The latest Cybersecurity news, tips and trends

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.

Log4J Zero-Day Flaw – Are you are risk? And How Do you Protect Yourself?

Log4J cyber security

The Log4j vulnerability is effecting everything from development tools and games like Minecraft to cloud and security devices and even your car. Therefore the question is what do we look for?What is the latest information about keeping you and your business safe?

Firstly, what is Log4J?

Log4J is a flaw in a Java library.

For those reading this who are less technically included, Java is baked into many pre-made applications and used across a number of services. Therefore this vulnerability is prevalent across a number of attack vectors. Because of this it is currently the most talked about and high risk security vulnerability on the market at the moment with everyone scrabbling to patch out the risk.

The library is developed by the open-source Apache Software Foundation and is a key Java-logging framework. As detected in the vulnerability logged as CVE-2021-44228, a remote code execution flaw in Log4J, was already being exploited in the wild. Any system which has the same vulnerability is at serve risk. Warnings have been issued by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

 

What is at risk?

Basically any device which is exposed to the internet is at risk if it is running Apache Log4J versions 2.0 to 2.14.1. Now, the list of applications that have this would fill pages and pages – everything for Minecraft servers to Tesla’s car OS, with companies like Apple and Amazon also being pulled into the mix. Because of the way that Apache package software this vulnerability as per the NCSC notes, can also be found in anything running Apache Struts2, Solr, Druid, Flink, and Swift frameworks. With AWS having detected and working to patch the vulnerability currently, pushing mitigation protections via its CloudFront service.

Vendors with popular products known to be still vulnerable include Atlassian, Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Cisco, Commvault, ESRI, Exact, Fortinet, JetBrains, Nelson, Nutanix, OpenMRS, Oracle, Red Hat, Splunk, Soft, and VMware. And this list will continue to grow as product try to patch out the issue and make it known they have the vulnerability.

Log4J java

What can I do right now?

Because there is currently no direct patch for this, the best option is possible is to Airgap any system that is using or known to have Apache components or frameworks as part of its services from the internet. If you can’t do this then get a Web Application Firewall in place in front of any public facing system as it is very likely that these players will be able to provide WAF rule sets quicker than Apache can get a new version of Log4j tested and out into the wild.

As soon as a patch is available, get your Apache systems patched and up to date and ensure that you check all of your systems, as many IT administration tools install parts of the Apache framework for running web front ends or even systems of management and control for your devices.

The best action you can take as an IT system owner is to review anything you have that is publicly facing or publicly accessible. You need to take action now as this attack does allow the system to have complete control taken over by the attacker and it is not yet known how other defence tools are responding to this infiltration as the Java libraries are normally a trusted location and as such can leave a business open to attack.

If you are concerned about the security of your business then I implore you to call Planet IT today. One of our security specialists will be able to join you on a call and discuss the mitigation actions you can take and advise you of the best way to ensure your business is protected.

If you would like to discuss with myself or any of the cyber security team at Planet IT about how you can better protect you business, should that be with new technology, strategies or even better back ups 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 : architecture@planet-it.net

Why Endpoint Protection is still a key line of defence

endpoint security

You won’t believe this. I tell a lot of business owners and IT Managers that they need to ensure they have a robust, well architected and industry leading anti-virus and anti-ransomware product at the core of any cyber security programme. I am shocked by how many businesses rebuff with “we have never had a virus, so why do we need these products”. Unfortunately this level of naivety is exactly what threat actors are betting on. They are leveraging your lack of belief or understanding in the value of protection to slip onto your system undetected and carry out whatever heinous activity they wish.

 

“We don’t need protection!”

First of all I must address the elephant in the room; “We have never had a virus“.

The simple question would be, how do you know? Gone is the age of pop-ups and loud annoying virus sent more to disrupt. Modern attacks focus to data extractions, data corruption/encryption or device harnessing. For all of these, bar corruption/encryption, the aim is to remain undetected. For the most part if you are trying to pull data from a device or harness the computer as a salve for your attack network then you don’t want the device owner knowing you are there. Therefore, the argument that you have never had a virus falls over. You should be saying “We have no idea if we have had or have a virus or suffered a cyber-attack as we don’t have the tools to detect such attacks” .

cyber attack

 

“I barely use that laptop”

Secondly, I need to address the obvious. Any device is at risk regardless of how little you use it, how infrequently it is turned on and how expensive it was when you bought it. This principal also applies to servers, virtual, physical and on cloud platforms. If it is running an operating system based on Windows, Linux, Unix or MacOS there will be an attack out there that is designed for that system. This even applies to appliances provided for dedicated applications like, phone voicemail systems, door access control and system controllers. Because of this, you need to ensure that your servers also have the protection in place and if they cannot have the protection directly installed that you have a product that can protect at network and hypervisor level against incoming attacks.

 

Therefore it is critical that your business protects itself with the minimum protection being put in place in the form of endpoint security. This said, while you can pick up these products for a few pounds from certain vendors, we would always recommend looking at a industry leading vendor. Choose one who specifically work within your business space and have the full suite of tools that can be used. This will help ensure that you reduce the risk your business faces from cyber threats.

endpoint security

If you would like to discuss with myself or any of the cyber security team 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 : architecture@planet-it.net

 

Photo by Clint Patterson on Unsplash

Windows 11 is here. It’s glorious but hold your horses!

Windows 11 is here

Windows 11 has arrived with a fresh new look, increased speed and a whole host of new and improved features. However, if your business is looking at Windows 11 and thinking, “we only just got off Windows 7”, now is the time to be thinking about the future.

 

You don’t need to update today of course; you officially have until the 14th of October 2025 to get your estate from Windows 10 to 11. However, as many businesses learnt the hard way with Windows 7, the migration to a new operating system is not all plain sailing.

 

Windows 11 brings its own complications and challenges, when it comes to application support, hardware support and the overall end user experience. All of these can be overcome but only if the business understands them and understands how to combat them.

 

How should you start the roll-out?

Our suggested approach is that from November 2021, a strategic steering group be created within your business to test, run, and live with Windows 11 as their primary business device. The aim of this is to begin to unpick the operating system in your business and ultimately to ensure business functionality.

 

We will recommend that for these users, a spare Windows 10 device is kept in your office to provide to these members of staff in the case of a failure. This will ensure your user can get back working in a short space of time, however as a business you need to start assessing and understanding the impact that Windows 11 will have on the company and then laying the foundations for migrating across to the platform with-in one year from active support (October 2022).

windows 11 surface devices

Why starting early is key for business continuity.

This adoption is crucial because many businesses were impacted negatively by holding onto Windows 7 for far too long past its good end of life. This was in part due to the fact the businesses had not invested the time into ensuring they understood the business change and how to successfully manage this. It is vital that this process is started early, the issues learned and how to overcome these. From this you can then develop a staged team by team plan, alongside the testing to ensure that once a satisfactory level of business support and satisfaction is reached that users begin to migrate over from Windows 10 to 11.

 

The Big Rollout.

We suggest completing the migration in a team by team, location by location and in a phased approach. We would suggest that any business needs to be off Windows 10, 1 year before the end of support in 2025 as you do not want to be in the same potion that many where come the end of Windows 7 support. You must remember that once this date hits any system still on this legacy operating system will be at risk from attack and will increasingly be a target for cyber criminals.

 

If you would like to discuss with myself or any of the Technical Architecture team at Planet IT about how you can get ready for Windows 11 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: architecture@planet-it.net

windows 11 launch

Top 5 Cybersecurity Trends So Far This Year

Cybersecurity trends 2021

We are all too aware that the cybersecurity landscape is changing and will continue to change as the technology we use every day continues to adapt, develop, and alter our daily lives.

Put very simply, this trend is clear when you compare your 2010 Honda Civic to the latest release from Tesla; technology is embedded into every corner of our lives and it now even governs your driver safety.

Because of this, the drive to protect business and individuals from threat actors has never been more important. With an ever-shifting set of cybersecurity goalposts becomes the need to understand, adapt and overcome whatever threats may come your way.

As such in this article I am going to take you through five trends we are seeing when looking a cybersecurity and the defence of your IT infrastructure.

1. The Expanding Cyber-Attack Surface

According to cybersecurity ventures, the world will store 200 zettabytes of data by 2025. This data is coming from thousands upon thousands of different sources and a considerable amount of the data is now being driven by IOT and smart technologies.

As I mentioned in my introduction, think of all the data that every Tesla on the road today is generating, the pure volume of telemetry data, decisions, battery health and all the other statistics these mobile computers are generating is staggering. Now think about your smart home, with fridges that can be remotely controlled, lighting, cooling, heating and even garage doors that can triggered from anywhere across the globe, then add into the mix home security systems link Ring Doorbell. All of this sits outside the realm of what for many would have previously considered data that needed to be secured. However, it is easy to see how data like the time you leave your house, the speed you drive and direction you travel, could be of value to a threat actor and even worse could be data they leverage against you.

This however is just to the point, the fact that as businesses are having to daily adjust the scope of what is and is not part of the business attack surface, this leaves the threat actors room to move and the gaps they need to turn your secure system into Swiss cheese.

5 years ago, CCTV may or may not have been the responsibility of the IT department. Today, with digital cloud driven solutions, this firmly sits within a business IT attack surface and is a clear technological risk.

IT Hardware and software

Similarly, take the smart card reader that opens your office doors and your car parking barrier. This is a business attack surface which in the traditional IT model we would have simply been able to ignore. This is no longer the case. It sits on the list which will continue to grow of new areas where CISO, cyber security experts and IT teams in general need to protect.

This trend will of course continue. As IT professionals we must adjust our

security posture and consider how this effects the technologies we use to protect our data and our systems.

There is by no means a golden bullet but there are key markers for success in this area.

 

2. Ransomware as a Cyber Weapon of Choice

Ransomware has been around for almost two decades and has grown in popularity because it can more easily bring financial rewards to hackers. It is estimated that there are now 124 separate families of ransomware and hackers have become very adept at hiding malicious code.

The reason is that ransomware became a weapon of choice for hackers in the last 18 months was drive by the COVID-19 pandemic. This instantly altered a digital landscape that for many businesses had been slowly changing. In fact, most were stuck to the traditional walled garden of onsite infrastructure and controlled working environments. Now, with the transformation of so many companies and how we operate as a mostly digital, this creates more targets for extortion. According to a research, ransomware increased by 435% in 2020 as compared with 2019.

In 202, the estimated cost of ransomware was £14.5 billion – a rise from £8 billion in 2019 and £5 billion in 2018. That trend will continue to grow.

The likely impact for the near-term future is that there will be more ransomware attacks against institutions and corporations who are less cyber secure and cannot afford to have operations impeded. This includes health care, local governments, and educational institutions. For these sectors the need to adapt and overcome the finical challenges of protecting their businesses has never been more paramount.

 

3. Increase in adoption of cloud services

Cloud vulnerability continues to be one of the biggest cyber security industry trends. Again, the rapid and widespread adoption of remote working following the pandemic increased the necessity for cloud-based services and infrastructure drastically, with huge security implications for organisations. For many, these implications where not understood or ignored as the business threw themselves into a cloud strategy in sheer panic in 2020.

work from homeDon’t get me wrong, cloud services have become essential and offer a range of benefits – scalability, efficiency, and cost savings – but they are also a prime target for attackers.

Misconfigured cloud settings are a significant cause of data breaches and unauthorised access, insecure interfaces, and account hijacking. All of these are avoidable but for many businesses they simply don’t know the vulnerabilities are there. During our webinar series, I often talk about the shared responsibility model. It is key to keeping the door closed to attack but is greatly misunderstood or even ignored by a lot of businesses.

 

4. Social engineering attacks getting smarter

Social engineering attacks, like phishing, are by no means new threats but have become more troubling amid the widespread remote workforce of the last 18 months. Attackers target individuals connecting to their employer’s network from home because they make easier targets. The attack looks to exploit the weak link in most businesses’ security posture, the end user.

As well as traditional phishing attacks on employees, there has also been an uptick in whaling attacks targeting executive organisational leadership. This trend sees CEO, CFO and other business managers being impersonated to other employees or customers to gain financial details or gain credentials.

SMS phishing – sometimes known as ‘smishing’ – is also gaining prominence, thanks to the popularity of messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Slack, Skype, Signal, WeChat, and others. Attackers use these platforms to try to trick users into downloading malware onto their phones, which for many are now heavily linked to the corporate network be that via email or shared file access. For many businesses, MDM or MAM are technologies they still haven’t invested in.

Organisations are increasing their protection against phishing, but criminals are always looking for new ways to stay ahead. This includes sophisticated phishing kits which target victims differently depending on their location. To stay ahead of these trends, businesses need to ensure their staff understand and can act as the human firewall against these attacks – social engineering is not something that technology alone can protect your business from.

 

Managed IT support Oxford

5. The Future, Privacy-enhancing computation techniques.

To change pace slightly now and look less at the trends around attack vectors and how the threat actors are getting in and more around how the cyber security industry is helping us all fight back.

Privacy-enhancing computation (PEC) techniques are emerging that protect data while it’s being used — as opposed to while it’s at rest or in motion.

This marks a dramatic shift in the level of protection we can leverage onto data and how we can continue to work to lock out the threat actors from data at all stages of its life cycle. This technology will also enable secure data processing, sharing, cross-border transfers and analytics, even in untrusted environments.

This technology is rapidly transforming from academic research to real projects delivering real value, enabling new forms of computing, and sharing with reduced risk of data breaches.

I would expect to see these products in your security portfolio in the next 12 months.

 

With the landscape continuing to move beneath our feet daily, as IT professionals, we need to stay ahead of the trends and ensure that we are looking at what threats are just over the horizon.

No IT team can afford to rest on their laurels as the successes of yesterday will not protect you from the threats of tomorrow.

If any of this is of concern to you, whether you are an IT professional, a business leader or simply have cybersecurity fears, please reach out to me or one of my team and we will be more than happy to assess your situation. We are in this war together, and we can’t let the bad guys win!

email: architecture@planet-it.net

call: 01235 433900

or connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/delljames/

 

 

 

Windows 365 – Windows 11 Comes to your Browser!!

Cloud PC Windows 11

Microsoft has just announced a new “Cloud PC” product where users can stream windows devices from anywhere!

When COVID-19 hit, many people in offices were forced to start working from home. Because of this, Microsoft sped up into the development of Windows 365 so people, wherever and whenever, can work more collaboratively.

Windows 365 will work similarly to what we know as game streaming. The computer will be hosted in a data centre, somewhere remotely, and then streamed to local technology.

This means all sorts of devices from anywhere, ranging from family computers in your home to monitors in the office, that runs Windows desktop can leverage Windows 365 and then you can close the session knowing that your data is safe, secure and saved.

Security Is Key

It is way more secure than working on a local PC, as your local PC is most likely full of personal applications, data and untrustworthy applications, which may go against your business practices. Windows 365 then solves multiple problems such as keeping Word documents and important PDFs where they belong, in business cloud storage, and not at risk of exploitation.

Additionally, Windows 365 will have ultra-fast connections to Azure and Office 365 data, which is very useful when it comes to handling data and finding sufficient ways of sharing workload amongst peers.

Microsoft is marketing it as the new way of using a PC, they want to find a way of demonstrating and solving the difficulties of working from home, so as they state, it is a “hybrid Windows for a hybrid world”.

 

So when do we get to see it, and how does it work?

The software will launch in August for business customers of all sizes however under the technical covers of it all, it is built on Azure Virtual Desktop and managed through Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM), Microsoft’s cloud-hosted device and application management solution and for those without MEM, tools are directly integrated into the Cloud PC portal. A MEM licence is therefore not essential.

Windows will also use multi-factor authentication capabilities and admins can apply security policies using MEM if needed. Furthermore, Microsoft has designed a custom “security baseline” meaning a set of policies can be applied to Windows 365 as a simple baseline, however, you can modify this to fit your criteria.

There are even plans in the future for an offline mode, though this will not be included in the initial release. When that happens, they would then be supporting an offline mode where the whole virtualisation environment can run locally and be isolated from your local operating system. When your connection gets restored then that workload will automatically move back up into the cloud. In the complex cybersecurity environment we have seen, businesses need a solution that helps their employees collaborate, share and create while also keeping their data secure.

If you want further information about Windows 365 and how this could change your business practices, then please feel free to reach out and get in contact using the details below

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

 

Harriet Besford

This article was written by 17 year old Harriet Besford, a Didcot Sixth Form student who joined us at Planet IT for a week’s work experience. Harriet has a keen interest in Cyber Security with plans to study it at University. I think from reading this article, you will agree that she has a strong future in this field!

 

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

Windows 11. Huge Steps Forward, But The Death Of Many Devices

windows 11

Microsoft have announced Windows 11!

For now, we can ignore the fact that Microsoft promised that Windows 10 was the last Windows version…. and all the other misleading info around this new version even existing. Windows 11 is here, and it has LOTS of improvements and design changes.

However, this article is not to talk about those. As Windows users, we all know that the move from OS to OS can be hard. Businesses struggle to get the user base, applications and configuration from your current version of Windows to a new one. It can be a mammoth task!

You won’t have a choice to keep Windows 10

That said we know Microsoft will ultimately force your hand. In 2025 Windows 10 will lose support and join XP and 7 in the list of operating systems people continue to use even though they are not supported or safe.

The big change with Windows 11 is that a number of hardware items that were previously supported with Windows 10 will no longer be supported. This is what drove me to write this article. It means many businesses will need to replace a lot of machines. So, I wanted to highlight the devices you may have that are now on a limited life span, a ticking clock as it were, to the end of support.

The official Windows 11 requirements:

  • Two Process cores of 1Ghz or higher
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 64GB of Storage
  • TPM 1.2 or higher with Secure Boot Capabilities

Windows 11 devices

What this therefore means, is that Intel’s i3, i5 and i7 processors from the 6th and 7th get are not eligible to update to Windows 11. While on the AMD side all A and Fx Series processors are not supported. Ryzen 1000 and 2000 chips will also not support Windows 11.

Now this is a big change as Microsoft. In the past they have done their best to only remove a small number of devices from support. This was truefor upgrades to Windows 8, 8.1 and 10 all supporting the same devices which could run Windows 7.

What does that mean for my IT estate?

Audit now! You need to understand which devices you have that won’t be supported on Windows 11 and they need to enter a hardware refresh plan in the next 3 years. By 2025, these devices must be replaced.

For many this won’t be an issue. But for some education and small businesses, this is going to be a large finical burden. These changes can also hit companies using custom built PC’s which use hardware which may be from cross generations. There’s a chance these will not support the Windows 11 software.

If you are struggling to understand which devices will and won’t accept Windows 11, there is a tool from Microsoft which will tell you in your device is eligible to run the Windows 11 which you can get here: https://aka.ms/GetPCHealthCheckApp

If you would like to discuss with myself or any of the Technical Architecture team at Planet IT about how you can get ready for Windows 11 you can reach us usin:

LinkedIN: James Dell

Or email james.dell@planet-it.net

install windows 11

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.

 

Looking for a technology partner?
Let’s talk