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News
Jan
17
Sepctre Meltdown Recording and Slide Deck
Posted by Amy Babinchak on 17 January 2018 11:25 AM

The content of what you should be doing is still in flux and will be changing over the next couple of months as vendors prepare (and test!) their firmware updates. Meanwhile you should begin by inventorying your install base so you know which firmware you need to acquire. You will also need to determine if you have servers and workstations that cannot manage the performance hit that these fixes are going to cause. You also will need to get your clients buy-in if you plan to leave some areas vulnerable.

There are currently two exploits in the wild. There will be more. This is the most significant and largest impact security flaw that has ever been discovered. We can expect more to come now that the first person has broken the code into the black box we call the processor. So get used to the process and we’re betting that you’ll need to repeat it.

Remember, if you need assistance making your plan, finding information, implementing the fixes, that Third Tier is here to help you. It’s what do. We help IT professionals just like you. Open a ticket at https://helpdesk.thirdtier.net

You can download the recording here and the slide deck here. You’ll want both as we’ve included many resource and educational links for you. Keep an eye here on the blog for an announcement in the March-April timeframe for our next webinar on this topic. By then we should be ready for the firmware phase of this process and have more information for you about exploits in the wild.

______________________________________

About Third Tier

Established in 2008, Third Tier only works for IT Professionals by providing them with access to advanced support services. No one can know it all these days, so we give IT pros a place to go to get the hands on support they need in areas they normally don’t work in or problems they’ve never encountered. We also work on projects, fix their accounting practices and do many, many migrations and other installations. Our staff covers a wide range of technologies.

Website: http://www.thirdtier.net

Helpdesk: https://helpdesk.thirdtier.net

Blog: http://www.thirdtier.net/blog


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Jan
15
Webinar tomorrow How to Handle Meltdown and Spectre
Posted by Amy Babinchak on 15 January 2018 08:57 AM

The prospect of patching and updating firmware to protect systems, servers and IoT devices against the CPU vulnerabilities called Meltdown and Spectre are tapping out the resources of IT firms everywhere. Couple that with uncertainly of performance hits and the shifting landscape of what patches are available and which have been recalled and the result is that many are simply ignoring the problem.

Meltdown allows a local, user-land (unprivileged) process to read contents of any memory mapped to the process. This includes kernel memory and this is why this vulnerability is dangerous. Imagine your browser being able to read the contents of any other open application. Imagine one virtual machine being able to read data from another virtual machine. It's a phone, a PC, a firewall, a managed switch than can be the culprit of this intrusion. This is what is at stake. There's no longer a safe isolated place for any application on your network.

Our resident security professional, Susan Bradley, will give us the details as well as how we should be tackling this problem from the IT side. 

Join us tomorrow at Noon Pacific time for this important webinar. Download the calendar invitation Or use the following URL at the appropriate time. https://meet.lync.com/harborcomputerservices/amy/09FBMRSW

 


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Dec
7
Configuring Shared Mailboxes in Office 365
Posted by Amy Babinchak on 07 December 2017 03:42 PM

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Nov
13
Becoming a successful cloud-era MSP
Posted by Amy Babinchak on 13 November 2017 11:17 AM

 

service success

I’ll put my bias right up front. I’ve owned an MSP for 17 years and I’ve never understood the movement toward a less service-oriented business model nor one that depends on the continuous churn of sales margin. At many conferences over the years, I’ve heard how we all need to make everything into a process and automate it using tools, not people. Tools definitely have their place, but they should never be used to replace service. Business turns on the quality and breadth of services your offer. Managed. Services. Professional. Service is literally in the middle of things, in the thick of it, at the center of what we do and it needs to be a passion for the successful cloud-era MSP.

You’ve been migrating your clients into the cloud, but have you migrated your own business practices, procedures, offerings, contracts? Have you figured out how your business model remains relevant to your client once they are fully in the cloud? Have you determined what makes your business unique when everything from helpdesk to business continuity to licensing is a commodity? Everything is going to become a commodity very quickly, including cloud-era MSP services.

Make no mistake, this is going to be a difficult process for many. We’re all off to the cloud, and MSPs need to start changing their monitoring and maintenance practices. The new cloud-era MSP needs to focus on what is important to the client now that their data and applications are in the cloud.

The focus as always needs to be on the business, but because we’ve moved our clients from on-premises to at least hybrid infrastructure environments, it’s a whole new world, and if you think delivering helpdesk and monitoring as your primary client interaction is going to carry your MSP well into the future, it is time for a look in the mirror, because this is a losing strategy. While it’s true that helpdesk is the center of every IT practice, as a cloud-era MSP you are going to have to build new practices around it. What do your clients truly value that you provide today? I suggest that you not answer that question but instead query your client base. Use the Forms app in your Office 365 subscription to let them rank your current service offerings in importance anonymously. Ask them if they even knew that you offer those services first. You might be surprised at the results, but they will help clarify what you should carry forward and what you want to drop or rebrand.

I did this with my clients. I had already shifted my business toward cloud-related services that I thought would be most useful to business in the moving to full cloud part of this great migration, so I was pretty certain that I knew what they were going to say. I was right! And I was wrong!

The survey says

We asked clients what they are the most interested in.

cloud-era MSP

From the graph above we see two pretty distinct things. Companies are concerned about whether they are headed in the right direction with their technology. This makes sense because we’re in a time of great change. They are also rightly concerned about ransomware and other types of attack. This also makes sense because it’s been everywhere in the news. What we need to do, as a successful cloud-era MSP, is make sure that they see us for the leaders that we are on these issues.

The second thing that we see is that these businesses are not yet worried about who has their data, staying in compliance with regulations, or figuring out how best to use the new technology at this disposal. However, the red item indicates that they are wondering if their staff is up to the task.

Another question we asked was if there was anything in this list that they didn’t know we offered to them. We feel like we’re talking about these items until we’re blue in the face, but obviously some of the messages are not getting through. Everyone knew that that we did server and cloud migrations, but there were some glaring items that they claimed to not know. Gotta say that this made me and my staff quite sad. We’re doing some great work in these areas for some of our clients but obviously we’ve got more work to. We need to raise awareness of our full skillset.

Here’s what they said:

cloud-era MSP

These are items that we’ve been talking to our clients about via our blog and in one-on-one meetings. Interestingly, the responses also tell us where they have not received our message. Sure we’ve changed internally, but did we communicate that well enough to our clients? It seems not. The absolute most disturbing item in this list was vendor management. We do this every day for every client and yet it was the highest-rated item that they had no idea we did. That budgeting, training, and LOB consulting also ranked so high was also disturbing.

If you sell something, tell your clients when you deliver it

Words are important. In IT, we use certain words and phrases to refer to things that we do, and those words don’t necessarily have any meaning to our clients. Take the example of vendor management. Why do our clients not know that we provide this service to them? We spend a great deal of time working with our clients’ vendors. For example, clients call us when they have a problem with their leased copier, and we work with the copier company to resolve the issue. The copier company in turn calls us when they need to schedule a firmware upgrade. When it’s time to make a purchase from a vendor, we do the research and bring forth the best options. This is vendor management to us.

However, in our survey, vendor management is something that our clients say they weren’t aware that we do. That’s 100 percent on us. A look in our ticket portal where we record the work that we’ve done for each client and there’s no vendor management there for any client. We are not using those words and yet the words vendor management are in our contract as a service we offer and on our website for prospective customers. I have since implemented a standardization of our helpdesk ticket subjects that matches the list of services that we have told clients we are performing under our contract so that they can match them up. It seems so elementary.

As the migration to the cloud continues, our clients will be working with more vendors, not fewer, because every application and app has a different vendor. Managing those vendor relations will become a bigger part of the work that we and any cloud-era MSP needs to do — and that your clients expect to be done. This is a growing area, and our clients need to know that we’re on top of it. No longer is the MSP the sole provider, or maybe they are, but the reality is that your client knows that you don’t make the VOIP system or own Salesforce or Office 365 or their copier lease but they definitely expect you to manage it for them.

Where does a cloud-era MSP go from here?

As I have just shown, you can think that you’re doing something for a client but they don’t know it. You can prepare and train your staff, but just because you’re doing that work for some of your client-base — budgeting and training, as examples — doesn’t mean that the others have realized that you offer these services. Perhaps the only reason you aren't doing more consulting services is because your clients don’t know that they can call on you to do it? Instead of saying “we do this,” we’re going to shift into case studies and hope that our clients might see themselves in those examples.

A friend of mine uses the obnoxious phase “always be pimping” to explain that you need to continue to over and over again communicate your services to your clients. It’s not enough to “land the contract”; instead you need to continuously educate the client to nurture that contract into the coming era. That’s what being a successful cloud-era MSP is all about.

_____________________________

About Third Tier

Established in 2008, Third Tier only works for IT Professionals by providing them with access to advanced support services. No one can know it all these days, so we give IT pros a place to go to get the hands on support they need in areas they normally don’t work in or problems they’ve never encountered. We also work on projects, fix their accounting practices and do many, many migrations and other installations. Our staff covers a wide range of technologies.

Website: http://www.thirdtier.net

Helpdesk: https://helpdesk.thirdtier.net

Blog: http://www.thirdtier.net/blog

 


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Nov
10
4 ways to thwart Ransomware in Windows 10
Posted by Amy Babinchak on 10 November 2017 11:02 AM

 

4 protections

Windows 10 Fall 2017 (version 1709) has introduced some excellent new features for protecting against ransomware. Using Windows Defender the big 4 features are Exploit Protection, Attack Surface Reduction (formerly EMET), Network Protection and Controlled Folder Access. Together they mount for formidable defense.

Block Ransomware

But…

There’s a big caveat in this whole protection scheme. You must have Windows Defender as your primary anti-virus solution and you’ll be best protected if you use Edge. If you just cringed, it is time to throw out your preconceived notions about Defender and Edge and take a fresh unprejudiced look. The protections in Defender are quite significant and worth youy time to implement, configure and use.

None of these feature are configured out of the box. They have to be turned on and configured with group policy or powershell. Some of them require the building of while lists to make them user friendly. You won’t be deploying this without first developing your plan.

Ransomware Prevention Kit

We will be adding configuration for these features as the primary protection for Windows 10 in our Ransomware Prevention Kit. The paper is written. The field testing is in progress. Meanwhile take a fresh look at Defender. I think you’ll come away realizing that it’s come a long way since its introduction and Microsoft is serious about protecting Windows from invaders.

_____________________________

About Third Tier

Established in 2008, Third Tier only works for IT Professionals by providing them with access to advanced support services. No one can know it all these days, so we give IT pros a place to go to get the hands on support they need in areas they normally don’t work in or problems they’ve never encountered. We also work on projects, fix their accounting practices and do many, many migrations and other installations. Our staff covers a wide range of technologies.

Website: http://www.thirdtier.net

Helpdesk: https://helpdesk.thirdtier.net

Blog: http://www.thirdtier.net/blog


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Nov
1
Corrected: Amy on Cyber Security podcast
Posted by Amy Babinchak on 01 November 2017 02:02 PM

Correction: Embed code fail. It was beautiful in the preview! Alas, I've now just included the link to the podcast for you.

I was recently a guest on M2TechCast. It's a podcast on technical topics for businesses. I spoke about cyber security. It's a 12 minute segment aimed mostly a small business people that are somewhat technical. For a hyper-local podcast is a has a good following of about 6,000.  You can listen to it here

https://soundcloud.com/podcastdetroit/m2techcast-episode-101-nicole-passuit-tech-stack

About Third Tier

Established in 2008, Third Tier only works for IT Professionals by providing them with access to advanced support services. No one can know it all these days, so we give IT pros a place to go to get the hands on support they need in areas they normally don’t work in or problems they’ve never encountered. We also work on projects, fix their accounting practices and do many, many migrations and other installations. Our staff covers a wide range of technologies. Use us to help your staff get more done.

Website: http://www.thirdtier.net

Helpdesk: https://helpdesk.thirdtier.net

Blog: http://www.thirdtier.net/blog



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