The tech that should shape your business in 2022

technology trends

All the way back in January 2021, I wrote an article about what technology trends would shape your business in 2021. Looking back on those predictions, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that for many of our customers these technologies certainly did just that. If the pandemic continues to rear its ugly head some of what I said last year will still echo very true this year. You can read that article HERE.

However, the show must go on. For 2022 I am looking forward to what the new normal has become and how the technology we leverage every day can and must adapt to fit this need. Alongside this, I am exploring the tools, advancements and innovations that will change the way your business operates.

I always want to take these opportunities at the start of the year, to introduce or to develop your understanding of the technology trends we as a leading IT provider are seeing coming over the horizon. Ultimately these are what your business should and will be looking into and adopting to keep your business is safe, secure and able to compete in today’s busy market.

 

Cloud Services

Here we go again… Another year, another year of the cloud. I may have said this last year, and for that matter the last 2 years before that. Cloud Services, be that in the form of IaaS (Infrastructure as a service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) or SaaS (Software as a service), will change your business in 2022 regardless of if you want to let it.

The reason I say this is because we are no longer in an IT landscape where as a consumer you can choose how to run many of the platforms or software your business uses. Your ERP or MIS, most of these platforms are or have completely moved to SaaS or PaaS offering in 2022.

Take Sage for example, the development of this product as nearly completely killed-off on premise or as a standalone. The focus is on the delivery of the cloud hosted version. That may be with Sage directly or one of their key partners.

cloud technology trends

The bad news for IT managers who are cloud adverse or cloud sceptical?

Now is time to change your mind and move with the industry or risk getting left behind with systems and solutions that will only age and cause you greater issues down the road.

Continuing on the vain on SaaS, Microsoft continue to also drive services across to Microsoft 365 in favour of the cloud hosted, forever updated version of their tools vs the previous on premise products, I’m looking at your Endpoint Manager (Intune). This product is going from strength to strength. However it is doing so off the back of SCCM and ultimately galvanising the features from this well-established platform but developing them on Microsoft’s Cloud service. This leaves the on premise version to simply hook into the cloud and co-exist rather than get any substantial upgrades itself.

With businesses that implemented cloud services in 2020 and 2021, they saw an decrease in running costs of up to 50% and an increase in uptime and productivity up to 99.99%. This makes the cloud space one that from a CFO point of view cannot be ignored and from the position of the wider business can only make day to day IT services better.

If you take anything from this about Cloud service, let it be this; They are here to stay. They are the key focus for all software vendors and it’s a case of be onboard or be left behind.

 

A New World for Back-Up and DR

Building off of what I have said above about Cloud Services, the world of back-up and Disaster Recovery is also dramatically changing. This is twofold; you no longer have all your data sat locally on servers, storage and systems, which a local back up can collect and protect. Also, the fact that now, if your data is in a public cloud provider with a 99.99999% uptime guarantee, are you really going to move this data from them to a private datacentre or back to on-premise?

This change is making many businesses have to rip up their back up and DR strategies. For many IT Managers, Business Owners and Businesses, this is causing some hard conversations.

My take on the situation is simple.. Look at what you have now and where your business will be at the end of 2022. If your data is mostly moving to PaaS and SaaS solutions then you need to ensure that as data is moved that each of these providers or systems has a solid separate back up in place. Now for a platform like Microsoft Azure this does not need to be off platform but it needs to be in a different location. So with Azure we would look at Geo Redundancy or even multi-Geo Redundancy leveraging the technologies and services of Microsoft to back up your data to their other datacentres across the globe. If the system is 3rd party hosted like Sage, which I mentioned above, then you need a tool and a location which is away from this provider to store your data. For this I would always recommend looking at AWS, GCP or Microsoft Azure as the level of protection and guarantees you get from these providers is 10 fold that of a private or local storage solution.

If we look at wider IaaS and Infrastructure backup solutions and DR these also need to change. The first thing I will say on this is that tape back up’s are going the way of the dinosaur. (To be honest they should have gone a few years ago). While the logic of having a removable magnetic tape sounds like the right decision for all businesses. In the past few years we have seen that these devices don’t hold up in a DR situation and if they do, they are often too slow to react.

The best solution a business in 2022 can implement is to have an immutable back up in place. This is based on technology and tools that allow for near instant recovery. As we have seen time and time again businesses cannot support multi-hour or day outages in a disaster. Traditional back up technologies and techniques are beginning to leave business’s vulnerable to large periods of downtime in a true disaster situation.

If you are thinking about how your business should be protected in 2022, why not reach out to the team and we can talk you through in detail the cloud era back up approach to support your business.

human firewall

The Human Firewall

I said it last year and I will say it every year until I go blue in the face! We need to invest as much time into training our staff to ensure they can be safe and secure when using the systems and solutions that as a business we expect them to use. That is why in 2022 The Human Firewall continues to be one of the key areas of development we believe all business should be investing heavily into.

By this we mean training your staff to know what is safe and is not safe in the digital world and how to prevent risks to the business.

Now with this there has never been a one size fits all approach. There is however a logical approach which will prevent your business being open to risks that exist on your doorstep. We can teach our staff in 2022 to stop, deal with and report these problems. By doing this, then we increase the ability of a business to be robust and secure and remove the guesswork from the technology we need to ensure a business is safe. This coupled with MFA massively reduces the risk of account credentials being compromised.

For me as we enter 2022, the Year of the Human Firewall (2021) continues and I am now campaigning for the decade of the Human Firewall! So please go and train your staff and protect your business!

 

Silicone…. Oh Silicone

For some reason I have left the doom and gloom to last, but it has to be said that what ultimately will shape many businesses in 2022 is the continuing silicone and chip shortages. We are now 2 years into this problem and it is not getting better. We have all felt it. Consumer devices like the PS5 and Xbox Series X which where like gold dust for another Christmas. Servers and Laptops which are still being delayed by months at a time. We will all continue to feel the pain while the chip making industry rushes to fix the supply and demand issue.

As a cautionary tale for 2022, if your organisation is looking at a large refresh or even a big project this year which is time critical, think and act early when it comes to device purchasing.

We have seen wireless access points being delayed by 365 days from certain vendors in 2021. If your new office space or move is critical then this could cause you serious issues. Alongside this you have to think that every business will be in the same boat in 2022 so don’t be the one who gets caught out by lead times. I would also say don’t hold your breath for a new car any time soon as it seems the motor industry, with its love hate relationship with technology providers, has finally realised it’s not good to be at the bottom of the queue!

 

To stay ahead of the trend…

In conclusion 2022, like 2021 and 2020 before it is going to be a very different year to the 10’s that proceeded it. Cyber criminals and the threat landscape changing everyday, new vulnerabilities and risks appearing on a daily basis, for systems which are integrated in all of our lives and with potentially dramatic effect. However as business owners, technical professionals or employees we need to switch our approach and ensure we are using these changes to make our business ready for this continually changing landscape as we move forward. Think forward, think ahead and don’t get caught out by 2022 as I believe it will be a huge year for IT change.

 

If you want to talk to one of our experts about how we can help you in 2022 then please call 01235 433900 or you can email enquires@planet-it.net or if you would like to speak to me directly you can reach out to me via LinkedIn or at james.dell@planet-it.net.

2021 – The Big Technology Winners & Losers

2021 Best and Worst Technology

Just over a year ago, I sat down to write a technology review of 2020. We had just seen the single biggest transformation that had happened to global businesses in the last 20 years!

The digital acceleration forced upon businesses as COVID-19 hit and government lockdowns continued changed the way that businesses needed to operate. Those who had failed to invest in their IT systems very quickly came unstuck. Businesses looked at their IT teams and demanded their systems be brought up to date.

(If you missed it, you can still read last year’s article HERE)

Entering 2021, I knew it was going to be the year of the cloud, and it very much has proven to be. The global silicone shortages impacting chip production alone assured this. For many business the only choice has to been to go to public cloud and leave the traditional on-premise infrastructure behind. Because of this, and what has turned into a challenging year for different, but somewhat the same reasons as 2020, here is my list of the 2021 winners and losers…

Winners

 

Public Cloud

Both Microsoft and Amazon have this year continued to gather businesses in their ever growing datacenters. This proves that business are finally coming around to the fact that some things can be done better if you let the industry giants do it. I have long believed the future was public cloud. 2020 proved this point with 2021 then accelerating this at a rate that was far beyond anything we thought possible. Business who were steadfast against the cloud removed barriers to get into Microsoft, Amazons and Google’s systems.

Public cloud will in my option continue to be one of the biggest drivers in 2022, with many businesses having an approach of either on-premise with hybrid cloud or full public cloud in 2022. The focus on compliance and data security by the big three continues to make private cloud a challenge to uptake for many businesses as they struggle to complete with the tools and level of protection that Amazon, Microsoft and Google can invest in. Just remember, when moving to Public Cloud that it is a shared responsibility model!!!

Public Cloud

 

Intel

What a difference a year can make! 12 months ago Intel was a shell of its former glory and was looking like a Marvel hero at the end of Infinity War (*Spoolers the hero’s don’t do well in that movie).

With the desktop processor being stuck on an architecture which AMD and Apple had long since surpassed limited to core counts and feeling like it could be a tough 2021 for big blue. Well this all changed with the return of a titan in Pat Gelsinger, after his stint with VMware. Pat returned to put Intel back on the path that he had started them on some 8 years before and successfully accelerated the new chip design out the door.

Dubbed “Alder Lake” the new Intel desktop processor line-up moves away from the traditional design to mirror that of Apple with E and P Cores (Efficiency and Performance). The focus being that E cores can use less power and thus make your laptop battery run for longer. The P cores can be activated to drive the system forward when it needs to complete some heavy compute tasks. These processors were released under the 12-Generation banner and have received praise from across the technology landscape. Windows 11 has specifically taking advantage of the core design and then have shown an experience well above that of the AMD processor with their all power core design.

This has been a good year for Intel and with Pat back in charge, I think we are likely to see them continue to battle Team Red for years to come.

 

Microsoft Windows 11

Windows 10 will be the last operating system you ever need, said Microsoft in 2015.

Well, 6 years later we are all upgrading to Windows 11, a very well thought-out and great overhaul of the Windows operating system. We now have some of the best features of MacOS and Linux with the trusted platform of Windows 10 providing its core.

I am a massive advocate of Windows 11, even if the naming convention is getting a little stupid (but then they could have called it Windows 21 then we all would have been in a much worse place).

In my review of Windows 11 I warned that early upgrades for business can be risky and that Windows 11 offers some challenges. Well I am glad to say, 3 months on my daily driver still remains on Windows 11 and my home device has even been given the upgrade with no real issues to speak off.

I think Microsoft have placed Windows 11 in a great position to be the operating system for businesses and home users in 2022. Hopefully by the later part of 2022 most devices will have moved from Windows 10 and we will finally see the death of Windows 7 (well, a man can dream right?)

windows 11 launch

Losers

 

Private Datacenters

On the exact reverse of the rise of public cloud we continue to see the need for private data center hosting reduce.

Many businesses are asking the question; “what can you do better that AWS, GCP or Azure?”. In the past, this difference was a clear winning feature for private cloud, however as time moves on the realisation that what are ultimately smaller players in the hosting market aren’t able to compete with the uptime, security, financial protection and costs that public cloud offers.

While I still strongly believe there are use cases for private cloud, I think the salesman’s arguments of it being “safer” than the public cloud have all been proven to be subjective and businesses should ultimately choose the best solution for them.

Apple

Second year in a row for Apple in this category, and no it’s not Apple Hate!

Apple have been hit pretty hard this year by two factors: the chip shortages and then a lack of interest in the products in a year where many people upgraded midterm.

2020 has seen Apple’s shares drop quite heavily against the backdrop of a lack of device production and thus device sales. Hopefully for Apple this gives them a kick to invent something new or dramatically different in 2022. As the company that coined the phrase “Think Different” it’s about time they did exactly that.

Apple macbook

Onsite Infrastructure

The downturn of on premise infrastructure continued in 2021 with devices being hard to source due to the chip shortage. Add this to the move to the cloud and we can easily see the onsite infrastructure requirement drop down to a new low. However, we expect this to come back with a vengeance in 2022 as kit becomes available and business adjust to a hybrid approach.

Unfortunately for on premise infrastructure this is being held back considerably by the global supply issues and less so by peoples want for the technology.

 

There has been many more winners this year, with business firing on all cylinders in 2021. However, we have also seen that this year some of the losers have taken a much bigger hit than expected.

I think the major take away for 2022 is that the IT landscape was changed by 2020 in a major way. The needs and wants of business have adjusted and now, as IT professionals, we need to fit around the needs of 2022 and onwards and stop looking to legacy for the solutions.

Whatever 2022 brings I am excited to be at the forefront of matching our customers to the latest and greatest technical solutions.

It’s Time Your Business Adopted UEM, And This Is Why!

UEM Endpoint Device Management

The way in which we manage our workforces’ devices is changing. Gone are the days of large, overly complicated on-premise management solutions like Quest (Dell) KACE and Microsoft System Centre. With the continued drive of remote working, flexibility and ultimately employee separation our management tools need to change, now.

Luckily, Microsoft where ready for this move to remote management. They and have spent a long time and A LOT of investment in turning the 2011 product of Microsoft Intune into the 2021 product, which is now known as Microsoft Endpoint Manager, a now formidable UEM (Unified Endpoint Management) tool.

Evolution – just in the nick of time

The original Intune product was designed to answer the question of the time: How to we provide some form of management to the changing device landscape? With the launch of new form factors, and splitting operating systems at the time, this EMM (Endpoint Mobility Management) tool focused on delivering the same basic functional control across the spectrum of devices it supported.

Microsoft is not a company to miss a shift in the market. They released that as we moved into the late 2010’s and into 2020’s that business no longer wanted two products, one to manage devices onsite and one to manage them in the cloud. With this they began the process of taking the features from Microsoft’s System Centre Configuration Manager and merging them with the EMM tool, Microsoft Intune.

This process happened just in time to be ready for the world shifting events of Early 2020. The now mature product from Microsoft gave the best of Config Manager, Intune’s EMM and the fringe features of MDM and MAM that the suite had been dabbling with.

intune device management

So, the question then becomes, why are you not using it?

For nearly all business in 2021 Microsoft Endpoint Manager can play a huge part in ensuring:

1. All your devices controlled,

2. Windows is up to date,

3. patches and software are being deployed and managed.

This on its own takes away 3 key functions you may have existing systems in place to support. However, the largest success for Microsoft Endpoint Manager comes in the form of flexibility. Your users don’t need to be on your VPN, in your network or even in your country to get software updates or even new packages.

This is only then strengthened when we look at the white glove, of out of box experience which can be leveraged with Autopilot.

UEM Device managementImagine you never had to build a laptop again!!

Wouldn’t that just be great? Not only that, but imagine that if a device needed to be moved from user to user. Then you could remotely reset and deploy a fresh version of the operating system and all applications to the device, join it to the domain and have it ready to be reused.

Well with Endpoint Manager and Autopilot you can do just that! The core logic behind the approach is that you don’t need to touch a device to get it ready to use.

Now this can either be directly from the factory or on a previously managed device. This will reduce the time to resolution on support issues and ultimately free up you and your team to work on project that are more important.

With this process, gone are the days of creating a gold image having to run sysprep and then trying to configure the Out of Box Experience with an answer file. Microsoft has simplified this down to a steps-based process. This uses the latest image from Microsoft alongside an answer file based on the Microsoft Endpoint Manager interface, not on a text file. This combined gives you a great position to show business improvements from a system implementation.

Where can YOU make improvements?

The biggest question to ask yourself is where could you optimise your;

  • device management,
  • system imaging,
  • software deployments,
  • application installations and updates,
  • operating system updates
  • and device provisioning?

If the answer is that any of these could be improved, then Microsoft Endpoint Manager is the platform you need to be looking into.

These are just some examples of what Microsoft Endpoint Manager can do. I would be remised to say that the above is a fair representation of all that the suite has to offer. The product is massively impressive and continues to develop and grow as Microsoft as a company moves away from the legacy of its on premise-based solutions to a truly cloud driven SaaS approach.

I know taking this step might seem like a leap in certain circumstances. However, I am always available to discuss how you can leverage better device management for your business. As are the rest of the Technical Architecture team at Planet IT

Please feel free to reach out using the contact details below:

Contact me at – LinkedIn Message James Dell or Email : james.dell@planet-it.net

Call 01235 433900 or Email : architecture@planet-it.net

Internet Explorer is Dead – What you need to do now

Internet explorer

Internet explorer is finally coming to the end of its long slow walk to its grave. As of the 15th of June 2022, all devices not running an LTSC or Long Terms Servicing Channel version of Windows 10 or Windows Server will lose the application as part of the 15th of June update.

However, this is much larger than many would initially perceive. Many custom-built or 3rd Party applications use the IE framework to deliver content and allow users to interact with their platforms. The removal of internet explorer, which long advertised and overdue, will affect many businesses adversely.

To make your life a little easier there are actions you can complete now to engage the Microsoft Edge support for many of these legacy programs, and to make life easier, you can follow the steps on page 5 and 6 of this document, from Microsoft that will help you make your business Microsoft Edge ready.

Does It Matter?

For many of you, this won’t be an issue, but remember now is the time to be testing this; if you have any application that opens on IE11 session by default on Windows 10 or Windows Server, you need to ensure it runs in Microsoft Edge before the 15th or move the server/ desktop to the long-term servicing channel if you cannot support the application.

As a side note, it is worth noting that Office 365 and all Microsoft services will not support Internet Explorer from the 17th of August in any form, so while you can use IE on LSTC to support custom applications, you will struggle to use the product for anything outside of these products and Microsoft. Many other vendors are moving fast to drop Internet Explorer from their supported browsers lists.

If you have 3rd party applications which rely on Internet Explorer, now is the time to be reaching out to my team at Planet IT to start looking at how you move away as not only is this issue going to become worse but with no updated Internet Explorer is likely to be a source for vulnerabilities we see when scanning people’s networks.

If you want to talk to one of our team about how we can help you move away from Internet Explorer and associated 3rd party applications. Then please call 01235 433900 or you can email architecture@planet-it.net or if you would like to speak to me directly, you can reach out to me via DM or at james.dell@planet-it.net.

IE death

 

Education in Focus: Biggest IT Refresh Year Ever

Education IT

There comes a point in the academic year where exams ramp up, teachers, lectures and support staff are focused on getting student’s through their end of year exams and keeping the momentum up until the summer break.

Meanwhile in the cool dark of the server room, the IT Support teams across all academic settings are preparing for the calm before the storm.

This year, while we may not be seeing exams like we previously would, the IT Teams in our educational establishments are preparing for their busiest summer refreshes ever. The woes of 2020 are behind us and the shift to classroom learning returning for 2021/22, the push is on to make the infrastructure improvements that were put off during COVID.

Saying all that, budgets are likely to also be tighter than ever. So how can IT teams get the absolute most out of their IT projects?

To help we have put together 5 top tips for smashing your summer projects in 2021

Plan Early

When it comes to any form of IT project the further ahead you are planning the better chance of success you have, so start early!

Engage vendors and technology partners. Test the market and understand your options. If you are looking 6 months ahead of where you need to be, then when do you have to make the choice on the technology or the vendors you are going to use? Be armed with all the information you need so you can overcome the challenges the project throws at you.

School ITHave a contingency plan

As you begin to plan your project, look at the what if’s…

For example, if you are replacing a server infrastructure, what happens if the new servers fail? Or before you have moved the data, if the old servers fail, do you have a backup? Have you tested it?

By implementing a rock-solid contingency plan you are positioning yourselves in such a way that you can overcome whatever challenges come your way.

Choose a partner you can trust

Remember you are not in this alone.

Whatever the chosen project you are undertaking there are partners who will help you achieve the goals of your organisation. However not all partners are equal. Not all partners have the same approach.

Find a partner who has the certifications and accreditations with the vendors you want to work with, i.e Dell Gold Partner or Microsoft Gold Partner with certified engineers. Don’t settle for “the local firm” as 9 times out of 10 they will get out of their depth very quickly. They’ll can end up making the challenges of delivering IT in education much worse.

So, pick a partner you can trust, and you know when you’re up against it, will have your back!

Only choose best of breed technology and don’t settle for last generation.

Lots of companies see education as an opportunity to move stock which the corporate world no longer wants – for example, servers which are now end of sale or software which has been pushed into its last few operational years.

You should never settle for anything other than the best in breed technology for your establishment. If budgets constrain that, reduce the scope of the project or limit the technology used. Don’t settle for old, refurbished or reconditioned equipment just to hit a financial goal. In the long term, you will pay the price when the equipment cannot be serviced and needs replacing before the business has got the full value from the solution.

Maximise gains using operations leasing

When making purchases in education, you have a great opportunity to access low cost or even free finance offerings for all of your large purchases. So, leverage these deals to extend your budget.

Limit the capex spend and get the best solution you can and prevent the project delays of stretching upgrades over 2-3 years which really need to be done today.

Using these top tips, your organisations should be able to avoid the pitfalls of so many education providers in the past and make sure you take step in the right direction when making your upgrade this summer.

Just remember you are not alone. At Planet IT we have a team of specialists who can not only support you with the decision making and selection of new equipment, but can support with the role out, implementations and upgrades to your systems.

If you want to talk to one of our educational team about how we can help you with your summer projects then please call 01235 433900 or you can email architecture@planet-it.net or if you would like to speak to me directly you can reach out to me via DM or at james.dell@planet-it.net.

 

Backup Webinar Recap: The Uncomfortable Truths

Backup webinar recap

This week, we hosted a Live Webinar based all around the Uncomfortable Truths about your Backups.

Our resident Backup guru, Michael Davey was joined by Arcserve expert, Steve Butterfield and between them they covered

✅ Microsoft 365 data protection

✅ Immutable storage & Ransomware Protection

✅ How are you storing your data & the 3-2-1 rule

✅ Scaling your infrastructure with Backup & DR

✅ How to combat storage creep

 

Did you miss it? Or would you like to watch it again? Well, the good news is that we recorded it and you can check it out here:

Your Questions, Answered.

We received lots of questions throughout the webinar. Unfortunately we weren’t able to answer them all during the live session so we have compiled them all and asked Michael and Steve to answer them again.

Remember, if you you would like to find out more about backup in general or speak about your own backups specifically, get in reach out to your Planet IT account manager, call 01235 433900 or email enquiries@planet-it.net

 

Would cycled tapes not be immutable being out of the drive most of the time?

Tape and especially WORM tape were the original air-gapped / immutable storage

While out of the drive then tapes are largely immutable outside of extremes involving strong magnets, But you do have to put them in the libraries to use them which brings two issues,

1. They are available to be overwritten while in the library.

2. They require manual intervention to remove/replace.

However, definitely a big improvement over no airgap.

 

What is the licensing model? Is it based upon per user for 365 and per source TB for onsite storage?

Universal licensing which runs on your own hardware or VM covers all data sources including O365 and so is

licensed per TB of protected data, no limits on retention and can be any mix of Physical machines, Virtual machines and O365

Per user licensing is also available and may be of interest if you are adding it to existing Arcserve licensing.

Per user or per TB licensing is available from our cloud (SAS Offering )subject to a max of 100 users per TB for capacity based licensing )

 

The reason people do Full backups is because incremental backups all depend on the previous ones , isn’t that a disaster waiting to happen with incremental forever ?

Our Incrementals act and restore like Full backups, they do not depend on any other incremental backup therefore one “Broken” incremental affects neither the incremental before or after it.

 

What is the most common security breach you see that can also impact backups?

I think Michael answered this but a stat for you from Sophos “The state of Ransomware 2021”

37% of the 5400 respondents surveyed were hit by Ransomware in the last year

Ransomware is still the major threat

 

 

A pretty bold statement was made “Completely Ransomware Safe” Can you back this claim with something factual?

Like Unsinkable ships, Completely ransomware safe is conditional on the type of attack i.e. Nothing is completely safe if Physical access is allowed for instance , however we believe that our Ransomware capability is the strongest and most complete in the industry and we are the only backup vendor to offer a Money Back Guarantee.

For 0365 backup only do we need an onsite appliance?

You have choice, You can purchase Arcserve UDP and have it protect O365 in the following ways

  1. An Appliance running on Prem or in hosted Colo
  2. Software running on your own hardware, VM or in your own public or private cloud instance
  3. Software as a service running from our Cloud based from our Datacentre in Manchester or AWS in London ( Other Geo’s are available )

While On-Prem may seem an odd choice to some for a cloud based service, do remember the 3-2-1 rule and the fact that even in the event of an Internet or Azure outage you could still access your data locally. The main thing is it is held elsewhere so we would always caution against any service backing up O365 which is hosted in Azure

 

 

Technology that SHOULD shape your business in 2021

Tech business trends

While the world continues to turn day to day life upside down and “normal” is more of a relative word than ever before, I wanted to take this opportunity at the start of the year to look at the technology trends your business should be looking into and adopting in order to ensure that whatever the global or national situation, your business is safe secure and up to date.

Cloud Services

If 2020 didn’t already do this for your business you should be looking at moving services to the cloud, now this is bigger than just moving your email to Office 365 or G Suite. When we talk about cloud services in 2021 this is about moving as much of the infrastructure, it’s management and the associated risks away from your physical business location.

If we take a traditional office where you have your servers, storage, back-ups and user data onsite close to where your users where working, in 2021 this approach is illogical with staff working from home and in the office suddenly you have a single point of failure in your office environment as well as needing the equipment maintained , monitored and managed in a location which may be shut due to local restrictions.

With the move to Cloud services the aim is to push as many of these services to diverse, secure and robust providers which removes the inherent risks and reduces any downtime you might face. If done in the right way you can do this with the same level of latency that you would get in your office environment but accessible quickly for your users working from home.

With businesses that implemented cloud services in 2020, they saw an decrease in running costs of up to 50% and an increase in uptime and productivity up to 99.99% which is beyond what any onsite system can deliver and this is due to the scale and depth of the product line of some of the cloud services on the market.

work from home

The Human Firewall

The trends we saw in 2020 made it very clear that we need to invest as much time into training our staff to be safe and secure as we do into finding the right technology to support them. That is why in 2021 one of the key areas of development we believe all business should be looking at is the human firewall. By this we mean training your staff to know what is safe and is not safe in the digital world and how to prevent risks to the business.

We saw the effect that phishing can have on business with an increase of 667% in March last year when COVID first became a major issue for the U.K. and scammers took in their waves to try and use peoples vulnerabilities against the businesses they work for. These attacks continue today following trends of presenting vaccination options and emails about furlough schemes all designed to capture business information and defraud businesses.

Now with this there is no one size fits all approach but there is a logical approach which will prevent your business being open to risks that exist on your doorstep. If we can teach our staff in 2021 to stop, deal with and report these problems then we increase the ability of a business to be robust and secure and remove the guess work from the technology we need to ensure a business is safe, for me 2021 is the year of the Human Firewall.

human firewall

Zero Trust Networking

As we move to a more dynamic way of working, both now and post COVID, we need to think about how the new fleet of devices we operate as businesses are managed, controlled and protected. The physical borders of your office space are no longer 4 brick walls but unlimited by the connectivity we have in place. Because of this we need to look at how we secure and control our devices, users and data across such a wide spectrum of use cases.

Now this can start with the simple steps of Mobile Device Management, Cloud based anti-virus technology but very quickly we need to be thinking about virtual connections to datacentres, home broadband and wireless security and cloud access control.

This is why in 2021 I believe all businesses need to review their approach and look to embed a zero-trust approach into all aspects, and while some people will see this approach as intrusive and over the top, it has been proven time and time again to not be. You only have to look at the speed in which a home wireless network can be broken into to realise that you are not safe trusting peoples home set ups.

In conclusion 2021, like 2020, is going to be a very different year, with the cyber criminals and the threat landscape changing everyday. However as business owners, technical professionals or employees we need to switch our approach and ensure we are using these changes to make our business ready for this continually changing landscape as we move forward.

 

If you want to talk to one of our experts about how we can help you in 2021 then please call 01235 433900 or you can email enquires@planet-it.net or if you would like to speak to me directly you can reach out to me via DM or at james.dell@planet-it.net.

Again, big changes coming with macOS Big Sur – be careful for now

macos big sur

macOS Big Sur is about to release to the public and as we have highlighted across several of our blog posts in the last few months, this brings large scale changes.

If you are running any of the following on your macOS device;

  • Antivirus or Antimalware software
  • Encryption Management software (File Vault Management)
  • Virtualization Applications
  • Dual Booting / Boot Camp
  • Containerized Applications

The we strongly recommend you hold off updating when the update is released, this follows several press statements from major software vendors like this one from Sophos. In which they detail the challenges of the short time frame and moving to Apples new API approach.

If you have any concerns of about your business software or upgrading we recommend that you speak to your Planet IT account manager who will be able to assist you with compatibility guides and information from the vendors specific to your business. If you’re not already a Planet IT client, then feel free to reach out to me directly on james.dell@planet-it.net

The landscape and support for macOS Big Sur WILL improve. We do not expect this to happen in the next few weeks but do expect most vendors to have support by the end of 2020.

To read more on this story you can see our previous blog posts on the subject here:

This might sound controversial, but resist that big MacOS update, for now!

macOS the big change with Big Sur

We know this goes against the usual advice you might hear from us or other IT experts, so in the meantime if you would like to discuss with myself or any of the highly skilled team here at Planet IT about how to keep your business operating, secure and safe in the changing world of the Mac you can reach us using the contact details below;

Contact me at – LinkedIn Message James Dell or Email : james.dell@planet-it.net

Talk to the rest of the team – Call 01235 433900 or Email : enquires@planet-it.net

The 6 Tech Trends of COVID-19

Technology trends Covid 19

Since the start of lockdown in March, the business landscape has dramatically changed, the pull to virtual spaces, new technologies and accelerated upgrade plans. As an IT service provider we have been inundated with requests, projects and new developments, and it now seems the time to look at these changes and talk about the top trends that COVID-19 has brought upon the business world.

1) The office is dead. Long live the virtual space!

February this year feels like a long time ago and for most businesses it was unimaginable that less that 6 months later nearly all businesses would be working from home, with flexible working relying so much on virtual meeting technologies like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Cisco WebEx – and not to only operate but to socialise, keep in touch and continue to build that company ethos. For some businesses this was a challenge. For others they have adapted and grown with the change. One thing is certain for many senior managers and business owners however: the future looks like one where less people visit the office and more are working from home.

2) Do I really want my servers in my office?

With the trend of moving over to virtual spaces another question that has seen itself thrust into the forefront of IT management is server locales. Previously IT managers and senior management would strive to keep their data close to them, with spaces from corners of offices, cupboards and full-blown data center rooms being constructed, powered and cooled with-in businesses existing spaces. However, when the tables turned and staff where out of the office connecting back to critical data via VPN technology, it became very clear that this set up may not be optimum. As such we have seen a huge increase in business interest for private cloud datacenters like our PlanetCloud service, or customers looking at public cloud or even a hybrid solution. The main driver being to remove that single point of failure and connectivity and drive performance and the ability to work anywhere.

3) The device refresh is here and we need it now. 

Just as many businesses where not prepared for the move to virtual working, many where sitting on legacy IT equipment which was either due a refresh this year or the business was trying to extend into 2021, however with the need for equipment that can support your users while working at home it has become critical that they are working on fast, safe and secure devices. As such we have seen many business moving forward their device refreshes opting for Device as a Service offerings which allow them to spread the cost over the term of the product and turns CapEX into OpEX expenditure.

4) Cyber criminals don’t care about pandemics 

One thing this pandemic has taught us is that cyber criminals have no morals and they will use any situation to manipulate and scam you. This has never been more apparent. During this crisis phishing attacks have gone up 400% and all of these attacks in some way link back to COVID-19, either posing as HMRC, the WHO or informing you that you have COVID-19 and to ring a premium rate number. The level of villainy and lack of humanity these criminals have never ceases to amaze me and my colleagues in the cyber security world.

This also raises the question of how we protect against these attacks and the honest answer is training. No product will be 100% perfect every time but if you invest in your human firewall then you can overcome the ever changing threat of these criminals and protect your business.

5) Broadband is key, but why is my home wifi so slow? 

If like me you have been working from home while your family consume Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney + . You will have no doubt been dealing with slow connections, overload and sometimes even calls dropping out on Teams, Zoom etc. Well this is for a good reason, aside from the fact the whole broadband infrastructure has been heavily loaded, home broadband circuits are not designed with the same level of protected overhead as business lines. This is in part due to the contention ratios that are allowed on home circuits vs the guaranteed head room on business lines. With this we have seen a number of business purchasing broadband for their staff and having them put into their homes as dedicated business lines, the cost is low and the service is guaranteed. This allowing your family to stream away without effecting your meetings.

6) Board room procrastination has to stop, and businesses need to upgrade, adapt and move forward now. 

From experience I know that the boardroom is often where IT projects go to die. Long have the powers that be, procrastinated on an upgrade for it to never see the light of day. This was a common theme in businesses across the U.K with senior management favoring investments elsewhere to IT for their perceived value. In the last 4 months this has changed dramatically with the focus being more on IT now than ever before.

With companies choosing to invest now and heavily, knowing that it iss IT that has kept them operating over the last few months. Directors now realize that technology is critical to the business long term success. We have worked with a number of business who have revived, accelerated or even created IT projects that were previously on the long finger but now urgently brought into a 2020 timeframe on the request of the board.

With all of this said, it is important to remember the positives that we have gained from this experience and the level of transformation this has forced upon businesses, it is by no coincidence that many attribute COVID-19 as the biggest driver of change in their business over, IT managers, CTO and Technical Directors.

The reason for this is simple, businesses have been forced to adapt or disappear from the business world. The importance now is to ride the tsunami of change and not be washed away by it. If you continue to drive forward and innovate you won’t be left behind and you won’t be left vulnerable to cyber criminals and technology weakness that comes from standing still.

If you would like to discuss with myself or any of the 60 IT experts here at Planet IT about how you can better protect your business, should that be with new technology, strategies or even better backups, you can reach us using the contact details below;

Contact me at – LinkedIn Message James Dell or Email: james.dell@planet-it.net

Call 01235 433900 or Email: enquires@planet-it.net

4 Steps to the Perfect Backup Plan

Backup Plan

Today is World Backup Day, for many it’s a day to be celebrated, but for just as many, it’s a stark reminder of the dark omen that is an uncertain backup environment or plan.

We all know the basics of backup right? The things we all want to achieve

  • Retention
  • Redundancy
  • Recovery

I could happily go on for far longer than any of you would care to read on each of these topics! Today however, I want to talk about the practical elements of making sure your backups and overall disaster recovery plan are the best they can be. Starting with some basic questions.

  • Are you backing up your whole environment?
  • Are you running your backups daily?
  • Are your backups retained for the right amount of time?
  • Do you take backups off-site?
  • Are your backup sets fully automated?
  • Are your backup jobs encrypted?
  • If you have cloud resources (Office 365, Azure, AWS) are these backed up?
backup servers

In an ideal world, you would want each of the above to be a confident and resounding YES! However, this is not always the case – we often hear the ill-fated “I don’t know”.

So, what can we do to be certain on the above and confidently rest knowing our backups will be there for us should the worst occur?

Step 1 – Check the List 

Firstly, I would start by checking your infrastructure or approach your IT Team to get the answers to the above questions. Understand that if the answer to any of them is no, in this first step, it’s less important to know why, just to understand the position you are currently in. Once you’ve established that, let’s move on to step 2.

Step 2 – Check the Kit 

Once you have a firm understanding of your overall backup integrity, it’s time to push past the smoke and mirrors and figure out exactly what you are working with. Check your storage, check your software and make sure it isn’t letting you down. There are so many options available in today’s market, but a quick search of your products and the competition should help you understand if you need to make any changes.

Step 3 – Make your Plan

At this point, you’re either happily relishing in confidence… or you’re not.

If you’re not… bear with me, I promise, we’ve just ripped off the worst of the band-aids and from here… the only way is up. When making your plan, it’s important to work out what you need first, what you want second and then figure out the cost implications (if any) your business will need to work towards. Everyone loves a good deal (or better, a free deal!) but sometimes investment is required to ensure you have the right infrastructure for your plan. When making your plan, make sure you are referencing the list from Step 1 and work out the following:

  • How long do I want to keep my backups?
  • What is my off-site storage plan?
  • Do I have Cloud Resources that need to be backed up?
  • How efficient do I want my backups to be?
  • How long can I afford to be offline in the event of a disaster?
  • How much data can I afford to lose in the event of a disaster?

The answers to these questions will help you to understand how much storage you need, whether you need a cloud or second-site storage plan, if you need high performance equipment and your Recovery Point/Time Objectives. Know that even if the plan is loose, it’s more than you had at Step 1 and it will help you enormously when collaborating with your teams, suppliers and peers to achieve the best outcome.

Backup plan relax

Step 4 – Reach Out 

At this point, we’ve gone from scratching our heads, to having a clear understanding of the potential issues, a goal to aim for and a plan to get there. Now it’s time to reach out.

Speak to your team and your suppliers and get them on board with your plan. From this point forward, you’re taking control of your backup & disaster recovery plan. You’ve worked out what you want to achieve and you’re making it happen. That, or you were happy from Step 1 – either way, grab a coffee and your favourite lockdown biscuit, you’ve earned it!

Remember, if you ever have any questions, just ask. I, or one of the team here at Planet IT, are always happy to be used as a sounding board and can offer our expertise for your specific situation.

Similarly, check out our BDRaaS page for more information

Feel free to reach out to me via LinkedIn or email me at michael.davey@planet-it.net.

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