All posts by SystemsNet Administrator

Microsoft Product Releases: Microsoft Windows Server 2016

Improved Security

The next generation of windows server is more robust with features than its predecessors

When it comes to Microsoft Product Releases, we can’t stress enough how Microsoft Windows Server 2016 is vital to a successful IT team. We can give you seven reasons why your team needs it. So, without further delay, read on:

Windows Server 2016 has multiple layers of security built-in to the operating system. This new security system helps block attacks against your data and applications that run on-premises and in the Cloud, as well as attacks against virtual machines. Several isolation and threat detection features activate as soon as Windows Server 2016 launches.

You can also activate other security features after server deployment:

  • switch on protection against malware/ransomware injection into server
  • block compromises to credentials, such as pass-the-hash attacks, using Credential Guard and Remote Credential Guard
  • pro-actively identify behavior indicating potential server breaches
  • expand security protection to include virtual machines, using Shielded Virtual Machines encrypted by Bitlocker. Bitlocker is full disc encryption that protects the hard drive from offline attacks, first introduced in Windows 2007, and now applied to virtual machines.

Credential Guard/Remote Credential Guard. Microsoft first introduced this security feature in Windows 10 Enterprise. The protection uses virtualization security techniques that wall off cryptic  information like credentials and put the cloaked information where only a set of privileged software has access. Even malware running within the operating system cannot break into the credentials. Credential Guard protects NTLM (NT Lan Manager) password hashes and Kerberos Ticket Granting Tickets as well as other credentials that applications store for their domains.

Shielded Virtual Machines. Microsoft introduced this security feature in Windows 2016. Shielded Virtual Machines protect Microsoft’s Hyper-V Generation 2 virtual machines from malicious attacks. Shielded VMs do not boot from a traditional BIOS system. Instead, they boot from something called a virtual Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). Technology companies, 140 of them including Microsoft, developed UEFI to replace BIOS.

Shielded Virtual Machines work their security magic thanks to Secure Boot and Bitlocker encryption that resides inside the virtual disks. Bitlocker protects data whether it’s in transit or not moving. Secure Boot is a PC industry standard that checks the boot loader to make sure it only uses software trusted by the PC manufacturer.

Device Guard. This security feature make sure that only trusted software runs on your server — whether your applications run in-house or in the Cloud. It is security software and Enterprise hardware that together lock a device down to only run trusted software that you define in your code policies.

Control Flow Guard. This security feature developed to prevent vulnerabilities that result in memory corruption. One of its strengths is that it severely restricts from where code executes which means that hackers cannot take advantage of buffer overflows or other vulnerabilities to execute malicious code.

Windows Defender. This feature is an anti-malware protection for the server, not the operating system.

Microsoft Focuses on Hybrid Cloud. The new Windows Server 2016 is an example of Microsoft’s emphasis on Hybrid Cloud. The company is betting that certain Enterprise organizations will always want to transfer some of their data and work spaces to the Cloud while maintaining other parts of their data/applications on the in-house server. Microsoft designed Windows Server 2016 to facilitate organizations who want to take advantage of the Hybrid Cloud.

Have the most knowledgeable IT team. Windows Server 2016 is much more powerful than previous servers. To get the most out of Windows Server 2016, it makes sense to have highly trained IT personnel who have the skills necessary to run the server and all of its security features.

To talk more about this topic, or about anything else, please contact us. We want to help you with all your IT questions.

Microsoft Product Releases: Microsoft 365 And Azure Stack

Office 365

Office 365 options available for your convenience

Microsoft made a major announcement on, July 10, 2017. Microsoft is introduced Microsoft 365, which is an improved way for businesses like yours to purchase Windows and Office as a combined product, and not separately. Microsoft has made Windows 10 and Office 365 available to every business in a variety of ways, but the software Microsoft 365 Enterprise is a combination of Windows 10 Enterprise and Office 365 Enterprise. The software also includes Enterprise Mobility+Security.

Microsoft 365 Business is also being offered, and this software will make its debut as a preview in August. Microsoft 365 Business will include Office 365 Business Premium, and businesses will get the necessary management features and security features it needs. While the debut is set for August, the release is set to occur in the fall. For the businesses that want to purchase Microsoft Business 365, they can expect to pay $20 each month, and this cost is per user.

Businesses that want to purchase Microsoft 365 Enterprise will find it available a day before the Microsoft 365 Business makes its public debut. There is not set price on Microsoft 365 Enterprise because it will be dependent on a variety of things, including the plan that you choose.

Microsoft 365 may be familiar to the businesses that have used Secure Productive Enterprise, but Microsoft 365 focuses more on all companies. Microsoft 365 will be available in two forms: Microsoft 365 Business will be geared towards businesses that are small or medium-sized. Microsoft 365 Enterprise will be geared towards businesses that are larger.

If you want to use Microsoft 365 at its basic level, Microsoft 365 will combine everything Microsoft has to offer a business. Microsoft 365 is a response to the businesses that needed a fuller approach to productivity, and at a secure level. Businesses no longer have to look at everything separately. Managing a device, managing security features, and managing Office applications no longer have to be seen as separate problems.

Microsoft 365 is not only a more affordable alternative for your business, but it makes complete sense for your business. You want to create a workplace that can successfully combine its applications, devices, and security features. Microsoft 365 will be the tool that will give you the ability to do this.

Azure Stack

On July 10 Microsoft stated that the businesses that want to deploy their cloud computing technology to their data centers have the ability to make the order. However, although the orders can be placed, they will actually not get anything until sometime in September, maybe.

Microsoft stated that Azure Stack would be available to businesses in the mid part of 2017. Microsoft stated that the Azure Stack software would come with equipment from three companies, Lenovo, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard Enterprises. When we think about the middle of the year, we typically think of June or July, right? Well, customers can place their software orders in July, but they will not be able to run the software until months later.

Azure Stack is an essential part of Microsoft’s plan to take action against Amazon Web Services. Amazon Web Services, as you are probably already aware, is a profitable form of public cloud computing. In this setup, the software and data of its customers are deployed to data centers that Amazon operates. So, Azure Stack presents a very interesting alternative.

Microsoft has stated that businesses that want to use the cloud and still run software and data on the inside will still have this option. On the other hand, Amazon Web Services is set on making sure all the data operations are run by their services, and nothing else. We were expecting Azure Stack to be introduced last year, but Microsoft went in another direction and that date was moved to this year.

Microsoft has been very busy this year, and we do not expect them to slow down. Contact us today for additional information on Microsoft 365 and Azure Stack.

Managed Service Provider Trends in 2017

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Opportunities are just within reach

Making the most of your Managed Service Provider (MSP) is important, but with everything going on in your normal business day, it’s not surprising if you find it difficult to get past the “Yeah, we should do that” phase. Well, here we are heading into the second half of 2017. If you haven’t already started to make good on your goal, you will find the following paragraphs interesting as they describe trends in managed IT services in 2017. You are sure to find something that will help you accomplish your goals in concert with your Managed Services Provider (MSP).

Disaster Recovery. MSPs are turning to Recovery-as-a-Service from the cloud to provide their customers with the data and application protection they expect and need from their MSP. MSPs will provide recovery services through partnerships with other companies in the IT channel that provide such recovery services. Recovery-as-a-Service is sure to take another headache off your plate.

Cloud Opportunities. Harvard Business Review Analytic Services predicts that by 2020, 80% of businesses will operate in the cloud to some extent. Some businesses will move incrementally to the cloud, choosing to move one aspect of the business at a time. About half of businesses have begun the move or are developing a strategy to take advantage of the cloud disruption in their industry in the next three years. Management Services Providers (MSPs), too, will move forward to embrace cloud opportunities or pay the price later.

Cyber Security Network Safety. Cyber threats get more sophisticated every day. Businesses need help from their MSPs in threat detection and protection from malware of all types, including ransomware and phishing scams. Businesses cannot do it alone. MSPs have the IT know-how, the expertise, and the experience that comes from working with businesses in various fields and the exposure to cyber crime in various formats. Working in the cloud, MSPs can deliver the level of security services that their clients crave.

Internet of Things. The Internet of Things (IOT) is not just the appealing voice of Alexa helping Jr. find information from the web or learning how Mom like things done around the house. Everyone in the neighborhood may not have Alexa yet but those who step back a minute and look around will see that IOT has started in a broader sense.

There are already many IOT facets to daily life. Thermostats connect us to our homes and our utility companies. We have smart homes that can control the lights and our furnaces for better electricity usage. Automatic cars travel beside us on our roads. Refrigerators connect to our smart phones so we can order the groceries we need. Connectivity is the new norm for businesses and machines.

MSPs will help customers in this brave new world by integrating their old and new systems and by helping MSP customers deploy technology that provides the analysis of big data coming from all that IOT. Businesses will need MSP expertise to use the insights gained from the new technology to make better business and plan for the future.

RMM 24/7 Monitoring.  RMM, remote monitoring and management, is also known as network managing. We can also think of it as software that enables remote managing. RMM is the software magic that allows IT MSPs to remotely monitor their client’s networks and computers.

This is how RMM works. The MSP installs a small software connection on the client’s network/computers. The software sends messages back to the MSP on the status of the IT network. RMM allows the MSP to maintain and update the network, monitor the network for potential threats, and resolve issues proactively without ever setting a foot in the business’s office. If an IT issue arises, the system creates a trouble ticket which it then sends to the MSP. The tickets often classify the activity by severity and type of problem. The MSP can then determine critical from non-critical activity and resolve issues accordingly. Some RMM platforms add machine learning to make predict more accurately.

These platforms will continue to develop to provide MSPs choices for the best tools to help customers.

MSP as Channel Partners. Channel partners will evolve to incorporate MSPs as value-added sellers; that is, the MSP will provide services to its clients in concert with another company that is in the IT channel to sell that company’s products or technologies. These highly profitable partnerships will evolve to deliver top service through SaaS cloud services.

If you want to talk about this or anything else, please contact us. We look forward to helping you grow your business.

What Are Your Backup And Disaster Recovery (BDR) Plans For Hurricane Season?

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Severe storm in the forecast, time to confirm your plan is up to date.

Would you say your business is fully prepared for this year’s stormy weather? We believe this year’s hurricane season will be busier than it has been in a while. There have already been indications that there will be at least two major hurricanes during this year’s hurricane season. We know the numbers are only based on data, but we should always remember how many businesses have been severely damaged by hurricanes.

Hurricanes can cause millions and billions of dollars worth of damage. If your business was hit by a major hurricane, do you think you will be able to fully recover from it? Do you think you will be able to recover your business’s important data and systems? If you are unsure, you should strongly consider taking action right away so your business will be prepared in case there is a major disaster.

What Is Your Current Backup And Disaster Recovery Strategy?

Unfortunately, many businesses do not pay much attention to their current backup and disaster recovery strategy. A backup strategy is taken for granted by many businesses. Your business has to make sure that all your important files are backed up. Your business should also make sure that all the files can be recovered, even if your on-premise equipment has been damaged or completely destroyed.

Your business should also be able to verify that your backups can be recovered by the method you have chosen. When your business uses 24/7 backup monitoring, you will always know that your backups can be recovered. You will also feel comfortable knowing that your backups will also be stable.

Website Downtime

Did you know that your business’s network image can be stored? When an image of your network is stored, you will be able to pick up where you left off. You will not have to wait until your applications and software are re-installed and running successfully. You will be given screenshots that can confirm your systems and applications are working as they should be.

We know that the summertime is supposed to be a time of fun for many people. However, the summer can bring some horrible and disastrous weather. In case bad weather strikes your workplace, you want to be fully prepared for anything and everything. It is important that you are proactive as you can be during the summer. You should have a complete list of solutions so your team, customers, clients, etc. will not be left in the dark.

You can create a backup and disaster recovery plan that works the way you need it to. Your business is unique, and you need a BDR strategy that will fit the needs of your business. Do not hesitate to contact us today for more information on backup and disaster recovery plans, consulting, etc.

Have A Plan During The Summer

When you have a plan, this can be the major difference between having your business up and running hours, days, weeks, months, or years later. When you are proactive, you will be able to anticipate any situation that may come along with a disaster. When you are prepared to take the right steps, everyone in the workplace will be prepared for the worst situations, and no one will miss a single beat.

You have to anticipate everything that can arise, which means you will have to think beyond having your computers destroyed or your computers being offline for hours. Do you have an evacuation plan? Will there be a set location for your team to meet? Will your team be able to work from home until it is safe to enter the workplace again?