Your Internal Teams Greatly Benefit from a Managed IT Service Provider

Having a Managed IT Service Provider (MSP) in your IT mix can free-up internal staff for more strategic projects, like that app you always wanted, or those file-sharing tools your employees need. Establishing a strategic partnership with your IT vendor is essential to the relationship’s success. After 30 years in the IT Service realm, these are the biggest misconceptions, surrounding your current MSP, and internal teams.

“Bargain-Shop” Managed IT Service Provider

Organizations are continuing to turn towards MSPs to handle certain IT functions, as an extension of their internal teams. Although it appears most businesses see the value of augmenting a Managed Service Provider, many are looking for the “cheapest” option available.

This highlights the very reason an organization turns to a Managed IT Service Provider in the first place – for change. Cost-savings were always seen as benefits to Managed IT Services, but many have shifted their mindset, from finding the lowest price to hunting for the greatest value.

Look for MSPs that have experience in your industry, and speak less about technology. Across the board, you want a partner that can explain business outcomes, and how services can help shorten the roadmap to your goals, not pushing product.  Managed Service Providers share business perspective, not technology pushed by vendors. The only way to avoid “deadbeat-IT” is by leveraging outside partners that carry proven track records with established clients.

Top Managed Service Providers Extend Proficiency and Reach

Your MSP usage doesn’t have to be confined to break-fix services related to hardware and its availability. Many CIOs are looking for MSPs that can deliver advanced services, like virtualization, converged-infrastructure or Security-as-a-Service.

With an increase in demand for services around network analytics, business intelligence, and application monitoring, your service provider should have an evolving offering. One that meets the demands of a dynamic technology landscape. It should be noted, a shift with some MSPs has begun, as we’ve seen several refuse the extension to support legacy infrastructure and outdated software.

Partners, NOT Replacements

While more and more companies are relying on outside help for IT needs, MSPs should complement your internal team, rather than replace it. Instead, this frees up existing assets to focus on core business functions, to better utilize company resources. Many of our clients have claimed it brought IT departments, “out-of-the-shadows” and allowed them to focus on core initiatives, a win-win for your IT staff.

Your MSP should provide you with strategy, documentation, repeatable process, access to their ticketing portal and friendly staff welcoming your calls. Company technology doesn’t have to keep you up at night.

Contact Us – to discover how Managed IT Services with Clare Computer Solutions can begin to benefit your business overnight.

Your Security Policies Protect More Than a Multi-Generational Workforce

Every generation approaches technology differently. A 55-year-old, manager is going to think about data-security differently, then a 22-year-old just starting their career. Recent studies have shown that different generations have dynamic attitudes and behaviors regarding digital security, requiring businesses to move from a one-size, “fits-all mentality,” to a more tailored approach. Could this new-age workforce be your next vulnerability?

Viewing Security Policies Differently

Recent studies conducted by our partners, “Webroot Security” have shown, younger generations, think about online security less than their older counterparts. Younger generations can/will make the assumption, inherent levels of security, exist in the workforce. This is even more of a reason for layering security and to establish a plan via company-wide, security policies.

A 2016 Webroot survey found, despite a reputation for being less “tech-savvy,” 49% of baby boomers reported having anti-virus solutions installed on their devices; only 10% more than millennials. The survey found, that 49% of millennials were concerned about someone gaining access to their social media accounts, versus 33% concerned with someone gaining access to their email accounts.

82% of millennials re-use passwords for websites and applications, compared to 70% of baby boomers. It was also reported, that 86% of baby boomers hardly download free applications or software to work devices without consulting your company designated IT support.

Our partners, at Citrix, surveyed workers to find which generation posed the greatest risk to sensitive information in the workplace, and millennials received 55% of the vote. It should be noted – baby boomers as being the most susceptible to phishing and social engineering attacks. (33%)

Tailor Your IT Security Approach

  1. Identify and build contextual access controls so users have access to apps and data; nothing more.
  2. Automatically prevent employees from running unauthorized apps on corporate hardware or worse, networks.
  3. Extend protection to mobile platforms, but give users the freedom to access data securely on the go.
  4. Embrace virtualization and containerization for critical apps and data.
  5. Gain visibility via analytics, so you can be proactive about security.
  6. Increase Cyber-Awareness Training for users.

These steps won’t solve every security problem, but they will go a long way in helping to better secure your workforce; regardless of age.  With the cyber-landscape evolving faster than ever, applying education, training, and remediation with the assistance of your staff has become paramount. Like many, knowing where to start is half the battle, and if you need a kickstart – Contact Us – to schedule your free Cyber-Awareness Training today.

 

Petya Ransomware: Everything You Need To Know

If you had any doubts about the threat of cybercrime… it appears another global ransomware attack has started. If your company does any international business, you could be next.

Spread through email, infected websites, and Social Media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc), “Petya”  ransomware has the potential to become as debilitating as “WannaCry“, and has affected such global companies as A.P. Moller-Maersk, W.P.P. PLC, and Merck & Company.  Your first line of defense should include educating your end-users. The trigger for this strain of ransomware is social engineering, a proven effective tactic for these cyber criminals.  An example of this social engineering tactic would be a fake post on social media that seems to have  a link to an article that catches your interest, and you click the link without thinking first.

  • Ransomware Prevention and Protection

Once clicked, the malware infiltrates an unprotected computer, and causes pop-ups that say they’re from “Windows.” It’s all too easy for people to trust these messages, and provide permissions, if any is needed, which launches the malware. Your files will soon become encrypted with the latest 256-bit encryption, making it impossible to retrieve your files without a decryption key.

In addition, “Petya” will overwrite the infected PC’s boot files, giving users a blue screen, and what looks to be windows check disk — actually showing you the status of your encryption.

Although we aren’t at “WannaCry” numbers of infected end-users, this should still be a concern for most businesses. Email and web-filtering can protect staff members that may tend to be careless when surfing the internet. Always keep anti-virus, firewalls, routers, and operating systems up-to-date. This specific ransomware attack was the result of not patching operating systems after the “WannaCry” outbreak that occurred last month.

If you want to educate your end-users on how to spot ransomware and the steps to avoid company infection, head over to the link below. There you will find a sign-up page for our free community outreach program, created to teach and educate executive, and technical staff on avoiding ransomware through better awareness.

Link to sign-up for our free community outreach program:

https://www.clarecomputer.com/resources/events/ransomware-survival-guide/

Should IT Support be Outsourced, on Staff, or Both?

Companies need their technology tools to perform their business operations every day. As a result, they have IT infrastructures that must have support. Users need help, network devices must be managed, and everything has to work together. What’s the best way to handle this? Some companies have internal IT employees whose sole responsibility is keeping those technologies working together.

Some companies don’t want to maintain any staff for skills not related to their core business, opting to outsource support to companies that specialize in IT support and consulting. Many companies go with a hybrid route – they staff for some of the technology support they need but outsource other facets to address other needs.

Some of the common drivers in the decision to outsource some of a company’s IT support are:

Depth and Experience of Skills

A support company’s staff is likely to have a broader set of skills, and often, longer tenures in the business. An Information Technology support company is more likely to invest in training for their professionals, to ensure their skills are up to date.

Better IT Coverage

In small departments, if one person is ill, or on vacation, the lack of resources can have a huge effect on the quality of service, leaving behind loose ends for the company’s IT support. An IT support company will often have enough staff to ensure someone is more likely to be available when needed.

Flexibility in Technology

Some needs are pretty constant, and others may change. If a company were to staff enough talent for every contingency, they would end up over-staffing at times – a very expensive situation. Some skills are expensive to hire if you don’t need them all the time, such as project management, high-end router work, server migrations, security work, and strategic consulting. Either technology support or consulting can make these skill sets available as you need them.

Every company’s needs are different, but the right mix of on-staff and outsourced IT support can be the solution to keeping your company’s infrastructure up-to-date, and working at optimal performance, year after year.

Clare Computer Solutions has helped hundreds of companies achieve the perfect mix, and we can help your company too. It all starts with a conversation – contact us to get started.

Technology Update: The End-of-Sales Date for Windows 7 & 8.1 is 10/31/16

Windows 7 & 8.1 Sales Will Soon Be Coming to an End!

Microsoft has announced that official end-of-sales for PCs running the Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 operating systems is Oct. 31, 2016.

What exactly does this mean for your company and you? It means after that date, you will no longer be able to purchase new systems from Microsoft or a third party with the older version of the operating system preinstalled.

However, certain businesses can find a way around the deadline. After Oct. 31, 2016, organizations participating in the Volume Licensing program may leverage Software Assurance or downgrade rights to switch from Windows 10 to Windows 7 on new PCs.

Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 are still being supported by Microsoft for several more years (See the Fact Sheet Here for exact dates), so this news doesn’t mean it’s critical to make any immediate changes.

If you prefer a homogenous environment for your network users, however, it would be wise to start working on a plan to upgrade user machines to Windows 10 –providing all your applications will work with that newer operating system.

Clare Computer Solutions understands that every company, and every IT infrastructure is different. We can help you create a technology refresh roadmap to ensure your technology will stay up to date and running at optimal levels. Contact us today to get started.

Don’t Ignore Your Desktops In Disaster Recovery Plan

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes. An event that renders your office unusable qualifies as a major disaster, and dealing with that should be a major focus of your disaster recovery (DR) plan. Having a server fail would have a widespread adverse effect on your business too, so there should be schemes in place to mitigate that risk on your business.

What about the desktop computers in your office?

In today’s business world, workers use a variety of devices to do their jobs – computers, laptops, tablets, and smart phones.

But for most office workers, the desktop computer is where they do most of their work, and despite the proven wisdom of having important data centrally located, a lot of important data is still being stored on those desktop machines.

What constitutes a disaster for a desktop workstation?  Here are two common examples.

Hardware/operating system failure – Desktop machines have steadily improved in quality and come down in price for years, but they still fail. One unfortunate side effect of the lower price of these devices is, it often isn’t worth the trouble to spend much time trying to fix one when it breaks.

Workstation becomes infected by malware – The variety of ways a computer can become infected with malware has grown both in number and sophistication over the years, and despite anti-virus or anti-malware programs, sometimes a desktop machine becomes unusable due to infection, and getting rid of the infection may become more costly than replacing the machine.

Regardless of the lower out-of-pocket costs for a replacement workstation, the loss in productivity while purchasing and setting up a new machine, and the cost of data lost forever all affect a company’s bottom line. An office with say, 50 desktop users is likely to have one or more machines acting up at almost any given time. What can be done to mitigate this?

Desktop backup and imaging is very cost effective. In this scheme, software backs up all the desktops’ images (usually to a local Network Attached Storage device). Then, if a user’s machine gets infected, the machine can be re-imaged to a backup dated prior to the infection. If a desktop machine fails completely, that backup image can be used to set up a replacement machine, in less time than starting from scratch.

There are all types of disasters, and thankfully, technology exists to minimize the effect they can have on your business. Clare Computer Solutions is managing hundreds of desktop machines protected in this way, and we have seen it pay for itself time and time again. Contact CCS today to get your workstations covered by image backup.

Server Virtualization – Doing More With Less

Sooner or later, your old reliable server will no longer do its job, and it will be time to replace it. If you have several servers, this technology refresh cycle may be the right time to consider consolidating several servers into one, using server virtualization.

The Basis of Server Virtualization:

Server Virtualization is not a new concept – it’s been used in mainframes for decades to allow users to define a virtual machine within a host machine with the exact specifications they need, and keep those needs separated from other virtual machines in the host. Each year more and more workloads are on virtual servers, and since 2014, more than half of workloads are virtualized.

Advances in technology, coupled with a proliferation of servers in Information Technology (IT) environments of mid-market businesses paved the way for widespread adoption of virtualization in that space, and it’s become the norm.

There are major players in virtualization on the hardware and software front, including HP, IBM, VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft, providing technologies specifically designed for the SMB market.

Virtualization advantages for mid-market sized businesses:

Energy Savings – a virtual host running multiple virtual machines typically will require less power and less cooling than the same number of separate servers, plus they will take up less space.

Agility – deploying virtual machines takes much less time than setting up and deploying separate servers. This can be extremely helpful in disaster recovery scenarios, such as trying to replace a down server, or restoring a server to a pre-disaster state. In addition, deploying new servers is easier and quicker.

Flexibility – each virtual machine will have its own operating system, CPU, and memory allocation – and these can be easily changed as needed. Moreover, management of these machines can be done from a single management console.

Cost Savings – The costs of a suitable host machine plus the virtual machines that run on it are less than if there were a number of separate server machines.

You should definitely consider virtualization if the benefits listed above appeal to you! Contact Clare Computer Solutions and let’s have a strategic conversation – your next technology refresh may be your opportunity to save money and time, while increasing performance and agility!