Are You Still Using Microsoft Windows Server 2008?

Microsoft will stop mainstream support for Server 2008 at the end of this year. This is a popular technology solution, so the end of support creates concern for many. Read on, and we’ll explain what this means and what you should do.

What Does 2008 Server End of Life Mean For Your Company?
Windows Server 2008 end of life means that Microsoft will no longer update this product unless a warranty compels them to do so.

Unfortunately, many businesses are still not ready. The reasons vary, but many company owners stay busy running their day-to-day operations. They just don’t have time for issues like this. And yet, this is a crucial server EOL that could cause many disruptions to your business if not dealt with promptly.

How Soon Should You Get A New Server?
You need to change over from the Windows 2008 Server and Windows 2008R2 to a supported server by the end of the year. That’s the very last moment you’ll have before support is no longer available.

Migrating all of your data, applications, and other IT solutions to new servers is a time-consuming and complicated process, so small businesses should not wait until the last minute.

By waiting, you place your technology assets in danger, and you could pay more for last-minute service. Think of this as an auto repair problem. The sooner you get it fixed, the less it will typically cost. Avoid extra costs and issues by upgrading your servers now.

What Other Problems Can Happen?
An end to bug fixes and those all-important security updates may be the ultimate deal breaker for you. Data managers will tell you that not having these fixes makes your data vulnerable to access by unauthorized parties.

Cybercriminals are on the look-out for ways to infiltrate your systems and steal sensitive data, and they know about the EOL for Windows Server 2008. Since Microsoft will no longer offer security updates and bug fixes for this server, this creates numerous loopholes in data security that could be exploited.

These security breaches can be avoided by installing a newer generation server with supported security updates.

What Should You Do?
There are many reliable servers available on the market today. This new generation of servers offers better efficiency, virtualization, faster speeds, and many other good attributes. Do some research to ensure that you get a proper replacement that will address all the functions that your organization requires.

How Do You Get Ready For The Upgrade?
Installing new servers can be challenging. You have to plan out the process so that everything is done correctly and during off hours, so it doesn’t disrupt your daily operations. The sooner you start, the better.

To plan for an infrastructure upgrade, rewrite and migrate all applications based on Server 2008 to a safe storage place. The new server may require some troubleshooting. Databases can be hosted on the Windows Server 2008 hardware as you install the new system.

During the transition, put a data protection infrastructure in place that will eliminate risks during the server upgrade. This will protect your data from problems with the old server and risks associated with the new system. While this will cost extra, the fines associated with a data breach are often far more expensive.

Why Is A Server Important For Your Business?

Anthony Glover is Tech Expert’s network engineer.

A server is a very important asset to any small business as it provides many features that can help your business run safely and efficiently.

For instance, when lending out a new or existing computer to employees, you can prevent unnecessary access, change passwords, or unlock accounts in one location. This allows management of the computers, enabling full control at all times.

It also allows you to have a centralized location for many of your functions: the server. You can share files and applications and reduce redundancy for all files. Since servers primarily run in a RAID configuration of some sort, you will have extra protection for your most important files.

Another great thing about a server is you can set up a domain for your business, enabling automation features like backups in one place.

This also allows for profiles, including files and applications, to be accessible from any workstation connected to the server. Not to mention, a server will keep you organized and running more efficiently in general by keeping your email, contacts, calendars, and files safe.

Data transferring to and from a server is much faster than transferring from a computer due the overall design of a server. Servers are built for speed, reliability, and security purposes.

This means you are going to get through the day with your time and resources spent more wisely, allowing you to continue with what matters in your business.

This efficiency and organization will increase customer relationships and help build retention with new and potential customers.

Best of all, you can set up a server to curve toward your needs. You can use a server for hosting your own websites, as a backup server, fileserver, or even run your database. You can also upgrade (to an extent) if your needs grow.

Keep in mind, these are only some of the many server configurations available for your server.

File or Backup Server
This server is for file-sharing, active directory, and domain services. It’s primarily used for backups and storage of user files.

This is the best option if you are going to need safe storage services for your business since a server is going to have redundancy storage to keep data safe.

Database Server
This server configuration is for database storage and management of SQL, Oracle, etc. This is a necessary option if you are utilizing a database for your business.

Again, utilizing a server is going to allow safe keeping of your files – this includes your critical files such as your database files.

Web Server
This configuration is for webhosting services and will allow hosting and management of a website from your office.

This is a great option for running web-based applications through your server. This option can also be done off-site by a website host if you prefer to go that route for faster access or security.

Utilizing a server is important for your business and choosing a server can be tough, let alone installing one yourself. Let Tech Experts help you decide and make sure you get the best option possible for your small business.

The Purpose Of Routine Maintenance On Your PC Or Server

Anthony Glover is Tech Expert’s network engineer.

Workstations and servers are valuable assets for any small business. This is why it’s very important that we take proper care of these vital attributes.

Computers can be great, long-lasting tools if taken care of correctly and routinely. This ensures that your PCs and servers will continue to run as they should, as long as possible. There are several steps to maintain your PC or server.

Monthly Hardware Cleaning
This will keep your fans running efficiently and keep your PC or server clear of dust and debris that can potentially cause a few issues (such as heating problems, fan malfunctions, or damage to devices like your power supply).

Heat also can cause computers to run slow or sluggish. This is extremely important and should be monitored and managed by an IT professional such as Tech Experts.

Monthly Software Management
This is to ensure you provide a safe operating environment for your business. It helps to keep the functionality of all your programs and keep your computer running smoothly. By clearing caches, you eliminate temp files that could potentially cause problems for some programs and will also free up space on your hard drive. This is another key process to keep your PCs and servers running at their full potential.

Registry Cleaning
Throughout use of your PC or server, you will accumulate registry errors from programs being installed, updates, etc.

This should be cleaned and corrected on a monthly basis to ensure proper operation of your PC. When it comes to speed when booting and operating your PC or server, this is an especially big factor.

Monthly Hardware Monitoring and Recording
When you are operating a business that needs your equipment to work efficiently (which is the case for most businesses), you’ll want to check your PC and servers on a monthly basis.

Having your vital components like hard drives scanned, checked, and recorded will let you know if anything needs replaced before it fails and leaves you in a bind.

Thermal Monitoring
Heat is a vital threat that should never be overlooked as it’s essential to speed and safe operation of your PC or server.

Heat can destroy components and cause Blue Screens Of Death due to heating issues, causing the PC or server to not function at all unless it’s corrected.

You want to make sure the environment of the equipment is clean, clear, and cool to avoid overheating.

Process Monitoring
This can catch potential threats like malicious software, of course, but it can also help you and your IT department find more subtle unwanted issues such as backdoors or even rootkits that allow onboarding of your PC or server without the end-user knowing at all.

Here at Tech Experts, we provide a preventative maintenance service that can be utilized on both PCs and servers at your business. So why hassle at all if you don’t have to?

You could have an IT professional manage your computers, saving your business money and saving you time. It could even save your computers or server.

How An End User Might Accidentally Undermine Your Security

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

If you’re like every other small business out there, you know that the more employees you hire, the more technology that you have to procure. However, when you have more end-users, you provide more avenues for threats to slip into your network infrastructure unnoticed.

When all it takes is one simple mistake from a single end-user, how can you minimize the chances of falling victim to an untimely hacking attack? We’ve put together a list of honest mistakes that any end-user can make – and how they can be prevented.

Clicking on malicious links
With so much information on the Internet, it’s easy for an employee to search through countless pages without any regard to the sites and links that they’re clicking on.

You need to emphasize the importance of safe browsing, including double-checking the destination of a link before clicking on it. You can do so by hovering over the link and looking in the bottom-left corner of your browser.

Using weak passwords
Employees frequently use passwords that aren’t strong enough to keep hackers out. Often times, they’ll simply use something of personal significance, like the name of their pet or a specific date.

This isn’t the right way to approach password security. Instead, users should attempt to put together passwords that are private, randomized strings of numbers, letters, and symbols.

Losing unencrypted devices
It’s not unheard of for an employee to use company devices in public places. If they accidentally leave their smartphone on the bus or their tablet on a park bench, there’s always the risk that it can be stolen.

Unless you practice proper encryption protocol, any information available on the device can be accessed by the person who finds it, be it a good Samaritan or a tech-savvy thief.

Implementing unapproved solutions
Some employees simply prefer to use solutions that aren’t provided by the company to get their work done. The problem here is that the employee is moving forward without consulting IT about it and that your data is being used in a solution that you can’t control.

Plus, if the employee is using free or open-source software, these often come bundled with unwanted malware that can put your data in even greater peril.

Personal email use
It’s one thing to check your personal email account while at work, but another entirely to use your personal email account to perform work purposes.

As the recent debacle with Hillary Clinton shows, people don’t take kindly to sensitive information being leaked via an unsecured email server that their organization has no control over.

Add in the fact that personal email accounts are often not as secure as those in a professional productivity suite and you have a recipe for disaster. You need to reinforce that your team should keep their work and personal email separate.

Leaving workstations unattended
Besides the fact that some tech-savvy employees are practical jokers, it’s a security risk to leave a workstation unlocked and unattended for long periods of time.

Imagine if someone from outside of your organization walked into your office and accessed confidential files without authorization; that’s on the employee who got up and left the device unattended.

Encourage your employees to always log off of their workstations, or at least lock them, before stepping away from it. User error is a primary cause for concern among businesses, but it can be mostly avoided by providing your staff with the proper training. For more information on IT best practices, give us a call at (734) 457-5000.

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.

The Real Risks Of Running Outdated Software

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

Are you still holding onto your trusty old server that’s aging towards uselessness?

Or perhaps you are still running important applications on older servers with old operating systems because they’re “good enough” or “doing the job just fine.”

In many ways, your old server is like a trusty old car. You know where the kinks are and it gets you where you need to go.

But lurking below the surface of that trusty old car, and your old server, can be hidden risks that can result in very big problems, even dangers. Usually, when least expected.

Security risks are the number one danger of older technology. The older your operating system or application, the longer the bad guys have to find and exploit vulnerabilities.

This is especially true when the manufacturer is no longer actively maintaining support. Dangers can lurk across the entire aging application platform.

Your older versions of SQL Server are at risk. Perhaps you are still using an old FTP server that’s innocently sitting in the corner. Or you have some older network equipment and appliances.

The bottom line is anything that listens on the network is a potential threat to the server, and therefore your business.

If that software or firmware isn’t up to date, you’re doubly at risk of a major security incident.

Here are the top 5 risks you’re taking with running outdated software:

Crashes and system downtimec505825_m
Aging systems are more vulnerable to failure, crashes and corruption causing significant downtime.

Targeted technology upgrades can reduce total annual outage risk and reduce downtime.

Increased costs
Outdated software is more expensive to maintain than newer versions. Failing software increases costs by overloading IT personnel. The process of applying patches is also costly and time consuming.

Updated software portfolios not only decrease maintenance costs but also free up IT budgets for more strategic and innovative programs.

Decreased productivity
Aging software applications that crash or require maintenance result in reduced employee productivity.

Modernizing software increases productivity by improving the efficiency and quality of work.

Security holes
Mission critical software is more vulnerable to security breaches as it ages. A security breach can compromise sensitive customer and employee information, and proprietary company data.

Legal and regulatory compliance risks
Updated software ensures compliance to governance, regulation and policy as regulatory bodies continue to mandate new global requirements.

This is especially important for healthcare professionals that need to comply with new HIPAA regulations.

With older technology, any of the above risks can strike you at any time. The consequences can be loss of productivity, or worse, loss of critical data that negatively impacts your business.

Perhaps “good enough” isn’t really good enough after all.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

Are You Ready For Windows Server 2003 End Of Service?

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

Next July will mark the end of Windows Server 2003 Extended Support. What does that mean for you if you’re a current owner of Server 2003?

It means that there will be no more security patches or updates, putting your whole business at risk of new threats or viruses as well as potential performance problems due to incompatibilities with newer software and applications.

The bottom line is that if your business still uses Windows Server 2003 you will need a plan soon. Analysts are estimating that 10 million machines are still running Windows Server 2003 and that they will soon be stranded, especially those serving regulated industries as they will need to maintain the security and confidentiality of these servers.

For these reasons, it is important to look into the needs of your business.
Here are a few considerations: [Read more…]

When Nature Strikes – Is Your Ark Ready to Float Your Business to Dry Land?

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

Flooding can strain the resources of even the most well-equipped organizations. Natural disasters give little warning to companies, so preparing for the disaster is the only way to reduce the high cost of rebuilding.

Have a plan ready and in place
Disaster recovery plans are now becoming a requirement for many industries. To be prepared, businesses need to locate and define the regulatory requirements of their individual industry. In addition to reducing hardware damage and data loss, this will help avoid fines, penalties or negative press associated with noncompliance.

The health care industry has begun to require that hospitals have a recovery plan in place. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) sets standards for operating a health care organization and evaluates the industry to ensure that these standards are met. Documented and field-tested recovery plans for theft, vandalism, loss of critical data, provision of emergency power, and file and flood recovery are now required.

Trying to implement or even design a plan while in the middle of a disaster will only lead to a less than successful recovery. Make sure your team is ready for action and everyone knows what to do. It’s better to be overprepared than have a plan with holes that will sink your business.

Your data: Make sure you have it
Back up your data regularly. Manage a duplicate copy of all data, programming, and company processes at a different physical location or in the cloud. That way, you can continue working at a secondary location if your system crashes.

One way to do this is to keep copies of all your data, programs, bare metal backups and virtual machines in data centers in other states or in some cases different countries.

Tech Experts offers encrypted, HIPAA-approved, online c414084_mbackup of your files, documents, folders and data bases. If you require bare metal backups or the ability to convert your server into a virtual machine to keep afloat until replacement hardware is in place and running, Tech Experts also offers devices that can fulfill that requirement as well.

Treat your data like your money
Keep it safe and keep a lot of it.

Power: Must have it
An uninterruptable power supply (UPS) and a generator provide consistent backup power for your business if power lines go down. Make sure you routinely test and service them to ensure they’re working correctly.

Electrical components, including service panels, meters, switches, and outlets, are easily damaged by flood water. If they are underwater or come in contact with water for even short periods, they will probably have to be replaced. Make sure all of your computer systems — from servers, workstations, backup devices, and UPS’s — are up off the floor. Servers, backup components and UPS’s should be at least four feet off the floor.

Another problem is fires caused by short circuits in flooded areas. Raising electrical system components helps you avoid those problems. Having an undamaged, operating electrical system after a flood will help you clean up, make repairs, and return to your property with fewer delays.

Good relationships with vendors, customers and partners
Create strong relationships with your partners, vendors and customer base. In good times, they will give you access to new ideas, technologies, and business opportunities. During a crisis, they’re a security blanket with teams of people who know your business model and have resources to help you rebuild.

Insurance: Business is life
Floods and water damage are expensive. Business insurance is crucial and it’s not only for physical property. The right kind of insurance will replace lost income as well. Make sure your business insurance policy is up to date and has the correct coverage to support your business in crisis mode.

If you have questions or you’re looking for suggestions on prepping your business for recovery, call Tech Experts at 734-457-5000.

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Why Virtualization Is A Good Idea For Your Small Business

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

Server virtualization is the partitioning of a physical server into smaller virtual servers to help maximize your server resources.

In server virtualization, software is used to divide the physical server into multiple virtual environments, called virtual or private servers. This is in contrast to dedicating one server to a single application or task.

Server virtualization provides a small business with almost unlimited storage space. Let’s look at some of the ways that server virtualization could benefit your small business.

Virtualization maximizes server space, which reduces the number of servers needed to store important company data.

Since multiple virtual servers reside on a single physical server, your infrastructure will require less space, saving occupancy costs.

Virtualization will cut down on your energy consumption, which will lower your monthly bill. Because you’ll need fewer servers, you’ll save on hardware costs, as well.

For a small-business owner, these savings can mean a lot in the long run, especially if energy costs are high.

Disaster Recovery
Fires, theft and natural disasters happen, often without warning.

What would happen to your business if all of your important files were stored on in-house servers that got destroyed in a tornado or fire?

With virtualization, that becomes less of a worry, especially if you conduct regular checks to ensure that your data is being properly backed up.

It is equally important that you take steps to ensure the data can be recovered if necessary and that when recovered, the data is usable.

Virtualization cuts down on the risk that an employee or thief could walk off with important company files, something that can happen if you back up company files on external hard drives.

Business Continuity
Unlike disaster recovery, business continuity is about quickly recovering from things like power outages and server crashes.

These two common occurrences could cost a small-business owner a lot of money depending on how long employees remained idle waiting for power to be restored or a server to be repaired.

With a virtualized server environment, server images are often backed up to the cloud – where they can be enabled in real time and act as a replacement server until resources are restored.

Virtual Desktop
This is a growing trend in the business world. Also known as client virtualization, desktop virtualization separates the PC desktop environment from the physical machine and operates in the cloud.

With virtual desktop infrastructure, employees can access the company network from their laptops, tablets or smart devices.

Virtualization has worked well for large enterprises for a number of years, and now the technology is affordable for smaller businesses.

Choosing virtualization for your company is no small matter. You’ll want to make sure you use an experienced, trusted IT partner to make sure your project goes smoothly.

Server Maintenance: Why We Do What We Do

By Tech Experts Staff
Most small businesses have onsite servers, which is a change from years past when small businesses didn’t see the benefit of having a server in place and instead depended on sharing within a workgroup.

With the great benefits of having a server in-place comes some additional costs to make sure your investment continues to be beneficial.

Many businesses that put a server in place are always defensive about having server maintenances done within a month after putting a server in place.

The number one phrase we hear after putting a new server in is “Are you sure that needs done, we just put that server in?”

The problem with taking this approach with your new server is that you already put a substantial investment in your new hardware and want it to run great for a long time.

Neglecting the server, even if it is for a short period of time, or even if it was “just put in,” is dangerous.There are items that can go bad or cause problems if not addressed, even on a new server.

The first item and most arguably one of the most important are the server updates. Servers have to be kept up to date especially since they physically host your important data.

Allowing a server to become outdated is highly risky and potentially allows hackers access to your server via security exploits in the operating system, Internet Explorer, Adobe, etc. If these items go without their security updates you run risk of data breach.

The second item that is one of the most important items that we check is the health of your RAID disks.

Most servers (at least the ones we install) have a RAID configuration of some sort configured to help protect your server in the event of a hard disk failure.

Hard disk failure is not a matter of if it will happen but rather when it will happen.

Since this is the case we generally set our clients up on a RAID 5 configuration which allows up to two RAID disks to fail at different times.

The redundancy provided by RAID 5 configurations allows for a large amount of protection from data loss but does not guarantee it. If a business’s server was not having regular maintenances done it is very possible to have the RAID disks fail and lose all the data because it was not caught.

We have had clients bring in computers that are brand new with failed hard drives so it can and does happen at any time, even when they are brand new.

During our maintenance we also go through the logs on the system carefully combing over the entries looking for any instances that could potentially indicate a problem or an upcoming problem if let go.

If this is not done your server could be showing that it is starting to have problems but you would never know it until it is too late.

One of the logs, the Security Log, allows us the ability to see whether or not your server has had unauthorized attempts to login to it. Yes, we mean hackers trying to get in your sever and to your private data.

These are just three of the numerous areas we check with the server maintenances to ensure that your server, whether new or old, is running properly and continues to do so for years to come.

If a server is not properly maintained, it can degrade quickly into an almost useless piece of equipment and the investment you put into becomes a waste as well – not to mention the potential data loss.

Don’t waste your company’s hard earned money! Invest in systems maintenances, every month. This is the only way to prevent major issues with your server and avoid data loss or compromise.