Envision IT - Louisville Computer Support

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JUL
07
2015

Windows Server 2003 End of Life is Looming

Envision IT  would like to inform you that Windows Server 2003 support is ending July 14, 2015. In the interest of protecting and informing our clients and others using Windows Server 2003, we share this information so that the necessary steps may be taken to safeguard the continuity of their systems.

Migrate before it’s too late:

  • No updates or patches after Windows Server 2003 end of life support
  • No compliance—or a complete lack thereof—with standards and regulations (HIPAA, PCI, and others)
  • No safeguards because instances of Windows Server 2003 will be susceptible and exposed

July 14, 2015 is right around the corner. This is the moment to ensure that you have a plan to migrate the applications and infrastructure currently relying on Windows Server 2003.

Envision IT recommends migrating to maintain optimal performance and security. If your business utilizes Windows Server 2003, contact us regarding your service and migration options. Call us today to discuss, 502-694-9446!

JUN
15
2015

Why is Software Patching Important?

For many businesses, especially those in the small to mid-size sector without Managed Servcies Support, basic network maintenance and IT security strategies can have a serious impact on the overall success of the company. The outcome of gaps in these areas are not only directly time consuming and costly to rectify, but could also lead to more serious threats to your company’s confidential data. One of the most basic principles of system maintenance and IT security is to implement regular software patching.

Microsoft, Adobe and Java products are operating in our technology components everywhere. Devices such as servers, desktops, laptops, and smartphones to name a few have all incorporated these products for various commonly used functions, and this ubiquitous nature is part of what makes these products attractive targets to hackers around the world. Mitigating your risks in this area through diligently managing and installing software patches (or updates) in a timely manner is not only a key activity but is also one of the most basic and easy actions for your IT department or managed IT provider to implement. Check with your IT support provider. If they do not currently manage this basic maintenance level activity, you should be asking them why.

Impact of Neglect
While patching servers is of moderate importance (malware infections are largely mitigated by a general lack of web browsing or the opening of potentially poisoned PDFs ), patching of workstations is critical. Without the proper safe guards such as up to date software and antivirus programs, malicious software such as malware, spyware, and viruses can be unknowingly injected into a PC through avenues like infected website advertisements and easily trick users into unwittingly installing something that can annoy the them at best or completely corrupt a Windows installation, steal confidential company data or financial documents, or ransom the user’s data at worst.

The direct costs of infections and/or breaches due to an unmaintained network can increase overall costs of network support and strain what are often tight technology budgets. For example, malware removal could take up to 2 hours per PC, and if the infection cannot be removed in that time, it often becomes more effective to either rebuild or scrap and replace the PC. The direct cost in the technician’s time to troubleshoot and/or the cost of new equipment coupled with the user’s downtime add up to a high price tag that could possibly have been avoided by proactively keeping up on software updates.

Simple Solutions
The second Tuesday of every month is what is known in the IT world as “Patch Tuesday” – the day Microsoft releases its latest batch of software updates for the products it sells and supports. These updates typically correct known issues with software programming, to improve system performance or application integration with Microsoft operating systems, and to address security vulnerabilities that have been found and/or exploited (also known as zero-day vulnerabilities). Microsoft will also, on occasion, release “out-of-band” patches if a zero-day vulnerability is actively and pervasively being exploited by malicious software. Microsoft does provide update management software free of charge (called Microsoft Windows Server Update Services, or WSUS) that can facilitate patch management and delivery to workstations in a managed domain environment. In smaller, workgroup environments, automatic updates can be set to download & install patches and reboot the PC at a specific time when it will minimize the impact on the end user’s productivity. Adobe and Java release their software patches with somewhat less regularity.

Although it is near impossible to completely prevent infections or breaches in a network that is attached to the Internet in any way, by not taking at least the basic preventative measures to protect your information technology investments and sensitive data, you may be inviting trouble right through your door.

Be sure to contact Envision IT today if you don’t have a monitored, software patching plan in place.

MAY
30
2014
Louisville Microsoft Tech Suppot

How Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Fix Reinforces the Need for Proactive IT Management

On Thursday, May 2nd, Microsoft issued an out-of-cycle security update to address the Internet Explorer security flaw publicly disclosed last week. The remote code execution vulnerability lured IE users, who make up over half of the Internet browser share, to click on malicious links, which potentially could have then granted hackers full control of individual PCs.

Microsoft reported that only a limited number of targeted attacks had been identified, but still urged users of Internet Explorer versions 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 to immediately install the patch. They even showed a little mercy on Windows XP users by pushing the update to that outdated OS, too. “When we saw the first reports about this vulnerability, we decided to fix it, fix it fast, and fix it for all of our customers,” said Adrienne Hall, general manger of Microsoft’s security unit.

This all-encompassing patch should resolve any Internet Explorer issues. However, don’t let the fix keep you from always following these rules of the road for smart, secure Internet usage:

DO NOT click ANY embedded links in email messages or on public web pages unless you know the sender or source DO NOT browse public web pages from PCs that access confidential data like credit card, protected health, or personally identifiable information Call a trusted IT provider BEFORE clicking on anything that appears suspicious, or if you think your computer has been affected

 

So how will this fix be implemented?

Microsoft said that, for customers who have automatic updates turned on, the security patch would install automatically. But many computers are wary of such programmed updates — and many don’t know how to verify they’re enabled.

Which is where proactive IT maintenance and monitoring comes in. Envision IT’s around-the-clock service began deploying the Internet Explorer patch less than 12 hours after Microsoft issued it, and many of our clients had it installed on their machines when they showed up to work on Friday. All without stressing over whether to click “Yes” when prompted for an unfamiliar update or waiting for an internal IT resource to come by their desk and manually install it.

Beyond keeping your computer safe from the hackers behind this recent Internet Explorer bug, how else can proactive IT services benefit your business?

  • By keeping your employees productive and efficient, which saves you money
  • By keeping your data and network secure, which gives you peace of mind
  • By keeping your systems running 24/7, which allows you to better serve your customers
  • By keeping your IT goals in focus, which helps you strategize for the future
  • By keeping human intelligence — high-level consultants, help desk technicians, and on-site support — in charge of your technology, which provides a valuable competitive edge in today’s rapidly evolving marketplace

 

Want to stop worrying about the security of your systems? Ready to stop spending hours trying to fix issues yourself? Contact Envision IT today to find out how we combine superior customer service with complete, proactive IT support.

AUG
14
2013
Envision IT - Louisville Network Security

5 Tips for Business Security

No business is too small for cyber-thieves to target. For National SMB Week, here are a few ways small businesses
can protect their data from thieves and their customers from malware.

By Fahmida Y. Rashid
Article Date: June 30, 2013 / PCMag.com

The most pervasive security myth is the one that has business owners sticking their heads in the sand,
ostrich-style. “It won’t happen to me,” small business owners say when they hear about targeted attacks,
phishing scams, and sophisticated malware. “I’m too small for the criminals to bother with,” they think,
when they hear about data breaches, network intrusions, and website attacks.

If that was ever true, it’s wishful thinking today. It’s increasingly clear that cyber-criminals don’t look at the
size of the company when launching their attacks. Data is data, and even the smallest organization has
valuable data the criminals can steal and sell. The days of “I’m too small for them to find me” are long
gone. In many cases, the small business may just be a stepping point in a chain of attacks, with the
criminals targeting the smaller and weaker networks as part of a comprehensive campaign against larger
partners.

Both the volume and sophistication of attacks are growing, making it difficult for SMBs to keep up their
defenses. In honor of National SMB Week, the Certificate Authority Security Council has provided a few
simple steps SMBs can follow to secure their online presence. With these tips, business owners can make
sure their site visitors can safely visit, search, enter personal information, and complete a transaction.

Passwords Are Essential

The first suggestion is to “Create unbreakable passwords” for accounts related to your online presence,
such as the domain registrar, hosting account, SSL provider, social media, and PayPal, among others,
said Rick Andrews, technical director of Symantec, on the behalf of CASC. While there is a lot of
discussion about the need for better authentication schemes, passwords are still the main way to protect
online accounts, making strong passwords essential.

Criminals can easily set up computers to cycle through random combinations to brute-force attacks. If the
password is weak, this process takes very little time. PCMag.com recommends using a password
manager
to randomly generate strong passwords and to store them securely. If the service offers
two-factor authentication, you should really take advantage of the extra layer of protection.

Scan Your Sites

Websites can be infected with malware, just like your PC. Regularly scan your site for vulnerabilities and
malware. Attackers can take advantage of vulnerabilities to infect the site with malware or inject malicious
code to redirect visitors somewhere else. Infected sites may load slowly, display unwanted
advertisements, and infect user computers with malware. Look for a site scanner—something like
StopTheHacker Web-Malware Scanning, that will monitor your site for problems and alert you when
necessary.

Update & Patch

Is your Web server regularly being updated and patched? It’s not just the server, though—your Website
also needs to be regularly patched. If you used a popular content management system (CMS) such as
WordPress or e-commerce platform such as Zen Cart, then you need to make sure you are updating your
software regularly. Attackers frequently target plugins in WordPress, so installing patches regularly is a must.
Check with your hosting provider or site maintainer to find out if all the software is being updated on a regular basis.

“Updates must be installed on your website, just like installing the latest
Windows Updates on your PC,” Andrews said.

SSL Certificates

Consumers need to trust you are a legitimate business, and SSL certificates help verify your identity. No
site should attempt to collect personal information or e-commerce without a trustworthy SSL certificate to
assure users their information is safe.

Don’t Lose Control

No matter who you hire to work on your site, the business should always retain control of the domain
name, SSL certificate, and actual Website. It’s all too common for business owners to hire someone to
build their website, and when that person leaves, there goes the only person with access to the SSL,
domain name, and hosting account. It’s harder to add people to the account or transfer ownership when
the original account holder is not around. If building and maintaining the website is outsourced to a third
party, make sure someone within the organization is also on the accounts to retain control. If the
employee leaving is the one who had access to the accounts, make sure to add a new person to the
account beforehand. This way you will be able to still manage your certificate, domain name, and hosting
account.

This article originally published June 30th, 2013 on PCMag.com

AUG
08
2013
Envision IT - Louisville IT Support

What Does IT Support Offer Your Business?

Every business at some time or another will need IT support. When times are busy the last thing that staff members need is to stop what they are doing to deal with IT problems. These are best left to professionals, and IT support is available in various formats. Businesses can choose to hire a full-time IT professional, or outsource to another company to cover any issues that may arise.

What does IT support involve?

The chosen IT professionals will examine the existing network within the business to ensure that it meets specified requirements, is running efficiently, and has proper security in place to protect business and client data.

IT support can also extend to the company’s telecommunications. This could mean dealing with the installation of phone lines, the set up of smartphones per company policies, or installing an entire VoIP phone systems. More and more companies are relying on mobile devices in the field for their communications, and having a professional on hand to provide security advice is sensible. What happens when one of those devices turns up missing? How much company and client data could someone access? As more employees bring their own devices (BYOD), there’s more need for companies to make sure their data is protected from wherever it can be accessed.

Getting the right IT support

As there are plenty of options for IT support it can be hard to know where to start. Getting a good deal from an external organization is important, but given that services on offer can be very similar then prices will often be very similar too.

A business may need a specialized service such as data protection, HIPAA compliance, POS, etc. So with this in mind, a specialist professional should be sought. It is important to know that the appointed IT professional is local but will also be available to help in the event that the business decides to move or expand. Off-site monitoring is a bonus but it is worth noting that physical visits will be needed from time to time.

A large firm will offer a wide range of IT services while a smaller one-man band may be a little limited in how much help they can provide. A bigger firm can be an advantage for a company that has multiple sites but it may lack the personal touch that many people expect these days. Most companies will expect to have a long-term relationship with their IT professionals, so it is important to know that a good relationship can be built with them.

A dedicated account manager is often a bonus as it gives the company a single point of contact in the event of a problem. The account manager should be able to fully explain all details of the service agreement and both parties’ obligations at the start of the contract.

Look for a firm that can guarantee their response times. It is important to know that the business will not be left waiting for days on end for the IT firm to get around to fixing a problem. The Service Level Agreement should include a clear statement on how long the maximum waiting time is for a visit. The technicians may not be able to fix the problem immediately, but they should at least be out fairly quickly to inspect it and make an assessment.

If you think you might be in need of local, Louisville IT support, we’d like to talk to you.

JUL
23
2013
Louisville Windows XP Support End Of Life

Windows XP End Of Life

Everyone still using Windows XP and Office 2003 has less than nine months to upgrade to newer platforms before Microsoft pulls the plug on all support April 8, 2014. If you’re still a Windows XP user, you’re not alone, as it still runs on 39% of computers currently in use.

When Microsoft ends support April 8th of next year, there will be no more security patches, bug fixes, and free (or even paid) online assistance. Without support, businesses who still run Windows XP will run a great risk of having their systems, networks, and data exposed and compromised by cyber criminals who will look to immediately find fresh ways to exploit the 12-year old operating system. An operating system that was launched in 2001 when crimeware barely existed.

For businesses that have not yet begun to migrate their system to a modern operating system, Microsoft will put it bluntly – “you are late.” According to their research, the average enterprise deployment can take 18 to 32 months in enterprise organizations.

Those who continue to use Windows XP after Microsoft pulls the plug cannot hope to rely solely on firewalls and anti-virus software to protect their machines from malware. Such protection works only for known threats. If some new “zero-day” (ie, previously unknown and therefore unprepared for) flaw in the operating system is exploited, no amount of anti-virus software will save an XP computer from being seriously compromised.

If you haven’t made plans for migration, now is the time. Companies that run line of business applications designed for XP are sometimes having to make other accommodations for their software, and those discoveries are much easier to deal with during planned migrations rather than rushed decisions near the end of support deadline. If you don’t have a plan in place, I urge you to contact a partner who is certified in Microsoft software, and can help your business develop and implement  your migration. We can take you through the entire process, from planning to answering questions about the new operating system once in place.

JUL
18
2013
Envision IT - Louisville Data Backup And Disaster Recovery

Data loss often leads to data failure.

Take a moment to imagine what would happen if all your business data were gone tomorrow. Does the thought make you queasy? If that’s not enough to make you sick, according to DTI/PricewaterhouseCoopers, seven out of 10 small firms that experience a major data loss go out of business within a year. Even if your data is recoverable, it can take days to deal with a major server outage when old backup technologies are used.

Many business owners don’t realize they are at risk. Many think they are protected, only to find out the hard way that they were far more exposed than they thought. Even more think, “well gosh, that will never happen to me.”

Little did they know.

Here are some of their REAL LIFE stories.

– A cell phone dealer with a retail storefront went out of business after a drunk driver smashed into the store, causing a fire that burned down the entire building.

– A company in a high-rise office building had excellent backups onsite, but only took data offsite every couple of weeks. A pipe in the sprinkler system froze, flooding their office with more than 17,000 gallons of water when it thawed. They were lucky — the water didn’t touch the server.

– An out-of-control truck ran off the road and into a building, destroying a company’s entire server room. This company was well prepared: offsite backups and a standby server got them up and running almost immediately.

– A business consulting practice had their UPS catch fire. It melted their server and backup system and also damaged several other companies in the building. They nearly went out of business.

– After investing in new systems, a doctor went back to an older medical records system she preferred that was running on an aging server. She didn’t have the software to reinstall it when the server finally crashed, so she lost access to her patients’ records for weeks.

– A financial services company failed to change passwords after an employee left on bad terms. Shortly thereafter, their server was hacked with a virus bomb that wiped out most of their data. Eventually the backup was restored, but they were hit with regulatory penalties and had to provide identity theft protection to all their customers because of the data breach.

– Thieves used a plasma cutter to break into a company through the warehouse loading door. Despite the loud alarms, they were able to cut all the wires connecting the computers and servers, yank them out and make off with them before the police arrived. They lost everything.

– An attorney’s office diligently swapped their tapes every night. Turns out, the tapes were never formatted, so they were blank. In over a year’s time, no one ever caught the backup failure (in the logs, in bright red print).

– Consultants came in to perform an Exchange e-mail migration. Due to an error on their part, much of the data was lost. When they tried to restore from the backup (set up by internal IT staff), it didn’t work either. After plenty of finger-pointing, they got to work and were able to recover most of their e-mail.

– An audio/visual company with terabytes of video was flooded during heavy spring rains. When they went to restore from backup, it didn’t work, so they sent their hard drives to a data recovery specialist. After $20,000 in data recovery bills, they discovered their network support company didn’t set it up properly. The backup had never run, not even once, so they lost years of customer video. This company is now a fraction of its former size.

– Another company had a beautifully organized tape backup, with everything labeled and neatly stored in the basement, behind the elevator. When they finally needed to recover data files, they found that the magnetic field from the elevator had erased all the tapes.

– One company thought they’d accounted for every possible scenario, until a van hit a nearby power pole. The resulting power surge was akin to a direct lightning strike and shorted out every electronic device in the entire building, even the coffee maker! Fortunately, a new server, an image-based backup and offsite data storage saved the day. They were back in action within a few days.

Don’t be a victim!

To make sure you don’t become the next story, here’s what you need to put in place:

  • New, image-based backup technology, that backs up the entire server instead of just the data files. This will allow for speedy recovery in case of problems. You can restore to a new machine without any trouble, often within a matter of minutes.
  • Onsite backup to a hard-drive-based device, such as a NAS (network attached storage device) or a standby server. Tape backups are slow and too unreliable.
  • Keep a standby server or make sure you have a way to obtain a new server in less than 24 hours (depending on your tolerance for downtime). If you ever need to recover from a serious hardware failure, you’ll need something you can use to restore your systems.
  • Offsite backup, ideally an Internet-based solution that doesn’t rely on someone in your office remembering to take something with them each day. Make sure there’s a way to have the data shipped to you in an emergency, as large data stores can take days to download.
  • Regular verification of your backup process. It is not safe to assume your backup is working. Test it regularly to be sure. That means testing data recovery, not just checking to see that the backup job is still running.


If you address all these points, you will be as disaster-proof as possible, able to recover from nearly anything life throws at you. If you ignore even one of these points, you are still at risk and will have to rely on hope as your data recovery strategy. The unlucky businesses mentioned in this story are proof that hope isn’t always enough.

If you’re concerned about your business’s backup, don’t wait until it’s too late. Contact us now!