Windows Server 2019: How the Newest Features Influence the Way You do Business

Windows Server 2019

Windows Server 2019

At the end of 2018, Microsoft released the newest version of Windows Server, launching their small to medium business customers into an unexpected dilemma. A new era had arrived. Windows Server 2019, much like previous iterations, has three different editions geared toward every business type from small to enterprise. While the editions for large businesses—Datacenter and Standard—have some great upgrades from the previous version, Windows Server 2019 Essentials for small to medium businesses was massively downsized, leaving business owners to wonder about their future with Windows Server.

Windows Server 2019 and 2016: How do they compare?

What are the newest features of Windows Server Essentials? The 2019 server operating system for small businesses does not really offer anything new as much as it does away with the key features that were part of the 2016 edition; features that businesses have come to expect. In appearance, it is much like the 2016 version. It provides a small business solution as an Active Directory domain controller, and a single license includes Client Access Licenses for 25 users and 50 devices.

So what features are no longer available? One of the biggest changes to Windows Server 2019 Essentials is the removal of the Essentials Experience Role, taking with it the Administrative Dashboard, Client backup, and Remote Web Access. For businesses that depend on RWA—which is the majority—this change limits their ability to provide network access for offsite employees. Accessing the server, your desktop, and your files remotely is no longer an option. Essentials 2019 also no longer supports Office 356 integration tools. The loss of these features can have a huge impact on businesses that—for years—have depended on Windows Server to provide their on-premise server needs. However, the new face of Windows Server is not the only thing to consider before updating your software. Microsoft also announced that Windows Server 2019 Essentials may be their very last iteration of this software for small businesses.

Alternative Solutions to Windows Server 2019

For businesses using Windows Server 2016 Essentials, one solution is to continue using that license until the software becomes obsolete. Rather than upgrade to the 2019 edition, consider using Essentials 2016 for as long as possible, while also researching next steps for the day when Microsoft no longer supports that version. Another option is to upgrade to the Standard edition of the 2019 server, which makes sense if your business is growing at a pace that would require greater capacity in the near future.

If, however, you have already upgraded to Windows Server 2019 Essentials, Microsoft does offer solutions for navigating the lost features. In place of the Administrative Dashboard, look to Windows Admin Center, a free, locally-deployed app that allows you to manage your server, computers, and network with considerable ease. Also, with the Azure Active Directory connect option, businesses can access—for a fee—some of Microsoft’s cloud services while still maintaining an onsite server.

Ultimately, Microsoft is encouraging small businesses to consider moving entirely to a cloud-based service, namely Microsoft 365 or Microsoft 365 Business. For businesses that require dependable remote access and collaboration, this could be an ideal solution. Microsoft 365 includes the complete Office 365 suite of productivity tools and apps, security and mobility solutions, and Windows 10. Switching to a cloud-based solution could also be a helpful option for businesses with little or no IT support. Moving your business to a cloud platform means your security, systems and support are all built in.

Changes in the IT landscape can be difficult to navigate, especially if your business has depended upon a platform or service that has worked well for many years. While these changes can be frustrating at times, the constant developments of technology—when embraced—can also provide upgrades and solutions for your business that increase productivity, improve security, and help you navigate change for years to come.

Which Application Rules Supreme: Outlook or GMail

Office 365 or GMail

Office 365 or GMail

Currently, 30% of email addresses change every year. The majority of these changes are business related. No one wants to deal with the problems that come with changing personal contact information. Quite often, personal emails are attached to personal bills and subscriptions as well.

When the big change happens and it is time to make a move, is usually away from a smaller email platform into one of the two behemoths – Microsoft Outlook and Google Gmail. These two email providers have become the blue chip operators in what is now an essential part of everyone’s life.

What is so good about Outlook in Gmail? Are there aspects of one that makes it better than the other? We are here to look at the subtle differences between the two so that you can make an informed decision about which is better for you.

The Basics

The Outlook and Gmail user interfaces couldn’t be more different from each other. Outlook seems more business oriented on the surface, while Gmail’s UI maintains a feel that you might get from last year’s tech startup. In short, Outlook is Baby Boomer; Gmail is Generation Z.

Outlook is all about add on features while Gmail brings a “what you see is what you get” mentality to the forefront. Both services come as part of a larger suite that make a lot of money for their respective companies. If you go Pro with Outlook or Gmail, you will actually be purchasing Microsoft Office 365 or Google G suite. The first requires an annual commitment, and the second is based on a monthly subscription plan.

The Tools

So the cat out of the bag – Outlook and Gmail are actually loss leaders for the business suites that Microsoft and Google hope to sell to you eventually. Microsoft Office 365 has all of the industry standard programs that we are used to – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and all of the newer injuries that have become business staples such as OneDrive, OneNote and Microsoft Teams.

Believe it or not, Google is actually the challenger brand in this arena. Its Calendar and Hangouts tools are definitely name brands, but other aspects of its business suites such as Keep, Sites, Forms, Drive and Currents have not quite hit mainstream acceptance.

The result is the difference between a set of features that you know and love (Outlook) or a possibly wider and more robust feature set with a learning curve (Google).

Organization

If you are actually doing good business, your email is going to be a place of constantly changing activity. This is your mission-critical location, and some of the emails that you receive are essential in making mission-critical decisions. Keeping your emails organized is one of the most important things that you can do for your business. Outlook and Gmail have two entirely different philosophies for this.

Outlook works on a method of organization that predates the Internet. Its traditional system of folders looks and feels like a file cabinet. Anyone who makes use of Gmail can tell you this is definitely not the way that Google organizes things. Gmail uses labels and tags and allows you to customize your experience much more. If you know what you’re doing, you can quickly tier your email system and get to your most important emails more quickly. If not, then your email will probably look like a jumbled mess every time you open it.

The Company

With such powerful companies underwriting the programs, it is difficult to look past the influence of the brand. When you use Outlook, you have the advantages of Microsoft behind you. One of the most important features that Microsoft offers is the ability to completely delete unread emails from existence. This is simply not possible with Google, although Gmail offers many other advantages that are difficult to overlook. Gmail offers extended power of Google search and all of the associated features that Alphabet has now monopolized, meaning that you have an extremely powerful suite of tools behind you every time you open your Gmail.

So who wins the battle of emails between Outlook and Gmail? This is actually a question of your business philosophy. If you like more traditional, old-school methods of thinking and organizing yourself, the outlook is probably the brand for you. If you are a New Age thinker who wants a personalized digital experience, then Gmail will probably suit you better. There is no right and wrong; only good and bad for you.

Did You Know That Java 8 Now Requires Licensing Fees?

JAVA Licensing Fees

JAVA Licensing Fees

Java and JavaScript still the most widely-used languages in business, outpacing C# and Python by a relatively large margin in a recent survey by Cloud Foundry. These flexible, cloud-native languages represent 57-58% of businesses that responded to the study, with Python only being used in about 25% of businesses. Java and JavaScript, along with C++, continued to show market growth through the end of 2018, unlike some other languages whose share continues to decline. With the strong user base and growth for Java, it’s not surprising that Oracle has decided to consolidate several different models into a more streamline licensing agreement. While this has been discussed since mid-2018, as of January 2019 organizations that want to continue receiving support for Java may need to revise their licensing agreement to incorporate the paid model. See how this could impact your continued usage of a programming language that continues to gain importance in the business world.

Building Flexibility Into Business Systems

Being able to reference multiple languages helps businesses retain the flexibility and agility that they need to be relevant in today’s fast-paced business world. With startups claiming niche markets, established businesses and enterprises need access to well-known and widely used languages such as Java and C++. Even though Java has been around since “Green Team” developers at Sun Microsystems released it 1995 after a multi-year marathon of programming, it is still revolutionizing the way we interact with digital devices. As the invisible force behind many of today’s most complex solutions, Java has been building flexibility into business systems since the mid-1990s. Java is a platform independent, meaning it can run a variety of different operating systems which creates a highly extensible base language.

Creating Cloud-Native Practices

Businesses are continually looking for ways to drive innovation as a way to differentiate from their competitors, and cloud-native languages such as Java will help drive these initiatives into the future. Says Cloud Foundry Foundation CTO Chip Childers: “Cloud-native practices enable developers within large companies to pick the language that best supports their functional needs—and our research shows that the most commonly chosen languages for cloud-native application development are Java and JavaScript”. While more than 25 languages were noted by respondent companies, the majority were only used by 1-2% of businesses, unlike Java which was prevalent in close to three-fourths of the organizations. It would not be surprising for there to be consolidation within the various platforms as organizations look to bring consistency to their overall development practices.

Java’s New Licensing Model

While Oracle’s July 2018 announcement caused many organizations to rethink their Java usage, it’s clear that the platform is still required for development. The particular version that was impacted is Java SE (Standard Edition), Java SE Advanced, Java SE Advanced Desktop and Java SE Suite. These licensing options will be consolidated down to two paid models starting in January 2019: Java SE Subscription and Java SE Desktop Subscription. Each version is a monthly subscription that includes public updates for Java SE 8 or later, with terms available from one to three years. This shift will impact all users of commercial-grade Java, although customers of older Java SE models will not be forced to make the switch. While moving to the new model is not mandatory for non-commercial use, business users will require a license according to Oracle’s new licensing policies.

Business users do have a few decisions to make as their model shifts:

  • Server-based deployments will use a processor-based metric such as CPUs to calculate license requirements, starting with an Oracle-licensed server and the number of cores and the processor core factor into the calculations
  • Desktop deployments use a Named User Plus-based metric to make the calculation of ongoing licensing costs

Businesses who opt out of the paid model, should not expect to receive additional Java SE critical updates after January 1, 2019, a situation which can easily place business operations at increased risk of breach or failure.

Review Use of Java in Your Business

If you have significant usage of Java SE in your business, it’s time to launch a full review to determine whether you need to upgrade or renew licensing agreements with Oracle. Determine whether your business is fully compliant with new Java SE requirements based on your current and estimated future usage on servers or desktops. You could find that it is more cost-effective to make a switch to the new Java SE licensing models based on your current business requirements and maintenance agreement. Reviewing future development needs is also an important part of your analysis. If you plan to reduce overall Java use in the next few years, that could dictate the term of the negotiated agreement. You could also look for ways to incorporate a sliding scale based on estimated future usage.

Even though the language is now more than two decades old, there is no indication that the usage of Java is declining in the near future. As long as this flexible platform provides the link between computers and other digital devices, developers will continue to use and value this agile platform for business development.

What Makes An Awesome IT Services Provider?

Awesome IT Service Provider

Awesome IT Service Provider

 

Technology is continually changing, and keeping up with the updates to your crucial infrastructure and software can feel like an overwhelming task. Many organizations begin to look for an IT managed services provider as they start to scale, but how can you know who to trust? You’re placing your mission-critical systems and devices in the hands of a technology partner. Here are some key questions that you should ask any new IT services provider to determine if they will offer you the impressive level of service that your business deserves.

1. Your IT Services Provider Should Listen

While there are similarities between businesses in the same vertical, no company is exactly the same as any others. Your IT managed services professional should take the time to listen to your concerns instead of immediately offering cookie-cutter responses to the problem that they assume you have in your organization. A true partner will listen to your needs and then slot in their proficiencies to make your organization stronger and more resilient.

2. Have Availability That Meets Your Business Needs

Are all of your problems going to occur during working hours? Probably not — and your IT managed services provider (MSP) should have qualified resources available around the clock so your customers and staff aren’t left waiting in the event of a service outage. Carefully read through any offering contracts or service agreements to be sure that the response times meet the needs of your business before you make your final vendor selection.

3. Provide Recommendations for Key Strategies

Whether that means budgeting or disaster recovery planning, a true technology partner will always be on the lookout for ways that they could save you money or help improve the efficiency of your business. This could come during the budgeting cycle, when they let you know that some of your hardware could be replaced in the coming year. Another time that your IT managed services partner should help your business is by leveraging their knowledge of various industries to share best practices in backup and disaster recovery.

4. Retain Security Experts on Staff

Cybersecurity is a constantly changing realm, and it would be very challenging for a single staff member to keep up-to-date with security advances as they’re made available. Keeping software patched and hardware updated is also a very time-consuming task, making these two ideal ways to leverage your managed services provider. You should be able to feel confident that your MSP is regularly running security tests and actively monitoring for hacks.

5. Proactively Update and Test Your Systems

The time when you could rely on reactive technology management to maintain the security of your systems and data is gone. Instead of waiting for something to break, your services provider should be actively seeking upcoming updates and creating a schedule for an application that is consistent with the needs of your business. This will help your business stay on the right track for reliable growth in the future.

6. Help Appropriately Scale Your Business Infrastructure

Making a single wrong decision early in a technology build-out can have disastrous consequences down the line. Your IT managed services provider should have the experience with businesses similar to yours that allows them to peek into the future and curtail any decisions that might cause your business to be less flexible or scalable in the future. While customizations are nearly inevitable when it comes to technology, a truly remarkable services provider will look for and recommend tools that are an exceptional fit for your business first — before they recommend expensive platform changes.

Finding the best IT managed services provider requires time and trust on both sides, but everything starts with open dialog. Your team must be able to detail your current needs as well as how your business is expected to scale in the future as well as a rough timeline. Your IT services provider should be able to tease these details from your project team so you have a shared understanding of how to move forward in lockstep. From a deep understanding of cybersecurity to a willingness to listen to your needs: an awesome IT managed services provider is not a mythical creature!

13 Effects That You Can Apply to the Apple Messages App

Apple Message App

Apple Message App

Back in 2018, Apple once again upgraded the iMessage app to include new messaging effects. Apple added these effects to enhance the messaging experience for iOS users. There are 13 different effects that you can use to add an attractive feature to your messages when using iOS 12 or later on an iPhone or an iPad. The bubble effects will also show up on iMessage for Mac.

Let’s look at the special effects that you can apply in the Apple Messages App.

How to Access the iMessage Effects

First, with messages open, enter some text. Type an easy message such as “Hello”. Then, force-press the blue arrow to the right. The effects screen appears. The effects screen is divided into categories that are posted at the top of the screen:

  1. Bubble effects
  2. Screen effects

Bubble Effects

There are four bubble effects:

  1. Slam: Stamps the bubble down and makes the entire screen ripple
  2. Loud: A giant bubble that shakes then settles
  3. Gentle: A tiny bubble that subtly slips into place
  4. Invisible ink: Covers the bubble in an animated blur  the blur disappears once you swipe the message.

Screen Effects

There are nine screen effects:

  1. Echo: The Echo duplicates text that floods the screen of the recipient.
  2. Spotlight: The incoming message is highlighted by a spotlight.
  3. Balloons: Ascending balloons burst onto the recipient’s screen.
  4. Confetti: Multi-color confetti sprays down from the top of the screen.
  5. Love: An expanding heart pops out of the message.
  6. Lasers: Lasers with sound effects shoot from one of the screen to the next.
  7. Fireworks: Multi-color fireworks explode from the center of the screen.
  8. Shooting stars: A starburst shoots from the left on the screen, blowing up as it reaches the right side of the screen.
  9. Celebration: Fireworks and other celebratory effects spread out across the screen.

Once you’ve decided which effect you want to apply, touch the blue upward arrow to send your message with the effect. You can also press the ‘X’ to return to the message screen.

By adding these effects, you can enhance your iMessage experience.

Why Is ITSM Important For Local Business?

ITSM

ITSM

With today’s businesses moving a large portion of their information technology operations to the cloud, having holistic IT services management is more important than ever before. Making this shift provides organizations with an unprecedented level of flexibility, and cloud solutions are generally more affordable. However, you may find that you’re introducing a greater level of complexity as you bring on additional integrations and cloud-based solutions. Having a trusted IT services management partner allows you to focus on the core growth of your business while shifting the bulk of responsibility for IT operations to your services management team. See how making this move helps local businesses thrive.

What is ITSM?

Information Technology Services Management (ITSM) goes by a variety of different titles. You may hear this referred to as managed services, IT outsourcing, IT consulting and more — but it all boils down to finding a partner with the technical expertise to support your organization’s IT operations. Internal IT teams often retain responsibility for setting strategy and oversight, while the more tedious daily processes and larger integrations are moved offsite to your partner’s teams. This allows you access to a broader team of professionals with expertise in a variety of different platforms, infrastructure setups and methodologies.

How Does ITSM Help My Local Business?

As businesses grow, their technical challenges become increasingly complex and are often more than one or two IT professionals can handle internally. Working with an IT services management organization allows you to reduce inefficiencies in your business and reduce the workload on key technical staff. You’ll find enhanced operational efficiency and reduced operating costs, along with a vastly improved customer experience for your internal users and customers. With an external review of your software implementations, you are likely to enjoy enhanced access control and governance of your crucial business systems. Your IT services management professionals are also able to help bring consistency to your process and automate them whenever possible. You’ll find that your teams are able to collaborate more fluidly — both internally and with your customers or vendors.

What Types of Services Does an ITSM Offer?

The wide scope of the landscape — where there are thousands of solutions for each IT project — simply requires knowledge that is too broad for a single, small team. ITSM helps your local business by helping weed through some less-than-ideal solutions to find exactly the options that are right for your business.

This could include providing a range of platforms and services:

  • Cloud-based storage
  • Backup and disaster recovery procedures
  • Antivirus and anti-malware solutions
  • Office 365 and productivity software licensing and implementation
  • Active monitoring of your network for data breaches
  • Remediation and resolution management
  • Help Desk support
  • Software Integrations
  • Universal control dashboards
  • Threat assessments and staff training
  • WiFi and endpoint management

These are only a few of the solutions that a full-service ITSM partner can provide for your organization.

Will an ITSM Team Understand My Business?

Sure, it might take your technology professionals a bit to get up to speed on your specific core competencies and the challenges that your organization offers, but these individuals are accustomed to working with a variety of organizations and will quickly learn what makes your business unique. Plus, they’re able to leverage all of their knowledge of past engagements to help see what works, what doesn’t — and how to make the most out of the teams that are available. Your IT services management team will look across the organization at people, processes and technology in order to help visualize your work and understand where changes can be made to wasteful processes.

If your organization is embarking on a digital transformation project — or even if you’re simply trying to get your technology team out of the weeds with daily help desk requests — ITSM offers some true benefits for your business. You can increase the agility and responsiveness of your business while ensuring that daily business processes are interrupted as little as possible. See how ITSM concepts can help provide the cement that you need between your business and technology teams to lead your organization into the future.

How Much Time Are You Losing To Technology Issues?

Technology Issues

Technology Issues

No matter how good technology gets, technical issues are still and will continue to be a major cause of lost productivity for individuals and companies. Problems with slow or crashed computers, loss of internet service, printers not working, dropped telephone calls, and other annoying little gremlins are costing companies millions of dollars a year, including yours. Whenever your tech isn’t working the way it should, you’re losing revenue and it quickly adds up.

A Sobering Statistic

To get an idea of just how costly all those little glitches are, consider the results of a recent survey by Robert Half Technology. The study found that, on average, workers spend about 22 minutes each day dealing with some type of IT issue. That adds up to an eye-opening 91 hours annually or two weeks of downtime for each employee in your organization.

So think about what that equals in loss of revenue. Some people generate more than others of course. But if you have a professional who’s billing by the hour, for example, or a salesperson who is bringing in say $10,000 per week, and they’re out of commission for two weeks each year, that soon starts to add up to some serious money.

IT issues will always be a fact of life for modern companies to one degree or the other but there is a proven way to keep them to a minimum and reduce their impact on your business operations. It all depends on how well your managed services provider, or your in-house team, addresses your needs and resources.

A Matter Of Strategy And Priorities

A good provider will devote time and resources to two key priorities:

  • Optimizing your technology resources, regularly monitoring and testing your system to make sure it’s functioning at its optimal performance, and preventing problems from occurring in the first place, not just reacting when an emergency happens.
  • Devising a strategy that implements the type of technology that will best serve your company’s unique and specific needs.

If you have systems and equipment in place that you don’t necessarily need, that’s a drain on your resources and budget and creates more complexity, and thus more opportunities for things to go wrong. If, on the other hand, you don’t have the capabilities you need, efficiency and productivity will be hampered.

An experienced and professional managed services provider will ensure that your organization has the right balance, providing you with the optimum in performance. They will also monitor your system in real time to spot potential problem areas, and to be able to react quickly when they do happen.

Your technology partner should be willing to work with you on a personal basis to devise a plan that will best fit your needs, and they should always be available. If you have a question or an issue, you don’t want to reach an answering machine or service.

It’s easy for a business to get used to minor tech issues and become complacent about them. But the fact is that they’re costing you more money than you know. Finding a good IT partner could be one of the best business decisions you’ll make.

When Does Moving Away From The Cloud Make Sense?

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing

In 2018, Dropbox announced it was shifting away from cloud-based services in favor of managing some of its data storage and application hosting itself. The company noted that while Amazon Web Services (AWS) initially allowed Dropbox to delay the purchase and maintenance of its own infrastructure, there were limitations and obstacles that prompted the switch.

In its IPO filing, Dropbox noted that the company has no operational control or access to the AWS or other cloud facilities that host its content. If there were to be an issue with that data, Dropbox, which hosts information for its customers worldwide, would have little control of the situation.

Why is it that Dropbox and other companies are moving away from the cloud, which is touted as a service that alleviates the burden of monitoring, maintenance and upgrading what’s stored there? Are there times when it makes more sense to move away from the public cloud?

How Many Companies Are Moving Out of the Public Cloud?

In 2018, IDC reported that 81 percent of companies surveyed reported migrating applications or data that had been stored in the public cloud to a different environment, including a private cloud host, a hybrid cloud and local solution or a complete on-premises infrastructure. The companies that repatriated data and apps reported doing so the following solutions:

  • Hosted private cloud (41 percent)
  • On-premises private cloud (38 percent)
  • On-premises non-cloud (22 percent)

The survey also reported that 85 percent planned to migrate services in 2019.

Why? The most-cited reasons were:

  • Security (19 percent)
  • Performance (14 percent)
  • Cost (12 percent)
  • Control (12 percent)
  • Desire to centralize or reduce shadow IT (11 percent)

What’s Behind the Cloud Repatriation Push?

Munish Manrao of Belmont, California-based ePC Solutions noted that there can be many factors that influence a decision to move to the cloud or move back.

“Every IT decision should be based on a combination of factors: security, cost, compliance, stability, productivity, and compatibility,” Manrao said. “In some instances, a company may move an application to the cloud and then decide to pull that application out of the cloud and return it to an on-premises data center. Although this can be disruptive, any one or more of the reasons listed above could be the determining factor.”

Jason Simons of Houston IT solutions company, ICS, agreed, noting that control, performance and regulatory mandates are often the key factors to move away from the public cloud. He cited specific issues that may prompt, or force, the decision for businesses:

  • Poor performance of the application once it was virtualized in the cloud
  • A desire for ultimate control of the software or data, including upgrade management, outage scheduling and access management. Because the public cloud is a shared resource, there are often limitations and restrictions on what a company can do and when.
  • Concerns about regulation. If a company finds out that its cloud provider is no longer certified to meet the security standards of regulatory agencies, the business is responsible. Companies take on great financial risk for non-compliance.
  • The wrong provider. Companies may choose a smaller provider initially that cannot meet their business needs. Instead of moving to a larger provider, some businesses prefer to bring apps and data back in-house.

Speed is a frequent reason for moving away from the public cloud.

“Businesses that rely on public cloud servers often run into trouble if local bandwidth is unreliable, or if internet access is lost resulting in downtime or data loss,” noted Andrew Schira with Oklahoma City IT service provider, Easton Technology.

Another is the cost.

“On-premise servers are generally a one-time purchase,” Schira continued. “Moving applications can reduce operating costs and result in improved security.”

Those insights echo the reasons cited in an IDC survey of multi-cloud infrastructure among European businesses. The top data-management priorities were:

  • Managing and controlling cost (42 percent)
  • Regulatory compliance (34 percent)
  • Provisioning and management capabilities (32 percent)
  • Data portability and workload seamlessness (32 percent)
  • Retrieving data if a provider goes out of business (27 percent)

Over the next 12-18 months, 49 percent of those businesses listed data protection, including backup and recovery, replication archiving and business continuity, as a key data challenge. Another 43 percent cited security and compliance.

What Applications Are Most Likely to Move Away from the Public Cloud?

Manrao noted that there are certain applications that are prime suspects for repatriation if they have one of the following characteristics:

  • Database applications that require high I/O speeds (the rate at which data is transferred between the hard disk drive and RAM)
  • Graphics-intensive applications
  • Applications that should be accessed outside the network
  • Applications that are not cost-effective to host
  • Applications that are necessary to control local access
  • Applications that cannot be dependent on ISP speeds

“Applications that are candidates for repatriation to a business’s on-premise servers are mature, highly integrated, mission-critical applications where concerns about exponential growth are not an issue,” Schira said.

Regulatory concerns are a growing concern, too. Companies face complex and mounting data management requirements due to the passage of GDPR for European Union residents, growing U.S. state-specific privacy mandates, and the continuing presence of requirements for HIPAA, PCI and other legislative obligations.

What Are the Benefits to Rolling Back from the Public Cloud?

Companies that switch from the public cloud will see many benefits, including:

  • No risk of providers changing terms or costs
  • No threat of potential deletion of data by a provider with little or no warning
  • One-time server expenses
  • Full company control of its own data, including its use and its storage

How Can I Prepare for a Switch?

Manrao recommends that whenever an application is moved to the cloud, there should be a roll-back procedure in place. Companies should keep their local infrastructure in place for a while in case the decision is made to roll back the application to internal hosting.

These procedures should ensure the company has complete access to the database and user accounts. The cloud host should be able to export all the data in a format that’s usable to the business. These procedures also should be tested often.

And if you decide to roll back data, Simons has some advice.

“The best way to do this with minimal downtime is with proper backups and pre-planning and testing,” Simons said. The key steps are:

  • Pre-install the application at your facility and thoroughly test
  • Complete a backup or screenshot of the cloud application and load it into your on-premises version
  • Continue running the application on the cloud server until the backup is restored to on-site equipment
  • Shift users seamlessly to the on-site server
  • Make another backup of the changes that occurred in the cloud while doing the migration
  • Restore these interim changes to your on-site server

Cloud solutions continue to be valuable for many companies, especially those with small or understaffed IT staffs. However, as with many new technologies, some businesses are finding that the public cloud is not the ideal solution for their unique needs.

Toyota Australia Hit With Data Breach

Cyber Attack Toyota Australia

Cyber Attack Toyota Australia

In late February 2019, Toyota Australia was hit by a major cyber attack that knocked out its online presence and email systems. For days, the automaker had its ability to connect with customers significantly compromised.

The Toyota incident is yet the latest reminder of the disastrous impact of cyber attacks and why companies of all sizes and in all industry sectors need to be vigilant. Systems, users and devices all need constant monitoring and robust security measures in place to prevent such incidents from having significant consequences.

What happened at Toyota?

On 21 February, it was reported that Toyota Australia had suffered from a cyber attack. The company issued a statement that confirmed the attack, which reports indicate Toyota first learned about the day before. The statement noted that the initial analysis showed that no private customer or employee data had been accessed.

The company’s IT teams were working with “international cybersecurity experts to get systems up and running again,” according to the statement.

Four days later, the company’s website continued to display a stark message detailing its effort to recover from the attack. The company created an emergency call centre to address inquiries from customers.

The company has reported it has “no further details about the origin of the attack.”

What impact is the disruption having on Toyota customers?

The web message made note of several important issues affecting its customers. The company reports having only “limited capabilities to respond” to customers. The Toyota VIN Checker function is down, for example.

Of more significant concern is the impact on two important recent recalls facing Toyota customers. One recall, begun in 2018, affects airbags inflators in Corolla and Avensis models. As the airbags age, high temperatures and humidity can cause the airbag to activate with an explosive force that could send metal fragments towards car passengers, leading to serious injury or death.

In December, the company also recalled 2,640 Corollas, this time to replace a transmission assembly that could detach, resulting in a loss of power.

How big a problem are cyber attacks in Australia?

Cyber attacks cost the Australian economy $1 billion annually. Here are some other statistics on the effect on Australian businesses (2017 numbers unless indicated otherwise):

  • 516,380 small businesses were victims of a cybercrime
  • The average payment was $4,677 for a small- or medium-sized business to recover their data after a ransomware attack
  • One in four enterprises suffered 25 hours or more of downtime after being hit by a cyber attack
  • Only one in three small- and medium-sized businesses have continuous system backup practices in place
  • It cost medium-sized companies $1.9 million to recover from a cyber attack.

In the first six weeks after enacting the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme in February 2018, the Office of the Information Commissioner received 63 notifications. Those numbers have grown steadily, with 242, 245 and 262 breaches reported in the last three quarters of 2018, respectively.

Malicious or criminal attacks accounted for the largest number of data breaches reported in the fourth quarter – 64 percent of all reported incidents. Of those malicious or criminal attacks, 68 percent involved cyber incidents, including:

  • Phishing (43 percent)
  • Compromised or stolen credentials (24 percent)
  • Ransomware (10 percent)
  • Brute-force attacks (8 percent)
  • Hacking (8 percent)
  • Malware (7 percent)

A closer look at the fourth-quarter statistics gives a clearer picture of the sources of attacks, types of attacks, data affected and sectors being targeted (with percentages):

Source of attacks

  • Malicious or criminal attacks (64 percent)
  • Human error (33)
  • System faults (3)

Information disclosed due to human error

  • Personal information sent to wrong recipient-email (27.1 percent)
  • Unauthorised disclosure via unintended release or publication (17.6)
  • Loss of paperwork or data storage device (14.1)
  • Personal information sent to wrong recipient-mail (11.8)
  • Failure to use BCC when sending email (10.6)
  • Unauthorised disclosure-failure to redact (9.4)
  • Personal information sent to the wrong recipient (3.5)

Type of data affected

  • Contact information (85 percent)
  • Financial details (47)
  • Identity information (36)
  • Health information (27)
  • Tax file number (18)
  • Other sensitive information (9)

Top industries attacked

  • Health services (21 percent)
  • Finance (15)
  • Legal, accounting and management (9)
  • Private education (8)
  • Mining and manufacturing (5)

What companies can do to protect themselves?

The Reserve Bank of Australia warned in October 2018 that Australian businesses were vulnerable to cyber attacks and the catastrophic losses that could ensue.

The Cisco 2018 Asia Pacific Security Capabilities Benchmark study noted that Australia was most under attack of the 11 countries evaluated. The numbers are stunning. Ninety percent of Australian businesses report facing up to 5,000 threats daily. Of those companies, a third face between 100,000 and 150,000 daily attacks and 7 percent see more than 500,000 attacks per day.

What can Australian companies do? Here are some of the most critical areas of need.

Comprehensive protection

Companies need to invest in a multilayered approach to protection of hardware, software, systems, networks, access points, devices and users. As seen in the data above, the attacks can come from a deliberate attack by an outside source, but often come from simple human error.

A comprehensive approach includes sound policies, technology and awareness. Together, these tools give your business the right protection to combat attacks.

Firewalls

A next-generation firewall protects your computer network. Firewalls help detect, contain and eradicate unwanted intrusions before serious harm can come to your systems. They also can be used to inspect information sent to and from the company and block access to and from risky URLs.

Anti-virus software

To protect users from spam, phishing attempts, viruses and malware, your devices need installed software that automatically scans and quarantines suspicious emails and activity. These tools should be automatically updated in the background to ensure continuous protection from threats new and established.

Monitoring

Tools can be deployed that continuously monitor networks, devices, access and usage, using pre-established rules about what is and is not allowed. Automated monitoring tools can detect and detain threats while issuing alerts to key personnel about identified issues.

Business continuity and disaster recovery

Companies need to develop the policies and procedures that will allow for little to no interruptions should a natural disaster or cyberattack occur. These guidelines establish chains of command, protocols and roles (which may be different from typical job responsibilities) during a crisis. These plans should be tested to ensure all components work smoothly and plans should be modified as needed.

Employee awareness and training

It is important that companies invest in their employees to further an understanding of what cyber attacks are, what damage they can do and how workers can prevent them. Showing employees examples of suspicious emails, making sure they understand data privacy policies and testing their responses builds resilience and understanding.

The Toyota Australia incident will not be the last high-profile example of cyberattacks to hit businesses. But preparation can go a long way to reducing the number and impact of such attacks.

Importance of Managed IT Services in Improving Your Business Operations

Managed Services Benefits

Managed Services Benefits

The sudden development of IT problems can quickly throw your team’s workday off track. Even simple login issues can prevent you and your employees from getting any work done until you can fix the problem. To do so on your own, you may have to spend hours troubleshooting, sometimes without getting anywhere. If you have managed IT services, however, resolving the issue could only take a quick phone call to a team of dedicated professionals on standby.

The rapid resolution of IT issues is worth its weight in gold alone, but there are many other benefits of managed service arrangements. With their ability to handle everything IT, from preventing issues in the first place to dramatically increase your network security, managed service providers bring immense value to the table.

To get the most out of this type of service, you will need to select the managed service options that support your daily operations best. Here’s what you need to know.

Range of Managed Service Options

Managed service companies offer a full range of services to support business operations of all kinds. You can acquire everything from basic help desk support to data recovery services from these professionals. They can also handle network security, system backups, computer maintenance and IT planning for your company. Managed IT providers can also help with the creation of custom software solutions and the management of your local servers.

You will need to reflect on your business needs to find the best level of service to acquire. With an understanding of your business operations and tech requirements, your managed IT provider can help you build a plan that will help you achieve great results.

Benefits of Acquiring Comprehensive Managed Services

When you elect to work with a managed IT service provider, you can boost the efficiency of your operations while decreasing expenses. Your team will have the support they need to stay on track with their daily tasks. Explore these benefits of acquiring managed services to see why this is a great option for businesses of all sizes.

IT Issue Prevention

With oversight from skilled computer techs, you can actively prevent IT problems from developing. These experts utilize protective software and techniques to keep IT issues from disrupting your workday. They may use ghost imaging, for example, to restore a fresh version of your operating system on every PC each day. With this approach, you do not have to worry about slowdown and data corruption that can occur otherwise.

Decrease in Expenses

Depending on the level of service you select, you may be able to minimize your expenses by acquiring just the services you need, when you need them. You can build your tailormade service plans by selecting only the services that pertain to your company. If you do not have local servers in need of management, for example, you can leave that service out of your plan. With this arrangement, you do not need to attract, acquire and retain a full team of IT professionals of your own. You can save on the costs of talent acquisition, benefit plans and other human resources tasks needed to build and maintain a team of skilled IT experts.

Data Security Improvements

When you have a managed IT service plan, you can keep your data safe by utilizing the newest technologies as efficiently as possible. Using high-tech security tools and practices, your IT team can protect your network from attacks and preserve the integrity of your data. You can also receive the assistance you need to remain in compliance with any data security regulations in your industry.

Potential Impact of Unresolved IT Issues on Your Business Operations

When computer and network issues keep your team from working, your company starts to lose money. Each minute your systems stay down could end up costing hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on your company size and operations, if you cannot source a swift resolution.

Unresolved IT issues can cost even more if they allow security breaches that compromise your data. You have to stay on top of the latest software updates and hardware upgrades to keep your data secure and uncorrupted, for example. Data security breaches that leave you out of compliance with the regulations in your industry have the potential to be even more devastating.

Thankfully, by partnering with a managed IT service provider, you can keep computer and network problems from affecting your company’s bottom line.

How to Find a Skilled Managed Service Provider

You can find a skilled managed service provider to partner with by looking toward the thought leaders in the industry. The professionals that share their industry knowledge and expertise online give you an idea of their service quality and approach. You can narrow down your options by looking at the websites and blogs of the top companies on your list. Although you can check that their services match your company’s needs, it is usually a lot more helpful to speak to someone directly about that.

Once you find your ideal managed IT service provider, you can schedule a consultation and discuss your company’s exact needs. You can have a custom service plan built to your specifications to ensure your company receives the support it needs. With this level of service, you can rest assured that time-consuming or outright unsolvable IT problems will be a thing of the past for your organization.