What is Business Technology Support?

Business technology support can generally be described as a range of services that deliver assistance to users of technology products such as computers, software and mobile devices within an office setting.

  • CloudHelp! Most of us are familiar with the type of technical support that assists users via e-mail, a help desk, online chat or a call center. This type of help covers technical assistance with equipment problems or software issues. Technology support also comes in the form of remote computer repair. This type of support enables a technician to access the user’s desktop via the internet and transfer diagnostic and repair applications. The technician does not come to your location. This can be an effective process for computer optimization or the removal of computer viruses and spyware.  This type of technical support is very popular with business clients with home offices who can’t drop everything to the take their equipment into a shop for repairs.
  • Managed Services Providers can manage all of your businesses technology or just a few specific pieces on an on-going basis. Typically, this is set up as a contracted monthly fixed fee. This service can include monitoring of servers, network security, back-up services, cloud services and vendor management. Some Managed Services Providers also offer dedicated help desk support and on-site visits by technicians. Managed Services Providers have become an increasingly common strategy for small businesses that do not have their own in-house tech support staff. It’s an extremely effective way for small businesses to manage costs with a monthly contract while gaining access to new technology and skilled technicians.
  • IT Consultants and Technical Advisors also offer business technology support at a higher level. The IT professional can work closely with a client to understand the long term plans and goals of the business. This type of working relationship allows the IT professional to make strategic recommendations and develop a technology plan for the business. This involves keeping the client informed about new technology solutions that will enable the business to grow and become more competitive. The advantage of this type of technical support is that the business gains access to an IT professional who keeps an eye on the future and “big picture” thinking when it comes to new technology services, products and solutions.

Yes, business technology support covers a lot of service options. Now you just need to decide what level of technology support your business needs!

7 Reasons why your small business must have a backup solution !

It is 2015, and we all know that every business should have a backup (and a recovery plan) for their most critical data.  The reality is that over 40% of Small and Medium Sized Business do not back up their data at all, and that 60% of backups fail when tested!

It is time for businesses to get serious about backing up their most critical data including client information, accounting files, and company information.  Here are reasons why you need to make sure your data is backed up and you can quickly recover from a data loss disaster.

  1. Backup systemPeople Make Mistakes: Humans account for 30% of all data loss; this includes accidental deletion, disgruntled employees, and spilled beverages.  While human error is going to be difficult to combat, you can at least be sure you are able to revert back to an error-free version.  Many times people unknowingly miss steps in a process or delete files, so having a plan in place to restore the lost information is critical to being able to run your business.
  2. Technology Equipment Fails: The equipment it takes to run your business has come a long way, but nothing is perfect and all equipment is bound to have issues or fail completely. It can be expensive and nearly impossible for your company to eliminate every single point of failure in your IT infrastructure, so the best option is to back up your data regularly and have a plan in place to get the failed equipment replaced or repaired quickly.  This will help to minimize the amount of downtime and revenue loss your business incurs.
  3. Mother Nature is Crazy!: Over the last few years, Mother Nature has wreaked havoc on technology systems all over the world, due to the deep freezes, extreme heats, and mass  flooding that has taken place.  Businesses that do not have a backup and recovery plan in place will have an uphill battle trying to resume operations in the event of a natural disaster.  In fact, an estimated 80% of all companies that experience a business interruption of greater than five days, without recovery plans, go out of business.
  4. Competitive Advantage: It is a weird thought, but having a backup and recovery plan in place can actually give you an edge over your competition.  In the event of a disaster, the first business to become operational again is in a unique situation to acquire all the business of those that are still recovering and not able to meet the needs of demanding customers.
  5. Theft: Theft can impact a data loss in a multitude of way including hackers scraping client information or an employee’s company laptop or mobile device being stolen.  Educating employees on Internet safe practice will help safe guard your business against viruses and hackers, but if a device is physically stolen it becomes more difficult.  Having a backup will help get the employee back to work quickly, and with the growing number of Mobile Device Management solutions you may have the ability to virtual erase all of the most confidential data from the stolen device remotely.
  6. Compliance Regulations: Many Professions and businesses are required by law to have a backup and recovery plan in place, if you are unsure what is required by your industry you need to investigate right aware.  Many times if you are audited and out of compliance it can lead to hefty fines and penalties, that cost much more than just establishing a backup and recovery plan in the first place.
  7. Cold Hard Facts: If none of these above reasons have convinced you to call your local Computer Troubleshooters office to find out how our experts can make sure you have a reliable and tested back up solution in place maybe these eye-brow raising statistics will:

    • 60% of companies that lose their data will shut down within 6 months of the disaster.
    • Every week 140,000 hard drives crash in the United States. (Mozy Online Backup)
    • 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. 50% of businesses that found themselves without data management for this same time period filed for bankruptcy immediately. (National Archives & Records Administration in Washington)
    • 34% of companies fail to test their tape backups, and of those that do, 77% have found tape backup failures.
    • 2,000 laptops are stolen or lost every day
    • 46% said each hour of downtime would cost their companies up to $50k

We understand that it is human nature to believe that you will never be impacted by one these statistics, unless you have been through a data loss or had your device stolen.  Data loss comes in all shapes and sizes, and without a backup and recovery plan in place your business will face problems at some point!

So we challenge you to think about how much money you are losing every time a server or desktops fails and your employees cannot work, or you clients cannot complete purchases.  Putting a proactive backup and recovery plan in place today will save you time and money later when disaster does strikes!

Office 365 Setup, Migration & Support – DIY vs. Outsource

Microsoft Office 365 continues to dominate the space for a small business suite of office applications. As a cloud hybrid licence it offers the scale benefits of corporate grade email & the Microsoft office suite, without the upfront capital requirements of a Small Business Server environment. According to Microsoft, Office 365 Setup, Migration & Support can be taken on by the technically literate person without the specialist knowledge required for a server implementation.

So can Office 365 Setup, Migration & Support actually be undertaken as a DIY project in a Small Business with limited IT knowledge & experience?

A typical Small Business IT Environment

As someone who is not a technical expert, but who is technically literate I embarked on testing this DIY theory for myself. My partner has a small rapidly growing business with four staff, and they were looking to avail themselves of all the benefits that Office 365 can offer.

The business is run from multiple offices (mostly home offices). Increasingly the business needs access to data and email services on the go from multiple devices such as laptops and iPhones. With a cloud hosted application database system, and Xero as their main financial and CRM system they have been on their way to the cloud for some time. They already use the basic Microsoft Office 365 products such as Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel, & Word on a continual basis and would like to share files between all the staff as they have clients who interact regularly with different staff and orders. Increasingly this has meant sending files to each other, and as the business is growing they have also found they need to cover for each other when staff are away or unavailable.

Their current IT environment has meant they often have trouble letting clients know when they are away or travelling, and often they have trouble identifying the latest version of files to use as the business has become more complicated. The existing laptops were due for upgrading being over 3 years old, and they were increasing worried that if they lost or damaged a laptop that all the information, files, setting and knowledge would also be lost. As the owners of the business they had their own phones but didn’t want to provide iPhones to the employees. Additionally every time they travelled (particularly overseas) or were on holiday they had issues sending emails.

Office 365 is the answer?

In the past the solution would have been to install a Microsoft Small Business Server to the local network. These servers had exchange email, shared calendar and contacts, file sharing and remote access capabilities. Small Business servers were expensive in terms of initial hardware, licensing and implementation costs, and on an ongoing basis, IT support, maintenance and power consumption also weighed heavily. Additionally, considerations needed to be made for physical space and air conditioning, wiring/cabling etc.

Nowadays Microsoft Office 365 is the answer, with all these functions, but without the large capital expenditure expenses or the need to setup locally. Of course, now you pay a monthly subscription to Microsoft to provide the back end hardware, software and infrastructure in their Australian data centre.

Office 365 Setup

Office 365 can be setup through a number of channels in Australia and New Zealand. Options include direct with Microsoft or through authorised Cloud Service Partners like Computer Troubleshooters who are typically used to provide implement and support Microsoft hosted services.

Licences – You need to learn & understand the licencing structure to determine which plan is right for each of the users. Bear in mind that you can have different users on different plans depending on their usage. So you might have one user who users all the Office products, and some who just need email.

Subscriptions –  You need to buy & provision the Office 365 licences, this is generally transacted over the web but you need to be careful if you are buying a by the month or annual plans (general the annual plans have a small discount). You may also be asked to buy an annual licence, but pay monthly.

Administration – Once your domain has been setup with Office 365 it is relatively simple to set up each user in your admin account. The admin account is the central hub of Office 365 that sits over the top of each of your user accounts & allows you to do all the configuration at a domain level. This includes password, collaboration, profile & user management that is the heart of servers.

DNS Management – You need to change your DNS settings with your domain provider. Office 365 provide you with the DNS setting changes that you need to put into your current domain providers portal to direct emails to the Office 365 host. In my case this took a couple of hours before the change was done by the provider.

Download & Profiles – Once each user is setup by the admin & the DNS change is made, the users can then setup their account of their own hardware just by downloading the software direct from the Office 365 hosting site. They can setup a new profile for Office 365 or integrate Office 365 into the existing profile, this is probably one of the most confusing areas that can take some time to resolve. This software can be downloaded by the user to a maximum of 5 of the user’s devices (PC, Macs, smartphones or tablets). Usernames and passwords associated with each user will of course be needed for the download.

Office 365 Migration

The migration of existing data, files and setting will depend on the current IT environment

  • A server to Office 365 migration requires movement of all data & user profiles to Office 365, these need to match correctly with passwords and user profiles for a smooth transition. The data migration will depend on each user’s data size, but typically the migration of a large mailbox may take a few hours. The big difficulty is that in the interim, emails may be lost or not received.
  • A pop email migration is fairly simple, as the data is on the user’s laptop, so that the data can be simply held on the same machine and the office 365 profile directed to the exiting email store.
  • Files will depend on where they are currently stored, but can be moved to OneDrive or SharePoint once the account profiles are setup.

Overall migration is really a factor of how much data is being migrated and where it is currently stored, remembering that with Office 365 you are effectively transferring the data store to a data centre so it needs to transferred via your internet to seed your account. Just be aware that you need to understand your broadband data allowance and the effect on data speeds that you may encounter during the migration.

Office 365 Support

If something goes wrong support is a major issue – understanding the role Microsoft support plays in helping with office 365 deployments should you encounter an issue you don’t understand. SLA Critical & Urgent incidents where they are responsible is fairly prompt, calls are answered within one hour and update provided very 2 and 24 hours respectively. However, issues raised as important or advisory are updated every 72 hours or as decided by Microsoft. So experiencing an issue during migration it will be difficult to get prompt Microsoft support.

Office 365 – My DIY Experience

My experience in getting Office 365 fully functional is fairly positive I managed to get all 4 users setup over 2 days & get all the niggling issues sorted over the following days. Although I later discovered that by default Office 365 was rejecting the forms from their WordPress website for over 2 weeks. The disruption to the business was minimal although getting non-technical users setup with both laptops and mobiles was difficult to the extent they all needed to visit the office to get setup. The time did include formatting 2 new laptops and setting them up. We did lose emails in cutting over for a few hours.

The end result is that I estimate I took me around 6 hours per user to get everything working 100%. When I sent this information out to the Computer Troubleshooters group they laughed. In general, they charge for about 2 hours labour and have tools that automate much of what I did manually. Some tools they use do the migration before the cutover, so that when a user sets up their profile the data and setting have been pre-provisioned, so no business interruption in encountered and they can do the migration at night over weeks so there are no data slowdowns during business hours.

Office 365 – My Recommendation

My experience suggested it takes about 6 hours per user to manually setup, migrate and then tweak Office 365 for a small group. That said I do work in IT Marketing and have used Office 365 in my business for some time so I did start with an advantage. If you are not good with IT, I would definitely get an expert to do it.

The bottom line is most business people earn more in 6 hours than they would paying an IT expert 2 hours in labour, & that is not taking into account the niggling WordPress issue that was solved by the Computer Troubleshooters guys.

So if you are thinking of setting up & migrating to Office 365, at a minimum I would get a quote from an IT expert to see if the trade-off is worthwhile. Most expert Office 365 guys will give you a quote to compare. Even if you try yourself and get stuck you have a good idea for the alternative should you need help in a hurry.

Office 365 – Office 365 Setup, Migration & Support outsourced

Computer Troubleshooters can provide professional IT services to your business to provision and administer Office 365 environments as needed. Office 365 purchased through a Cloud Service Provider like Computer Troubleshooters is at no additional cost to purchasing through Microsoft.

Let the experts at Computer Troubleshooters work with you to assess your IT needs and develop a customized plan for your business. Computer Troubleshooters can manage your IT services and you can manage your business. Give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call and one of our computer professionals will be happy to help you.

Cryptolocker Removal

The Cryptolocker family of ransomware viruses and look-alikes (CTB Locker, Cryptowall, Torrent Locker, Locker, Locky etc.) are now well known as one of the major causes of data corruption and data loss across the world. Cryptolocker doesn’t discriminate, from the single user to the largest corporate network, it can invade and lock down all data inside the network. Once your data is encrypted you are in big trouble! Data retrieval & Cryptolocker removal is a big deal.

Recently new variants have appeared that are essentially the same Trojan, but are much more effective in preventing Cryptolocker removal & data retrieval. Cryptolocker is propagated via infected email attachments, and via a botnet; when activated, the malware encrypts certain types of files stored on local and mounted network drives using RSA public key cryptography.

The payload hides within an attachment or a link to a website. Once a user opens the attachment or the website link, the virus is activated and promptly goes about encrypting your files (both on the infected machine and on any additional network shares it can find).

Once the encryption process is complete a message, pops up on your screen delivering both the bad news and a ransom demand. Extortion of your hard earned money has begun. Because of the high level of encryption used by the virus, the only way to get your data back is either to pay the ransom or recover your files from last night’s backup. In addition, many extorted business owners have reported that the payment of the ransom does not always get their data back.

How to prevent a Cryptolocker infection?

Prevention – don’t open or click on unsolicited emails

  • Educate everyoneon the risk of opening email attachments that they shouldn’t. They may receive an email that they weren’t expecting or something may look wrong about it. These emails can also come from a spoofed account that may look legitimate or even appear to be from someone you know. The bottom line is to always be careful when opening email attachments.
  • Well known examples include emails from Banks, Police, Postal Services & Government agencies – remember if in doubt don’t open or click

How do you mitigate Cryptolocker risk?

Our Number 1 Tip – Always keep a non-networked copy of a backup of your data by rotating storage media – external hard drives or USB or use a non-synced cloud backup resource.

  • Regularly backup important data. Keep it within unconnected storage & rotate storage media.
  • Always ensure your operating system and security software is fully updated.
  • Consider purchase of a specialist anti cryptolocker tool.
  • Consider moving more of your data into cloud storage (not OneDrive or synced storage)
  • Block all .exe and .zip attachments at your email gateway.

What to do if you have Cryptolocker?

If you get a Cryptolocker pop up message on your screen it will generally say that all your files have been locked & encrypted, this means the execute file is in progress or finished the encryption. Before you consider Cryptolocker removal you must immediately do the following to minimise impact on your machine and network (it can spread to others on your network)

  • If one of your computers gets infected, then immediately disconnect it from the network & shut down the infected machine. You should also shut down all other devices on your network.
  • If you have been compromised then immediately change all of your organisation’s network and on-line passwords.
  • Disconnect all backups on your network including other non-infected devices.
  • Removal all LAN & device connections.
  • Call an expert to get professional advice on next steps

Cryptolocker Removal?

Once you have isolated your machine & network, a professional such as Computer Troubleshooters, can do an evaluation of your next steps – checking backups, assess other devices, extent of infection, & the best method of data retrieval.

Once this is done we can determine if we can do a data restoration & Cryptolocker removal – it is a complex process, and in some cases if a backup has not be done properly or the steps above have not been followed it can be a compromise solution, or worse case you may need to pay the ransom. Even if you pay the ransom the Trojan still needs to be removed otherwise it can be reactivated,

Prevention is Key

With this type of threat it is better to “think when, not if”, as the human element eliminates even the best planning. Thinking now about business continuity may save considerable time, expense, and disruption.

Computer Troubleshooters can do an assessment of your business’ computer network. We can also provide recommendations for establishing a strategic approach to cyber security and assist you with a variety of solutions to reduce the risk of a security breach.  We strongly encourage you to prepare your business for the threat of a cyber security crime, call your local Computer Troubleshooters office today for help and advice.

Yammer – What is it?

Microsoft have announced that all Microsoft Office 365 tenants with less than 150 users will have Yammer automatically turned on in their Office 365 tenant. So along with your standard suite of Microsoft Office products (Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, & Excel) you will increasingly see Yammer icons appearing on your screens. So what is Yammer and how can it be used?

Yammer is an enterprise grade Social Networking platform for businesses, and works similarly to Facebook in allowing online conversations between single users and groups.  Yammer can be setup so everyone across your business can access from multiple devices (PC, Mac, iPhone, Smartphones & Tablets) and communicate instantly with groups or other users, this leverages the increasingly integrative cloud capabilities within the core Office 365 product range, cloud applications such as Yammer are fully included in most subscriptions.

Why use Yammer?

Yammer is an integrated communications tool with instant messaging, message posting, group discussions & collaboration that allows security, permissions, & licences. It is controlled by the central admin panel for Office 365, which means you determine who in your organization can use the platform and which groups they can be a member. Unlike Facebook which is a public domain application, Yammer is run as an enterprise grade platform covered by the Office 365 Trust Center with significant privacy & security advantages over public applications.

Yammer is following the huge social shift in communication to online, particularly in the younger generation who have become digital natives with social networking as their preferred method of sharing & nonverbal communication. Many see the Yammer social network for businesses as a way to get work done smarter and faster designed for a generation addicted to social networking. Microsoft say it is a way of “bringing teams together” in a single communication hub reducing email trails, encouraging real time collaboration & feedback.

Users with a license that includes Yammer can start accessing Yammer from Office 365 via the Yammer tile in the Office 365 app launcher or start a Yammer conversation from other Office 365 apps. Existing Yammer users, who are also Office 365 users, can start signing in with their Office 365 credentials, unifying their sign-in experiences

How does Yammer work?

Assuming you have Office 365 you, or your administrator should be able to setup Yammer for your business reasonably easily.

  • User Profiles – The Profile is the starting point for each user with settings for basic personal details, contact information, organisational information, password management, and notification settings.
  • Groups – Groups can be set up internally for employees to share information, set by the group administrator this could be by department, by project, or all company. Users can be invited to join multiple groups & new groups can set setup reasonably easily
  • Internal Networks – Yammer can be set up for both internal & external network communication. The internal (or Verified) network is the main domain that each email is setup against, if all employees have the same domain they can access the full range of Yammer services between internal users.
  • External Networks -Yammer allows you to also join external networks that have members outside your organisation (different domain names), they  can either be public or privately invited (you request to join), there is a great search function that allows you find external networks which you may like to join (e.g. industry groups or subject support groups)
  • Notifications – in settings you can change the notification settings for each group or network, so for an internal group you may wish to see every contribution as it is made and get an daily email summary, while for an external industry network you may wish to get a daily summary as the end of each day. These can be changed by the individual user and generally depends on the traffic & importance  the group or network to the user.

Once your User Profiles, Networks, and Groups have been setup it is time to use the application for communication;

  • Inbox – just like email or on Facebook the inbox shows all activity or posts to have occurred in your internal groups or networks in a conversational flow with images and comments.
  • External Networks – you need to change into an external network to check activity or make a post.
  • Online Now – Yammer has a presence function to identify when other people on your internal network are online and able to chat (each profile online shows a green dot).
  • Update, Poll or Praise – these are types of comments anyone can make to the group to engage members or participate in conversations.
  • Files – Yammer allows files to be uploaded and shared across groups, versions maintained, and stored.
  • Search – The search function in Yammer is powerful using both #hashtags and conversational search it allows users to search group history of conversations, files, & topics, ultimately building a knowledge base within each group.
  • Icons – once you have Yammer working you will have Yammer icon on your PC Taskbar that shows when you have a message in your group.
  • Apps – there are number of Apps that facilitate Yammer on smartphones, iPhone, & Tablets – they all provide notification & user access for contributing on the go. There is an App store for other apps to facilitate specific areas such as awards, suggestion boxes, and milestone reminders for projects.

Do you want to know more about Yammer?

Yammer maybe a great addition for your business & with no additional licence cost as part of many Office 365 subscriptions. Office 365 is increasing the preferred IT platform option for most businesses, we can help with the user setup, data migration, & ongoing administration of the your Office 365 environment, as well as making sure you get the most from the other value added Office 365 services such as OneDrive, Skype for Business, & SharePoint.

Computer Troubleshooters can help you setup Yammer as part of your Office 365 solution and ensure you understand the limitations and recommendations we have around the implementation of these services. Call Computer Troubleshooters today to see how we can get you started with Office 365 and at the same time get you started with Yammer.