.

This version will probably have an improved processor and some small improvements that will make the phone a little more competitive, with other devices released in the coming year. We don’t however expect an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus this year.

5. A smaller update to OS X

The past two years have seen back-to-back big versions of OS X drop. The most recent version, Yosemite, was a new design introduced along with a number of new features that brought the desktop operating system closer to Apple’s mobile operating system iOS.

In 2015 you can expect a new version of OS X to be unveiled and likely released, but we are pretty sure that it won’t be as big of an update as the last two. From what Apple has said about these systems, it looks like most features introduced in the next version of OS X will bring the iOS and OS X even closer together.

We’re curious to know what you would like to see from Apple in 2015. Let us know! And, if you would like to learn more about implementing any existing Apple devices into your business, contact us today.