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.

2020 – The Technology Winners & Losers

Technology Winners

We all know that 2020 has been a challenging year for businesses and it is no surprise to anyone at this point late in the year that the digital landscape is very different to what it was 12 months ago.

So today, rather than a simple review of the year, I am going to look at some of the technology winners and losers of 2020.

Winners

 

Microsoft Teams and Zoom

Well obviously, right?

These two companies have enjoyed a dramatic rise to relevance as businesses moved (were forced) to an all-digital approach this year.

The reason these two thrived where others struggled is what makes them winners: both platforms offered the services for free for most of this year as part of their COVID support packages. Because of this they now have thousands, or even millions of new customers who won’t leave them in 2021. Teams and Zoom are now critical to many organisations and are part of their business models moving forward.

Not only was this smart marketing by the companies it has allowed both parties to learn at speed about what features we all want from these tools, I think this is clear when you see the number of changes that Microsoft have made to Teams this year, it’s certainly not the clunky product we were trying in 2017 anymore!

Microsoft Teams

AMD

AMD came out the gates swinging this year and they certainly had no intention of holding back. With the Ryzen 3000 series they have cemented their return to relevance making their CPU’s affordable and, in nearly all cases, faster than those coming from Team Blue (Intel).

However, this year they would go on to show why the 7nM process is so important and why Intel still pushing an 10nM process was going to cause them issues, this came in the form of Ryzen 5000 series, which wiped Intel off the top spot in nearly every scenario, and it did so a month after Intel announced their “best processor yet”.

This position was made even stronger when AMD managed to get both Dell and HPE to add their AMD EYPC processor to their server ranges giving customers the choice when looking to buy new servers. This is not only a win for AMD but also for consumers and businesses. We now have a better variety to choose from and can finally start to move away from Intel’s dominance, where the price point or performance does not make sense.

 

Apple Silicon

Continuing on the theme of CPU’s, Apple closed the year off by showing us all what can happen when you own an end-to-end process with the release of the M1 processor and the new range or M1 Apple devices.

This product, born from the legacy of the A Series mobile chip found in iPhone and iPad, is Apple’s first desktop processor since the days of PowerPC (Let’s not talk about it!). The important thing about M1 is not only is it built on the 5nM process but is also mind-blowingly powerful for a CPU which seems to simply sip on power rather than drain your battery in minutes. This, of course, is in part due to the fact that Apple own the eco system and can simply optimise every single instruction set to be smarter by working the CPU with the OS in the exact way they want, but they still have to be considered winners for this…

Also, who doesn’t want to run iPad apps on their Mac?

Apple Silicone

Public Cloud

Another rise to relevancy this year came in the public cloud drive, as customers seeking a solution to closing their offices and working across the country and the globe looked to the once distrusted Public Cloud as a saviour.

I have long believed the future was public cloud and 2020 was maybe the wrong way to prove a point, but we have seen a dramatic uptake in public cloud services. A huge number of large business are moving across and an even larger number of companies are planning through 2021 to close their datacenters and server rooms and put their workloads with Microsoft, Amazon or Google instead.

This move has co-existed with the drive by the big three to make the platforms more affordable and reduce the work to onboard to the platforms. This is only going to continue now as we slowly move away from onsite systems.

 

Losers

 

Intel

Now I already mentioned the bad year Intel is having in passing when coming up against AMD, but this year has been an all-round kicking for team blue.

This year also marks the beginning of the end of the Intel based Mac, which while only a small part of their revenue is sure to shake the foundations of what they are doing with other system integrators and device creators – not least Microsoft, who this year pushed AMD surface devices ard ARM based Surface Pro X devices.

Intel is not having a good year, but they need to learn from that their dominance in the CPU sector was on legacy born from innovation. Since the launch of the Broadwell generation of the i3-7 line up they have slowed down sticking until this year with 14nM for nearly all of its processors and simply looking for ways to push the clock speed on the devices. Now this year we reach the point where pushing clock speed is of less and less benefit and in 2021 we know Intel are going back to the drawing board to try and refine the 10nM and move to a smaller die process.

Good luck in 2021 Intel, otherwise it’s going to be another Team Red year!

Intel

Apple iPhone

Now the iPhone isn’t a looser in 2020 just because I left and moved over to the Android side!

This device is a looser because it lost to a phone half its price in a photo shoot-out between the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the OnePlus 8T in a blind test run by MKBHD . Now, the importance of this test is massive as it shows that you don’t get perceivably better images by using an iPhone as Apple would have you believe,. It also shows consumers in a very tight financial year that you can get a great camera for less than half the price.

Will this change people’s minds about buying a new iPhone? Maybe not. But it hopefully will make Apple sit up and think as both the iPhone SE and 12 didn’t make it through the first stage of the process, showing that the issue may be with the way Apple handles the images and less about the quality of the camera. Either way the iPhone (13) or whatever it’s called needs to make improvements on this and be a big step forward for Apple in 2021 as their dominance is slipping and the Android market is out for their crown.

 

Onsite Infrastructure

The office has taken a bit of a beating in 2020. It’s becoming, for many businesses, a way to spend money for space you are not using,. This has caused a number of businesses to decide now is the time to change the way they interact with office space we have seen a massive increase in businesses looking to either move to co-location or into public cloud.

This has meant that the days of the larger projects for onsite deployments have slowed, so I think it’s fair to say 2020 has been a bad year for on-premises solutions but a great year for anything cloud!

 

There have been many more winners and a lot more losers than I could cover in this article, however I think the major take away for 2021 is that the IT landscape has changed far more in 2020 than in any year prior to it, as an IT professional I don’t expect business to slide back into old habits and things to switch back as we slowly return to more normal times.

Whatever 2021 brings I am excited to be at the forefront of matching our customers to the latest and greatest technical solutions.

Can I get rid of my phone system and just use Microsoft Teams? Of Course!

Can I use Microsoft Teams as my phone system

Struggling with your phone system while your team works from home? Still using a system that struggles with the modern way of communicating, transferring calls and staying connected? Then Direct Routing for Microsoft Teams might just be the solution you are crying out for!

Could it be the right solution… ask yourself these short questions…

👉 Do you already have Microsoft Teams? If you use Microsoft 365, you will.

👉 Are you looking for a straightforward voice solution? The fact that you’re already this far down the article means you probably are!

👉 Do you have a basic requirement to make calls? Receive calls? Transfer calls? … yes to all, right?

👉 Are you still using traditional digital lines? (ISDN?). Are you aware this is being phased out completely over the next couple of years?

👉 Do you require flexibility to add users quickly and effectively?

If you have answered yes to the above, then Direct Routing for Teams is the ideal solution! To help you get a better feel for what this can do for your business, I’ve put together a FAQ to explain.

 

What does Microsoft Teams provide when Voice enabled?

When Planet IT add SIP (IP/internet) trunks to Microsoft Teams, it simply gives users the ability to make and receive calls via the Teams platform.

Your staff will be able to transfer calls, forward calls to voice mail and implement a basic automated attendant, all through Teams. Essentially, it’s a straightforward, cost effective telephony solution for businesses of all sizes, who need to have the flexibility to change the way they communicate and work more collaboratively!

microsoft teams

Will calls be expensive?

In a word, no! Depending on the bundle and the contract term selected, you can reduce your costs overall, as your calls are routed via the internet! So, you get resilience and the call savings!

What about users who require handsets?

All you require is a USB or Bluetooth headset, however, if you have users who prefer a traditional handset on the desk, Planet IT can supply a wide range of Teams enabled handsets for you to choose from.

What about mobile phones? We use them a lot.

It can still be used on mobile, of course! all you need is the Teams App, easy!

It does sound easy, what’s the catch?

No catch. all that changes for you to move to Direct Routing for Teams, is that Planet IT need to move your numbers into the cloud. Just check your contractual status on your existing numbers and we do the rest of the work for you.

Microsoft Teams Training

What about training?

Although Teams is intuitive, if users require training, we can perform this via…. Yes, you guessed it, via Microsoft Teams, or we have a range of easy-to-follow video tutorials for you and your staff to access anytime.

Will there be down time?

It will be minimal. When you move onto any new solution there will be some service disruption, however our experienced Voice & Connectivity team will keep this to a minimum and transition you, hand holding you every step of the way.

Sounds ideal! What do I need to do?

Call our Voice and Connectivity team on 01235 433 900 or speak to your Planet IT Account Manager to discuss this further!

If you want to know more about Planet IT’s voice & connectivity service, READ MORE HERE, or if you want to see the power of Microsoft Teams, check out our tutorial videos HERE

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

Email Security – The biggest scope for an attack

email protection

There is no bigger scope for attack on your organisation than e-mail.

We all use it. We all have stacks of it. And we have all fallen for some gimmick or promise. Or not even that, spoofing, where you thought Stuart in Product Development was genuinely asking you out for dinner and so needing you to send back you phone number! Only to then get inundated with phone calls as you’ve given your number out to the bad guys. (Yes, ready meal for one coming up).

Our very own dreamboat Adrian Sweeney was spoofed recently (thankfully, we’ve done our training!)”.

There is no off switch. I wish there was. It’s my most asked about security concern, and so it should be!

Even the Mimecasts or Barracudas of this world can’t catch everything, it’s a constant game of cat and mouse, and sometimes the mouse wins!

What WILL help against this constant barrage of spam, is Email protection. (It is scary how many companies out there still don’t have ANY). And in fact, if you don’t have it, you are either crazy or bonkers. There are SO many vendors out there. Ones I like, Mimecast, Barracuda and Censornet, (less known but works well).

And……..

So you’ve got the security guards checking the e-mails, if your names not down, you’re not coming in……Well what happens if it still gets in?

Yes – This big cost you have just forked out has still let spam in. As mentioned before the mouse won….

A solution – Simulated fishing campaigns… One company name that stands out for me on this one, market leader KnowBe4.

It’s easy to use and set-up, and you can safely send simulated email phishing attacks to your staff AND if they fail, they get sent the correct training to help them not do it again.

It’s easy to keep track of who is having issues, and it helps you tailor the campaigns to better suit the business you run. This only helps you get the best from the product.

Sorry, that one went a bit salesy. But only because it’s important and we can help you. If you would like a proof of concept at no charge, or discuss how Planet can just take care of all this for you contact: SecurityServices@Planet-IT.net

macOS the big change with Big Sur

macos big sur

About a month ago I wrote an article ” This might sound controversial, but resist that big MacOS update, for now!” In that article I warned about the changes that Apple where bringing to the operating system of macOS with the move from 10.15 to 11, one of the biggest of these is the removal of direct access to the system kernel.

While from a purely security centric point of view this sounds like a great idea, as you are restricting the ability of any software to jump onto the system and access machine changing instructions, it poses a serious implication to the world of vendor support for macOS.

At the time I warned of this impending change, however when writing that article, it was difficult to really clarify how big an impact Big Sur was going to have on 3rd Party software. However, in the last few days it is starting to become a lot clearer.

Since initially testing the Beta on a development machine, as we do every year at Planet IT to ensure we can successful support for our client’s businesses, we initially noticed that a number of software products stopped;

  • Antivirus
  • Encryption Management software
  • Virtualisation Applications
  • Container Applications
  • And the list goes on….

When this initially happened, as an Authorised Apple Reseller, we were already a few weeks into testing, ahead of the companies who make the software

Because of this, when writing my previous article warning of the risk, I wasn’t too harsh on any single software vendor, just in case they got their act together and updated the software to move from direct kernel access to the now Apple approved API access.

Late last week along with many customers I received the below from Sophos;

“Dear Sophos Customer/Partner,

Please note that the current version of Sophos SafeGuard is not compatible with the upcoming release of Apple macOS 11 (Big Sur) and will not function correctly. We strongly recommend that customers do not upgrade any macOS clients running Sophos SafeGuard to macOS 11 (Big Sur) at this point. Doing so may have undesirable effects including:

1.

Device Encryption – SafeGuard may in some cases not be able to retrieve FileVault recovery keys, meaning that machines might not be recovered if users forget their password

2.

File Encryption – SafeGuard may in some cases not be able to encrypt and decrypt files transparently. Please note that no data is at risk of being lost as manual encryption and decryption of files will still be available

We intend to issue a Service Release of Sophos SafeGuard that will resolve these incompatibilities. In the meantime, we recommend you do not upgrade the operating system and wait for this Service Release instead.

For the latest information, please see this article. This article will be regularly updated with the latest information.

Best Regards,

Your Sophos Team

This began to answer a question that had been burning in my mind, are these vendors ready?

The answer is no!

Sophos is not alone in having issues with macOS 11, but they are, to their credit, the first to publicly admit it. Their suggested action is to not upgrade to macOS 11 Big Sur when it becomes publicly available (expected in the next 10 days), however that is easier said than done as Apple will force you to update with-in a matter of weeks anyway.

We expect to see a number of issues with additional software as a wider group of user uptakes the new software and unfortunately this year more than ever software vendors are slow to resolve the issues and adjust to the new way of working.

So our advice remains simple, HOLD OFF! 

I know we usually recommend keeping all devices up to date, but please don’t rush to upgrade your device this time. If you use it for work in any way, you are going to want to stay on the latest secure update of 10.15 MacOS Catalina for a while.

As with this update we are going to continue to monitor the situation and we will let you know as soon as it’s safe to make the jump and we hope to publish a granular list of unsupported major applications as soon as the public release of Big Sur occurs.

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

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

macos big sur

MacOS is changing with BigSur. Not only does the OS X era really end at 10.15 as we are introduced to BigSur (11.0) around late September, but the fundamentals of the operating system will change too. But why is this important to me, you ask?

Well as your average Mac user, as soon as Apple press the big red “Go Live” button on BigSur, you will see little red icon appear on your system preferences, as well as a nice little banner on both your notifications and App Store telling you to upgrade now to the future with MacOS BigSur. Believe me, I understand the excitement of a new update! And with all of this the temptation, it will be really easy to simply press the button and see what the future holds.

However the reason for writing this article is to implore you to wait…. BigSur will be the start of what ushers in the ARM based Mac era. However, with this a number of your current business applications will have to be altered or may not even work at all, this is the big unknown with a change of this magnitude. While Apple and 3rd Parties can try their best to work together to ensure functionality there is an inherent risk that, at launch, a number of your key applications won’t work as expected.

This apprehension is born from initial findings and decisions by Apple to change the way that the OS functions, the biggest impact will be seen to 3rd Party Security software or Anti-viruses. As they will no longer be able to directly talk in the way they have previously to the Mac, this means for many vendors a rush to produce a whole new Antivirus solution that works on the new MacOS BigSur.

So our advice is simple, HOLD OFF! 

I know we usually recommend to keep all devices up to date, but please don’t rush to upgrade your device this time. If you use it for work in anyway you are going to want to stay on the latest secure update of 10.15 MacOS Catalina for a while. We intend to notify our customers and followers once we have been able to establish that it is in fact now a safe time to migrate. This will be in the form of another blog just like this so keep your eyes peeled.

I 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

Looking for a technology partner?
Let’s talk