What are we learning from Microsoft’s recent emergency security patches?

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Are you running an outdated operating system?

This past May, the ransomware known as ‘WannaCry’ swept through 150 countries and affected hundreds of thousands of computers in organizations ranging from telecommunication companies to nationwide healthcare systems. Devices running older versions of Microsoft software (such as a Windows 7 operating system without key security updates) showed critical vulnerabilities to this powerful, rapidly propagating malware.

In response to WannaCry and to future threats of a similar nature or scope, Microsoft has recently taken steps to supply emergency security patches for various older software, including Windows XP, Server 2003, and Vista. Even when an older system does show some resilience to a WannaCry attack, it can still remain extremely vulnerable to other forms of malware.

The issue of updates and upgrades

Microsoft typically doesn’t support these older systems, and its recent release of free security patches is a deviation from how the company ordinarily operates. It’s an extraordinary measure for an emergency situation. However, where will Microsoft draw the line? What will happen during future occasions involving widespread malware or other security risks?

Some organizations that are reluctant to upgrade to Windows 10, for example, might take this is a sign that they can continue relying on Microsoft to support outdated versions of various Windows software when there’s an emergency. However, this is a flawed way of thinking.

  • Organizations can’t reliably depend on the fact that Microsoft will step in to fix old, unsupported software whenever there’s a major security problem. The company offers no such guarantee.
  • Upgrading to a supported platform like Windows 10 ensures that your organization benefits from the most recent updates.
  • Beyond updates or patches for specific security risks, an up-to-date platform like Windows 10 has also been designed with greater security built into it throughout. If you’re running an outdated system, there may be deep security flaws that can’t be comprehensively addressed just by performing certain updates. Older systems may be lacking in powerful security features that newer systems have adopted.

Managing your systems

Another key lesson we can take from the problem of rampant malware is how important it is to stay on top of managing your IT systems.

You need to make a full accounting of all the devices your business uses, and the information you must stay on top of includes the following:

  • The versions of operating systems and other software your computing devices use. (Maybe you’re using similar software across devices, or perhaps the software you use varies quite a bit from one device to another.)
  • The schedule of upgrades and updates you’ve developed for your systems. For example, have you made updates automatic, or are they manual? How often do you check for new updates?
  • The current vulnerabilities in your system, and your priorities for which to address first. Some security flaws are much more likely to be immediately exploited and cause potentially widespread damage, while others pose less of a threat, at least in the short-term.
  • What each device is connected to. For example, a major security risk comes from devices (ranging from laptops to digital security cameras) that are inadvertently exposed to the Internet and left unprotected. Configuring devices properly and limiting their exposure is critical for improved security.

To further discuss these issues and to receive assistance in strengthening the security of your devices and systems, please contact us. If you don’t manage your software and remain aware of the potential risks, you leave your business far more vulnerable to the threat of malware and other security breaches. The results can prove deeply damaging and include steep financial losses, damaged trust, and prolonged downtime. With our assistance, you can perform any upgrades or updates you need in a timely way and implement cyber security strategies that better safeguard you against the numerous threats out there.

Microsoft Dynamic 365 Components Expected To Launch In Mid-2017

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Excited for the next release of Microsoft Dynamics 365!

Last year, Microsoft significantly changes their portfolio by introducing Dynamics 365. Dynamic 365 integrated the critical ERP and CRM functions of the original products into a complete package. Dynamics 365 consists of several applications, including customer services, finance, sales, etc.

If your business consists of 250 employees and more, the Enterprise edition of Dynamics 365 would be a perfect match for your business. If you have a smaller business that consists of less than 250 employees, the Business edition of Dynamics 365 would work best for your business.

There are also a variety of options when it comes to licensing your software, which will mean every business will have the ability to adjust the software to fit the specific needs of their business.

Dynamics 365 was placed on the market for purchase in November 2016, but it did not include some critical components. Microsoft plans to release additional components and developments in the mid part of this year.  We are going to take a look at some of the great developments that you will see in Dynamics 365 this year.

Using Cortana

Many people are very skeptical of using the voice functionality tool, Cortana. There is also skepticism about using Cortana with Dynamics 365. Can a voice functionality tool actually be useful in a workplace setting? What can a voice interface actually offer employees in an office that is probably already crowded or noisy?

Well, we have found that a voice interface tool can actually provide a significant amount of help to employees, especially when you need to multitask. When Cortana is integrated with Dynamics 365, you will be able to use the feature when you are traveling.

Cortana can be fully integrated into Dynamics 365 for your Sales department. Cortana already has exceptional features and components, so can you imagine how easier it will be for you to multitask, organize, and prepare when you are working on a sales project? Your sales teams will always need something that will make their jobs a little easier, and the functionalities of Cortana will certainly give them the peace of mind they need when they are working.

Chat Features

Three years ago, Microsoft obtained a portal platform, Parature. Microsoft obtained this platform with the hopes of improving the functionality of Dynamic CRM, as well as to eventually add web chat features. Unfortunately, Parature was placed to the side after Microsoft acquired ADX Studio. Since Parature was not integrated into Dynamics 365, this means Dynamics 365 is still operating without a web chat solution.

Chat features are certainly important when it comes to multitasking, improving teamwork, and improving the overall operations of a department. Since there have not been any functionalities to perform a web chat, it definitely seems likely that Dynamics 365 will add a web chat solution soon.

Marketing Plus Adobe Equals A Great Partnership

Adobe Marketing has turned into the perfect solution for Dynamics 365 Marketing. What does this mean for your organization? It means that you can expect to see Dynamics 365 use Adobe Marketing Cloud as a marketing solution. If your business has access to Dynamics 365 for Sales, you will be able to fully integrate Adobe Marketing Cloud. The Adobe Marketing Cloud includes a variety of functionalities, including the ability to manage web content and email marketing.

You can expect to see a variety of added features in Dynamics 365. 2016 was certainly a great year for 2016, and no one could have made any predictions about what Dynamics 365 would bring to business. It certainly seems that Dynamics 365 is putting a bigger focus on mobility. We expect to see Microsoft deliver more components and applications that will allow businesses like yours to focus on improving their entire business operations.

For additional information on Dynamics 365 and other Microsoft product releases, contact us today.

Habits That An IT Help Desk Department Should Avoid

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Frustrated by the attitude your receiving from your help desk?

Can you think of a time when you did not appreciate the kind of customer service you received? Unfortunately, many of us remember the bad customer service we receive from the good customer service. Terrible customer service moments will remain in customers minds, and they will share those stories with anyone who will listen.

There are various bad habits that IT help desk professionals should certainly avoid if they want to provide outstanding customer service on a consistent basis.

Avoiding Some Help Desk Tickets

Generally, an IT help desk department will use tickets to successfully manage the interactions they have with their customers. Some IT help desk agents will ignore the difficult tickets in favor of the easier tickets. If a help desk agent only wants to take the easier tickets, the help desk agents will never know what it is like to be challenged. When IT help desk agents are challenged, they will have to dig a little deeper, which will allow them to obtain more knowledge. Every customer should have their questions answered in a timely manner.

Formal Tone Of Speech

One of the biggest mistakes many IT help desk agents make is not connecting with customers on a personal level. It can be easy for help desk agents to read directly from a script or send an automated email to the customer. When IT help desk agents put in the extra work to build relationships with customers and give them a better customer service experience, the more the IT help desk agent will get out of the interaction.

It is certainly important for IT help desk agents to be polite, but being too formal may make your customers feel isolated. When someone contacts a company’s IT help desk department, they are usually feeling agitated and upset that they could not figure out the problem on their own. When a help desk agent responds in a friendly tone, the customer may be able to relax a little more.

The Attitude

We all know what it is like to have a bad day, right? However, it is important that IT help desk agents have the ability to keep their emotions in check. It is important to remain calm at all times, even though it may be difficult at times. There should be no arguing with customers, being defensive, or being dismissive when a customer asks a question.

IT help desk agents have the ability to create great experiences that will lead to a loyal customer base. IT help desk agents should be able to separate the business at hand from their personal feelings. The knowledge, experience, expertise, patience, etc. should all outweigh the personal feelings of an IT help desk agent.

Failing To Fully Respond To Questions

Many IT help desk agents are in such a hurry to respond to as many tickets as they can that they will simply respond with a yes or no answer. When customers only receive a yes or no answer to a question, this will only lead to more questions. When customers are constantly asking the same question because they did not get a better response the first time, this will mean the help desk agents will have more work to do.

In order for an IT help desk agent to be effective, the agent should try to respond with a detailed answer the first time the customer asks the questions. Customers have high expectations, and when they have a problem, they expect the IT help desk agent who responds to their ticket to have the knowledge and expertise to help them. How can an effective IT help desk department change your business operations? Contact us today and learn more about the SystemsNet team.

Microsoft Announces the New Surface Pro

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Microsoft Product Releases

Microsoft combines stunning creativity with powerful productivity in the new Surface Pro, announced on May 23rd, 2017. The Surface Pro’s top-down redesign includes an extremely long 13.5 hour battery life; lightning-fast Intel Core 7th generation processor; support for the new Surface Pen with its amazing inking capabilities; and a great deal more. Yet despite the long list of improvements, the new Surface Pro weighs only 1.69 pounds and costs only $799 USD.

Faster performance

The new Surface Pro, which runs on an Intel Core 7th generation processor, delivers speeds that are 2.5 times faster than the Surface Pro 3. Despite its remarkable performance, the Surface Pro’s fanless design keeps it nice and quiet.

Longer battery life

The new Surface Pro’s battery has an extremely long life of 13.5 hours, lasting 50% longer than its predecessor.

Streamlined design

With softer edges, an ultra-thin 8.5mm profile, and a weight of only 1.69 pounds, the new Surface Pro is elegant and streamlined. Furthermore, users can not only customize the color of their new Surface Pro, but also the Surface Arc mouse and the new Surface Pen. There are three rich colors available: cobalt blue, burgundy and platinum.

Improved keyboard and display

The new Surface Pro’s type cover features 1.3mm of key travel for quicker, more accurate typing than its predecessors. A soft, elegant, yet strong, covering envelops the keyboard for maximum comfort and aesthetic appeal. Thanks to a new hinge with a 165-degree range, users can now take advantage of Studio Mode, which provides the ideal position for drawing or writing with the Surface Pen. The new Surface Pro also has a high-resolution 12.3 inch PixelSense Display (supporting the new Surface Pen) and a full-glass trackpad that includes multi-touch, five-finger precision.

The new Surface Pen

Thanks to its PixelSense Accelerator, the new Surface Pen is not only faster than its predecessors, but features twice the accuracy and responsiveness. With 4,096 levels of sensitivity to pressure, both writing and drawing are vastly improved with the new Surface Pen. The device also features support for tilt functionality, which detects the angle that the user holds the pen against the screen’s surface. The result is enhanced shading with an improved, natural quality.

Windows 10, Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Whiteboard will unlock still more possibilities for inking with the new Surface Pen in 2017.

Surface Dial capabilities

You can now access many of the creative experiences from Surface Studio by using Surface Dial with the new Surface Pro. Simply place Surface Dial on the screen to access app-specific shortcuts and tools.

A new path to productivity

Microsoft is bringing the creative power of the new Surface Pro and the Surface Pen into the domain of productivity. In June, 2017, Microsoft 365 subscribers will begin to see new inking functionality, including a gallery of drawing devices that follow you throughout your activities in Word, Powerpoint and Excel. Office users will soon find themselves inking comments in their documents with the Surface Pro and Surface Pen. Later in 2017, Microsoft will release Whiteboard, unlocking still more features for ink-enabled Windows 10 devices. Subscribers of Office 365 will have exclusive access to many features.

Launch date

Microsoft plans to release the new Surface Pro on June 15th, 2017 in twenty-four markets. Pre-ordering is already available in select markets and stores. Microsoft plans to release the new Surface Pen in the coming weeks.

With the new Surface Pro, Microsoft offers both a creative studio and a powerful laptop in a single, 1.69 pound package. The top-down resign includes a faster processor; an extraordinary 13.5 hour battery life; an ultra-thin 8.55mm profile; a redesigned keyboard for faster typing; and support for the new Surface Pen’s industry-leading inking capabilities. As Microsoft rolls out Whiteboard later this year, owners of the new Surface Pro will find themselves unlocking even more remarkable features to enhance both their creativity and productivity in 2017.

Contact us to learn more about Microsoft’s new Surface Pro.