Newly Discovered Security Flaws Put Windows Users at Serious Risk

Is Windows Secure

Microsoft Vulnerability Affects Most Recent Operating Systems

Learn about two recently discovered vulnerabilities that could put your company’s computers and operations at risk and what Microsoft is doing to fix the issue.

Is Windows Secure

Two newly discovered security vulnerabilities could put Windows users at risk of attack if they do not download and install security patches Microsoft recently issued.

What Are the New Microsoft Security Flaws?

Nicknamed DejaBlue, the two security flaws are designated CVE-2019-1181 and CVE-2019-1182. They are similar to the BlueKeep vulnerabilities Microsoft issued patches for in May 2019. The newest flaws, like Bluekeep, could allow hackers to create so-called “wormable” attacks that easily can be spread from one computer to another without any interaction from a user.

The main difference is that the newer security vulnerabilities are potential threats to newer versions of Windows products.

What Systems Does DejaBlue Affect?

There are potentially hundreds of thousands of computers that could be affected by the Windows worm. They sit within the Windows Remote Desktop Services (RDS) package. According to Microsoft, the vulnerabilities could affect the following systems:

  • Windows 7 SP1
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Windows 10 (all supported versions, including server versions)

That’s a massive number of potential targets that could be infected if the patches are not deployed and active monitoring tools are not in place.

Windows XP, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2003 are not affected.

How Does DejaBlue Work?

Like with BlueKeep, the vulnerabilities can be used to exploit RDP, a tool that administrators use to connect to other computers on a network. Hackers could then use that exploit to code and load a worm that is automated. It would “jump” from one computer to another, potentially affecting millions of computers quickly.

What makes the DejaBlue and Bluekeep vulnerabilities so dangerous is that they can propagate without any user interaction.

What’s more dangerous is that the new vulnerabilities differ from BlueKeep, which targeted Windows 7 operating systems. The new exposures could affect Windows 7 and all recent versions of Microsoft’s operating systems. That amplifies both the risk and the potential impact.

“At this point, nearly every contemporary Windows computer needs to patch, before hackers can reverse engineer those fixes for clues that might help create exploits,” notes Wired magazine.

While a British intelligence agency, GCHQ, is credited with identifying BlueKeep, Microsoft notes that it identified the new threats itself. To date, no evidence that exists that indicates the vulnerabilities were known to third parties, the company said.

“These vulnerabilities were discovered by Microsoft during hardening of Remote Desktop Services as part of our continual focus on strengthening the security of our products,” Microsoft said in a release.

The scale of the potential damage is extraordinary. As of July 2019, there were as many as 800,000 computers worldwide that were still vulnerable to BlueKeep, with a much larger potential threat from DejaBlue.

What Can We Do to Protect Against Cybersecurity Threats?

The key to maintaining a secure network is developing a comprehensive, multilayered security strategy. A managed services provider can partner with you to develop a cybersecurity plan that includes:

  • Comprehensive network perimeter monitoring using next-generation firewalls to detect, contain, disable and destroy threats
  • Continuous monitoring of systems, endpoints and users
  • Automated downloading and installation of software and firmware updates, upgrades and patches that respond to emerging threats
  • Anti-malware, anti-spam and anti-virus software installed on each user’s machine or device, updated automatically, and analyzed to determine potential threats
  • Email and data encryption
  • Password security, including multifactor authorization
  • Mobile device management, including remote location finding, disabling and wiping functions
  • Cloud solutions for secure hosting of data, apps and operating systems
  • Business continuity and disaster recovery planning
  • Employee training

Having the right security in place greatly reduces your risk of being affected by a cyberattack that can debilitate your business, ruin its reputation and cost thousands to repair.

Why Every Business Needs Cybersecurity

Business Investment in Cybersecurity

Business Investment in Cybersecurity

Why Every Business Should Invest in Cybersecurity

Cyber security is essential to businesses of all sizes. Learn how to keep your business up to date and protected from the most common digital threats.  

Cybersecurity is no longer a concern exclusive to large corporations. Since the infamous attacks on Equifax, Target, and Apple, cybercriminals have started to shift their focus towards smaller businesses. Without proper security protocols, small businesses are sitting ducks even for novice hackers.

In recent years, the cost of data theft targeting small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) has risen significantly. The Ponemon Institute reports a 17% increase in the average cost of theft and damages, and a 26% increase in the average cost of disruption to operations. The threat has prompted many SMBs to invest more heavily in third-party data security services.

Cybersecurity in a Continuously Evolving Digital Space

Ever-evolving technology makes the world more connected, but also makes data more vulnerable to attackers. Gone are the days when an antivirus, firewall, and email filter were enough to earn a passing cybersecurity grade. As criminals refine and improve their methods of attack, businesses and IT professionals must step up their defenses.

The most recent trend in cyberattacks is a shift towards SMBs, many of which lack the breadth and depth of data security that larger corporations are likely to have. Illicit tactics such as email phishing, direct hacking, and installing ransomware can spell big trouble for SMBs. If your data is compromised, the results can extend to your customers and other members of your supply chain.

Consequences of a Data Breach

The fallout from a data breach depends on the scale of the attack and the value of the data stolen. Hackers may be able to seize control of accounts, drain funds, freeze assets, and access sensitive customer information. If you operate in the healthcare or financial sectors, you may be liable to pay reparations in addition to suffering the cost of stolen capital and the inability to continue operations. The cost of a large-scale data breach can devastate even the wealthiest of corporations, and will most certainly overwhelm a small business.

How to Improve Cybersecurity

A common misconception is that only large corporations can afford effective cybersecurity. In most cases, implementing cybersecurity isn’t merely a matter of money, but of proper training and awareness. A Ponemon Institute study linked 54 percent of data breaches to employee or contractor negligence. This includes email phishing, which is often the first step attackers use to conduct large scale theft of usernames, passwords, and other sensitive data.

Educating and training your employees on cybersecurity minimizes the risk of data theft at the point of contact. Your business should have protocols to identify signs of phishing, choose secure passwords, and grant or deny access to information. You can also inform your customers about how to keep their information secure. Taking this two-pronged approach shows customers how committed you are to keeping their data safe.

Being proactive and spreading the word on cybersecurity threats will help you protect your business from hackers. Whether you’re a multinational corporation or a two-person mom-and-pop shop, your customers rely on you to safeguard their data. Implementing the latest security practices lets them know that you value their trust.

Everything You Need to Know About the Dark Web

The Dark Web

The Dark Web

What Is the Dark Web and How Can You Stay Off It?

Ever heard of the dark web? It’s definitely not a place you want your company’s information to be. Learn everything you need to know about the dark web here.  

Most people have heard about the dark web in one form or another. It’s a place where criminal activity happens — from the purchase of illegal drugs to the hiring of assassins.

Of course, there is a legal side to the dark web as well; though, most people don’t know about. In fact, the origin story of the dark web is entirely legitimate and is even linked to the government.

Still, as a business owner or CEO, your relationship with the dark web (should you unfortunately have one) will not likely be good. It’s a bad sign if any of your information is found there. That’s why it’s important to know about what exactly the dark web is: Where it came from, what’s on it, and what you should do to stay as far away from it as possible.

What Is the Dark Web?

The dark web is essentially one “section” of the Internet. Specifically, it’s a section that isn’t included in mainstream search engines like Google. So, when you search a normal search inquiry, such as, “Where’s the best hamburger joint in downtown Pittsburgh?” you don’t get results from the dark web.

Instead, this section includes all sorts of illicit goings-on. Mostly, it’s a marketplace for things you shouldn’t be buying because they’re illegal to sell and/or buy. For instance, you can buy lifelong access to Netflix for a small price (six bucks). You can hire someone to hack into someone else’s computer for you and download their data or track their keystrokes. You can purchase credit card credentials. You can obtain prepaid debit card numbers and security codes.

How Does One Access the Dark Web?

We’ll reiterate again that the dark web is not a place you want to find yourself (or your information). However, for the sake of knowledge, we’ll explain that in order to access the dark web, you must download what’s called the Tor browser.

Tor stands for The Onion Router. This is basically the software that makes the dark web operate in the dark.

Where Did the Dark Web Originate?

The dark web began in the late 1990s as a way for the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to better hide their online communications. At this time, The Onion Router or Tor was brand-new.

Soon after its initial creation in 2004, the dark web’s Tor software was released for public use. Since that time, it has ceased to be solely a government resource and has turned into the “back alley” of the Internet.

How Can the Dark Web Affect Business Owners?

The dark web is a potential danger to all businesses of all sizes and in all industries. In fact, it can be a potential danger to individuals as well. But let’s talk about your business and the dark web.

Basically, it has been found that 60% of the web listings on the dark web could harm a business. That’s because, these listings offer individuals searching the dark web ways to obtain things like the following:

  • Customer data
  • Tips for hacking computers
  • Tips for hacking networks
  • Malware
  • Financial data
  • Phishing advice
  • Operational data
  • Intellectual trade secrets
  • Tutorials for cyber crime
  • Remote access Trojans (RATs)
  • Espionage services
  • Credentials access

How Can You Keep Your Business Safe From the Dark Web?

The best way to keep your business safe from the dark web is to have the proper cybersecurity measures in place. This means hiring a cybersecurity team or a managed service provider (MSP) to handle your company’s cybersecurity. Even if you’re a small business, hiring an MSP to have on retainer is a good idea.

They will make sure that you have firewalls and other detectors of malware in place for adequate security. It’s also essential to back up your data and to make everyone who works for or with your company aware of how to avoid phishing attempts.

Lastly, your cybersecurity team should be monitoring the dark web to make sure that none of your information lands there. This goes for personal information for you and your employees, as well as overall company information. Taking these measures is the only surefire way to ensure that your company does not end up on the wrong end of the dark web.

How Do I Choose a Cloud Computing Model?

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing

How Do I Choose a Cloud Computing Model?

No matter what your company or organization specializes in, it’s sure that you have some form or forms of data that needs to be stored, well, somewhere.

Before the invention of cloud computing, most company data was always stored on-site — that is, in the hard drives at a place of business. Additionally, some businesses may have had data stored on remotely-located hard drives or discs; but the majority of data was “in the building.”

Naturally, you can see how this would be dangerous — both for you as a business owner and your clients, customers, and investors. Sensitive data such as customer specs or financial information could be easily stolen, corrupted, lost because of a computer glitch, or even destroyed in a fire.

Today, with the advent of cloud computing. The bulk of these worries are gone. Nearly all major companies, organizations, governments, and many individuals use the cloud.

What is the cloud and what is “cloud computing”?

The first thing to know about “the cloud” is that it’s not a physical thing like a computer or a hard drive. Instead, this term refers to a virtual space or a select part of the Internet — the part that stores data.

Just as you can surf the web from anywhere in the world as long as you have an Internet connection, you can also access the cloud from anywhere in the world — plus whatever you store there. Again, you simply need an Internet connection. In this way, many people simply define the “cloud” as a metaphor for the Internet.

“Cloud computing” is the generally recognized term for all computing actions done in or via the cloud. Therefore, cloud computing refers to cloud-based data storage, but it also means cloud-based:

  • Data management
  • Content delivery
  • Access to applications and software
  • Delivery of services

Should your business be using cloud computing?

Before we dive into how to choose a cloud computing method, let’s talk about why you should be using cloud computing — and you absolutely should be.

Cloud computing provides numerous benefits that old-fashioned computing methods just can’t live up to. Specifically, cloud computing provides:

  • Mobility and Efficiency: You can work on the cloud from anywhere. Allow your employees, customers, clients, and investors to access the best that your company has to offer, without worrying about weighing down the system or collapsing your infrastructure.
  • Ultimate Security: The cloud provides the best security available when it comes to storing your sensitive data. Even when hardware and equipment fails, you know your data will be stored safely and backed up.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: With non-cloud computing solutions, you must anticipate the extent to which you’ll use your storage space and other computing needs beforehand. Cloud computing allows you to scale your cloud services up or down, based on your unique needs.
  • Strategic Value: Cloud computing methods are always updated with the latest software and the newest tech. This gives your company a competitive edge. Plus, there’s no need to toss outdated technology or revamp your entire network, which would otherwise set your company timeline back significantly.

What method of cloud computing should my business use?

This depends on the organization’s specifications, needs, and goals. There are three basic methods of cloud computing to choose from.

Private Cloud Computing

This model of cloud computing provides dedicated use to your company’s data and systems over a private IT infrastructure. This is a good model to choose if you are particularly concerned about confidentiality and security. Only a trusted third-party or your company’s internal resources team should manage a private model of cloud computing, and you should only give access to those within your company.

Public Cloud Computing

This method of cloud computing allows your business’s resources (software, platforms, infrastructure) to be available to the general public. In some cases, these types of cloud computing models are offered to the public for free, but they may also be sold by a pay-per-usage model.

Hybrid Cloud Computing

As the name suggests, the hybrid cloud computing model blends a public cloud and a private cloud. The hybrid model is mostly by companies who need to operate both models, and thus, the two are integrated into one overarching system.

Resources in the cloud are easier to access, manage, and recover after an equipment malfunction. By switching your business to one of the cloud computing models outlined above, you’ll have a competitive edge and complete control of your company’s data and systems.

Microsoft Office 365 and Your Business: Boost Productivity with the Right Tech Tools

Modern Workplace

Office Workers In A Modern Workplace

Microsoft Office 365 and Your Business: Boost Productivity with the Right Tech Tools

The workplace is becoming more and more digital every day. New tech tools are developed regularly, and most have the same goal—to make your life easier. While some new developments end up making life harder because they are hard to learn, cumbersome, or have glitches or bugs, most are specifically designed to be easy to understand and use. Getting things done faster and more efficiently is a huge driver for technology generally, but that is especially true today.

Defining the Modern Digital Workplace

The “Modern Digital Workplace” is a phrase used today that describes utilizing the technology that is most useful for your team. It helps your team by:

  • Making collaboration easier
  • Training and educating faster and more efficiently
  • Compiling documents and information in an easy-to-use and access way
  • Automating processes, to the extent possible, in a way that make sense for your industry and your team
  • Improving digital processes not only internally, but also with partners, suppliers, and other third parties

Technology, when used properly, can make the entire workplace run in a much smoother, more efficient way. New tools allow your team to meet the needs of customers, and the business as a whole, better. When goals are easier to accomplish, productivity gets a huge boost.

The Obvious Connection: Technology and Productivity

In general, the new digital workplace focuses on improving three key areas of a company. These include the following:

  • Employee Collaboration. When employees can team up and get work done easier, it makes projects faster and more efficient. Sometimes talking to one another is the best way to come up with new ideas and simply ensure that everyone is getting their job done effectively and promptly. Making sure that information and the ability to connect with one another is all on one platform is one of the best ways to encourage and foster this type of collaboration.
  • Content Collaboration. Many teams work on the same content at similar times. Being able to share documents, files, and even external information at the same time can be a huge time saver within a company.
  • Business Application. Administrative processes, such as workflow, forms, and rules, can often be automated in a way that cuts down significantly on processing time and time spent requesting or obtaining status updates. Even something as simple as creating digital versions of forms and allowing employees or third parties to input the information themselves can be a huge time saver in many industries.

Transparency regarding work product and processes is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your team is getting their work done and creating a final product that is the best version that you can provide.

Certain technologies often focus on a different area of these three overarching ideas. Some attempt to address all of them, while others target just one or two sections of particular concern. When all three can be addressed, you have a powerful system that encourages accountability, efficiency, and, in turn, productivity.

Office 365’s Role in the Modern Digital Workplace

Office 365 has been created with the Modern Digital Workplace in mind. It is specifically designed to address these three major concerns in an easy-to-use way.

While Office is commonly associated with their most popular programs, like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, they have a whole host of programs that can significantly boost your team’s productivity because they make collaboration and transparency ridiculously easy.

Outlook

Microsoft’s email program, Outlook, has been a staple for many businesses for years. Outlook is more than just email, however. Users can use the calendar to schedule meetings and create task lists. They can also create contact lists and share documents through OneDrive. Outlook’s key focus is employee collaboration.

Microsoft Teams

This relatively new feature allows employees and third parties to chat, share documents, work on documents at the same time, schedule meetings, have audio and visual video calls, create notes, and more. It is also integrated with several very popular apps and services, including OneDrive, SharePoint, Yammer, Dynamics 365, and Skype.

Delve

Microsoft Delve shows what your team is working on, popular documents, and provides insightful information to workers who might be interested in them. Employees develop profiles, and they can find and organize information based on interests. It also allows workers to search for documents that are connected through SharePoint and OneDrive.

Yammer

Yammer is similar to a social networking site, but it is limited to your employees and other workers. It is designed to encourage communication throughout your organization. Its focus is on ensuring that information is accessible and shared at virtually every level.

Microsoft Planner

This tool allows your team to create new plans, assign tasks, share files, and organize projects. You can easily see what people are working on and get updates on progress for various tasks. This type of open communication makes assigning projects and getting status updates easy and more efficient.

SharePoint and OneDrive

OneDrive is a straight-forward means to share files, both internally and externally. SharePoint uses sites and files, team news, lists, libraries, and more to encourage collaboration on documents and files. Both are based on sharing information in the cloud.

Microsoft Flow

This tool is focused on making internal processes easier and more efficient. It helps automate and exchange data. It has built-in alerts and notifications to help address organizational processes like approvals, multi-stage processes, and more.

Using Office 365 to Help Your Business

Every company is different. Office 365 has enough unique tools focused on making your company better that you are bound to find something that fits well for your needs. Encouraging collaboration and automated processing can lead to huge productivity boosts for your business.

How Does Windows 10 Improve Security and Data Protection?

Windows 10 Data Protection

Windows 10 Data Protection

Windows 10 comes a step closer to preventing cyberattacks and privacy threats facing users. It’s a next-generation solution that helps you fight threats from hackers and criminals who target your business. This is a big plus for cybersecurity managers. The past several years have brought some of the worst and most frequent cyberattacks in history. Security professionals are constantly on the lookout for new ways to prevent network breaches and safeguard the data of clients and the enterprise. Let’s take a closer look at how Windows 10 can help.

What Are the Security Advantages of Window 10?

Microsoft introduces Windows as a service in this version of their OS. It includes a unique way of creating, implementing and maintaining Windows. Each update adds new features to protect the security and privacy of users. The idea is that protection is layered into the functionality so that it doesn’t affect performance or distract users.

Windows; Core Services Engineering and Operations is thus better able to protect data and privacy. Built-in features identify suspicious activity that can put your business in jeopardy. This helps your security team detect and block sophisticated attacks faster. Releases focus on adding new features that combat new or anticipated risks. This is all possible thanks to the software giant’s finger on the pulse of the latest ransomware and malware hitting around the globe.

Windows 10 is considered to be the most secure version yet released. Because Microsoft has addressed cyberattacks during the engineering phase, improved security itself becomes a major bulwark, protecting your system from files and executables sent by hackers.

How Does Windows 10 Protect Your Data Better?

Here are some of the ways that Windows 10 improves its protection, including the new tools that can detect threats:

  • Windows 10 disrupts malware and thwarts hackers by changing the playing field. Bad actors can’t attack systems in the same old ways.
  • Device Guard acts as a shield against malware by allowing you to block unwanted apps. This gives users a proactive way to prevent ransomware and malware attacks as well as spyware.
  • Windows Defender uses machine learning, the cloud and behavior analysis to respond to new threats. This is like having a smart guard dog that not only prevents intruders from entering but smells them coming a mile away.
  • Microsoft Edge systemically disrupts malware, phishing and hacking attacks so that fewer threats make it through the system to trick users.
  • Windows 10 has aggressive data protection that meets compliance requirements without slowing down users, who expect the same solid performance Windows has always offered.
  • Windows Information Protection contains business data so it cannot be leaked to unauthorized users via apps, docs and the web.
  • BitLocker helps your security team protect sensitive data from prying eyes. Military-grade encryption takes over when a device is lost, stolen or otherwise compromised.
  • Azure Information Protection partners with Windows Information Protection to assign permissions that govern how certain data is shared.

What Ways Does Windows 10 Protect User Identify?

Windows 10 has built-in identity and access management protocols. This advanced technology safeguards user identities. For example, Windows Hello presents an alternative to passwords. It uses many factors to achieve solid security, such as a PIN, biometrics and a companion device.

Credential Guard uses NTLM-based authentication protocols, while Windows pass the hash (PtH) method authenticates without displaying the user’s text when a password is being entered. There’s also a hardware-based component that also limits access.

What Does This Additional Protection Mean for Security Teams?

While 57% of organizations offer training and incentives to security recruits, it’s hard to keep these resources for very long. This is due mainly to the high demand for qualified candidates. With additional protection built into applications themselves, busy cybersecurity teams can concentrate on other crucial tasks to protect the company’s data and reputation.

Old School Meetings Revisited

Microsoft Teams

You know running a successful business requires much more than just offering a great product or service. It takes constant engagement and collaboration of all of your employees to produce the best results, and it takes your best effort to remain competitive in a crowded marketplace. Collaboration between employees used to mean lots of daily and weekly meetings. Those long hours stuck in the meeting room often wind up taking a toll on productivity, and this loss of productivity is quite often negatively reflected in a company’s bottom line.

Microsoft Teams

The good news is that modern technology now provides an alternative to the traditional meeting: Online meetings. Conducting meetings online not only saves employees travel time and the expense of attending a meeting in person, but quality online meeting software provides the tools that make hosting a meeting more convenient and more efficient than ever before.

Many companies used to avoid online meetings because they were complicated to set up, time-consuming to maintain, riddled with technical problems, and expensive to purchase. But now there are no more excuses. Microsoft offers businesses of any size a quick, powerful, and inexpensive way to streamline meetings: Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Teams Rooms.

What is Microsoft Teams and What is Microsoft Team Rooms?

Microsoft Teams is an ideal way to keep everyone who works at your company, as well as your partners and shareholders, in the loop and working in concert. Microsoft Teams is a suite of communication tools, including web-based, allow employees access to secure and private chat, file sharing, critical business apps, and the video meeting software, Team Rooms. Microsoft Team Rooms eliminates many of the hassles and time-sucking aspects of face-to-face meetings while still allowing them to be productive.

Whether you are having a 1-to-1 meeting or hosting a webinar for hundreds of people, Microsoft Team Rooms goes beyond many of the standalone online meeting solutions to give you the features which really matter to you. A few of these standout functions are easy scheduling, one-click joining, automated note-taking, extensive whiteboarding tools, along with the ability uploading files and share desktop screens. The best part is that Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Team Rooms is part of the Office 365 subscription you probably already use!

How Can Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Team Rooms Help to Make Your Next Meeting Better?

When it comes to hosting a productive meeting, you need a system that you can depend on no matter what. Microsoft Team Rooms has you covered by:

  • Offering a single platform accessible through desktop computers, mobile devices, and dedicated video conferencing systems. Whether your meeting attendees are at your home office, in the field or even at home, accessing Microsoft Team Rooms is a breeze. Everyone will be able to participate fully using one seamless and secure application.
  • Securing your data. As part of the Office 365 suite of applications, Microsoft Team Rooms reduces the security risk of transmitting your private data using another video conferencing solution. Microsoft is dedicated to protecting your information.
  • Making administration and maintenance a snap. Even if you have a dedicated in-house IT department, you want it to concentrate on running your business, not your video conferencing software. Setting up Microsoft Team Rooms is intuitive, and if your employees ever run into problems, assistance is always available.
  • Providing almost infinite scalability. Do you host a variety of meetings from small groups to large webinars? You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on dedicated video conferencing equipment, use any smart monitor or computer-attached screen. Do you have a lot of new hires? They can immediately access Microsoft Team Rooms meetings with their Office 365 account through their computer!
  • Supporting post-meeting follow-ups. Since Microsoft Team Rooms is part of the Office 365 suite of applications, if you choose, your employees will continue to have access to notes and files after the meeting. This accessibility makes it a snap for your employees to work together and reduces the amount of time it takes to complete a project.

With the quality tools you need to host an online meeting, the collaborative tools you need for your employees to be productive, and a price point you can’t believe, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Team Rooms are a comprehensive online meeting solution.

Which Office 365 Plan Works Best for Your Organization?

Microsoft Office 365 Plans

Microsoft Office products have become ubiquitous throughout a range of industries, and there are more choices than ever before to find the suite of professional office software tools you need to run your business effectively.

While you can still find Office products available for a single licensing fee (Office 2019, for example), most businesses are turning to Office 365 as a subscription software solution that offers a range of powerful tools, including cloud storage and seamless sharing integration across devices.

Microsoft Office 365 Plans

But if you’re ready to move forward with a subscription-based Office 365 solution, you’ve still got to narrow it down for the right product. Will your business benefit from the Business or Enterprise option? If you choose Enterprise, which level makes the most sense for your organization? Read on for a breakdown on how to choose the best Office 365 product for your team [OPTIONAL CTA] and feel free to reach out to us at any time for support or guidance in making the transition to Office 365.

Choosing Between Office 2019 and Office 365

The key distinction between Office 2019 and Office 365 is connectivity. Office 2019 is different in the way you purchase and use it, but more importantly, it does not offer any of the cloud-connected features of Office 365. For businesses wishing to utilize the power of cloud storage as well as greater choice in terms of features and connectivity, the subscription-based Office 365 is the way to go.

Business vs. Enterprise

If you operate a small business, you can find several Office 365 Business options that provide licenses at a set rate per user for up to 300 users. Select either basic plans that focus on cloud storage solutions to more advanced options that also include desktop access to products like Microsoft Word and Excel, as well as cloud collaboration system, SharePoint. Opting for Office 365 Business is a good move if you’re keeping an eye on your budget, but still want to access many of the staple features that Office has developed over several decades. To take full advantage of the cloud tools, larger businesses will want to opt for Office 365 Enterprise options, which offer unlimited data storage, including archive and mail storage. Enterprise plans also allow for greater interaction and collaboration across platforms like SharePoint, which is another bonus for larger companies with employees in multiple sites.

Which Enterprise Level is Right for Your Business?

If you run a larger business, or have a small business with high data storage needs, then choosing Office 365 Enterprise is probably the right choice. Microsoft currently offers 3 levels of service: E1, E3 and E5.

The first level, E1, offers basic office tools, including Word, Excel, and SharePoint, at a reasonable monthly rate. E3 includes these tools as well as additional connectivity–and the protection to go with it. Data loss prevention and encryption are among several tools that Office 365 customers at the E3 level will be able to take advantage of. To consolidate your entire suite of digital solutions into one overarching tool, the E5 level of Office 365 Enterprise includes advanced protection for your company’s data, plus communication tools and video conferencing platform options to best accommodate larger business and keep them in compliance.

As you find the right next move for your organization, feel free to reach out to {company} today to assess your needs and the potential solutions that today’s Office products can provide.

Should Your Business Outsource IT Operations?

Outsourced IT Operations

There never seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished, and that goes double for small business owners. When you’re top dog in charge, every small problem or frustration heads your way. Technology support is one of the key complaints from staff members, especially when there are problems with slow network connections or aging computers. You need your staff members to be contributing 110% every day, and that goes for your network infrastructure as well. If you’re struggling with finding the time to respond to dozens of IT challenges while also driving your business forward, it may be time to consider outsourcing your IT operations so your internal teams can focus on the future.

Outsourced IT Operations

Predictability in Pricing

Whether your business is running on a shoestring or you have a healthy budget, it is tough to get hit with an unexpected bill that can reach tens of thousands of dollars. If your business experiences any type of disaster event that affects your technology, the cost to get everything back up and running can be staggering. The word “disaster” makes you think of something that won’t happen to you, but the reality of technology disasters is much different. Malware and ransomware are rampant in small businesses, with approximately 60% of all data breaches occurring in a small business. When you work with an IT managed services provider, you have an added layer of support for your team that is priced consistently throughout the year. Plus, you have the peace of mind knowing that you have experts that are an extension of your business who already understand your infrastructure — a great step towards being able to rebuild it successfully.

Reducing Overhead — and Improving Quality of Service

Technology is extremely complex and hiring all of the specialists that you truly need to run a complex business would be exorbitantly expensive. With outsourced IT operations, your staff has a platform of consistent support that they can trust to always be there when they are needed. Response times are guaranteed so staff members can focus on doing their job instead of stressing about whether their technology is working properly or quickly enough for their needs. An added benefit is the access to a stable of trained professionals with a broad range of technical knowledge in fields such as cybersecurity, network engineering, customer support, data utilization and more.

Scale Your Business With Ease

Growing your business technology used to be expensive and stressful: how can you make a major purchase of hardware and software based on the scale you think your business will be for the next few years? If you’re in an active growth stage, a poor decision could be disastrous. Either you end up with inadequate hardware that won’t support your business, or you overspend and have crucial capital reserves tied up in resources that aren’t being fully utilized. With IT managed services, scaling your business couldn’t be easier. Bringing a new server online is no longer a tortuous process of weeks, but can be accomplished very quickly by your external support team. Adding software licenses and data storage capacity is also easier, allowing you to focus on growing your business and providing exceptional service to your customers.

Enterprise-Level Technology — Sized for Your Business

It would be difficult for a small business to afford to implement the same type of advanced help desk software, cloud-based software and security measures that you would receive as a client of a managed IT services company. IT support companies are able to afford enterprise-level technology as they are spreading the costs between a variety of clients. You benefit from the advanced tech at only a fraction of the price. Your help desk support requests become more predictable and your business becomes more secure — all while you’re gaining the benefits of an enhanced network infrastructure to power your business.

Outsourcing your IT operations may not be for every business, but the majority of small businesses can see a significant benefit by reducing the burden on internal technology professionals. As an added bonus, the active monitoring provided by IT support specialists can help ensure that your business is protected from cyberattack, with quick remediation and support if you do experience an attack. Accelerate your business growth and support the innovative ideas of your teams when you rely on trusted, experienced technology professionals to provide support for your business.

What Is Managed IT Services & Who Provides Services

Managed IT Services

As managed IT services have grown in popularity, you’ve probably heard the concept touted often as the answer to your business’s IT woes. Still, there can be plenty of mystery on the topic. What is managed IT services, exactly? How do organizations integrate managed IT services into their existing business and workflows? Also, who provides these services? In today’s business blog we’ll answer these questions and more.

What Is Managed IT Services Exactly?

Managed IT services is a broad term describing any scenario in which a company (that’s you) partners with a vendor, called a managed service provider (or MSP), to handle some or all IT responsibilities for the company.

The exact services that MPSs offer range pretty widely. Companies, too, vary widely in terms of their IT infrastructure and needs, as well as exactly which IT responsibilities they choose to outsource to an MSP. Some firms may contract with an MSP to handle absolutely everything about their IT infrastructure. More commonly, companies will outsource only certain portions of their IT workload.

It’s a little easier to understand the concept of managed IT services by looking at some examples of how they are currently being used in several types of organizations.

How Do Organizations Utilize Managed IT Services?

Businesses implement managed IT services in a whole host of ways. Here are a few examples.

Some companies look to a managed service provider to handle all or nearly all its IT needs. Growing small businesses, for example, may not have much (or any) in-house IT presence. They need capabilities that they don’t have, and they find it simpler and more affordable to contract with an MSP than to build out their own in-house IT team.

On the other end of the spectrum, a medium or large business with an established in-house IT team might look to a managed service provider to alleviate some stress on that team. A larger firm might outsource helpdesk-level support, for example. In doing so, the company would empower its in-house team. Free from the distractions of troubleshooting workstations and managing software installs, the in-house IT specialists can focus their attention on the higher-level tasks they were hired to do.

Businesses of any size can also look to an MSP to fill a specialized need. Some areas of IT have unpredictable costs, and others are simply cost-prohibitive for many smaller businesses to build on their own. Some areas can be difficult to hire for, too. Examples of specialized needs that can be met through managed IT services include cyber security, information security and compliance, and cloud services.

What Are Reasons to Choose a Managed Service Provider (MSP)?

Businesses who have embraced the managed IT services model do so for a wide variety of reasons. Some are unique to specific industries, but many are universal. Here are a few reasons it likely makes sense for your business to choose a managed service provider for your managed IT services needs.

Scaling for Growth

Scaling your IT infrastructure has real costs when you do it in house. You need additional equipment, additional floor space to house the equipment, and additional personnel to install, run, and monitor the equipment. Managed service providers, on the other hand, already have the equipment. They’re running servers for dozens of businesses, so they have automatic capacity when you need more. They can leverage the economy of scale in a way you can’t.

Growth isn’t just measured in headcount, either. Device count continues to increase, too. Employees expect to be able to interact with systems using their work computer, laptop, tablet, and phone—both on site and off. Your in-house team doesn’t have the time to support all these device issues. A managed service provider does.

The Talent Gap Is Real

If you have an in-house team, are you having trouble keeping it fully staffed with well qualified people? You’re not alone. One reason is that the US has reached full employment, making domestic hiring more difficult than ever before.

Another more serious reason is the digital talent gap. In 2017 (that’s before we reached full employment), 54% of companies were having difficulty finding workers with the right digital skills. It’s not gotten better.

Fill your business’s talent gap by partnering with an MSP. The right MSP will have the specialties you’re missing and will be able to work in harmony with your in-house team.

IT Managed Services

Who Provides Managed IT Services?

If your business is looking into working with a managed service provider, you may be asking who provides managed IT services. The good news is you have plenty of options. There are quite a few local providers offering managed IT services in every metropolitan area, and there are a few global players as well. We’ll get to that distinction, but first, a word on services offered and specialization.

Services Offered and Specialization

The first question businesses should ask is whether an MSP offers the services they need. Not every MSP has exactly the same offerings or experience, so don’t be afraid to ask pointed questions. Don’t just ask whether they offer a given service; ask how many clients they’ve served with it.

Some industries, like healthcare or finance, have developed specialized IT needs. Accordingly, some MSPs specialize in specific industries or technologies. In short, look for niche players if you’re in a niche industry.

Local vs. Global MSPs

Choosing a local firm means getting local, boots-on-the-ground support. The best local firms offer a wide spectrum of services, including extended hours, and have the infrastructure and personnel depth you need. You’ll get individualized attention and you’ll support your local economy.

Choosing a global firm like Amazon’s AWS gives you access to more raw power and, often, innovative technology others can’t match. Customer service, on the other hand, can be a bit impersonal, and fixing on-site problems can take time.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a quality local managed services provider, we’re here for you. Contact us today to get started.