Thursday, August 5, 2021

All Good Things...

 

Collaboration in business is not a new thing



As children we are told by our parents that "All good things must come to an end.." And so it is in the world of technology.

Today we at NetWerks Strategic Services recognize a technology milestone..  25 years ago, we became a Novell partner..  What's a Novell, you might be inclined to ask..  Once upon a time, there was a network operating system vendor named Novell who had the whole world in their hands.  Yes, before Windows Server, there was this operating system called NetWare which was for many years the market leader in connecting systems together. That might not sound like much, but back in the day, it was huge. In fact, you actually had to be very knowledgeable on both product and support, and pass some brutal certifications, just to play in the Novell sandbox..  Today – if you can fog a mirror and write a check, many vendors will consider you an “authorized partner”.

 Why do I bring this up..  Call it nostalgia..  call it a cry out for sympathy..  call it drivel – you decide..

 Today we finished migrating the last of our current clients off of what was then a popular Novell (now Micro Focus) product.. this amazing product called GroupWise. The day has been bittersweet. 

 Back in the days before Microsoft Exchange and its plethora of latent vulnerabilities lived a collaboration (email) system called Novell GroupWise.  It was ahead of it’s time, and had many features that were considered the gold standard among communication systems. In it’s time, it was king.  Easy to use, rock solid stability, and secure.  Veritably impervious to computer virus transmission short of opening an infected attachment directly made it a big hit for security wonks like yours truly. Admins loved it for the fact that once properly configured, it was a set and forget system for the most part.

 One thing Novell failed to execute on (besides marketing), sadly, was work closely with other software vendors to integrate the GroupWise ecosystem with other line of business applications.  When Microsoft Office and Exchange took a dominant position as the de facto standard of office collaboration utilities, a key factor was that Microsoft invited integration with various applications. Through the use of object linking and embedding API’s, integrating with other applications was fairly straight-forward.  Regardless of the fact that OLE is a double edged sword, Microsoft began wolfing down Novell’s lunch.  It truly is a shame, as GroupWise was in all ways superior at that time.  Unfortunately, the lack of integrations and an inability to properly market the product had taken it’s toll.

 Present day.. GroupWise is still a thing.  And it is still, as a rule, impervious to viruses as it does not script anything within the message (which is still a big concern with the Outlook email client). Unfortunately, the inability to directly integrate the platform with many popular line of business applications remains. Without robust support of third party application vendors, GroupWise has been relegated to a less than main-stream existence. It still has a following, and some level of market-share, but nothing like in it's heyday.

 Parting is such sweet sorrow as a rule, but in this case, for my last remaining GroupWise users, the ship has sailed, the need for seamless integration now a priority.  Another factor was the support challenges.  As fewer and fewer mainstream users entered the pool, support resources seem to have dwindled.  Innovation has slowed, and the once proud mover of messages has been pushed to the back end of a dimly lit shelf.

 Will GroupWise ever experience a return to its former glory? I couldn’t tell you.  Time will tell.

 If your organization is still working with GroupWise – more power to you.  If you need assistance and are having trouble getting answers, get in touch with us, we will do what we can.  If you are looking to abandon ship and migrate to either Microsoft (Office) 365 or Google Workplace (G-Suite), we can help. https://getnetwerks.com/connect.html

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Social media at work what could go wrong?

Social media at work...what could go wrong?

As a business, there is no doubt today that you need to make your presence felt on major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. But social media also exposes you to cybercriminals. In this post we talk about the steps you can take to ensure your social media account doesn’t become a gateway for cybercriminals to access your data.

Make someone accountable
The first step to a successful and safe social media experience as a company is to make someone in your organization accountable for it. Designate a social media manager who is responsible for maintaining your company’s social media accounts. This person should oversee everything--from the posts and pictures in your company account to approving/disapproving ‘Friend’/’Follow’ requests.

Train your employees
Of course you should train your employees who handle your official social media accounts about the security threats and how they need to steer clear of them, but you also need to train other employees who are not on your social media team as they could be a weak link that a cybercriminal could exploit to reach your business. Seems far fetched? Not really. A lot of people trust their ‘friends’ on social media and also unwittingly share a lot of information, which can be used to hack their personal accounts and devices, which in turn, may act as a gateway to your business. Teach your employees about general social media best practices in terms of security and also educate them about the privacy settings they can use to ensure there data is shared with trusted individuals only.

Take the necessary security measures
Make sure the devices you use to access your social media accounts are protected with firewalls and anti-malware tools and all security updates and patches are up-to-date.

Password hygiene
Practice good password hygiene and encourage your teams to do the same. That means no password sharing, no sequential letters/numerals, no obvious words or numbers as your social media account password.

Frame a social media policy
You should also frame a social media policy that spells out the dos and don’ts of social media that everyone in your organization should follow. This is important from various perspectives as employee’s statements on social media may be perceived as a reflection of your business’s values, whether you like it or not. This can make your business a target of cybercriminals and lawsuits.

Putting your business out there on the social networking sites gives your brand a lot of exposure, presents paid advertising opportunities and even helps you build and manage customer relationships, but as discussed, it can be tricky to navigate in terms of security. Businesses may find it overwhelming to manage their social media security strategy all by themselves can reach out to a managed services provider. An MSP with experience in social media security can be a valuable asset in helping you build a strong social media security strategy.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Multi-Factor Authentication 101

Multi-Factor Authentication 101

You have probably already come across the term multi-factor authentication. The concept is not new, but has caught on really quick of late. In this post, we will discuss what multi-factor authentication is and why you should be adopting it.

What is multi-factor authentication?
Multi-factor authentication is basically the use of more than one credential to gain access to data. It is a combination of multiple access credential types. For example, instead of gaining access to an email account by just typing your username and password, you will be asked to further verify your identity by entering some other information, such as a pin or a one-time password (OTP) that was sent to the phone number linked with the email address you are trying to log into.

Why do you need multi-factor authentication?
Multi-factor authentication offers an additional layer of security. Simple access control measures such as logging in with user ID and password are increasingly being breached by cybercriminals because no matter how much we condition ourselves to follow good password hygiene, sometimes, we slip up. Have you ever been guilty of

  • Writing down your password so you don’t forget it
  • Sharing your password with someone just to get the work done faster
  • Used the same password for multiple accounts just because it is easier to remember
  • Creating a password that was obvious/easy to figure out. Examples include your date of birth, numbers or letters in sequence, your name, etc.,
Multi-factor authentication can help prevent cybercrimes that happen due to leaked/hacked passwords.

How does multi-factor authentication work?
The working of multi-factor authentication depends on a combination of the following 3 elements.

  • What you know
  • What you have
  • Who you are
The user has to prove their identity by answering the questions related to each of these 3 elements. User IDs, passwords, secret questions, date of birth, etc., fall in the first category (What you know), while OTPs sent to your smartphone, a physical token or an access card belong to the second category (What you have) and the third category (Who you are) includes biometric authentication such as retina scan, fingerprint or voice recognition.

Multi-factor authentication is no guarantee of data safety, but it certainly reinforces your data security. While there are tools available in the market that you can purchase and deploy, you could also connect with an MSP to help you implement multi-factor authentication across your network smoothly.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Why MSP relationships fail

Why MSP relationships fail

A lot of SMBs opt for managed service providers who can help handle their IT requirements, and for the most part, it works well. Almost everyone knows the benefits of having a MSP manage your IT. Increased cost savings, ability to focus on your business without worrying about IT, better IT support and expertise, and so on. But, there are times when the managed IT services model fails, leaving business owners to wonder what went wrong. This blog discusses some key reasons why MSP relationships fail.

You didn’t do a reference check
Did you just pick the first MSP you found on the Google search? Did you just go by the presentations they gave you, or the information on their website? Always remember to ask your MSP for references. Talk to someone they work with and get feedback.

They don’t have enough staff
If your MSP is short of staff, they won’t be able to give you the attention you need. One of the biggest advantages of bringing an MSP onboard is having someone who proactively manages and monitors your IT requirements-- something you cannot do without a full fledged IT department. So, it is important that your MSP is well-staffed.

They are not experienced enough
Before you bring an MSP on board, make sure you pay attention to how long they have been in business. This is important because the whole idea behind hiring an MSP is to leverage their knowledge and expertise. Secondly, someone who has been in the business for quite some time is more likely to be able to scale with you as you grow.

They said they will be there, but...
You want your MSP to be available 24/7, because with IT, you never know when the problem will arise. Not only should your MSP be proactively monitoring your IT infrastructure to ensure everything runs smoothly, they should also be able to resolve IT problems when they happen--time and day notwithstanding, so that your business is back up and running as soon as possible.

They are not able to provide you with all that you need
Sometimes, as you grow, your IT needs change. You may need much more support and new technologies that you didn’t think you’d need earlier. In such cases, if your MSP is not able to grow and scale with you, then the relationship won’t work.

When choosing an MSP, think of the whole process as a partnership, and not a one-time deal. When you look at the relationship as a long-term one, you are more likely to consider all the factors that go into making your relationship with the MSP work in the long run.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Do your homework: 3 things to do when looking for an MSP

Do your homework: 3 things to do when looking for an MSP

Thinking of hiring a Managed Service Provider, but not sure how to go about it? Here are a few things to do before you zero in on one.

Figure out what you have already
The first step in a good plan is to figure out where you stand currently. Before you talk to an MSP, conduct an audit of your IT infrastructure to decide what you have currently. List all your hardware and software. When performing this IT audit, don’t forget other technologies that you are using, such as biometric access systems, CCTV systems and even telephone systems. You may think they are irrelevant as they are not directly related to your IT infrastructure, but, in the near future you may want them all to be connected to one another, and so, including them in the audit and inventory right now is a good idea.

Figure out what you need
This is the next step. After you determine what you already have, the next step is to figure out what you need. What do you want to add on or remove from your existing IT infrastructure? Are your servers too slow? Do you want to switch to the Cloud instead of traditional services? Do you want a Unified Communications set up instead of your current PBX phone line? Do you want to shift to a work-from-home model and need the infrastructure to support that?

Do your research
Now that you are clear about what you have and what you need, start doing your research. If you have an in-house IT team, you can ask them to evaluate the various options that can help you reach your goal. If not, then there are plenty of resources available online for SMBs that help with tech questions. https://www.sba.gov/learning-center is one great resource and a Google search will get you more.

As a part of this research, you should also make a list of credible MSPs in your area and learn more about them. A Google search can help you with that, but it would be even better if you reach out to a couple of your peers requesting them to refer you to their MSPs, if they have one.

Hiring an MSP means trusting them with your IT infrastructure, so it is very important that you have a clear understanding of what you really want and need, so you can share your expectations with your new MSP. This transparency and clarity goes a long way in determining the success or failure of your relationship with the MSP.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

5 Lesser known benefits of choosing the co-managed IT model

5 Lesser known benefits of choosing the co-managed IT model

Even companies with IT staff on their payroll can’t deny having an MSP onboard offers benefits that exceed what they get from having just an in-house team. This blog explore 5 lesser known reasons why the co-managed IT model is popular.

An extra hand during emergencies
In the event of any unforeseen emergency such as a natural disaster or a terror attack, you may need additional IT support to get things up and running again. Your IT team may not be able to do it all instantly and of course adding to your IT staff wouldn’t be an option during such times. In a co-managed IT services model you will have your MSP to support your IT team which will help you recover faster.

Especially useful when you have a small in-house IT team
For a lot of SMBs, an in-house IT team comprises one or two IT technicians who take care of all their IT needs. But what happens when they are both out of office at the same time, due to unforeseen circumstances? You can only cross your fingers and hope no major IT problem comes up. But, in the co-managed IT services option, your virtual IT team is just a call away!

24/7 Support
24/7 IT support is a luxury for most SMBs. Their in-house IT staff usually works the same hours at the business. Most managed service providers, however, offer 24/7 services at affordable costs.

You still retain control over your IT
In a co-managed services model, you are not completely entrusting your IT to an MSP, as your in-house IT team will be collaborating with your managed services provider to meet your IT needs better. Thus, you retain quite a bit of control over your IT.

You get useful IT insights
When you bring an MSP onboard, you benefit from their expertise and on-ground experience. They can advise you on the latest IT trends in your industry and help streamline your processes and IT infrastructure based on what’s effective. This kind of insight cannot be gained with an in-house IT team as they would only be working with you.

Co-managed IT model is not replacing your IT team with an MSP. It is augmenting your existing IT support setup with an MSP and leveraging their expertise to bring thought leadership IT strategies into your organization.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Four reasons to opt for the co-managed IT services model

Four reasons to opt for the co-managed IT services model

Co-managed IT services model is one in which the business has its own IT team, but still contracts with an external managed services provider for certain services. In this blog we discuss four benefits of a co-managed IT services model.

Expertise
Your in-house IT team may not have all the expertise needed to manage all your IT requirements. There are new developments happening in the tech space everyday and an MSP is better positioned to stay up-to-date with them as IT is their business.

Flexibility
Opting for a co-managed IT services model allows you the flexibility to scale your IT up or down based on your business requirements. This is especially useful for companies that experience seasonal spikes in their business, such as CPA firms, around taxation times, or retail businesses around the Holidays. You don’t have to hire new IT staff to handle the sudden extra load on your IT.

Lower costs
Choosing a co-managed IT services model saves you costs that you would otherwise incur when hiring new IT staff. Bringing someone on your payroll involves HR expenses including health insurance, 401 (k) etc., which can be avoided when bringing an MSP onboard.

Help your IT team focus better
Research indicates that in companies that have an in-house IT team, their IT specialists are so caught up with the day-to-day IT tasks that they don’t have the time to focus on new technology. Tasks like security patches, software updates, backups etc., keep them busy, so they don’t get time to research or learn about the latest on the tech front. This defeats the purpose of having an in-house IT team, doesn’t it? If you could have your MSP take care of the mundane IT routine, you will be enabling your in-house IT technicians to focus on new technology, which will help you become more efficient as a business.

If you already have an in-house IT team, it is not unusual to think you don’t need the services of a managed services provider. But, as you can see, co-managed IT has its advantages and you shouldn’t strike an MSP off your list completely just because you have your in-house IT technicians.