May 2017 Cyber-Attack

WannaCrypt Cyber-Attack

On Friday 12th of May over 90 countries have seen the start of a mass cyber-attack using a virus called WannaCrypt. This virus is an updated version of the recent CryptoLocker that hit businesses a few years ago.

Below is a guide on how this virus works as well as what you can do to protect yourselves; but a quick note for all is make sure your systems are up-to-date as this is why it has spread.

 

How does WannaCrypt work

How does it infect me?

WannaCrypt enters your computer by either an email which has an attachment, or a link that you click downloading it. Once it is in your network it tries to spread using standard SMB network language which is at the heart of most Microsoft networks.

What does it do to my machine once infected?

If you are successfully infected by the virus it starts searching for files it has access to on your PC and any network drives you have access to. Once this list is created the system then encrypts them using a password that your business does not know; as you do not know the password, encryption level or software you cannot access your files anymore.

How do I protect against this?

Maintenance Clients

 

As part of our ongoing tasks, in the background we are constantly looking at your businesses security from Microsoft patches to the quality of your virus scanner and connection to the internet.

The security patch from Microsoft that stops this infection from happening was released 14/03/2017 under security bulletin MS17-010. Our policies for patches of this security level are to run an update routine every day meaning our clients with PC’s protected by this patch will have it installed.

Non-Maintenance Clients

For our non-maintenance clients, we suggest you run your update procedures as soon as you can as well as running a virus scan on your computers. Once this is done your systems should be secure from this attack.

What do I do if I have already had my files compromised?

If your files have already been compromised you need to look at turning off all possible computers to stop the infection from spreading as well as contacting your preferred IT Support company or us via our Contact Us page.

Your support company should then be looking at either data recovery; or rolling your data back using your backup or disaster recovery system.

Why has this spread so fast?

The reason the virus has spread so fast is down to out of date systems. Lots of companies use out of date versions of software like Microsoft Windows for various reasons like: –

  • Lack of funds to replace systems
  • Run an older application that is no longer created
  • Run an older application that does not support newer operating systems like Windows 10

 

 

We hope this information has been helpful, but if you do have any questions please get in touch with us via our Contact Us page.

April 2017 3CX Partnership

New 3CX Partnership

Here at Strobe IT we have been continuing to invest time into getting better technologies and solutions for our clients. The recent developments we have been working on is with our VoIP telephone systems we offer.

We have for a while now been using and supporting a system called FreePBX; but as time has moved on so has requirements from our customers. Some of the features and functions that our customers have been asking for are: –

  • Remote access to take and calls on mobiles and other mobile devices
  • Video conferencing and web meetings
  • PC to phone integration for transfers, on screen notifications etc
  • Integration with other platforms like Office 365, Salesforce, SurgarCRM and many more

To provide these new features and abilities we have become a partner with 3CX allowing us to sell, support and provide what is required. As a business we like to specialise in the technologies we provide, enabling us to focus on providing a better service with the systems we have instead of branching to many and giving an OK service on them. Due to this we will be discontinuing the setup of any new FreePBX environments, we will still continue to support and maintain existing clients systems; just future installations performed by us will be using 3CX.

We do not take decisions like this lightly, but due to the above features and what benefits we can also apply using existing systems and services are: –

  • Disaster recovery using Datto
  • Shared address book which doubles as caller display with Office 365
  • Monitoring to the same level as a server using Comodo One MSP [Our monitoring and support platform]
  • Virus protection with Comodo or F-Secure
  • Integration of free and busy times in calendar with Office 365 & Microsoft Outlook
  • Faster deployments of handsets with no need to visit site

We see all this as good news as it allows us to serve you better while providing you a more compatible product; this will enable you to operate your business easier without having to learn another add-on.

March 2017 – New Microsoft Update Progress

Microsoft Unified Updated Platform (UUP) News

General Information About UUP

Over the last few days Microsoft have released more information on the up and coming Unified Updated Platform (UUP).

The main goal with this new style of update; is to improve customers experience of the update process from start to finish. To start the download is reduced in size making them quicker to download and lighter on computer resources to install.

Microsoft first release some details about UUP back in November 2016, and released it to testers soon after. This new technology is currently rumored to hit main stream for Windows 10 users this fall. To read Microsoft’s article about this see this blog on the Windows site.

 

Technical background to how this works

Currently all updates for Windows contain all files for that section of system that is being updated even if they are not changed. These additional files increase the size of the download for each update as well as increasing the time taken to install the update once downloaded.

The new system purposed by Microsoft is to only download the files that have actually changed, it is estimated to be up to 60% smaller.

Microsoft is using a technique like delta or differential to compare your computers current files; this determines which ones are needed creating a dedicated update for your machine. The dedicated update allows for smaller downloads to each machine along with quicker install times.

March 2017 Security Improvements

Security Improvements for Maintenance Clients

Over the last month computer security has had a lot of coverage in the news and on the internet. Some of these headlines are: –

  • Google Disclosing Unpatched Microsoft Windows Bug
  • UK Search Engines Agree to ‘Demote’ Pirate Websites
  • UK Cyber Fraud Losses up to £125 Billion
  • Over a Million WordPress Websites Defaced

With all this going on in the world we have changed some of the secure measures we apply to customers; these changes include running critical software patches daily.

Normally this change in schedule would not make much difference to your computers, but over the next weeks you will notice a slowness of your computers due to a Microsoft “mega” patch along with other big updates expected.  If this does effect you we are extremely sorry and please be aware we are monitoring the situation to make sure we get the right line between security and usability.

As part of this we are looking at other systems. These include backup systems, internet filters and more! We shall keep you all updated to our research and newer offerings so watch this space.

March 2017 Changes to VoIP and CDR Reports

VoIP and CDR changes from March

As part of our standard telephone lines (PSTN) and voice over IP (VoIP) telephone lines (Known as “SIP Trunks” ); we provide our customers with a login to SVK Software’s “CDR2Cloud” platform so they can run reports to see what calls they have made, their cost and various other information.

 

Why are we changing?

CDR2Cloud is a good system, and it has provided a good platform during its time; but we have come across two major issues with a few niggles that have forced us to look again. The problems we are having are: –

  • None of our customers seem to use the system to generate their CDR (Call Data Reports).
  • CDR2Cloud are scraping all the smaller packages forcing a price increase to us meaning we have to make the choice of change or up our prices to handle these costs.
  • Lots of the reports are basic not allowing customers to see what they need.
  • Development in the system seems to have stopped meaning features like adding your call plan to the CDR giving you an overview / single invoice has not progressed.

 

What is the way forward?

In-house we have been working hard to research a new system without any luck; so we have been developing our own.

Starting in March we will be using the new system and removing access to CDR2Cloud. All reports from CDR2Cloud have been exported and will be available in the new system.

The new system will work as follows for VoIP customers: –

  • Call Plan Invoice raised on 1st of month
  • Additional Call Invoice raised 7th/8th of month
  • VoIP Report generated and stored in your portal for viewing

 

So what is different?

The main differences are how you access the data, details on this will be passed to your accounts email address we have on file. The other big difference is the reports themselves, a summary of the differences are: –

  1. File name will be in the format of YYYY-MM-07–YYYY-MM-06_SIPID.pdf
  2. The date in the file name will be the plan date not the CDR date
  3. Report contains an overview page at the start showing a breakdown in costs across the plan and calls
  4. Pie chart on overview showing a percentage of call usage between UK Mobile (Main providers only) and other destinations.
  5. The CDR pages not only break down your calls but now show minutes used and remaining from within your plan

 

If you have any questions, or would like anymore information please get in touch with us.

Regards
Strobe Technologies Ltd

Feb 2017 Why Move to Office 365

Why are customers moving to Office 365?

This is a great question and something we get asked time and time again, so to help you all understand our business reasons for this we have decided to write an article on our website for you.

 

Less Hardware and Software Requirements

A big part of Office 365 is the hosted Exchange email service, this is provided as part of the subscription meaning you no longer need to purchase thousands of pounds’ worth of server hardware and software. Not only do you have to purchase the software you then have to purchase CALs (Client Access Licenses) which authorises your users or devices to access the data stored within Exchange.

This makes a big saving upfront for businesses and reduces additional monthly costs, like server maintenance contracts, electric bills and multiple internet connections.

 

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) for Email

As the designers of Exchange, Microsoft are the best people to host, update and secure the email platform for you. This platform is provided as a PaaS which is included in your Office 365 subscription, as part of this platform your email is load balanced across many servers instead of the usual 1 to 3 servers used by small businesses.

 

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

As part of your Microsoft Office 365 subscription you can opt to include the Microsoft Office suite, this is the software like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and so on…

Adding this option to your subscription not only means you have the latest and most secure platform; but also, the latest and most up-to-date software with all the new features all the time.
Gone are the days of buying the software once per machine at around £200 and then having to do that again two years later, going down this route means you get the latest version as it is updated. Included with each subscription you are licensed to install the software onto five different devices!

For example, if you have ten employees and each of them had two devices in the form of a desktop and a laptop you would need twenty copies of Microsoft Office for your business. With this option, Office 365 is licensed per user so you would only need ten licenses to cover your employee’s requirements.

 

Value for Money

For many years’, web hosting companies have offered mailboxes as part of their hosting packages with the options to upgrade the basic mail box to an Exchange mailbox at a cost. This has been good for customers without local Exchange servers, but as the Office 365 system has evolved many of these standalone Exchange mailboxes are becoming expensive in comparison and generally lack the ability for correct backup.

Looking over our own pricing, it is cheaper to have an Office 365 user subscription than a standalone Exchange mailbox; and by doing this you gain all of the following advantages: –

  • Skype for Business – Web conferencing
  • Yammer – Enterprise social networking
  • OneDrive – Online file storage (per user storage, not great for business sharing)
  • SharePoint – Business teams and structure (Can add file storage, calendars etc as required)
  • Office Suite – Can add desktop software to subscription at additional cost
  • Backup – Interface for backup solutions like Datto Backupify

This list is not exhaustive as Microsoft keep adding more all the time making the benefits vast.

Jan 2017 Office 365 Pricing

Office 365 Cloud LogoOffice 365 had a good constant low price, but  as Microsoft have increased the number of features to it’s platform this has changed.

This change is not just for Office 365 but all of Microsoft’s Cloud based solutions. These new prices are immediate for new customers taking out a subscription in 2017. Existing customers are price protected for 12 months from their original signup date.

 

 

New Office 365 Pricing

(Pricing is per user per month)

Product2016 Price2017 PriceMicrosoft Price
Office 365 Business Essentials£ 3.10 Ex VAT£ 3.70 Ex VAT£ 3.80 Ex VAT
Office 365 Business£ 7.00 Ex VAT£ 7.64 Ex VAT£ 7.90 Ex VAT
Office 365 Business Premium£ 7.80 Ex VAT£ 9.11 Ex VAT£ 9.40 Ex VAT

 

If you have any questions about your subscription with us please  get in touch.

Jan 2017 Office 365 Sharepoint and Yammer Explained

Office 365 Cloud LogoOver the two years we have been pushing Office 365 to customers as either an upgrade to existing Exchange servers or other mail systems, Microsoft have continued to improve and add features to this service.

Today’s article is to highlight the use and understanding of a couple of these as over the years they have also changed causing confusion. These services in particular Skype for Business, SharePoint and Yammer have not only changed over the years but certain features cross over between them.

 

Skype for Business

Skype for Business LogoOver the years there have been many point-to-point communication tools from MSN Messenger, Skype and Whatsapp. Skype for Business is Microsoft’s revamped version of Lync which is an in-build communication tool accessible on desktops, mobiles and web browsers providing presence (online, available, in a meeting, away…) and communication via VoIP and chat messages.

Skype is also very powerful in the fact it also offers meetings with third parties allowing you to share files, voice and other tools without the other meeting members having an Office 365 subscription.

 

SharePoint

Microsoft’s collaboration platform based on formal structures to provide access to content for the business or allow the business to create focus teams to work on projects or as a department.

SharePoint LogoSharePoint is extremely powerful allowing you to customise it to your needs with document libraries, calendars, surveys, tasks and more to each team. Something that puts people off from using SharePoint is the fact that it is web based; but Microsoft have an answer to that as well!

OneDrive for Business allows a user to synchronise their accessible document libraries from their teams to a computer in the same manner that Dropbox and similar products do. This gives you a standard interface to your files  allowing normal desktop applications to interact with your files with ease. (Do not get OneDrive for Business mixed up with OneDrive as this is similar but for a personal set of files only)

 

Yammer

Yammer is a recent addition to the Office 365 family taking many features from SharePoint and provides companies with their own internal Social Networking site similar to Facebook.

Yammer LogoThis service is great for group chats / discussions and an internal bulletin board.

Due to the abilities to share and upload files this crosses with SharePoint, and it also crosses a little with Skype for Business as it also provides a presence feature.

Nov 2016 Desktop Help Ticket Creation

Whats Changed?

In our ever growing improvements to the way we work, we have now released a new and easy; way for you to report issues about your computer straight to us!

This new method is by the small monitoring agent, this is deployed on customers machines who have a maintenance agreement with us or they purchase Comodo anti-virus from us.

 

How do we do this?

Either on your Mac or your Windows computer you will have our Comodo ONE Client – Communication running which is monitoring your machines allowing us to fault find easier. To report a fault we are going to interact with this agent software.

  1. Find the Comodo ONE Client – Communication icon. In Windows this is by the time which is normally located in the bottom right corner of your screen.Create Desktop Ticket - Step 01
  2. Right click on the Comodo ONE Client to bring up it’s menu.Create Desktop Ticket - Step 02
  3. Left click on Submit ticket…
  4. A new Submit ticket screen will appear, fill in your details.Create Desktop Ticket - Step 03
  5. Ticket the box for Include device data.Create Desktop Ticket - Example
  6. Left click on Submit to transmit this to our helpdesk.

Nov 2016 Office 365 Changes

Changes?

Over the last few weeks we have seen many posts by Microsoft and other news networks about some of the up and coming changes to the Microsoft Office 365 platform.

 

Which Plans are Changing?

At present we are only aware of changes happening to the Business Premium plan, and some sources have indicated some of the changes will also be coming to Enterprise plans like E3 and ProPlus.

 

Whats the changes?

Microsoft Access

Microsoft have moved it’s database product called “Access” from higher plans and add-ons to Business Premium. For small businesses Access was a great program for custom data collection and reporting; and is a much welcomed move.

To read the official announcement from Microsoft click the following link.

Microsoft Bookings

Microsoft Bookings makes managing online appointments easy for small businesses and their customers. With a few steps, a business owner sets up an online booking page which their customers can use to make appointments online, 24/7.

Bookings helps business owners save time by reducing the amount of scheduling and re-scheduling of appointments, for both customers and employees.

There is also a function with this that will allow you to connect this directly into your Facebook account, to read more about this feature see Microsoft’s blog.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is the chat-centered workspace in Office 365.  It is a smarter way of working as an essential hub for your chats, content, people and tools to keep the team connected.

To read the official blog visit Microsoft’s site here.

MileIQ

Microsoft purchased MileIQ back in 2015, and is possibly looking to integrate this into Office 365.

We don’t know too much on this yet, but the mobile app looks good and can already be accessed via https://www.mileiq.com/

Outlook Customer Manager

Microsoft is adding another new service to its Business Premium plan called Outlook Customer Manager. Microsoft described the service as a tool for managing customer relationships from inside Outlook.

Outlook Customer Manager automatically organizes customer information like emails, meetings, tasks, deals and deadlines in a timeline next to users’ inboxes.

 

Will the plans price increase?

Microsoft have said that these changes will be included in the current pricing bracket. Something that Microsoft cannot tell us is what will happen to prices due to inflation or Brexit.

 

Other Rumors

We like a good rumor here, but ones like this from Microsoft sound good and can really benefit Small to Medium sized business. Rumors of other business applications are: –

  • Invoice – Get paid faster by generating invoices on the go
  • Spend – Go receipt free and track all your expenses for finances and taxes
  • Point – Get more word of mouth referrals from your satisfied customers
  • Presence – Establish yourself online simply and confidently track your web presence

The source of these rumors is MSPowerUser.com

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