Eleven Benefits Of Having Managed IT Support

Chris Myers is a field service technician for Tech Experts.

There are many perks to enlisting a managed service provider to handle all of your technology needs. Here are just a few:

Knowledge Base
You get access to a whole team of experienced professionals who spend all day every day fixing the same problems you are running into. When an issue pops up, chances are we have seen it before and know how to quickly resolve it.

Proactive Support
With our advanced monitoring software, we are immediately alerted to a variety of issues. Often, by the time you notice a problem, we’re already working to resolve it. Detecting and fixing issues early prevents them from escalating into major outages with long down times and expensive repairs. [Read more…]

Wiperware: New Malware That Shouldn’t Be Taken Lightly

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Any business can be a target for hackers who use ransomware. However, in recent months, a major new threat has emerged. The recent Petya attack was initially perceived to be another form of ransomware.

However, as the firms involved took stock in the aftermath of the events, it became apparent that the attack took the form of “wipeware,” code that is designed to completely destroy the files stored on any system.

What is wiperware?

Wiperware is designed with one goal in mind: total destruction. The malware asks users to install a software update and then it immediately takes control of the device. Once it has gained admin access, it completely overwrites all files on the device and in some cases the entire network. Any attached storage is also vulnerable, included USB external drives, memory sticks and network shared drives.

While the motivations behind Petya remain unknown, what is abundantly clear is that wiperware is a threat that needs to be taken very seriously. Here are a couple of things you can do right now. [Read more…]

Technology Considerations When Moving To A New Office

Michael Menor is Vice President of Support Services for Tech Experts.

Moving your office is never an easy task. You have to move furniture, personal objects, and above all else, your technology infrastructure. There’s nothing simple about moving your office’s technology, but it’s still nothing to get worried about. That’s why we’re here to help – from suggesting the optimal network cabling, to the proper deployment of new and improved technology solutions.

For example, let’s take a look at your office. You have a certain number of workstations, one for each of your employees. These workstations need to be connected via cable to your business’s network. Otherwise, your team could go without required software, data, and other important resources. Your cabling infrastructure could quickly grow to be uncontrollable, especially if you don’t approach your cabling procedures correctly.

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Four Tips For Next Year’s IT Budget

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

As the year winds down, you’re undoubtedly working out plans for 2016, and preparing your IT budget is top on that list. Every year presents unique network, server, and technology challenges that need to be addressed.

The increasing ubiquity of cloud services is something small business owners need to consider, but working out the basic budget items should take priority. Here are four tips to give your business a little bit of breathing room when it comes to planning next year’s IT expenses.

Think in the long term
When planning your IT budget, it’s important to consider both short-term and long-term investments that you’ll be making for the sake of your business.

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Strategically Upgrading Your Computer Systems

Michael Menor is Vice President of Support Services for Tech Experts.

With technology growing faster than most businesses can keep up with, organizations have to continuously upgrade their solutions in order to maintain a semblance of modernity. The only issue with this is that many businesses can’t keep up, simply because they don’t have a team that’s dedicated to this important task.

What technology upgrades should be made a top priority and why?

Naturally, the first thing you need to know about workstation and technology updates is that you need to integrate them periodically in order to ensure optimal security for your organization.

Most viruses and malware will attempt to take advantage of weaknesses in your infrastructure in order to infiltrate it.

These weaknesses in your software and operating systems’ source code will ultimately allow these threats to force their way into your network, putting any contained information at risk.

These flaws are often addressed in software patches and system updates issued by the software developer, but tackling the updates in a timely fashion is a whole other monster.

Managing all software updates is easier said than done, especially without a dedicated IT department watching over your technology. Regular maintenance is often pushed to the back burner and dangerously close to being forgotten about.

Therefore, the best way to make sure that your systems are prepared to handle the threats that are found in today’s computing environment is to make upgrading your technology a priority for your organization.

Software Updates
There are several programs that your organization needs in order to stay functional, so your software updates aren’t limited to just your workstations’ operating systems.

The fewer unnecessary security flaws that can be found in your IT infrastructure, the safer your information will be.

Furthermore, users who are working with top-notch, optimized technology will be far more productive than they would be if they were using sluggish, bogged down computers.

It doesn’t make any sense to let your employees use machines that hold them back from achieving their maximum productivity.

In fact, sometimes you might encounter a situation where using a different software will be better for your business strategy.

It’s always recommended that you consult with a professional technician before making drastic changes to your business’s software infrastructure.

Antivirus Updates
Your antivirus solution is often a software solution, but virus and malware definitions are continuously being updated.

If your antivirus and other security software solutions aren’t properly maintained, it’s like you’re “leaving your keys in the front door,” so to speak.

Your antivirus solution needs to be managed on all workstations – or, better yet, centrally controlled from the server to ensure that all users are protected and up to date at all times.

Hardware Updates
Older hardware that’s been around the block a time or two might have proven reliable, but it will eventually start to show signs of its old age. Hardware failure becomes more likely and you run the risk of losing information due to the degradation of your technology.

This is why monitoring your systems for faulty tech and periodically upgrading to more recent models is preferable, if not necessary.

Granted, all of these software and hardware upgrades may feel overwhelming. This is why Tech Experts offers a remote monitoring and maintenance solution that’s designed to administer patches to your mission-critical systems remotely.

This helps your organization ensure that your systems are always up-to-date. We can also monitor your infrastructure for any irregularities that might be caused by hardware malfunctions, hackers, and much more. Call us at (734) 457-5000, or email info@mytechexperts.com to learn more.

Buying A New Printer? Here’s What To Look For

Printers are essential in day-to-day office use. Whether one is needed to create fillable forms or prepare handouts for a presentation, a printer is a valuable tool in general productivity and collaborative projects.

As such, the investment in a new printer is a big deal, and here are some of the most important things to consider when choosing one.

Black vs. Color
Monochrome printers that just use black ink or toner are usually cheaper and may be sufficient for office needs. Full color printers, however, can be used in creating eye-catching booklets, brochures, or flyers, but these are often more expensive for the initial purchase and upkeep.

Printing isn’t the only thing a printer can do. There are a host of other functions available from copying to faxing to scanning. Review what other office equipment is on hand, and that may narrow the functions needed. For instance, if the office already has a copier, then that function really isn’t necessary in a new printer.

Paper Handling Characteristics
A printer’s paper handling encompasses more than one thing. It refers to how much paper it can hold, which can be crucial for busy office settings, and also the sizes of paper it can handle. The ability to do double-sided printing or presence of an automatic document feeder are other things to consider.

Type of Connectivity
There are three primary modes of connectivity for printers – USB, Ethernet, and wireless – and a printer could have just one or all three. Nowadays, nearly all printers have USB connectivity, but Ethernet connectivity is important for wired office networks. If you want to reduce cords and use it on your wireless network, wireless connectivity is a must.

Replacement Toner/Ink Cost
The total cost of a new printer does not end with the initial purchase; the toner or ink will need periodic replacement. Often, toner and ink are far more expensive than the printer itself, so getting a good deal on the device doesn’t necessarily translate into a good deal for the long run.

It only takes a few moments to check the price of replacement toner and ink, and this can save the company a lot of money in the future.

Leasing vs Buying IT Equipment: Which is Better?

When you plan to upgrade or replace computer equipment, there are two ways to do it: Either leasing or buying the necessary IT equipment. As there is no hard and fast rule as to which alternative is better; it heavily depends on your business’ unique situation and needs. Here is an overview of each alternative’s pros and cons to help you decide between the two options:

When you lease IT equipment, the upfront costs are low, which allows a business to set aside moneys for more pressing needs.

There will be a set monthly payment with no surprises, and your business can keep up with the Joneses when it comes to having the most cutting-edge technology. If some new tech system pops up in a year or two that could help your business operations, upgrading is simple to do when leasing.

There are, however, downsides to leasing. Over the long term, you may pay more for the equipment your business uses. With a lease, there’s also the issue of having a contract that usually requires the business to rent the IT equipment for a set length of time.

This means that – even if your business opts to stop using that equipment or it becomes obsolete – the payments still must be made.

When you purchase your business’ IT equipment outright, there is only a single, albeit large, hit to the budget, and there’s no complicated paperwork to fill out or built-in caveats in the contract to look out for. It belongs to the business and decisions regarding maintenance and method of use are entirely up to those within the company instead of being governed by an outside entity. The purchased equipment can even be deducted from the business’ taxes.

On the other hand, putting a lot of money at once into a company’s IT needs may draw too much money out of other divisions’ budgets, such as marketing, for example. This can negatively impact the business’ bottom line. Another consideration is how often technology equipment should be updated. With buying such equipment, it’s far harder to upgrade to the latest technologies, which could require waiting for your recently purchased items to sell before making a fresh IT equipment purchase.

Data Breaches And The Building Blocks Of Cyber Security

Michael Menor is Vice President of Support Services for Tech Experts.

The data breaches at Target, Home Depot, Staples, Michaels, Anthem, and Sony Pictures Entertainment are just the tip of the iceberg and the stakes are very high. They’re costly for both businesses and customers and once the breach is announced, customers often terminate their relationship with that business.

You may ask, “What constitutes a data breach?” It is an event in which an individual’s information, including name, Social Security number, medical record and/or financial record or debit card is potentially put at risk. This can be in either electronic or paper format. The data set forth in this article is based on Ponemon Institute’s “2014 Cost of Data Breach Study.” Ponemon conducts independent research on privacy, data protection and information security policy.

New methodologies developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and other industry standards bodies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), are being implemented by many organizations, but best practices for addressing cyber security threats remain vague.

So what can be done to minimize cyber security threats? An effective starting point is to focus on the following essential building blocks of any cyber threat defense strategy.

Most organizations rely on tools like vulnerability management and fraud and data loss prevention to gather security data. This creates an endless and complex high-volume stream of data feeds that must be analyzed and prioritized. Unfortunately, relying on manual processes to comb through these logs is one of the main reasons that critical issues are not being addressed in a timely fashion.

Implementing continuous monitoring, as recommended by NIST Special Publication 800-137, only adds to the security problem as a higher frequency of scans and reporting exponentially increases the data volume. Data risk management software can assist organizations in combining the different data sources, leading to reduced costs by merging solutions, streamlining processes, and creating situational awareness to expose exploits and threats in a timely manner.

One of the most efficient ways to identify impending threats to an organization is to create a visual representation of its IT architecture and associated risks.

This approach provides security operations teams with interactive views of the relationships between systems and their components, systems and other systems, and components and other components. It enables security practitioners to rapidly distinguish the criticality of risks to the affected systems and components. This allows organizations to focus mitigation actions on the most sensitive, at-risk business components.

Effective prioritization of vulnerabilities and incidents is essential to staying ahead of attackers. Information security decision-making should be based on prioritized information derived from the security monitoring logs. To achieve this, security data needs to be correlated with its risk to the organization. Without a risk-based approach to security, organizations can waste valuable IT resources mitigating vulnerabilities that, in reality, pose little or no threat to the business.

Lastly, closed-loop, risk-based remediation uses a continuous review of assets, people, processes, potential risks, and possible threats. Organizations can dramatically increase operational efficiency. This enables security efforts to be measured and made tangible (e.g., time to resolution, investment into security operations personnel, purchases of additional security tools).

By focusing on these four cyber security building blocks, organizations can not only fulfill their requirements for measurable risk reporting that spans all business operations, but also serve their business units’ need to neutralize the impact of cyber-attacks.

These methodologies can also help improve time-to-remediation and increase visibility of risks.

Risks When Employees Use Their Own Mobile Devices

Michael Menor is Vice President of Support Services for Tech Experts.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is an exciting development for increasingly mobile and interconnected employees, but also a new challenge for IT security teams.

Gone are the days where security professionals can lock down a finite set of machines and facilities; instead, they must manage an ever-growing, ever-changing landscape of employees, devices and applications, many of which have access to information that needs to be protected.

According to an article on eWeek, a survey was done on organizations with mobile devices connecting to their networks: only 33 percent have any official BYOD policy governing the use of personal portable devices, 67 percent do not.

The security risks are inherent in BYOD between viruses, hacking, improper security, and more. Flat-out thefts of smartphones, laptops, and tablets are also an issue.

In New York City alone, police data show that Apple products were stolen in a total of 11,447 incidents in the first nine months of 2012. That is an increase of 40 percent compared to the previous year.

Of course, employee education and awareness are important as informed users are more likely to act responsibly and take fewer risks with company data. Unfortunately, employees can be careless and criminals crafty, which is why network security defenses and policies are so critical.

Although implementing a restrictive device policy may feel like the most secure approach for your company, it can easily backfire.

Your craftiest employees are going to find a way to connect their devices to your network no matter what. And employees who do obey your “no iPhones” message will probably resent the policy and experience lower productivity.

Bring Your Own Device conceptToday’s workers expect to have 24/7 access to their information. They want to be able to catch up on emails on the evening train ride home or access information while away from the office.

BYOD lets IT staffs eliminate the hassle and expense of provisioning, distributing, and maintaining hundreds of corporate-owned mobile devices.

But setting up a BYOD program isn’t without its challenges. For starters, when you give employees free rein to bring in their own devices, you put your corporate documents and data at the mercy of the native security on these devices.

When you consider that many of your employees probably have “1234” as the PIN on their iPhones, that’s a pretty sobering thought.

Another major concern is your network. When you allow today’s increasingly powerful smartphones and tablets to request resources from your network, you really put your infrastructure to the test.

Are you ready to serve data instantly to hundreds of increasingly powerful hand-held mobile devices?

What if your mobile employees want to watch training videos, play back webinars, or listen to conference call recordings on their devices – can you deliver this kind of bandwidth?

Like most things, there are upsides and downsides, but a decision should be made on what best suits you, your employees, and your business.

When it comes down to it, BYOD isn’t a completely ridiculous idea. In fact, the benefits of BYOD may be worth the extra security precautions required to implement it.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

Remote Employees And Network Connections

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

As businesses begin to downsize their ecological footprint, the need for remote or satellite employees grows. Business leaders and owners are now faced with the daunting question on how to allow remote employees access to their existing network without compromising network security.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is through the use of VPN.

VPNs allow secure access to business resources by creating encrypted pass-throughs via the Internet. The Internet, combined with present-day VPN technology, allows businesses a low cost and secure means to extend their networks to their remote employees.

The two most common methods in which to set up remote access are IPsec (IP Security) or SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). Both methods work well and both have their advantages depending on the needs and size of your business.

VPNs created using SSL technology provide remote-access connection from almost any Internet-enabled location or device using a web browser interface.

No special client software needs to be preinstalled on either device. This makes SSL VPNs a true “anytime, anywhere” connection to company-managed desktops.

There are two different SSL VPN connections to choose from: clientless and full network access.

Clientless requires no special software. All traffic is transmitted and delivered through a web browser.

There is no need to install or download any unique software to establish the connection. With clientless access, only web-enabled programs and apps are able to be accessed, such as email, network file servers and local intranet sites.

Even with such limited access to network resources, this style of connection is well-suited for most businesses.c868266_m

Additionally, because there is no need for special software to be supported by the IT department, businesses can cut down on managed overhead.

A full network access VPN allows access to almost any program, application, network server, and resource connected to your business network. Unlike clientless access, full network access connection is made through the use of VPN client software. Because the client access software is dynamically downloaded and updated, it requires little or no desktop support.

As with clientless access, you have the ability to customize each connection based on employee access privileges. If your remote employees require the full functionality of installed programs and applications as if they were sitting inside the office building, utilizing a full network VPN connection is the obvious choice.

IPsec based VPNs are the staple of remote-access connection technology. IPsec VPN connections are created by using installed VPN client software on the user’s workstation and connecting device.

Client software allows for greater customizability by modifying the VPN client software. Businesses are able to configure and maintain the appearance and function of the VPN client, which allows for easier implementation for connections with other desktops, kiosks, and other special need cases.

Many businesses find that IPsec connections meet their requirements for the users, but the advantages of self-updating desktop software, accessibility from non-company managed devices, and customizable user access make SSL VPNs a front runner for remote-access connections to your office.

If you have any questions or would like more information about how a VPN can help your company, you can reach Tech Experts at (734) 457-5000.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)