IT Support Blog for Small Business Owners

David Mulvey

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The new Internet Neutrality Rule: Has the FCC Overstepped?

Posted by David Mulvey on Tue, Mar 17, 2015

FCC Internet NeutralityThis February 26, 2015 the FCC in a 3 to 2 vote (along party lines) has approved new Internet Service Provider rules.  The FCC has tried unsuccessfully to regulate the Internet two earlier times.  In their last foray Verizon brought the FCC to court and the 2010 Open Internet law was struck down.  So what has the FCC done this time? Well they have included wireless cellular broadband access into the new law.

Here is a high level summary of the new FCC Open Internet Order:

1)    Bright Line Rules:

  • No Blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • No Paid Prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no “fast lanes.”  This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.

The FCC announced that this proposed Rulemaking had the highest number of citizen comments the FCC has ever received, mostly in favor of the rule.  Who in America would not be in favor of a Neutral Internet?  Could it be that the rulemaking name was a clever smokescreen to encourage the public to be wildly in favor?  Every large ISP in the country is against this rulemaking, and they have stepped up their lobbying to insure that every member of Congress understands they are against the legislation. 

I have spent my professional IT career designing and deploying Wide Area Networks (WAN) and Local Area Networks (LAN) for some very large clients.  In order to insure each network user gets the data presented to them in the time required; a network design architect must have the ability to block, throttle and prioritize traffic within the network.  If the network is a LAN or a Broadband network or a cellular wireless network, each user is essentially on a shared multi-drop line.  If I have a neighbor operating a successful Basketball bracketing website down the street from me, his unrestricted website will adversely affect my homes ability to get the Internet quality I purchased, because his sites data packets are monopolizing my shared Broadband connection to the Internet.

The primary reason ISP’s have been so vocally against the new “Bright Line Rules,” is that the new rules are exactly the tools an ISP needs and uses to insure that there is Internet Neutrality! Why has the FCC seen fit to remove a carrier’s ability to manage and engineer their own networks to insure every User has the same access to the circuit and bandwidth? I suspect there were good intentions, but the public and the FCC have done irreparable damage to the quality of Broadband in the USA.

Manufacturers like Cisco Systems have voiced they are against the Open Internet Order CLICK HERE.  In Philadelphia I have watched Comcast work hard to insure that low-cost Internet is made available to low income families; if you have a child who is enrolled in National School Lunch Program. CLICK HERE.  It would be hard to argue that Broadband Internet is only exclusively available to the well healed. I hope you take the opportunity to follow this Rulemaking as it is surely challenged in the Federal Courts.  Please don’t hesitate to learn more about the rulemaking and get involved in the public commenting!

Topics: Internet Service Provider, Broadband, WAN, LAN, Internet Neutrality

It’s Not Okay to Ignore these Recent IT Cyber Security Issues

Posted by David Mulvey on Wed, Mar 04, 2015

IT Cyber SecurityFebruary showers bring May flowers. Well that’s exactly how things are not going in Philadelphia nor is that what is happening with IT cyber security! February 2015 brought three important IT security issues to every IT department to contend with. If you had outsourced your IT security to ANP these would not be your concern, ANP would have handled them for you. However, if you are doing your own IT here are three big issues you should be proactively addressing:
  1. If you user use Firefox, update it now. Open Firefox, click on the little square icon near the top-right of your screen that is composed of three horizontal bars. Then click the question mark for “help”. Third, select “About Firefox.” Firefox will automatically download the latest version. The latest version, just released, includes important security patches that you need. Want to learn more, Click HERE.

  2. If you company uses Lenovo laptops, uninstall Superfish now. Starting in as early as 2010, Lenovo has pre-installed Superfish on some of their laptops. This junk-ware software is vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. This means websites, such as banking and email, can be spoofed without a warning from the browser. Remove the application immediately. Want to learn more, Click HERE.

  3. Install Microsoft's Critical Security Update Now. Microsoft has released a critical security update to address multiple vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer. Exploitation of one of these vulnerabilities could allow a remote attacker to take control of an affected system if the user views a specially crafted webpage. This security update is rated critical for Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7, Internet Explorer 8, Internet Explorer 9, Internet Explorer 10, and Internet Explorer 11. Want to learn more, Click HERE.

As an IT Professional you simply cannot become lackadaisical regarding the patching of your IT environment. As an IT manager I often find that my IT professionals are so busy with their day-to-day responsibilities that it’s almost impossible to expect them to remain up to date with the latest IT Cyber security issues. I often visit the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team website which is run by the Department of Homeland Security. The website is an excellent resource for all things cyber-security! Check out the US-CERT website by Click HERE.

 

Request A Free Network Assessment

Topics: IT security, IT Cyber Security, IT Cyber Security Issues

Windows Server 2003 End of Support -- Trouble in Your Server Room

Posted by David Mulvey on Thu, Feb 05, 2015

Windows Server 2003 End of SupportHere at ANP we have been beating the drum for upgrading your old Microsoft Server 2003 Operating Systems since Microsoft announced that Windows XP and Office 2003 were being retired. Microsoft officially ends support for Windows Server 2003 on July 14, 2015. This deadline is much like the Windows XP deadline. Microsoft has stated they will no longer patch Windows Server 2003 for new security vulnerabilities. New vulnerabilities keep cropping up for the aging OS, and Microsoft will not be writing patches for the new vulnerabilities. To put that statement into context, during 2014 Microsoft released 37 critical updates for Windows Server 2003.

You more than likely have a Windows Server 2003 deployed in your server room. Microsoft estimates 39% of all today’s production servers are using the operating system! ANP’s customers were slow to react to removing Windows XP PCs from their networks. Dell, Toshiba, and Apple all saw surges in new OEM machine sales as the deadline came near. I know our IT managers are aware of the situation, and I know they understand the deadline is approaching. But do you have a good sense of how many Windows Server 2003 servers you need to address so you can plan for what you are up against? Do you know if the migration will be complicated or easy? ANP only has a handful of clients that have actually planed for and have begun working on migrating to Windows Server 2012 R2.

If I look back over the Microsoft XP race to remove, the biggest surprise was that most organizations did not fully budget the time and money that would be required for additional IT support. Windows XP PCs (the machine itself) is one thing; we could segment it off the network or simply disconnect its LAN cable. But that strategy is not going to work very well with you Windows Server 2003 machines. So if you are not immediately planning to upgrade your servers, have you considered the extra expense for a new LAN switch to segment off the older servers, or an Intrusion Protection System (IPS), or an advanced Firewall? When I consider the cost and effort to implement these systems, wouldn’t it be less expensive and frankly less work to just bite the bullet and migrate away from Windows Server 2003?

I see Windows Server 2003 deployed in my small clients and also heavily deployed in my larger clients. ANP has a client with over 100 virtual instances of Windows Server 2003 still in production! Yikes, that’s a lot of OS to buy and migrate! The kinds of things that are delaying larger IT shops is the application software running on top of the server OS. Many Independent Software Vendors (ISV) have gone out of business that had provided Line-of-Business specific software to business units. It has been inexpensive to run that old software and now it’s becoming problematic. If it needs to be replaced (and it does) then the IT department needs to involve the business unit running the software to begin a search to replace it, not to mention, the time to migrate off of the old app and onto a new LOB application. You can see how the Windows Server 2003 End-of-Support can set off sequentially falling dominos of unplanned IT support costs and delays.

I have shared with you before the first step is to deploy MAP and assess what your Windows Server 2003 workloads look like and then determine in order of priority what needs to upgraded. So you will discover, analyze and finally migrate. In larger businesses the majority is moving from virtual 2003 instances to virtual 2012 instances or they are doing a conventional physical-to-virtual upgrade. Once your workloads are virtualized, and then you can start to think about movement off-site to a CoLo or Service Provider like ANP. Many workloads are better suited to run over Windows Server 2008 to maintain support for the older 32-bit applications that were once running on Windows Server 2003. By moving the old LOB application off of Server 2003 you can buy yourself some time migrating it to Server 2008.

Ideally though, you will be moving all 64-bit application workloads up to Server 2012 R2. By making that jump over Server 2008, you can take the whole server stack and virtualize it. Instead of one physical server for one 2003 OS, you can move to four or eight applications on a single 2012 OS. So you are getting a better bang for your buck! You are really skinning two cats at once: you are virtualizing physical servers, saving electricity, cooling and space and you are also migrating away from Server 2003 to a much more robust and modern Server 2012 operating system and you are doing both of these in tandem!

ANP has been doing Server 2003 assessments for half a year, and we are getting busier. If you need help, ANP will do your MAP assessment for free and provide you with a written report with recommendations. Or you can download MAP HERE and run the assessment yourself. So if you haven’t started, you are not too far behind. Almost everyone is on the assessment and analyze stages. We have some proactive clients that are actually in the midst of their physical to virtual migrations. You have 5 more months to get this work done. Please call ANP (800) 572-3282 if you think you need some help! Or sign up for the free ANP MAP assessment HERE 

 

Windows Server 2003 Survival Assessment

Topics: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 End Of Life, Windows Server 2003 End Of Support

You’re Running Out of Time! Windows Server 2003 End of Support

Posted by David Mulvey on Fri, Jan 09, 2015

Time Is Running OutOn July 14, 2015, Microsoft is officially retiring Windows Server 2003. As Windows Server 2003 comes to the end of its life, businesses all around the world will feel the effects. Microsoft recently estimated there are 24 million instances of Windows Server 2003 running on 12 million physical servers! There are an estimated 9.4 million Windows Servers 2003 instances running in North America. Worldwide Windows Server 2003 accounts for 39 percent of all Windows Servers. As you can see, the installed base is massive, making migrations an important security issue for the entire IT industry.

With Windows Server 2003's retirement party seven months away, and Microsoft’s estimation that a typical Windows Server planned migration can take as much as 200 days, its time to plan your next steps! I am writing this blog to make certain my readers are well aware that you need to be proactive when it comes to removing Windows Server 2003 from your company servers. Microsoft isn't the only company ditching Windows Server 2003. Not only will Microsoft wash its hands of Windows Server 2003 support, so will all the custom software and Line-of-Business application companies that once supported Windows Server 2003.

Assuming those software companies stopped actively developing for the 2003 Operating System years ago; they are likely still supporting the applications that run on it. After Windows Server 2003 end of life on July 14, 2015, they'll have no reason to continue to support that version of their software. The implications of this reality run far and wide. Your Line-of-business software is surely affected, as are any other random software applications you are using.

Honestly, when was the last time you called any support company regarding Windows Server 2003? It’s not that you will no longer be able to call and get technical support from Microsoft that really matters. What really is cause for concern is that Microsoft and security software vendors will likely stop patching, updating and supporting their software. And conversely all the hackers in the world can’t wait to attack the soon-to-be vulnerable server operating system!

Let me be clear -- I love Windows Server 2003; we have been running the reliable server operating system here at ANP for 10 years. Still, it's now past the time to put Windows Server 2003 out to pasture. The bottom line is that running Windows Server 2003 in your organization is an outright liability, bordering on irresponsible; you must insure that any virus cannot attack your servers and that means you need to stop running Windows Server 2003 operating system by July 14th.

With any business risk comes opportunity and the same holds true for Windows Server 2003. This is a great opportunity for you, as a business owner, to assess if you need to keep running physical servers at your office, should you move to the Cloud, or should you virtualize your applications into a redundant server cluster? ANP has created a limited time free Windows 2003 Survival Assessment Kit to help you inventory the risk, and assess what is the best path for your company and your applications to take.  The bottom line is that you're running out of both time and options when it comes to removing Windows Server 2003 from your company. But, whatever you do, make sure that Windows Server 2003 is off your network by July 14, 2015.

Get Started Right Now: If you would like to learn more about what your next steps as a business owner should be sign up for my 30-minute educational webinar below where I will describe the risk in detail and lay out the most common upgrade/migration paths for a small business owner. Or sign up for our Windows Server 2003 Survival Kit and begin to actively assess your server exposure.

Windows Server 2003 Survival Assessment

Topics: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 End Of Life, Windows Server 2003 End Of Support

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