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Keep your focus!!

Running a business is a 365 day a year job. While you focus on running your business let Midwest IT Solutions focus on keeping you up to date on the latest developments in information technology. In the 4th quarter of 2015 Microsoft launched Exchange Server 2016 and implemented updates to its Office 365 service and software suite. While both feature improved security, there are several key differences, which is crucial to understand when making the appropriate choice for your business.

Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud based subscription service and therefore is no need to purchase any additional hardware. The low monthly subscription structure makes it a cost effective option for many small to mid-sized businesses in industries who need to comply with all current privacy and regulatory guidelines. Many business owners do not realize that free email services, such as Gmail, yahoo, and AOL are not compliant with certain security and privacy regulations. Any company that is found to be non-compliant in regulated industries may face a government fine, as well as have to pay a service to get them back in industry compliance.

In addition to meeting confidentiality requirements, the email service in Office 365 has an added feature called “Clutter.” Clutter utilizes smart technology to learn patterns in users email. If it sees that emails from a specific sender are consistently never opened or immediately delated it will send those messages to the Clutter folder rather than the inbox.

Unlike Office 365, Exchange Server 2016 is Microsoft’s most up to date and secure email software for on premise options. Some business owners prefer to keep their email server on premises rather than Office 365 due to a higher level of internal control. Depending on your particular business’ needs, it can offer higher performance than Microsoft’s cloud based service. There are some cases where an on premises server is the best, such as businesses that require large capacity file shares (50GB in size or more) or operations that would be bandwidth-prohibitive in a cloud scenario. Offices that have less infrastructure access to the internet would be wise to take this into account during their decision making process.

Exchange 2016 offers all of the same security features as Office 365 and is fully compliant with all privacy guidelines. However, it does not have the Clutter feature that Office 365 users are able to utilize. If you are currently using a now unsupported, or soon to be unsupported version of Exchange, it is past time to upgrade; preparing to move to Exchange 2016 is a must. Any business currently running a version of Exchange Server earlier than 2010 will need to perform an additional step as they upgrade. Files must be moved to Exchange Server 2010 as an interim step as newer versions cannot co-exist with any framework developed prior to 2010. It is important to remember that Microsoft will be terminating all support of any version of Exchange prior to 2010 on April 11, 2017. If your internal IT department has their hands full managing your day to day operations or if you do not have an internal IT department, Midwest can help you ensure a smooth transition as you migrate to the Exchange 2016 environment.

How do you know which option is the right choice for your business? Midwest can help you navigate the confusing world of information technology. You focus on what you do best and let Midwest handle the IT. Contact Us…

 

Hackers Attack Small Businesses Too

Most small business owners believe cyber attacks are the concern of large corporations, however nothing could be further from the truth.  According to Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report 71% of cyber attacks occur at businesses with less than 100 employees.[1]

Unfortunately, many “SMBs suffer from ‘It can’t happen to us’ syndrome,” notes Robert Siciliano, security expert for McAfee. “They also typically don’t have the resources to secure their networks to the degree a large enterprise would. But the information on their networks – and access to their bank accounts – still makes them a big target.”  Even though it turns out SMB’s have a larger target on their backs than they realize, two thirds of SMBs surveyed by Symantec say they’re not concerned about cyber threats; and more than 80 percent have no formal cyber security plan.

“Smaller companies are easier to hack,” said Clay Calvert, director of security at MetroStar Systems, a Virginia-based firm. “They don’t have the resources to set up protective barriers.” Big companies, which have the financial resources to upgrade their security, have become less vulnerable.  But this needs to change!  The average cyberattack costs a business $188,000!  You can no longer wait for hackers to target you.  The rise of organized cyber hackers is definitely a scary trend but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.  There are some things that a SMB owner can do to help:

  • The first step you need to take is to think like the hackers. Ask yourself: Who are my adversaries?  Are they after my intellectual property and trade secrets?  Do they want my customers’ credit-card information?  Or do they view my business as the weak link in some larger application?  This exercise can help you see where your vulnerabilities lie and also help you understand which measures you can take to protect your software.
  • Make sure your code is clean. Many commercial applications use open-source code as components.  The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s National Vulnerability Database discloses more than 4,000 vulnerabilities in these components.  Security software companies, can help you identify and fix any problems with your applications’ source code.
  • Outsource your security operation. While most small organizations can’t afford to build sophisticated IT security systems, Midwest IT Solutions has the scale and know-how to protect your operations and sensitive data.

At Midwest we have the knowledge base and the commitment to service to ensure that your IT security is up to date.  We offer best in class cybersecurity protection.  Unlike other managed service providers who rely on point of service solutions; we employ Unified Threat Management, an all in one security solution.  UTM is a fully integrated, multifaceted approach to protect against network threats. Your IT infrastructure is too important to settle for a less than optimal cybersecurity plan.  Contact us today to get started on your cyber security audit.  Don’t take a chance and go it alone, get Midwest on your side.

[1] Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report 2012. 2012 Accessed April 20, 2016. URL:www. http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/threatlevel/2012/03/Verizon-Data-Breach-Report-2012.pdf.

The Value of Outsourced IT

Your days are filled with making decisions that will guide your business into the future.  It is easy to put your IT needs on the back burner, but that will lead to days spent fighting IT fires rather than focusing on your growth.  In the 21st century, technology is at the center of any business.  Your entire operation can grind to a halt due to one computer snag; costing you lost productivity and the potential for lost clients.  According to recent research by CompTIA, the proactive monitoring that a managed service provider offers reduces your costs by 50% per downtime incident.  Outsourcing your IT needs to Midwest IT is the best way to ensure that your business is running smoothly.  We leverage enterprise-level applications to support your business and provide a team of friendly, knowledgeable IT professionals for you and your staff.

Gone are the days when your only concerns were a slow internet connection or a finicky printer.  The information technology environment of today is increasingly complex; a major firewall breach that threatens your data, your VPN failing, or your VOIP not allowing calls are just three problems your business could face.  The costs for keeping a modern office running efficiently on your own can be endless as well.  You need to be confident that all of your hardware and software will continue to work for you – not against you.  This is a job too challenging for just one computer expert to handle.  It is no longer practical, nor preferable, to be a jack of all trades.   At the very least, a help desk employee and a systems administrator are required.  The average combined salary of these positions is $90,000-$120,000 annually, plus the costs of keeping their training and certifications up to date.  These employees would still not be able to handle every computer glitch you are likely to face. In addition to the peace of mind that Midwest IT provides, there are many less obvious financial benefits such as leaner overhead, bulk purchasing and leasing options for hardware and software, as well as compliance with government regulations.

Outsourcing lets you focus on your core competencies while Midwest IT focuses on ours. Instead of just the experience of one person, you gain the knowledge of our full team of IT professionals.  By working with Midwest IT, you benefit from our experience of working with hundreds of clients.  We have already seen most of the IT issues you will face and know exactly what is necessary to avoid or fix them in a timely manner.  IT is Midwest’s core focus, and we can offer solutions to you at a fraction of the cost of an internal department.

FBI Warns Businesses of Email Scams

The FBI has issued alerts to all businesses about the spread of BEC scams.  One of the fastest growing hazards facing businesses today is the growth of business email compromise, or BEC scams.  According to the FBI these scams have grown by more than 270% since the beginning of last year.  At their last reporting more than 7,000 businesses have lost more than $1.2 billion in the last 2 years.  At Midwest IT Solutions we help you to manage your IT risk.  We are at the forefront of IT risk management; monitoring, assessing, and evaluating threats to your network no matter where they may come from.  You can be confident knowing that Midwest IT Solutions is in your corner.  While these scams may at first seem less impressive than thefts perpetrated by sophisticated malware targeting banks and other large institutions; a BEC attack is in reality more­­­­ vicious.  They are more versatile and can avoid the basic security steps taken by businesses and individuals.  Instead of simply targeting your machines, a BEC scam targets your people!  Criminals are convincing their victims to hand company money right over to them, and they have been very successful in doing so.  According to the FBI, “The scam has been reported in all 50 states and in 79 countries.  Fraudulent transfers have been reported going to 72 countries; however, the majority of the transfers are going to Asian banks located within China and Hong Kong.

BEC scams are being perpetrated in multiple stages.  In the first stage a traditional email phishing scam is carried out.  Once the criminal has access to an employee’s email account, they will monitor the account for an extended period of time, sometimes up to several months.  During this time the fraudster is learning the financial processes of the target business.  They are learning if wire transfers are used, who initiates them as well as who typical requests them.  Emails are searched for key terms such as, but not limited to: invoice, deposit, president, and wire transfer.  Fraudsters are taking the time to familiarize themselves with the target business’ activities, organizational relationships, interests, as well as travel, or purchasing plans.

Once the reconnaissance phase of the fraud is completed the second phase of the con is initiated.  This portion comes in two different forms.  The first is known as a CEO Phishing Scam.  Crooks create a domain name that is nearly identical to the company’s and send a spoof email that appears to be from the CEO or other high ranking executive.  This email will look totally real and only a very careful reading of the email will give the targeted employee a chance of detecting any sort of problem.  The fraudster impersonating the high level executive requests a wire transfer be made.  The target employee believes that their superior has directed them to transfer funds and, being a good employee, the instructions are carried out.  Because they have spent so much time and effort getting ready to perpetrate this fraud, the criminals are able to create an utterly convincing fund request.  Before anyone has realized what has happened company money has disappeared.

In the second version of this scam, the email of someone within the targeted company responsible for billing and invoicing is taken over and used to send out legitimate appearing invoices instructing that payment be made by wire to a newly designated bank account.  Again, it would take intense scrutiny to notice anything wrong with this phony invoice.  One of the most nefarious aspect of these scams is that they are unlikely to be caught in any spam traps as these are targeted attacks and not mass emails.  These scams continue to grow and evolve as time goes by so it is important to be vigilant.  To protect themselves the FBI has urged businesses to adopt the following processes:

  • Create intrusion detection system rules that flag e-mails with extensions that are similar to company e-mail. For example, legitimate e-mail of com would flag fraudulent e-mail of abc-company.com.
  • Register all company domains that are slightly different than the actual company domain.
  • Verify changes in vendor payment location by adding additional two-factor authentication such as having a secondary sign- off by company personnel.
  • Confirm requests for transfers of funds. When using phone verification as part of the two-factor authentication, use previously known numbers, not the numbers provided in the e-mail request.
  • Know the habits of your customers, including the details of, reasons behind, and amount of payments.
  • Carefully scrutinize all e-mail requests for transfer of funds to determine if the requests are out of the ordinary.

At Midwest IT Solutions it is our job to monitor threats to your business.  We are IT experts ready to help defend you against any attack cybercriminals can dish out.  Don’t go it alone, contact the Midwest IT Solutions today!

Light Saber

Light Sabers could be real!!!

Take heart Star Wars fans, scientists have proven that lightsaber weapons are theoretically possible.  The weapons have been used to devastating effect by the likes of Yoda, Luke Skywalker, and Darth Vader.  Perhaps one day they can also be wielded by your friendly IT service professional, to help defend against Trade Federation loving Cryptolocker viruses or Sith Serving Identity Hackers!  Scientists at Harvard and MIT have identified a way to bind photons together in a manner that would cause them to behave like the elegant weapons developed for a more civilized age from George Lucas’ Star Wars movies.

 

These next few sentences are going to be a heavy lift, but stick with us, it will be worth it.  Writing in the journal Nature scientists explained that while their experiment results regarding the achievable nonlinear phase of the photons are limited by the linewidth of the laser used; these technical limitations can be overcome by using stronger control lasers with improved frequency stability.   At Midwest IT we help turn nerd speak into regular language; so what that means is lightsabers are possible!!!  Nerds rule!

 

Ok get ready we are about to get all physics geek again; speaking in the Guardian, Harvard University physics Professor Mikhail Lukin stated, “Most of the properties of light we know about originate from the fact that photons are massless and do not interact.  What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they act as though they have mass, and bind together to form molecules.  It’s not an in-apt analogy to compare this to lightsabers.  When these photons interact with each other, they’re pushing against and deflect each other.  The physics of what’s happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.”

 

We always knew that our practice fighting with lightsabers was going to pay off one day, it looks like that day is drawing closer.  At Midwest IT we are committed to remaining on the cutting edge of technology.  We do not know how utilizing light saber technology will help you grow your business, but rest assured we will be ready to deploy it when the time comes.

 

This development cannot come soon enough for the fans of the Star Wars universe.  With the holidays right around the corner and the newest edition of the movies set to hit theaters on the 18th kids of all ages are ready with our Jedi and Sith sounds effects.  Come on physicists we are ready THHHHWWWWWWWAAAAAAA!!!!

 

1st Test Drive : Windows 10

So I spent some time last night researching the new Windows 10 beta that Microsoft released to the public.  The reviews overall seemed good, although people mentioned that for some, it did completely crash their system and they were required to re-install.  (I guess it is the same risk as any other Windows Update then!)  Most people are recommending that you do not do this on your primary computer.  Since I am primarily functioning on my Surface Pro 3 now, and all of my files sync with our awesome Stratoshare program, I figured I could risk it on my home PC.  I decided to attempt the install via the Windows Update to try and keep all of my stuff!

First Impressions

I really like the overall look and feel.  I think it looks like a perfect mesh between Windows 7 and Windows 8.  My start menu did not initially work until I rebooted, but when it did finally show up I was impressed.  It is a mixture of the original start menu, but then has the tile look next to it.  The tiles are shrinkable and the area for them is able to expand to full screen.  The background of the menu is also partially transparent, which is a nice look.

Next to the start button, there is a Search the web and Windows box.  I have only dabbled with this a bit, but so far it seems pretty powerful.  I tested it by just typing Google in it.  My Chrome browser immediately opened up.  I also like the taskbar icons.  They put a lighter shade of the icon when it is open and a little line underneath.  The look is very clean.

The settings & other functions seem to be clean and easy to navigate as well.  The right click on the start menu also seems to give you about every option you would want, which is great for us tech guys that do not really need ease of use, but are looking for more speed and function.  So far, every application I have attempted to use has worked normal without any patching or upgrades.

windows 10

Install

So for the installation, I went to https://insider.windows.com/ and clicked Get Started.  From there the rest of the steps were very easy and explained well.  The beta wanted me to link my Live ID, and the download was about 2.4GB total.

Since I have only had it installed a few hours, I will post a follow up in a week or two.

Tech Budget : May

For small businesses to know what technology to invest in and how much to spend can be very difficult. Too often IT vendors seem to follow a mantra where they ask you to keep spending money as problems arise with no real plan.

Keeping a realistic IT budget can be challenging and many firms end up spending money on problems as they arise instead of proactively addressing issues.  Instead, look at your company goals on a 5 year scale.  This number works great for budgeting out IT expenses because all of your hardware will cycle through its life cycle in one 5 year period.  Planning your hardware purchases in  your annual budget is the first step.  Eliminating surprise expenses and providing peace of mind for our clients is our primary focus.

Not having old equipment that is out of warranty running on your network is the first step to keeping your system from having unexpected downtime.  It is possible to still have hardware issues while they are in warranty, however these problems multiply exponentially when you are operating with older, outdated equipment.  The manufacturer won’t warranty it after your initial purchase, why would you have your business production relying on it.

Midwest’s goal is to provide support and analysis of business needs so your firm can match its ROI with a planned budget every year. We also assist our clients with vendor management, evaluations, and negotiations. We’ve saved individual clients tens of thousands of dollars by helping them negotiate contracts that make sense for their business.

Midwest IT Referral Program!

An overview of the new referral program offered by Midwest IT. You and a friend can now win $100 Amazon gift cards!

We are looking for REFERRALS. And you can help us grow our family! Midwest IT was founded in 2005 and is known for it’s LEGENDARY CUSTOMER SERVICE! And we are looking to add a few customers TO GROW OUR FAMILY. Referral Requirements: Must have at least 15 users, already uses outsourced IT, and you must want a $100 Amazon card! And all you need to do is: WHAT YOU DO: You send an email to Midwest IT and the person you are referring! Midwest IT schedules an on site appointment with them. Once the meeting happens, you both get $100 AMAZON cards! AWESOMENESS!!! Help us to help YOUR FRIENDS, FAMILY & WORK ASSOCIATES. A simple email can: Help Grow Midwest IT! Help friends with better IT! Help you get some extra money. Send us your referrals TODAY. derek@midwest.cc Midwest IT Solutions www.midwest.cc