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Do I Upgrade My Microsoft Exchange Server or Move to a Hosted Exchange Environment such as Office 365?

You’ve been successfully using Microsoft Exchange for years to manage your electronic communications but realize it’s time to upgrade to increase server space, upgrade technology and/or enhance security against breaches. But, does it make more sense to move to a hosted Exchange environment such as Office 365?

 

Unfortunately, Microsoft discontinued selling Windows Small Business Server in late 2013, which included Exchange at no additional cost. This leaves the small and medium-sized business with a significantly more costly on-premise solution. They must purchase a dedicated server and license the full stand alone version Microsoft Exchange Server 2016.

 

Upfront costs will most likely deter many smaller businesses to upgrade to the latest Exchange Server because of the physical server cost as well as the Microsoft licensing expense, not to mention the additional space, power and IT resources required to manage servers.   In comparison, per-user licensing fees for Office 365 range from $4 to $20, depending upon subscription plans. While no exact number of employees warrants a move to a hosted exchange environment, businesses with less than 50 users typically have an easier decision and are more likely to make the move to the cloud. Larger organizations have to put a bit more thought into it as they weight the pros and cons and financial implications of either solution.

 

But every company has preferences and requirements for its IT operations. Here are some factors that can help you make the decision between an in-house upgrade and a hosted solution:

 

  • Cost and Control:  An on-premise Microsoft Exchange Server is ideal for companies that want to maintain in-house control of emails and a higher level of customization than offered from an “out-of-the-box” solution. Although Office 365 enterprise level plans do offer powershell access for your IT team. An on-premise solution does require a major investment in hardware and software and the IT resources to maintain it. An upgrade to Exchange Server 2016 typically requires a new robust server that will meet the sizing and prerequisite requirements to support a successful install.

Moving to a hosted Exchange plan does not require hardware expenditures because datacenters are maintained by the vendor. While costs are based on a predictable monthly subscription, different configuration options can effect pricing including mailbox size, storage preference, and performance levels. Other services such as SharePoint, archiving and office applications can be bundled easily into the package to support a wider range of company processes.

 

  • Security: Data breaches into corporate email are reported on almost a weekly basis. That’s why many companies fear the “cloud” and want to secure emails in their own environments. But, many security breaches actually start within the organization where employees access confidential emails.   To protect the in-house infrastructure, organizations must maintain a certain level of physical and digital security. Servers should be monitored round-the-clock with platforms continuously updated with the latest spam and virus solutions.

In a hosted environment, an advanced level of security is built into the environment. Microsoft Office 365 Datacenters continually obtain 3rd party audit certifications A team of security experts also monitor Exchange Online on a 24/7 basis.

 

  • Current Technology: Even if operations are running great at the moment, companies with an in-house Exchange platform must consider the future and plan for software and hardware upgrades down the road. A hosted solution maintains the latest software version as upgrades are automatic and built into subscription costs.

 

  • Reliability and Availability: Reports that small and mid-sized companies with in-house messaging solutions 40 hours of unplanned outages  Without a disaster recovery or backup plan. If your server is not built on a highly available architecture, which cost prohibitive in many small businesses, the risk of downtime is far greater than with Office 365. With globally redundant servers and disaster recovery services, Microsoft reports a 99.9% uptime with Exchange Online.

 

Small businesses have a lot to think about when deciding the next move to either upgrade or move to the cloud. To continue the discussion, feel free to contact me at www.nettology.net/contact

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Nettology Team Prepared For Any Disaster

Proud of our Philadelphia Help Desk team! A transformer fire caused a power outage in March 2017 in our Essington, PA office – Snow Day Protocol. Within minutes all Help Desk calls were rerouted using our very flexible VOIP Solution called Onsip. Ticketing system online via Autotask. Files and email at Office365. Invoicing and quoting systems all hosted in separate data centers at Amazon Web services. Our team worked together in online chat and was fully productive in taking care of our clients!

Need a responsive IT team who can handle your emergencies? Contact Nettology!

Nettology offers IT disaster recovery services
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Bringing new applications into your office is like putting your staff in French class 301

Let’s be honest those of us in the tech world love new technology and new applications. We can see if something is made better, it’s what we do.  Nevertheless there is a point where that the engineer hat has to come off and we have to give way to the implications of something more than just the architecture of a new server, provisioning new LUNs on the SAN, or a few entries in the firewall. We have to give the end user that great new application and walk away.

Bringing new applications into the corporate environment means that every employee has to change the way they work.  To the staff, it’s almost like getting a new job, yet working with the same people.  Everything changes, that app is going to the rule their world and the business.  It is our job to know the technical aspects, tear apart the business logic of the new app and know if it’s a good fit. Once the technician comes to a decision, it’s on and a new app is on its way.

Just recently I met with an Ophthalmologist practice that sees at least 100 patients a day over their three or four locations and their staff size is just under 100.  The task was to implement a new EMR (Electronic Medical Record) system.  Understand this application is going to affect every user of the company, doctors, nurses, and billing staff.  It will change everything they do. As I look out at the crowd during the conference table, I can tell they are just scared. It’s change. Yet, it has to be done.

I have done enough of these over the years to know that the key to a successful implementation of these types of systems isn’t to start with the servers; it’s to start with the staff.  After they heard the entire speech from the EMR company and I reminded them “This is change, folks, we know this, but this is how we will be here to help.”  I began laying out the training and go live plan; I worked with the vendor to let the staff know the support plans, and how to ask for help.  Then I went back to the features of the app, the reason why they are doing this in the first place.

I may be referencing a medical company here, but the same mindset and strategy can be used for that new application going into any type of company.  Some key points to keep in mind as consultants for a practice with a migration:

  • Remember it is change- Users will not be doing the same thing, in the same way they were the day before and that would scare anyone.
  • Have a training plan- Let people know how both you and the software vendor can bridge gaps in knowledge.
  • Empower the quick learners-Some users will just get it, and we need them to be able to cross train others that don’t. Give those users the opportunity to shine.
  •  Provide a life line– Yes it will be change, there will be issues, we will be here, the vendor will be here but the reason we are doing this is to simplify and make everyone’s workload more bearable.
  • Sell the sizzle-Highlight three of the best features and two of the coolest, and let them buy into the app. Show them how it helps.

A good engineer, with a good CEO, 9 times out 10 will make the right decision on when and what type of new applications the company needs.  Those decisions dig into the business model, and the technology at hand.  Usually only a select few of the staff have any input into this decision.  When working with companies that have 30-100 users this means a lot of quality employees that need to feel empowered.

When the decision is made to purchase new applications, the staff needs to know why a successful roll-out requires them to be interested and accept the decision. Take the time to educate the staff on the new features and sell them on how it helps them to do their jobs better and more efficiently.  Keep in mind speaking computer lingo is like speaking French, they have no idea what you’re saying, they need to know someone will be there helping them to learn the new changes.

 

 

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Tips for Better Business Network Security

Large corporations spend millions of dollars on business network security every year and still encounter security breaches. So how effective are your small business’s security measures? Here are some important tips to maximize the security of your business network and make you a less appealing target to cyber attacks and hackers.

  1. Make sure you have a strong and secure network perimeter.  Some people refer to this as a demilitarized zone (DMZ).  The idea is to have a buffer zone between your internal network and the outside world.  The outside world only connects to networking equipment in the DMZ, not directly to the internal network.  It should go without saying that all software should be up to date and equipment should be configured properly with default username and passwords changed.
  1. EDR or End Point Detection and Response. EDR is an emerging technology and is also sometimes referred to as next-gen antivirus software. Endpoint detection and response solutions supplement traditional signature-based antivirus technologies by looking for unusual behavior on network devices that may signal an attack.   The analogy is to the flu — you don’t necessarily need to know what’s causing your symptoms to know that you are sick.  Once the symptoms of a cyber attack are detected, EDR technology begins to execute a response plan.
  1. Educate your staff.  Many hackers focus on compromising a network from the inside. Phishing emails can be used to install malware or gather passwords from unsuspecting employees.  System administrators may use common or default passwords, and users may not change passwords every 90 days as is recommended. Offering classes and educating your employees on the importance of network security and will help protect you from cyber attacks.

Nettology   can help with all your business network security needs.  If you’d like to know more, call us now on 610-558-1730.

IT Support Philadelphia 

IT Network Support 

 

business security
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Ransomware and RDP – Are you vulnerable?

 

As an IT Company that manages many clients across many platforms we see trends that are often overlooked by internal IT staff. The sheer nature of our business enables us to look at things in volume from the top level.  One of the most prevalent security issues we see is the exponential growth in ransomware virus infections. A ransomware virus such as Cryptowall and Crypolocker (to name just a few) locks all of your files and provides instruction on how to unlock them. Seems simple enough right? Not so fast. The only way you can get the “key” to unlock your files is to follow the instructions of the hacker which is different with every virus. But the basic gist is that you have to pay for the key with a bitcoin. At this point 99% of folks don’t even understand what a bitcoin is let alone how to pay for something quickly with bitcoin. The process is very involved and most bitcoin “wallet” companies require multiple verification and a connection with your bank checking account to get setup. This part sometimes takes a day or so. Then there are limitations on how much money you can instantly transfer and convert to a bitcoin per day. And while you are sorting out setting up the payment the “clock” is ticking because the hackers instructions tell you that the ransom will be doubled if you don’t pay in 24 hrs. And if you finally get this key, it sometimes will take another week to go through every file on your network to unlock them. Now we all know that having a really good and verified backup is the best prevention from having to go through this nightmare but even restoring large amounts of data from either a local or cloud backup can take days. Bottom line is you don’t want this stuff on your network.ransomware

Ransomware infections are no longer occurring only via an end user clicking on a bad zip file. The latest trend is a brute force attack on the standard RDP (Remote Desktop) port 3389 . There are scripts out there that are doing port scans on firewalls that have open RDP ports. The script finds the opening and hammers away at common usernames and passwords, so if there is one weak password on your network that’s bound to that RDP server, this hack will find it and you will have some nasty stuff installed on your network in pretty short order . One of the answers here is to make sure RDP is not open from the outside and your organization is using a VPN solution.

Close those RDP ports now and stay vigilant!

business network security
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The Small Business Network Consultant is Dead

Long Live the Small Business Network Consultant

As an IT infrastructure consultant, I have had the opportunity to work on many small to mid market corporate networks. From rock solid and secure (although is anything really secure these days?) to really shoddy excuses for a business network. My job as a small business network network consultants is to help – to be able to look at both the big picture functionality and efficiency of the network as well as the details of what makes it work properly and securely or not to so securely (as I have come to find all too often). There is a certain confidence you get when you can actually see the datacenter, the physical security and the underlying hardware on which precious company data is housed. Having the ability to look at that Cisco ASA firewall, observe all the green lights on your EMC SAN or HP server array hard drives, and know that you have built so much redundancy into the Client and you have covered all your bases should there be an issue is what I thrive on. It’s a good feeling knowing that if you can sleep at night because their data is protected then your Client can rest easy also.

Enter Cloud Computing and its inevitable revolution of providing “As a Service” for everything including your refrigerator. Say goodbye to the traditional “Small Business Network Consultant” at least as we know it. Why put a “Microsoft Small Business Server” in your office for thousands of dollars when you can pay monthly for more services and flexibility? (Maybe one reason is because the Microsoft Small business server does not exist anymore – but we wont go there just yet.)

A sad truth is many organizations (even startups) are now bypassing the small business network network consultant and spinning up servers by reading directions on the hosting companies website. OK so not everyone can do this but if you are even slightly tech savvy you can get through some of the wizards and viola – you have a server and you did not have to pay a consultant!! Pretty cool huh – that you had your web developer put up a database and file server for you in the cloud and your livelihood is running on it!

Well on the surface that may have been a good cost saving business decision but wait there’s more ……..

There is a very scary part to this scenario that I have observed over the last two years. Companies are bypassing traditional common sense security practices assuming that the servers and databases the put up in the cloud are secure. Because they skipped over the “network design and consulting” step basic security principles are not being followed. There are major assumptions about the underlying hardware and redundancy (or lack of) provided by the hosting provider. I have seen companies that are doing business with fortune 100 companies that do not have any firewall or intrusion detection solution, and have servers that have no business being public facing with dangerous and unnecessary ports open to the outside world. I have seen servers are built with zero redundancy. Companies have invested tens of thousands of dollars on application development and customization but yet they have no methodology for backing up the images of these servers. While the hosting company they are using provides various services including firewalls, imaging, and high availability, they are not implemented. Entire architectures have been built with significant “single points of failure”. The basic building blocks of traditional network security and efficiency are being skipped because it was easy and inexpensive to do, and these folks clearly were not given proper direction. Unfortunately this is not just one company, I am seeing this over and over again.

We can’t just lay blame on the companies (well maybe). Are we a dying breed or has the Small Business Network Consultant not adapted quickly enough to the Cloud paradigm? We can’t just sit on that MCSE Certification from 10 years ago and hope none of our clients “catch on to this whole cloud thing”. Consultants need to educate themselves to truly consult in this rapidly changing environment. There is an immense amount of cloud based infrastructure technology out there to learn and the industry is maturing quickly. Amazon Web Services has developed an entire curriculum and certification program around their services. Microsoft is modifying many of their partner competencies and certifications to adapt to their Azure and Office 365 service offerings. There are also many third party solutions are out there that fill the gaps missing from the hosting providers.

Good small business network network consultants are desperately needed to right the ships of many companies that have strayed into uncharted clouds. So if you are an IT Consultant that has lost your way, get it in gear, start learning, and start consulting again! And if you are a Business Owner or IT Director in the midst of making decisions on Cloud infrastructure, call your friendly neighborhood IT Consultant.

Long Live the Small Business Network Consultant – Be it Dead or Alive!

Nettology MSP and consultants
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