IT Support Blog for Small Business Owners

5 Ideas for Creating your Operational Efficiency using IT Outsourcing

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Thu, Jul 03, 2014

Operational Excellence using ITOperation efficiency is one of the key goals an owner should be working on to be competitive in today’s business climate. Customers expect instant access to information, quick service, and superior delivery. If you have not mastered operation efficiency, you most likely are not meeting your customer’s expectations and risk losing market share to your competition. I believe IT plays a huge role in achieving operational efficiency.

Operation efficiency isn’t just about reducing costs; to the contrary, it’s about leveraging all of the assets available to you as an owner. Companies who focus on solely cutting costs to improve operation efficiency usually end up under performing their competition. They become too focused with cost reduction and lose sight of adding real business value to the customer, which in return improves customer satisfaction, recurring revenue, increased market share and dramatic business growth.

The following are 5 IT and organizational best practices to help your business increase operation efficiency and deliver more value to your customers and business:

  1. Collaborate more: Work on making it easier to collaborate between employees, suppliers, and customers. Improving collaboration is a sure-fire way to boost your efficiency while also reducing costs. Using IT to integrate Voice over IP, IP video, Instant Messaging, and data and wireless provides the kind of interactive calendaring, videoconferencing, IP communications and other technologies your business needs to provide instant and easy communication with all parties. No matter if you are in or out of the office. Look for an integrated tool for unifying all of these communications methods within a single desktop application. I have described the idea of a unified desktop application here.
  2. Provide customers and vendors with secure, consistent access to information: Easy access to your IT information may be the difference between holding onto a long time client and losing them to a competitor. Do you have a secure web portal for your clients to track orders, and invoices? Do you have a portal for your vendors and clients so they can self-serve? If your company network is frequently down, sluggish, or unsecured, your competitive advantage may be lost. Your employees also need an easy virtual-private-network access to your IT network. To achieve a high level of access to IT information, your employees must be able to have access to your environment at anytime from anywhere. An easy to use, reliable and secure infrastructure provides your business with maximum agility by providing reliable, secure access to business IT intelligence.
  3. Streamline client communication: 
Communicating with clients helps keep them satisfied and can help turn them into raving fans. Few things are more important to your bottom line as satisfied clients. Integrating your phone system to your customer relationship management (CRM) application is one way to improve client communications. This integration is an easy IT solution to implement; when a client calls, a pop-up window of the customer contact appears on your employee's computer screen. Before the second ring, your employee answering the call has access to information about the client calling, such as current orders, recent returns and much more. There is no more need to ask your client what their account number is. The data is already on your employee’s screen before they answer the call.
  4. Create efficient and effective processes with your vendors: 
Vendors are critical to all growing businesses. Successful partnerships are created when you are able to integrate your company with the vendor. To do this, you will need to create efficient and effective processes that bring you and the partner into a seamless distribution channel. Operationally bringing your vendors into your IT systems via a secure virtual-private-network tunnel is a fast and inexpensive means of allowing your vendors and your company to share critical information in real time.
  5. Outsource low priority functions: 
Is it the best use of an employee's time to manage your network, security, communication systems or other non-core functions of your business? Often, a more efficient option is to outsource such tasks to an IT managed service provider (MSP). A service provider has the expertise that your business may lack, but desperately require. An MSP can provide you with instant expertise without the need to spend time or money developing that IT expertise in house. Outsourcing enables your employees to stay focused on productive activities related to your business's core functions and competencies.

IT operation efficiency is the cornerstone to all successful growing companies and is not a onetime project. Continuous review and improvement of your IT operation will help you and your company outperform your competitors and dominate your industry.

FREE IT Webinar The Secrets to Running Your Small Business IT Click Here to Get Started

Topics: IT Outsourcing, Operational Efficiency, Unified collaboration, secure web portal, virtual private network tunnel, outsource IT

7 Habits of Great Small Business Owners

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Tue, Jul 01, 2014

Worlds best ownerI came across an article in the February 2013 issue of Forbes magazine the "7 Habits of Great Small Business Owners." I find these practices to be helpful in both my professional and personal life. I'd like to share them with you in the context of this small business blog.

Do you ever wonder what makes one business more successful than another in the same industry? I believe, more often than not, it’s the leadership at the top that determines the success of any organization. The same is certainly true in your business; if there was a way to insure your business was outperforming your peers, you as the owner would likely be implementing these seven universal principles:

 

  1. Great Small Business Owners take care of themselves. What is the most important tool at your disposal? I think it’s your brain (pardon the pun). A common truism is a healthy mind leads to a healthy body. Business owners take the time to exercise, eat healthy, and do all those things that are important for their overall physical health because they know it will keep them thinking sharp.
  2. Great Small Business Owners have lives outside their business. It's important to release your work brain and give it a rest from your work. One of my favorite things to do is to enjoy the outdoors. Find whatever you enjoy. Expose your self to new ways of thinking and doing things. It’s from those new ideas that you can become energized and hopefully bring a new idea back into your business.
  3. Great Small Business Owners look forward. Are you willing to be bold in your thinking and are you willing to take chances? In order to become a great leader a business owner must be ready to go beyond current business models and market forces. It's key to focus your attention ahead on growing and building your company by looking for new ways to accomplish things.
  4. Great Small Business Owners are organized. It is one thing to be juggling lots of industry information and new ideas. However, it's entirely another thing to be systematically implementing your ideas. Are you smart with great ideas that never get implemented or are you effective by remaining organized in meeting and throughout your day, insuring that your great ideas are in fact implemented? Remain organized and your actions will define your company culture: disorganization and ineffective implementation, or structured and effective implementation.  You will define which path you and your employees walk down.
  5. Great Small Business Owners nurture relationships. Whether it's with their employees, advisor's, or with new contacts; the best business skills are the interpersonal ones that help a business owner to communicate and react to peers. Do you hunker down in your office? Are you unapproachable? Or do you have the most fun in your day talking with your team? People have the innate ability to know when they are valued. Be certain to save some of your day to walk around the office and talk.
  6. Great Small Business Owners make decisions. Business owners have to be decisive to run their business. They also understand that they may not be experts in all fields and need to consult with someone who can provide the tools to help them make a more informed decision. I am a member of Vistage, which is a CEO organization that brings 12 to 16 owners together monthly to meet and process business issues and give one another advice. I can’t begin to share the value I have gotten out of my Vistage group by helping/forcing me to be decisive at critical times.
  7. Great Small Business Owners are willing to make changes. Proactive business owners are constantly evaluating and reevaluating which parts of their company can be improved. Knowing how your company's time, manpower and resources are distributed and paying steady attention to keeping them as efficient as possible, keeps your company thriving ahead of the competition. Sometimes it just means being ready to cut the fat in order to remain competitive.

When you look around your industry, there are always just a few that truly stand out from the pack. In your heart of hearts what makes these firms stand out? Is it a talented owner/operator? Try to befriend a successful owner and see for yourself if these 7 traits play an important part of the leader's success. If you are open to learning more about IT leadership within your company follow this link.

 

FREE IT Webinar The Secrets to Running Your Small Business IT Click Here to Get Started

Topics: 7 habits of great small business owners, business owner leadership

How do you insure IT Outcomes occur when IT Outsourcing?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Sat, Jun 21, 2014

IT Outcomes healthy or unhealthy?This month we have been looking at the outcomes that come from IT outsourcing, the last two blogs have talked about the potential business outcomes you might expect if you outsource your IT; but what about the IT outcomes? Outcome based outsourcing is the Holy Grail of IT services; achieve a healthy or unhealthy result.  Our clients would all agree that if we can tie specific business and IT results to our outsourced agreement everyone would be happier in the end.

The trick is that many IT outsourcers focus on the inputs rather than the outputs.   Consider the US healthcare system; today doctors are still incented to perform tests and procedures with few financial rewards tied to the ultimate goal: a healthy patient, I believe the same is true today in many IT companies.   Let me give you an example, today many IT companies want to sell you the business owner a “block of hours,” which is a prepaid amount of man hour labor. How does approaching your company IT with a third party and a bunch of man-hours assure you of any type of IT outcome? The truth is it doesn’t, the business owner is lured into thinking he can control his third party IT expense, but they fail to see that the money is going to fixing things, not delivering a great holistic IT outcome. As a result, that block of hours contract wastes money fixing reactive issues as they come up. The great IT outcomes are never realized because all the money goes to fixing the problem of the day and is never placed where it really matters; under the covers deep inside how your network is configured. 

As a business owner, ideally you can see the difference between reactive IT support and proactive IT support. Reactive support fixes IT things as they break and proactive support is what an IT outsourced agreement focuses in on, proactively doing the IT best practices that keep your network and IT running at peak efficiency. Lets go back to healthcare, we ultimately have two choices in our life regarding our health: be reactive and wait for an issue or become proactive and focus in and do what we are told are the healthy best practices.  You can sit in a lazy boy and drink beer and eat Twinkies and reactively get rushed to the hospital when you inevitably have a heart attack and hope for the best, or you can proactively watch what you eat, exercise and really focus on health lifestyle best practices because you know you will end up with a longer lifespan and a higher quality of life.  Believe me, the same is true with your IT, become reactive and lazy or work at becoming proactive and healthy. Yes it’s harder to be proactive, yes its time consuming to do the necessary work, but the IT results are guaranteed.

So if you can take that leap of faith with me and see that becoming proactive with your IT will insure you of a better result; then let me show you how to insure you get that great IT result with an IT outsourcer.  The IT best practices are well documented: patch your windows servers and workstations, install anti-virus software make certain it is updating and scanning, quarantine all of the files that anti virus software finds, monitor your server logs, daily monitor your back up software, test file restoration etc. The question is not what we should be doing, it is insuring that not only does it happen but also it happens transparently and with a “Service Level Guarantee.” You should look for an IT outsourcer that can produce a monthly report that shows you how effectively all the best practice work is occurring. And more importantly, when it doesn’t occur, you can ask for your money back! 

I think you should be able to go further than that; focus in on the reactive things that often do breakdown and expect a higher level “Service Level Guarantee,” on that type of work.  For instance if your cable modem goes off-line, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, your IT outsourcer should be able to notify you the device went off line within 15 minutes of it occurring, the outsourcer should be able to email you what their resolution plan is (for instance calling up Verizon or Comcast and getting a service incident opened and trying to get a dispatch time) and finally the repair and resolution time should be documented and completed in less than some guaranteed period of time.   Each of these three steps should have a contract time limit, and they should have a money back guarantee if the time performance is not met.  Investigate if your potential IT provider is willing to commit to performance guarantees, beware the small providers who don’t have the staffing to commit to a higher level of deliverables.  This is the way, you as an owner, can insure your IT outsource agreement does in fact tie IT outcomes to your payment of money each month. 

As a business owner, you can get a much higher level of IT performance out of your company infrastructure if you are willing to commit to proactively applying IT best practices, to insure you achieve the IT best practices, consider outsourcing to an experienced IT outsourcer, once you have found an experienced company, take a look at their contract and see if you can find a written service level guarantee that promises a certain level of performance or your money back.  If you shop carefully you can achieve the Holy Grail: you can tie IT outcomes to a performance based IT outsource agreement! If you would like to meet and discuss IT outsourcing click here to set up an appointment. If you are not ready to meet, click here to sign up for a free whitepaper on IT outsourcing: 6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies.

 

6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies

Topics: IT Outsourcing, Service Level Guarantee, IT Outcomes, IT outsourcer

Three Additional Strategic Outcomes from IT Outsourcing

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Thu, Jun 19, 2014

IT Business OutcomesAre outsourced IT services right for your business? Possibly, I have listed three more business outcomes that you may try to achieve when outsourcing IT managed services. You have probably heard before that the CEO should be working “on,” the business not “in,” the business.  The same is true while outsourcing your IT services, the time that is freed up for your staff and yourself should be directed to important work outcomes.  IT outsourcing can provide a strategic, cost-effective solution if your management team is focusing “on,” your business outcomes.  The business outcomes can be segregated into three areas of business operation, first are the CEO focused business outcomes, and second are the strategic accounting and operational outcomes and finally specific IT business outcomes. In this blog I will discuss the final three of seven business outcomes (the first blog describes the first four business outcomes) you can read the first blog here.

Outsource your IT to maximize Return On Investment and manage costs.

When you add up your IT salaries, annual software licenses, hardware upgrades, is it a significant cost to your business?  Most business owners will agree IT is expensive.  Owners demand confidence that their IT investments are delivering sufficient business value.  Many owners wonder if they can improve IT availability at a lower cost than doing IT themselves.  Typically an IT Managed Service Provider can lower your IT costs and improve service levels.  I have seen savings range from 30 to 60 percent annually versus doing IT internally.  The savings come from adding discipline into the IT operations, and that includes financial discipline.  You will begin to predict your IT budget accurately and control costs because everything will be documented and planned.  Do you need standardize on a single laptop model or desktop to control costs?  Should you be leasing or buying your hardware? These and many more questions will be discussed, evaluated and answered through IT outsourcing.  Look for a client Chief Information Officer as part of the outsourcing engagement; insist upon an MBA to periodically hold business conversations with the owner that can help establish a link between your personal business goals and the strategy needed within IT to achieve those business goals.

Outsource your IT to leverage IT as a strategic asset.

Speaking of IT strategy, how do you leverage your IT systems in a competitive manner?  Is it possible to look at your current IT applications and consider if you have deployed the best software to align with your business goals?  Through IT outsourcing you will have access to an IT expert who can help you evaluate if you have the appropriate applications and systems in place.  Time after time, we see business owners who recognize that their company’s IT has degraded in performance and in its usefulness to the business; the owner does not know what to do next.  As an owner you need to be ready to respond to changing business conditions, and that often means, upgrading your Line-of-Business application, or at the minimum, evaluating if your IT applications are serving you and your employees.  Many CEO’s and owners see their industry is in rapid change, we all saw in 2008 how quickly the national economy can impact our businesses. Owners need access to IT experts that can accommodate the industry or economic conditions as they evolve.  How can your IT systems that are 5 years old be serving your business properly five years later? Surely something could be upgraded, or enhanced to add additional value. If you decide to outsource your IT, make certain that the IT outsourcer will provide you with an IT thought leader, who can bridge your business strategies with your IT systems and evolve your IT department into a strategic asset. 

Outsource your IT so your business delivers first-class products and customer service.

Gone are the days of paper ERP systems and clients calling in on the phone.  Today, to remain competitive, your company needs an excellent web site, an email domain, and ideally a web portal for your prospects and clients to interact with your sales and delivery teams. You need to be able to respond quickly to customer needs and expectations. Your IT systems are an extension and a representation of your company to your employees and your customers.  Your company will be evaluated on how efficiently work can be completed. Ideally, you have automated tasks so you can provide a value-add to your clients. Hopefully you are leveraging the Internet and have a web portal so your clients have more than a phone call means of connecting with your company. Today in this globally competitive world, you need to provide your clients multiple channels to interact with your company: ANP has video conferencing, Instant Messaging, Chat, email, service ticketing and a phone call: that’s 6 different ways to interact with ANP… are you offering a client multiple ways to communicate with your firm? Don’t make the mistake of expecting that everyone is going to want to communicate in a way that you prefer! These are reasons why it might be time to consider IT outsourcing, its not just about the block and tackling of IT, an IT Service Provider can help you work through new ways to enhance your products and services for your clients. 

I need to say your mileage may vary; every company has different circumstances and will have different business outcomes.  I can state our clients are able to achieve most of these business outcomes.  ANP's clients are seeking effective business IT solutions that will help increase company: revenue, competitiveness and productivity and enable the company to scale for the long term.  If you shook your head and said, "Yes, that's us" when reading our list of business needs, then this is a clear indication that outsourced IT managed services can deliver strategic value to your organization.  Outsourced IT managed services will play an ever increasing and critical role in the small and mid-size business marketplace.  As more organizations take advantage of performance and productivity-enhancing technology and applications without the distraction and expertise required to manage them, IT outsourcing frees up valuable time for the business leaders. The question for you is not whether to use them - but how and when? Want to get started, click here and sign up for a free 7 step strategic review. I you are not ready to talk yet; you may download our free white paper on the 6 essential IT Outsourcing Strategies (found below.)

6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies

Topics: IT Support, IT Outsourcing, Business Outcomes, Strategic outcomes

Four Strategic Outcomes to Focus on when IT Outsourcing

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Wed, Jun 04, 2014

IT Business OutcomesAre outsourced IT services right for your business? Possibly; I have listed seven business outcomes that you may try to achieve when outsourcing IT managed services. You have probably heard before that the CEO should be working “on,” the business not “in,” the business. The same is true while outsourcing your IT services, the time that is freed up for your staff and yourself should be directed to important work outcomes. IT outsourcing can provide a strategic, cost-effective solution if your management team is focusing “on,” your business outcomes. The business outcomes can be segregated into three areas of business operation, first are the CEO focused business outcomes, and second are the strategic accounting and operational outcomes and finally specific IT business outcomes. In this blog I will discuss the first four of seven potential business outcomes.


Outsource your IT so the CEO can focus on increased revenue and profitability!

By outsourcing your IT you may dedicate 100% of your payroll and employee resources to your core business rather than to IT functions and support. Through IT outsourcing you can begin to view and use IT as a strategic asset within your company. Outsourcing your IT is an effective strategy for gaining efficiencies and reducing costs. A typical IT outsourcer will automate specific recurring tasks during your IT outsourcing agreement, which will increase IT availability and increase network predictability. Through IT outsourcing, you will develop a short and long term IT budget. If you outsourced your IT how much time can be freed up for you and your management team and employees to focus on the core business?


Outsource your IT to insure you successfully transition to a new technology to enable a faster growth rate.

Many CEO’s from our clients share with us their growth targets will require them to implement a new technology; by outsourcing your IT you can be assured the technology will be deployed successfully. Other CEO’s tell us they are growing quickly and don’t want to add headcount, they need to improve employee productivity through IT automation or a Line-of-Business application deployment; outsourcing your IT will insure the application is deployed correctly -- the first time. We have had clients merge or move operations with another company, outsourcing with tight planning can mitigate the risk out of business consolidation. Through IT outsourcing you can also easily expand into new states or countries; an IT Service Provider can typically support client locations in Europe, Asia and Africa 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

Outsource your IT to manage risk and ensure business continuity.

There are so many potential risks to manage within your IT department: Do you have a business continuity plan in place in case of a man made or natural disaster? Do you know how long it would take to resume normal IT operations after a data disaster? Does your business need to conform to the HIPPA or PCI standards? Perhaps your documents and files include both internal and client sensitive documents and data; are you required to have secure data, secure transactions and communications? Or perhaps your business has a small IT department and you want to secure the systems from being compromised if an IT employee leaves or if the department is dismantled. Or you simply want to protect your PCs and servers from the latest viruses and malware threats. Outsourcing your IT to a managed service provider will provide answers to all of these questions and deliver the business outcome you need.


Consider Outsourcing your IT to improve your IT infrastructure’s availability and service responsiveness.

The most common reason our clients outsource their IT is because the owner feels his business has outgrown the current IT provider. The vast majority of IT companies are 1 or two possibly three employees; when one of the three is sick or on vacation, it becomes impossible to adequately support all of their clients. The owner calls us exasperated in how long it is taking to get service. The IT requirements of a growing business steadily increase; another common issue is that the current IT provider does not have the knowledge and skills to help the business grow in their IT maturity and IT complexity. If you have a business where you operate 24 hours a day, or you have both national and international offices, you need an IT provider that operates a Network Operations Center 24 hours a day 365 days a year. No matter what time it is in the world, a larger IT Managed Service Provider will be open for business and ready to answer your employee’s questions. Shop for an IT outsourcer that can provide a written Service-Level-Guarantee on response time, and resolution times; insist the Service Level’s provide a money back guarantee if they are not meet. By placing the new IT outsourcers “skin in the game,” you can be assured you will achieve a higher level of responsiveness and availability and thereby achieve the business outcomes you require.

In our next blog we will look at the other 3 business outcomes you can expect from IT outsourcing. If you are ready to speak with ANP fill out our form here. Or download our free white paper on The seven sign its time to call for computer support (found below.)

 

7 Signs Its Time Computer Support

Topics: IT Outsourcing, Service Level Guarantee, IT Strategy, IT Business Outcomes, IT Strategic Outcomes

Developing a Small Business IT Strategy

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Thu, May 15, 2014

IT StrategyBefore the introduction of Information Technology, there were many organizations that have been more successful than others. These companies have had a better product or service offering, a positive customer focus, and very probably close employee involvement in its development. Today, these qualities need to be fused with a complete understanding of the value of IT to maintain or repeat this level of business success.

Small businesses that fail to capitalize on the strategic value of IT, often stemming from the owner’s disengagement, are those that have failed to appreciate the businesses ability to create competitive advantage. This problem is further compounded by the absence of a well communicated and clearly defined IT strategy, and the consequent failure to correctly align a company’s resources - including its IT - with the strategic objectives of the organization. The consequences of a missing IT strategy can be huge and will often result in missed opportunities to use IT to accelerate and achieve critical business performance improvements.

A further consequence, stemming from a lack of owner and management interest in technology, is the creation of an IT department that lacks knowledge of business strategy, resulting in an inability to align IT resources with the business objectives of the organization. Any combination of technically disengaged owner and a technology focused IT department will effectively block any chance of the company leveraging IT for real business gain.

Small business owners have been told by management gurus that ‘having an IT Strategy’ has joined the ever-growing list of items which demand management attention. Despite the dire warnings and the consequences of failing to respond to the challenge, owners have been given no direction on what an IT Strategy might mean, or how you go about creating one. This blog attempts to briefly answer the question what is an IT strategy?

So what exactly is IT strategy? An IT strategy is a plan to guide their organizations on all facets of technology management, including IT cost such as in-sourcing or outsourcing, IT payroll, IT hardware and software, IT vendor management and all other considerations in the IT environment. Developing and executing an IT strategy requires strong business leadership; the small business owner needs to work closely with managers, as well as, with other stakeholders within the organization.

Many small businesses choose to formalize their Information Technology strategy in a written document or balanced scorecard strategy map. The plan and its documentation should be flexible enough to change in response to new organizational circumstances and business priorities, budgetary constraints, available skill sets and core competencies, new technologies and a growing understanding of user needs and business objectives.

I have observed many situations where the business owner was supposed to document an IT Strategy in a short period of time, in order to prepare the following year’s IT budget. Very often, they lack supporting business information in order to achieve this task. The result is a weak or no IT strategy, sometimes ignored by the user’s community, the key stakeholders.
A weak IT strategy can be costly and wasteful, especially for resource-constrained organizations that operate without an IT budget. It also implies that organizations cannot respond to changing business requirements rapidly enough. The absence of strategic thought causes organizations to be inefficiently reactive, forcing them to work in a constant state of catch-up. So how do we avoid becoming reactive, can we convert to a proactive approach to IT? Yes of course, begin by developing an IT strategy and connect the strategy to an annual IT budget.

A small business IT Strategy should answer the following questions:

  • Should we consider outsourcing our IT Strategy development and IT Support?
  • Are we doing the right things with technology to address the organization’s most important business priorities and continuously deliver value to the clients?
  • Are we making the right technology investments?
  • Do we measure what is the real value to the organization derived from that technology?
  • Is our current Information Technology agile enough; flexible to continuously support a successful organization?
  • Is our Information Technology environment properly managed, maintained, secured, able to support the clients, and is it cost effective?
  • Can our strategy support current and future business needs?

We often find that many small business owners do not feel they have the knowledge to answer these IT questions. For many small business owners who feel that their focus should not be detracted from their prime business, the benefits of IT outsourcing should definitely be explored. A professional IT outsourced company will possess the business and technology skills necessary to ensure that the full benefits of IT are realized. It is commonly believed that an IT outsourced contract only benefits costs and, in many cases, this can be the case, however, in the best examples, an outsourced IT contract can have much greater benefits for a small business including offering a guaranteed way of ensuring the full strategic benefits of IT are properly realized.

Topics: IT Outsourcing, Developing a IT Strategy, small business strategy

Migrate off of Windows XP: a new Internet Explorer exploit

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Tue, Apr 29, 2014

Internet Explorer ExploitA new wave of targeted attacks against serious vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer have exposed the increased risk facing organizations still clinging onto Windows XP (the ten year old operating system that Microsoft stopped supporting this month.) To that point, Microsoft issued a security advisory on Sunday, warning that every supported version of Internet Explorer is impacted by the vulnerabilities. One thing is almost a certainty; Windows XP users won't likely receive the critical updates from Microsoft.

Microsoft has said for a few years now why you need to move off of XP, these kinds of vulnerabilities are going to continue to exist and if you're running on an unsupported operating system you are going to be increasingly exposed to more threats over time. Unfortunately businesses continue to cling onto Microsoft Windows XP and despite declining numbers, ANP still have an estimated 10 percent of businesses have systems running the retired operating system. I believe its security events like these that give IT management some additional ammunition to show there is some risky exposure to the business. I often see it’s difficult for IT to get the businesses to spend money on an operating system upgrade unless the owner sees tangible benefits. This should be a red flag for the business owner! It's an example of what is going to happen continually over the next two to three years if businesses don't upgrade and retire Windows XP.

A few months ago ANP suggested a mixture of application white listing, network VLAN segmentation and other measures to restrict Windows XP systems (that are still in production within your company) and isolate them from critical parts of your network such as your server farm. Businesses also need to proactively monitor the networks to ensure that architecture changes don't introduce a way for attackers and viruses to move from one network segment to another.

All users, including those still running Windows XP, need to consider an alternate browser to effectively negate the specific attack; I personally prefer Google Chrome to Internet Explorer and use it on my PCs and Mac’s. But there are other browser alternatives, such as Mozilla Firefox. On Sunday Microsoft was suggesting deploying their Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit; and although it is a good solution, it’s a huge amount of deployment work plus care and feeding of the application to continue to get the benefit it can provide. I keep asking myself, why bother with these expensive, difficult and time consuming work-around solutions? Why not either upgrade your XP machines to Windows 7 or if the machine is really old (greater than 5 years) then simply replace it with a new OEM version of Windows 7 on a new PC?

Please let me know if we can help you in any way in regards to mitigating Windows XP issues.

 

What A Business Owner Should Expect From Outsourcing

Topics: End of support for windows XP, Internet Explorer exploit

Microsoft Vulnerability Could Allow Remote Code Execution

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Mon, Apr 28, 2014

Microsoft VulnerabilityMicrosoft announced on April 27, 2014 a vulnerability has been discovered for all versions of Internet Explorer version 6 through version 11.  As of this afternoon on April 28, 2014 there is still no patch available to remediate the vulnerability. To compound the vulnerability, Microsoft will not be issuing a patch for Windows XP machines running Internet Explorer.  With the dropping of support for XP, I believe this is the first of many attacks that will be targeting the Windows XP Operating System.

The vulnerability is a remote code execution vulnerability. The vulnerability exists in the way that Internet Explorer accesses an object in memory that has been deleted or has not been properly allocated. The vulnerability may corrupt memory in a way that could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code in the context of the current user within Internet Explorer. 

What should you do?

  1. Do  not use Microsoft's IE on any machine you may currently have.
  2. Use an alternative browser such as Firefox (See the link below).
  3. If you are an XP user, use an alternative browser - forever.
  4. Think seriously about upgrading your XP machines.


Here is the Microsoft Security Advisory link for your information: https://technet.microsoft.com/library/security/2963983

Here is a link to download Firefox: http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/ 

 

 

Request A Free Network Assessment

 

 

 

 

 

Laughter or the Unified Communications Multitasking Trap

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

baby laughing resized 600I like to laugh, don’t we all? I find humor in all sorts of places and situations. I’m a bit odd (okay I will admit it) I often laugh in unlikely places. I’ve laughed in the most appropriate of situations and some of the most awkward for instance, I often find myself the only person laughing in a crowded movie theater. 

I think we all need to find places to laugh, especially at work. I can be a bit short and tense at work, I find there is so much to do and I never feel like my company is moving quickly enough, so I become outwardly frustrated and I think many people can sense that frustration in me. A few employees at ANP have the great ability to bring laughter to our meetings, they always make me laugh. Laughter is such a stress reliever!

I found a great blog post in Harvard Business Review about laughing at work. In Why You Should Treat Laughter as a Metric, author Bregman writes about the lack of laughter as a symptom of a problem within organizations. And he suggests that increasing the opportunity for laughter should be a leadership priority.

Laughter in Bregman’s eyes means focus:Bregman emphasizes the fact that laughter requires you to be present and focused. You can’t laugh if you’re distracted or multitasking. As an example, he asks that you consider recent phone conversations – and what you were doing at the same time. (I am so guilty as charged.)

Bregman forces us to think about our own ability to focus at work: I hadn’t thought about it much, but the most productive (and entertaining) conversations and conference calls are the ones when I’ve been focused. When I’m fully engaged, I get the most from the conversation, have the opportunity to provide the most value, and I catch the opportunities to see humor – sometimes expressed out loud, sometimes more quietly via Instant Message to a friend. (Yes, I admit it.)

In just a decade, as business owners we quickly came to believe that multitasking was a sign of dedication and productivity. And we often do it because we’re essentially encouraged to do it in order to meet expectations. Technology like Unified Communications certainly makes it possible.

Unified Communications allows me to meet with people over distance, but I can also have other windows open on my desktop that beg attention at the same time. It’s not impossible to do the same thing in an in-person meeting, but it’s not as easy - or as tempting. And if I let it, that Instant Messaging indicator blipping in the corner can easily drag me away from a conversation that demands focus – it’s just a harmless little click, right?

We’ve reached a point where we sit in meetings preparing for other meetings, going through e-mail, or responding to Instant Messages. It’s hard to focus on one thing at a time. We may be doing many things at once, but how productive is our frenzy? How good is it for morale? Are we more likely to be frustrated and stressed versus amused and laughing?

What should we do with the power of Unified Communications on our desktops? As business owners, we can be more aware and catch ourselves when we’re dividing our attention into bits and pieces. For some people that may mean making a list that clearly prioritizes projects so that we’re not trying to do bits of multiple things at the same time. I find, if I make a list on a tablet every day, I am far more likely to get those things accomplished.  For others it may be as simple as a post-it note or a sign in our work areas that remind us to focus.

As managers, we can listen. Listen for laughter. Watch for signs of humor and amusement. If the laughter isn’t loud enough, consider the expectations and environment you’ve created for your teams. And consider the example we set. Unified Communications is a very powerful tool for communications, but I need to be every vigilant to stop multitasking with Unified Communications. I need to constantly remind myself to be fully engaged in my meetings! 
Do you encourage humor and laughter at work
 Do you laugh out loud? Can you become mindful of the multitasking trap of Unified Communications?

Would you like to learn more about Unified Communications, sign up for the webinar by clicking on the link below!

Register For The VoIP Webinar Today!

Topics: unified communications, Laughter, Multitasking

The Heartbleed Vulnerability and Your Company’s IT Systems

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Mon, Apr 14, 2014

Heartbleed VulnerabilityANP proactively notified our clients twice last week to inform them about a new IT vulnerability that was announced on Monday April 7, 2014 called the “Heartbleed,” vulnerabilty.  For the most part, if you are reading this blog you are likely not a client of ANP’s so I want to take a moment to explain to you (hopefully in a non-technical way) what this vulnerability is all about and offer you some help if you think you might need it!

This vulnerability is coming out of a non-profit software development kit that many IT companies have used to create their secure web interface for their products. The software is from two programmers who created the OpenSSL Project®; they distribute a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) toolkit used in thousands of IT products and hundreds of thousands of web sites and servers.  SSL is the code that allows a web site to encrypt data between the users browser and the web site, you can see SSL in action when your browser URL displays “HTTPS” the “S” stands for secure which means your browser is running SSL data encryption.

Many web developers and commercial companies have used this open-source toolkit to develop their own SSL products, because it is faster and less cumbersome than writing their own SSL code.  As a result, there are many products (that you might own) that now have this vulnerably built into them.

Larger companies like Microsoft and Cisco write their own SSL code and so you don’t see them included in these type of open-source vulnerabilities, although because Cisco does acquire so many companies a year to get access to new products, they have published a small list of products that do have the Heartbleed vulnerability and are releasing the correction as they go through their products.

The "Heartbleed" vulnerability is a flaw in the OpenSSL software that may impact the security of passwords, credit card information and other personal data that is stored on your servers or passed through systems on the Internet. The vulnerability may allow a hacker to view or intercept personal information such as a password that is transmitted from a user’s computer to a server on the Internet during the process of logging in to an account.

Here at ANP, once the Heartbleed vulnerability was announced, we immediately began to analyze our client’s equipment to determine if the Heartbleed SSL vulnerability was an issue and if it was, we notified our client and began looking for a published software remediation to implement.  We also analyzed our own systems and software tools, interestingly, we did have an old web site that had the vulnerability and remediated the software.

I promised that I would help you and your company, hopefully this blog has helped you better understand the Heartbleed vulnerability.  ANP would be happy to do a free quick assessment of your IT environment to look for the Heartbleed vulnerability in your servers, software and IT equipment.  We will look at your IT systems and let you know if you have anything at risk. Call our office and ask for the Heartbleed assessment at (800) 572-3282. You can also do a quick check yourself to see if any applications in your company need a password change: Follow this link

 Request A Free Network Assessment

Topics: network assessment, heartbleed vulnerability

Subscribe By Entering Your Email

Follow ANP



Latest ANP Blogs

Browse by Category