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Windows Server 2008 End-Of-Life Support Begins Looming as Business Scramble to Act

It seems like we just went through this with Windows Server 2003, but we’ll soon be losing yet another Microsoft flagship product. Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange 2010, reached it’s “end-of-mainstream support” on January 13th, 2015 but the final blow will come January 14th, 2020. The exact same date for the end-of-support for Windows 7 Operating Systems. Microsoft will officially end its support for Windows Server 2008 and the 2008 R2 editions. It’s a sad beginning but read on and I will point you towards a few transformative paths for on-site, or cloud use.

Although 2020 seems like its lightyears away, update in an IT Infrastructure is a large task, one that will be here before you know it. So, if you’re still running Hyper-V on a Windows Server R2 platform, or worse your still running Windows Server 2003, then you need to start strategizing now, to ensure your company is protected and infrastructure is secure while moving forward.

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Extended Support Dates in Effect

Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 variants are already on their extended support phase now. As of July 8th, 2019, will be the final date for SQL Server 2008, while January 14th, 2020 will come shortly after. Once these dates hit, you will be running machines at your own risk in this saturated age of cyber-attacks. The good news is the fate of these dinosaur systems isn’t as bad as it would appear. It’s true this date cannot be moved, changed or deflected, but Microsoft has opened several more, cost-effective paths for businesses to begin their infrastructure evolution.

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Little-to-No Support Leaves Your Operating System Vulnerable

You can continue to use Windows Server 2008 R2 safely in your environments, at least until the expiration date. By doing so, you stand the risk of missing out of several new features being introduced to the Hyper-V family on any Server 2012 operating systems. These features alone warrant an upgrade to your infrastructure prior to the end-of-life support dates.

Remember that once a product reaches its end-of-life, no new features, fixes, or updates will occur. While Microsoft continues to provide what little help for customers with Server 2008 through extending support agreements, they too will no longer be able to receive any form of support from Microsoft come January 14, 2020. Leaving many business systems open and exposed to outside infiltration. All three Windows Server 2008, 2008 R2 (Datacenter, Enterprise, and Standard) will be affected, also including the Hyper-V role.

Post-Upgrade Solutions for Managing Your Old Servers 

  • Path #1:  Seen by many as the traditional evolutionary path, upgrading to a newer version of Windows Server, and SQL Server. This is where you get the most updated features in today’s security landscape. The latest version of Windows Server 2019, and SQL Server 2017.With the only caveat being to host on-premises versions or move to the cloud.
  • Path #2:  Not interested in upgrading to the latest server versions for some reason? We’ve got you covered, with a few options for those who wish to continue using Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2. To save you money, you could move these workloads into the Azure cloud, using Azure’s Hybrid Use Benefits. The only cost incurred is the computing instance and infrastructure. With the use of Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances for Windows Server, you can save further on computing costs.
  • Path #3:  The last path is the most grim for many, it’s the choice to not evolve at all. This leaves many servers including file, or database to receive the updating needed to stop cyber-attackers. For business’ that have already purchased “Software Assurance or Enterprise Subscription,” will receive security updates for a prolonged period of time. We should note, Microsoft has discontinued its assurance agreements, but with more than 90% of affected business’ operating under a “Standard License,” this path doesn’t work for the vast majority of businesses. Once again leaving many without a clear-cut choice.

This is still YOUR Choice

We hope all the information from Clare Computer Solutions, will assist in making sense of the dynamic landscape in technology. If your business wants a second opinion or just a helping hand, any of our team members would be happy to assist you with making your transition as smooth as possible. Reach out today to begin discussing your options in greater detail today.

 

Why YOU need a Strong Network Foundation to Support Emerging Tech

To take advantage of any opportunities in “Internet of Things (IoT)” and “Artificial Intelligence, (AI)” you must invest in robust wireless networks and with fast connections to any cloud applications. If you were building a house, you wouldn’t start with the windows. You would start by building a strong foundation. By laying the groundwork for future innovation, many businesses have capitalized on the competitive advantage, over there rival’s uptime.

Such is the case with small businesses and emerging technologies.

Where it makes business sense, your competition is investing in the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and other emerging IT solutions.  In order to make those deployments successful, you must first ensure you have strong and well-designed wired and wireless networks with fast connections to cloud services where possible, to power IoT and AI platforms. Many of the leading security applications use AI to create a security landscape, to familiarize it’s applications, with threats beyond our borders.

Without a strong network foundation, your business lacks the ability to effectively compete for new customers. You will begin to lack the customer service, and quality your customer’s were once assured. While it might seem obvious, companies shouldn’t rush head-first into adopting leading-edge technologies without assessing and ensuring the network can handle such workloads. Once that scalable and secure network infrastructure has been deployed, you can layer your advanced technologies on top.

How You Can Build a Strong Network Foundation

The first thing a business should do is assess its current network technology and refresh any strategies to determine: What is the state of your network now and what do we want it to be? Companies that do this on their own, won’t catch everything, and technology partners can use automated tools for a deeper dive. This assessment involves the checking of network health and any underlying infrastructure. A trusted partner should always be consulted when developing a new strategy for what the company.

After that, partners design the architecture of the network. Often, this involves taking systems and combining them into a core IP-based network. Whether your network spans across several locations or just one. Knowing what you already invested in, is half the battle. With a network assessment; businesses received increased perimeter security, alongside reports disclosing the age, and workload on current server environments. Throughout all of this, network security should be top of mind. The process can also be streamlined and orchestrated via a managed service provider.

Low-latency connections deliver the response you need and to the customers you want. Without this foundation, your business sits on a house of sand – It’s time to build the foundation.

Contact Us – To get started on your journey in assessing your infrastructure, with our arsenal of deep-diving tools to discover, the depths of your network.

Budget Tips to Prepare Your Business for Success in 2017

We all know the final two months of the year go by fast. Part of this is due to the hectic pace of modern business – especially when building a budget. But November and December, due to the holidays, have fewer actual work days than any other two month span. So, early November is a good time to do some planning for the new year. Here are three things to consider when forecasting for next year.

Do Some Strategic Planning

How do you think your business will change in 2017? Will it grow? Will you be adding new services, processes, products, employees or technologies? Will you be moving?  Adding new offices? Any of the changes listed above require some advance planning to be implemented smoothly. At the very least, take some time to brainstorm what will need to be done to accomplish these goals, and begin thinking about the resources you will need for success, whether it’s in-house personnel or 3rd party assistance.

Determine Your IT Budget

Does your company prepare a yearly IT budget?  There’s no better way to avoid unwanted costs than to evaluate your IT infrastructure on a yearly basis, and determine a budget and schedule for cycling out technology, upgrading existing technology and implementing new hardware. The rapid obsolescence rate for technology requires a well-planned systematic approach to maintaining your company’s IT. The strategic planning mentioned above will also have an effect on the plan.

Consider the Section 179 Tax Breaks

Section 179 has been around for quite a while, but it gets fresh attention from Congress every year.  According to the website www.section179.org, “The “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015” (PATH Act) was passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law on 12/18/2015. This bill expanded the Section 179 deduction limit to $500,000. “

The site also says, “Section 179 can provide you with significant tax relief for this 2016 tax year, but equipment and software must be financed and in place by midnight December 31, 2016.” This could be a very attractive incentive to make an IT investment prior to the end of this calendar year. Consult your tax professional to see how you can utilize this benefit.

If your looking to cut the costs of your business without giving up business essentials, Clare Computer Solutions can help your company to poise your business for greater success in 2017. Contact us to get started!

Ransomware: How to Reduce Risk and Protect Your Business

The malware is known as ” Ransomware ” has many variants which utilize an array of methods to find a series of entry points (usually an attachment to an email) to infect and encrypt a company’s servers and data. Once the virus finds an entry point, it will begin to rapidly encrypt all the drives it can quickly access within the infected system.

You will become aware that the infection has occurred when someone attempts to access a file that has been encrypted or it hits the Server Operating System. There are no tools or Data Recovery Services that can decrypt your data; it is unrecoverable in this state.

All is not lost once your system has been compromised. We have found that there are two solutions that work the best once your system is compromised. Your two options are to restore your system from the last good backup or simply attempt to pay the ransom.

The IT industry does not encourage the payment of the ransom – and doing so does have risks. Sometimes a decryption key is never sent or won’t work, and the criminals don’t have an IT support team!.

But if you have no backup process for your data or you’re unsure and cannot take a chance on an unchecked backup then you may have no choice but to attempt to pay the ransom.

Prevention is the Best Option – Use These Steps

Educate Your Staff:

One of the most common causes of infection is an employee clicking on a link or opening a file sent from a legitimate source they might have corresponded with in the past. Train them to recognize “suspicious” emails

Employ Content Scanning / Filtering on Email Servers:

All incoming email must be scanned for viruses; this is the primary entry point for Ransomware. The next is websites that are infected; this is where a web content filter should come into play. If the website is infected the web filter will prevent its entry.

Maintain Patch Levels for OS and Applications:

It is an industry best practice to keep the workstations, server operating systems and applications up to date and patched as this will help prevent infection to your network.

Block End Users from Executing Malware:

Newer Antivirus and Malware programs such as Symantec, Malwarebytes and Webroot have products that work well for this service. You can configure and use “Group Policies” to implement software restriction policies to prevent the threat of Ransomware from running in the protected system areas.

Install and configure Host Intrusion Prevention:

Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) solutions are very helpful but do require a certain amount of administration such as monitoring for alerts, notifications, and events.

Limit User Access to Mapped Drives:

If users do not need access to drives or sharing privileges then remove them from the shared list. Group rights and login scripts will help to map drive access in your company.

Deploy and Maintain Backups:

The most important solution we constantly offer to our clients would be to constantly backup your system – we cannot stress this enough. The biggest takeaway from this article is that the best protection is a solid backup scheme. We prefer image-based backups like Datto, Storagecraft, and Veeam.

This is not a complete list of all the methods or solutions that can be used; however these are the most common and cost-effective methods of prevention. Remember, doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Again, if you take nothing else away from this article please make sure that you have a solid backup solution in place and it is working.

For more information about Ransomware and how Clare Computer Solutions can protect your company, contact us or visit our website at www.clarecomputer.com to find out what CCS can do for you.