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 [email protected] or if you would like to speak to me directly you can reach out to me via LinkedIn or at [email protected].

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 : [email protected]

Call 01235 433900 or Email : [email protected]

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.

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 : [email protected]

 

Call 01235 433900 or Email : [email protected]

 

Photo by Clint Patterson on Unsplash

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: [email protected]

call: 01235 433900

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

 

 

 

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,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 : [email protected]

Call 01235 433900 or Email : [email protected]

What is Conditional Access, and why is it an essential part of your security posture?

Conditional Access

By now, you should be aware that the modern digital landscape is full of threat actors. That are always looking for any opportunity to find a weakness in a business’s security posture and then leverage this to gain unauthorised access to data for malicious reasons.

To protect against these attacks, we often look at antivirus and anti-ransomware technology and products like MFA or Two-factor authentication. The truth is that MFA is part of much larger protection that can be afforded a system through an approach known as Conditional Access.

How does Conditional Access work?

Conditional Access (CA) is the process of defining entry vectors and criteria; in its most simplistic form, consider CA to be a door that only opens if you are wearing the right clothes, have arrived in the right vehicle, and are holding your ID. In real terms, CA allows a business to define controls around what can be accessed by who, from where and under what circumstances.

I feel that conditional access is an underutilised part of any defence arsenal. This is partly due to a lack of understanding in the IT community about the technology and a misconception about its limitations. These beliefs and options come from a legacy of Software as a Service (SaaS) and on-premises infrastructure being integrated minimally, however with modern SaaS, IaaS, PaaS and on-prem working in a heavily integrated way. Conditional Access allows you to take advantage of the proper protection that can be afforded a system without comprise.

Is it widely used?

All the major SaaS, IaaS and PaaS vendors support conditional access, and an optimum way to deploy the technology is as such.

  • Limit access to login to Geo Locations that are trusted and used by the business
  • Allow internal networks or trusted networks to have fast passed authentication
  • Only allow data access from trusted and complaint enrolled devices
  • Require MFA in any location that is not inside a trusted network
  • Remove support for legacy authentication methods
  • Deploy true Single Sign-on across all platforms and devices
  • Limit access to the data and services a user needs based on the roles of that user
  • Only allow devices that have Antivirus and Anti-ransomware installed and up to date
  • Only enable devices that have the latest operating system updates
  • Integrate all systems into a single platform, use Conditional Access and MFA to protect the whole network, not just cloud services.

By undertaking this approach, you can reduce the attached surface of your infrastructure and protect data while not limiting your staff’s functionality by placing unwanted security barriers in place.

The diagram below shows how the conditional access approach works.

Conditional Access Explained

Conditional Access

Do you think your business could benefit from the technologies of conditional access? Do you want to know more? Then please reach out to a member of the Architecture team at Planet IT via [email protected] or call 01235 433900, and we can talk to you about the options available that work with your more comprehensive technologies.

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 [email protected] or if you would like to speak to me directly you can reach out to me via DM or at [email protected].

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

Looking for a technology partner?
Let’s talk

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.