Will Your Business Be Impacted by the End of Microsoft Exchange 2010?

End of support Microsoft Exchange 2010

Will Your Business Be Impacted by the End of Microsoft Exchange 2010?

Exchange 2010 has been a great program for businesses for many years, but its time is now winding down. Find out what this means for your business. 

All good things must come to an end. For Microsoft Exchange 2010, that end will happen at a date in the very near future: January 14, 2020. Migrating away from an integral piece of business software can take some time, so if you’re not already planning this shift for your business it’s time to get started! While Microsoft is encouraging people to shift away from the perpetual license option and go towards Office 365, you can also move to Microsoft Exchange 2016 if you don’t want to move to the cloud. At the end of a product’s lifecycle, the manufacturer determines that the vast majority of individuals and businesses have already moved on to a new platform, and they stop providing new features, security and bug fixes, time zone updates and support. In today’s world, your email server is your first line of defense against malware and ransomware — making the lack of security updates a key reason for taking the time to upgrade before time runs out on your support.

What Does the End of a Software Lifecycle Really Mean?

As with most software companies, there are several stages in the lifecycle of Microsoft Exchange and other Microsoft Office products. They are generally defined as mainstream support, extended support and service pack support. Mainstream support is generally guaranteed for a minimum of five years after product ships and is valid while the vast majority of people are still actively using the platform. Extended support generally lasts another five years, and includes a more limited support infrastructure. There are limitations on the work that the software teams are willing to do on products in this stage of life: non-security hotfixes are not released and there are no new functionalities added to the platform. While the platform is still considered secure and supported, this stage is an indication that it’s time to start your search for what comes next. In the final stage, you only receive critical security updates and little else in terms of support.

Why It’s Time to Move On . . . Quickly

Exchange 2010 doesn’t support an in-place upgrade, meaning you’ll need to find the time and IT staff hours to migrate completely — setting up new servers and mailboxes if you decide to go the route of another perpetual license option. Moving to Office 365 may be a good option for your business, but there is still a bit of setup required before you can make this move. With only a few months left before security updates are no longer provided, many organizations are scrambling to be sure they beat the deadline and maintain a platform that is fully protected and receives regular security patches. Email is a mission-critical application for your business, making it crucial to ensure that you’ve made a decision and have a game plan in place long before January 2020.

Upgrade Options Available

There are a few different ways to get out of the woods if you’re still running Exchange 2010. It may seem intuitive to simply upgrade to Exchange 2013, but that product has already completed Phase I and II of its lifecycle and is no longer receiving cumulative updates. Exchange Server 2016 is a better option if you prefer to stick with perpetual licensing models, but the product is already several years old. Updating to the most recent version of Exchange 2019, which was released in late 2018, seems like the best option — but it’s important to note that you must first upgrade to 2016 before making the jump to 2019 versions. Moving to Exchange Server 365 may provide a range of benefits for your organization such as better integration, improved security and continuous updates but it’s also important to note that there are additional decisions to be made around the other aspects of Office online.

Finding the right solution for your business does take time and analysis, but it’s vital that you take the first steps soon to reduce the risk to your organization. Critical patches for Microsoft products are released on a fairly regular basis, and your business can be opened to cyberattackers if you miss a single update — much less several security updates. Completing your migration will provide your technology team with peace of mind knowing that your most important channel of business communication is fully protected by an up-to-date Exchange server.

Clearing Up The Cloud – Have You Harnessed Its Strategic Advantages?

Cloud Services

The cloud may still feel like a new technology – but in reality, it’s been around for more than 10 years now.

Does that make you feel old?

Let’s be clear about something – the cloud is here to stay. In recent years you may have still heard the occasional “industry insider” suggest that the world may be moving too quickly to an untested and unsure platform in cloud computing, but no more. The cloud is now an integral part of daily life for private consumer and business users alike.

What Is The Cloud?

The cloud is a network of technologies that allows access to computing resources, such as storage, processing power, and more. That’s where the data is – in these data centers all around the world. Which data center your data is in depends on what cloud service provider you’re working with.

The Cloud’s Many Layers

Public Cloud

Ideal for small businesses that may have trouble budgeting for any other type of cloud deployment, a public cloud is simple and cost-effective. Your data is stored in a “communal” data center, which, while not offering the best possible security or compliance guarantees, is often sufficient enough for organizations that aren’t required to maintain regulated compliance.

Private Cloud

A secure, dedicated environment to ensure maximum performance, security, and functionality for your business applications and employees. This is usually deployed for complaint-driven businesses such as healthcare and finance.

A Hybrid Cloud

This is like a dedicated cloud computing resource on Office 365 and Azure Stack with an extension to on-premise resources for maximum performance, control, security, and functionality. This is for businesses that require maximum control and scalability.

Instead of entrusting your legacy solutions to a public or private cloud, many businesses are opting for a hybrid cloud. They use a mix of on-premise, private and third-party public cloud services because this provides an infrastructure where one or many touchpoints exist between the environments.

Using a hybrid cloud gives you the freedom to choose which applications and resources you want to keep in the data center and which ones you want to store in the Cloud.

The Cloud Isn’t As New As You Might Think…

Would you say the cloud is “new”?

To some, this may seem like a question with an obvious answer, but it’s not that simple.

The way in which we think about technology can lead to something feeling new for a lot longer than would make sense otherwise.

After all, the cloud is more than a decade old, but a lot of people still think of it as a new technology.

For context, it was 2006 when Google and Amazon began using the term “cloud computing” – not necessarily the beginning of the cloud, but as good a point to choose as any.

In that year, the now woefully dated Crash won Best Picture at the Oscars. The Tesla Roadster was still two years from hitting the streets. Netflix was more than a year away from launching its now prolific streaming services.

Does that put it in perspective?

How Is The Cloud-Delivered?

SaaS (Software as a Service)

Software as a Service (SaaS) applications are being adopted at a much faster pace today than in the past. These are productivity applications like Microsoft Office 365, cloud-based practice management solutions, accounting programs, and more.

Your SaaS provider helps you identify and select line of business applications that will run well in the cloud. They can migrate your data and integrate it with software platforms in your current premise or cloud technology stack, or help you implement new ones.

PaaS (Platform as a Service)
This is whole cloth delivery of web applications that are based in the cloud, all via a comprehensive platform. The idea is that, in accessing this platform, you can utilize, develop and even deliver applications based on resources that you don’t need to maintain on-site.

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) delivers IT infrastructure on an outsourced basis and provides hardware, storage, servers, data center space, and software if needed. It’s used on-demand, rather than requiring you to purchase their own equipment. That means you don’t have to expend the capital to invest in new hardware.

Why Should You Use With The Cloud?
For the same reasons that thousands of other businesses around the world have already adopted cloud computing:

  • Computing Power: The cloud has the ability to activate tens of thousands of CPUs. This unparalleled power can quickly perform deep analytics of your data, and process nearly any ad-hoc queries that you require.
  • Reliable Costs: The cloud services subscription model offers the strategic advantage of low-cost, low-risk opt-in combined with a simple, predictable monthly fee.
  • Easy Scalability: Cloud services have the unique strategic characteristic of being able to stretch or shrink to suit your current level of demand. This is especially useful for businesses of scale or companies that go through seasons of activity.
  • Real-Time Collaboration: With cloud technology, your staff doesn’t have to wait for each other to be done with their part of the document or project in order to tackle their own aspect. They can all work on the same project at the same time to maximize productivity.
  • Remote Work Capability: This cloud feature allows you and your employees to work remotely as need be, which will give your business members the flexibility they desire to have a more balanced home/work life.

You Need To Keep An Eye On Your Cloud

As beneficial as the cloud can be, it’s important to note that it can also pose risks if it isn’t managed properly. It all comes down to the classic binary relationship between convenience and security.

The cloud gives you unparalleled access to your data from anywhere with an Internet connection. That means that external parties (including cybercriminals) can have undue access to your data as well if you don’t take the necessary steps to secure your environment.

That’s why you need to monitor your cloud. No matter who you entrust your data to, you should ensure that you or someone in your organization is given appropriate visibility over your cloud environment. That way, you can guarantee that security and compliance standards are being maintained.

If you don’t have the resources to manage this type of ongoing monitoring, then it would be wise to work with the right third party IT services company. Doing so will allow you to outsource the migration, management, and monitoring of your cloud. You’ll get the best of both world – security and convenience.

How to Know When to Outsource IT

Nearly every company must now rely on technology on a daily basis. For most companies, the role of technology will only grow in the future, making it even more important for all companies to have the tech support they need at all times. Depending on the situation, companies may hire employees to handle IT in-house, or they may outsource IT to a third-party provider.

Group of people discussing Outsourcing IT

The information below will help you determine whether it is time for your business to consider IT outsourcing.

Benefits of Outsourcing IT

Before you can decide whether outsourcing is right for you, you must first understand the reasons you might choose this path. Below are some of the potential benefits of outsourcing IT:

  • Fewer headaches – When you outsource IT, you no longer have to worry about maintenance, upgrades, repairs or any other technological problems.
  • Fewer expenses – Outsourcing IT is cost-effective, as you won’t have to pay for full-time employees to handle IT.
  • Scalability – Outsourced IT services can be scaled up or down to meet your needs as your company evolves.
  • No interruptions – When IT is outsourced, you won’t need to deal with downtime or other workflow interruptions related to IT issues.
  • Better use of in-house resources – Many businesses delegate IT responsibilities to existing employees when they can’t afford to hire full time IT personnel. With outsourcing, you will no longer need to split your employees’ focus in this way.

Downsides of Outsourcing

Although outsourcing IT offers several benefits, there are downsides as well. For example, you won’t have as much control over your operations as you would have if you kept IT in-house. In addition, if your provider is in a different time zone or has a heavy workload, communication can be problematic. Finally, if your business is small, outsourcing may be too expensive.

Should You Outsource?

Deciding whether to outsource IT to a third-party provider can be a challenge for any company, and there are many factors to consider. If you aren’t sure whether outsourcing IT is right for your company, simply compare your options and weigh the pros and cons. Remember to evaluate the potential for cost savings, as well as the impact on your day-to-day operations. It’s also a good idea to learn about the services available to you so you will know what you should expect if you choose to outsource.
If you decide to proceed with outsourcing, it is important to consider multiple providers before making a selection. Choosing the right IT provider can make all the difference in the success of your company. Remember that the cost of outsourced services is not the most important factor. Making sure that you are receiving reliable, high-quality services is essential. Interview each of the providers you are considering and ask them about the services they provide, the fees they charge and the customer support they offer. You should also read reviews from past customers to find out how others have felt about the services they received from the provider in question.

What Are the Top Tips for Choosing the Best IT Company?

Two IT Company Professionals Working

What Are the Top Tips for Choosing the Best IT Company?

Website outages, cybersecurity attacks, and any number of other IT incidents can cost your company hundreds or even thousands of dollars — every minute. For this reason alone, you need an outsourced IT company who is competent and highly qualified to handle your IT needs.

But how do you choose the best IT company?

Naturally, the IT needs of each individual business will vary. A medical practice will need IT assistance that specializes in privacy as well as cybersecurity because they’ll have a tremendous amount of sensitive data in their systems. On the other hand, your industry may require less focus on privacy and more focus on the particular type of software that you use.

Finding an IT company who specializes in your industry is the first step to locating optimal IT support.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind when choosing an IT support company for your business.

1. Look for experience.

As is always the case when you contract out services, you need to look for experience. It may be tempting to work with a brand-new, up and coming IT company in your area, but something as important as IT support warrants hiring a company who’s been in the business for at least a few years.

To establish that the IT companies you are considering have enough experience to get the job done right, ask to speak with their current or past clients. Also, ask for the list of credentials that their support staff possesses. These are the individuals you’ll be working with regularly, and you want to look for certifications and schooling in IT-related fields.

Lastly, make sure the experience that these companies have is related to your industry, specifically. We’ve already touched on this a bit, but it’s important to reiterate that it’s better to find an IT company who specializes in your industry than to find night one who claims they can “do it all.” Many IT companies specialize in healthcare IT, transport IT, or other specific industries, which means they know and understand these industries inside and out. That wants you want.

2. Choose a local company.

Some IT companies will claim they can take on your business from across the state or the nation. While this is possible, it’s unlikely you’ll get the level of quality service you actually deserve. It’s much better to go with a local IT company who you can work with directly.

In many situations, you’ll actually need IT support staff from your MSP (managed service provider) to come to your business for installations, troubleshooting, or network setups. This shouldn’t have to be a huge production. Having a local IT company available for quick service calls is a huge advantage.

3. Look for forward-thinking companies.

Not only do you want your IT company to focus on maintaining your current network and system structure, but you also want them to propel your business forward. Whether fast or slow, growing should be a primary concern for any business.

Some IT companies are more capable at scaling their services than others. Essentially, you want to find a company who will propel your business forward with their own IT ideas. They also need to have the employee-power and IT resources to scale your business up with ease and efficiency. As you expand, you don’t want to have to switch IT companies.

4. Make sure you can choose your level of service.

Again, needs vary where IT is concerned. You certainly do not want to pay for services you don’t need and won’t use. For this reason, look for an IT company who offers a range of service levels.

Most IT companies offer at least two or three levels of service. For example, they may offer an entry-level fee for simply monitoring your systems and alerting you as soon as possible if there’s a breach. If you require network setups, software installations, and other management services, you‘ll naturally want a higher level of service. Having options is the main concern here.

No matter what IT company you choose, it’s important to take your time, and do your research. Your IT company will be one of your business’s most important assets. Hire well, and you’ll reap the benefits of easier daily operations, higher returns on investment, and ultimately, more business opportunities.

Old School Meetings Revisited

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.

How to Keep Your Business Safe From the Dark Web

Dark Web

Assassins for hire, drugs by mail order, and fake passports: What do all these things have in common?

You can find them all on the dark web.

“Okay …” you may be thinking, “Sounds like a blast — but how does this affect me and my business?”

Well, most likely, you’re not surfing the dark web for fake travel documents and drugs by mail. But as it turns out, the dark web can affect you and your business. Most notably, your information can end up there — and that’s exactly where you don’t to find it.

Below, we’ll learn more about what the dark web is, how it came into existence, and how you can protect your business from the trouble that lurks there.

First Thing’s First: What Is the Dark Web?

The dark web began much more innocently than one might assume. In fact, at its very beginning in the late 1990s, it was the brainchild of a government entity, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).

The NRL’s main goal was to cloak their online presence, effectively protecting their clandestine communications online while also anonymously monitoring the world market and getting access to hidden data without a trace. The software development stage went by the name The Onion Routing Project and resulted in the creation of Tor (The Onion Router).

Whether you’d call these beginnings “innocent” or not, to be sure, the NRL never anticipated their creation to morph into the toxic netherworld it is today. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the software was for government use only, but in 2004, it was open-sourced and went public, effectively creating an anonymous web browser for anyone and everyone to use.

What Is Tor?

Tor or The Onion Router is the software program used by the dark web. Normally, when you surf the web, you can be traced wherever you go because you always have an IP address trailing your clicks and searches.

Tor facilitates an Internet browser that messes with your device’s IP address, effectively enabling you to travel around the Internet anonymously. It does this by bouncing your IP address to a multitude of diverse locations. As a result, if someone were to attempt to track your site visits when you were using Tor, it would be an impossible challenge to pinpoint your exact location. For Tor to work, individuals from around the world “donate” their Internet browsing devices (computers, tablets, etc.) so that the bouncing IP addresses have more places to land.

So, the Dark Web Provides Anonymity and Privacy – How Does That Put My Business at Risk?

While Tor and the dark web can be used for good (namely, identity protection, which is often beneficial to whistleblowers or journalists, for example), it can also protect criminals. And it does protect criminals — lots of them.

Cybercrime is the number one thing going on on the dark web, and unless you have good reason to require the benefits of The Onion Router, the dark web is definitely not a place you want to find your information. This is what we mean by being wary of your business getting mixed up with the dark web.

There are numerous threats that the dark web poses to businesses of various sizes, industries, and backgrounds. This is where cybercriminals can learn how to obtain information such as access codes and passwords, credit card information, gift card information, customer data, and more. It’s also where they can sell such information to third parties who can then do with it what they please.

In other words, you should want to know the moment your company name, address, or other company-related information is noticed on the dark web because what happens next is bound to be bad.

How Can Businesses Protect Themselves From the Dark Web?

Essentially, you can protect your business from the dark web by doing two things: Ensuring a strong setup of cyber privacy practices (hiring a cybersecurity-savvy IT company) and monitoring the dark web so that you’re notified the moment your information is found there.

The latter can be a part of the services you outsource to your IT company because actual dark web monitoring involves getting dark web access and knowing how to accumulate, parse, normalize, validate, refine, and enrich what you acquire. If you don’t know how to do that yourself, professionals can come to your aid.

While the dark web may be a place that helps good journalists and few others stay hidden and anonymous, it’s predominantly a place of crime and misdeeds. Keep your business safe from the dark web by knowing the risks and taking the appropriate precautions.

Why Security Awareness Training Makes Sense for Your Small Business

Cyber Security Awareness Training

Your small business needs a cybersecurity strategy, but beyond that, it also needs security awareness training. These two areas are not one and the same. There are important, distinct differences.

The Importance of a Cyber Security Strategy

First, let’s talk about cybersecurity in general. By now you likely understand the importance of cybersecurity for your small business. If not, here’s a brief overview. Joe Galvin, chief research officer for Vistage, writes over at Inc. on some of his firm’s recent research. 62% of small and medium firms admit to having an out-of-date, inactive, or nonexistent cybersecurity strategy.

This is highly problematic, he says, because small and medium businesses are huge targets for cybercriminals. These companies tend to have weaker security and less skilled security personnel (if they have any security personnel) than larger companies do. Yet they often store huge treasure troves of valuable data, like credit card numbers and other personally identifiable information.

Cybercriminals see this as a win-win. Security is lower and easier to beat, and the data available is often just as valuable as what they could get going after a bigger company.

Further, the stakes are so much higher than just a momentary loss of productivity. Many firms that undergo a cyber attack never recover and are out of business within a year.

Clearly, cybersecurity is of utmost importance for small businesses like yours.

The Importance of Security Awareness

Cybersecurity is important, yes. However, the best, most robust, most secure cybersecurity plan won’t protect you from your most dangerous threat: your own employees. That’s a blunt and surprising statement, but bear with us.

You need to be protected against traditional, “movie style” hacking, where bad actors infiltrate your systems from some faraway location. That is a real thing, certainly (though we can’t say it looks anything like it does on TV). It’s just not as common (or as easy to do) as the movies suggest.

In the real world, most of the cyber threats you’ll encounter don’t look like the movies. Instead, they look more like phishing and social engineering. That’s where security awareness training comes in.

What’s the Difference?

We’re arguing that both a cybersecurity strategy and security awareness training are essential for your small business. In case it’s not clear yet quite what the difference is between the two, we’ll restate it this way. Security awareness training handles the human component, while your cybersecurity strategy covers the digital component. Both are important, but they follow very different processes.

What Security Awareness Training Looks Like

Security awareness training can take a few different forms. Some security awareness training is done online. Your employees read materials or watch static videos, then they take assessments to gauge what they have learned.

The convenience factor with this method is nice: employees can work at their own pace and at any time of the workday. There are some trade-offs with this method, too. The training can be a bit stuffy, and it’s not interactive. If employees need help or clarification, it’s hard to get it. Hands-on learners may struggle with this method, too.

Some companies also offer a hybrid approach, where static courses are combined with live webinar-style classes. Some employees will benefit from the immediacy of a live teacher, but the trade-off there is that all employees must be present at the same time.

Some companies also offer live, on-site instruction, either as a standalone or as a premium add-on to their basic package. This can be a great option for single-location organizations.

Available Courses

A firm that specializes in security awareness training won’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. As your organization grows in complexity, varying business areas may need differing instruction. Certainly, some fields have specific, unique needs, too. Organizations that work in the health care orbit will have HIPAA rules to contend with, while those in education or finance will have their own.

Some firms offer 50 or more different courses as a part of their security awareness training protocols. Make sure that the providers you consider have courses that fit the needs of your business and industry.

Cost of Security Awareness Training

The cost of security awareness training varies based on many factors. The number of users receiving training is often the starting point. $1000 per year for an organization with 50 employees is a common starting point, but understand that program customizations and add-ons can increase this figure.

Other factors influencing costs include industry requirements, languages needed, and whether certification is desired. The number of courses each user takes may also affect cost.

Ask the providers that you are considering for a custom quote that breaks down the costs you can expect to see and which services those costs are associated with.

Conclusion

Having a cyber security plan and providing security awareness training are two vital components to your business’s digital security strategy. If you’re ready to explore what security awareness training should look like in your business, contact us today.

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