Interlinked - Business Disaster Ready

Is your business disaster-ready?

Disasters can strike at any time, whether they be caused by human error, malicious attacks or natural disasters such as fires and floods.

When unforeseen incidents occur, the organisation’s disaster recovery plan should instantly come into action to ensure that business continuity can be maintained with either no interruption or a minimal amount of it.

Business continuity involves thinking about the business at a higher level and asking: how quickly can I get my business operating again in case of system failure? Investment in business continuity is like buying insurance, and should be a vital part of any business plan since the best way to prevent downtime is to keep a step ahead of potential disaster.

Don’t be complacent

Most businesses think they are ready for business continuity, but once disasters actually strike the real problems occur. The issue is that consciousness slips as time goes on. What businesses must be able to do is to minimise the impact of unplanned downtime when something disruptive happens. With so many ways to connect with the world in today’s society, the reputational risk with a business not being able to function as it should is huge.

Downtime is real, and it’s costly. According to research by the Aberdeen Group, the cost of downtime by company size are: small companies approximately $8,581 per hour; medium companies $215,638 per hour; and large enterprises $686,250 for every hour of downtime.

The numbers speak for themselves: you need to plan for downtime. If you do not currently have a clear disaster recovery plan in place, start by speaking to your IT department or IT service provider to devise one that is suitable for your business.

Backup!

Traditionally, backing up is performed overnight when most users have logged off their organisation’s systems using a rotation of tapes. Despite being a technology that is more than four decades old, 61% of SMBs still ship backup tapes to a storage facility or another office. The processes for saving data to tape, removing it to a remote location, and retrieving it for disaster recovery are extremely cumbersome and time consuming, costing business hours of downtime that can otherwise be avoided.

Today as we expect 24×7 usage and the amount of data is rapidly expanding, it is increasingly important to employ updated solutions that can cater for such around the clock needs.

Consider backing up to the cloud – your backups are stored in data centres offsite to rule out the possibility of data loss due to physical damage to your business location, and recovery time is quick as it can all be done remotely. Automated backup methods can also be set up at a regular interval to ensure all your latest data are saved securely and can be quickly accessed should something go wrong.

Test, test and test

Anyone who has executed a plan before would know that things don’t always go as expected.

To ensure that a disaster recovery plan works, it has to be regularly tested. Backups need to be performed regularly with continuous availability, and testing will help to iron out any flaws in the process before disaster strikes.

Is your business disaster-ready?

How ready do you think your business is now? It always helps to discuss with professionals, so speak with your IT manager or service provider. The last thing you’d want for your business is to realise that you don’t have the necessary recovery methods – only after it’s too late.

There is more to SharePoint

What if I tell you there is more to SharePoint?

Microsoft’s SharePoint is a powerful tool for content management and collaboration. It is undoubtedly the world’s number one intranet platform – according to Microsoft, 78% of Fortune 500 companies use SharePoint in some way, however challenges around proper management, customisation and user adoption have prevented many companies from accessing all of the product’s features.

SharePoint online comes free with Office 365, and if that isn’t enough reason for your organisation to utilise it more, there is actually much more you can do with SharePoint than simply using it for intranet.

Information Sharing

SharePoint is perfect for storing all sorts of information, including sales and marketing content and collateral, case studies, product overviews and information, as well as application forms and contracts.

Collaboration

SharePoint’s co-authoring capability enables users to collaborate on the same document, at the same time, without worrying about version control. Updates are visible in real time, and the history of a document is easily traced.

Document Automation

The ability to automatically generate and customise documents in seconds by merging document templates with content stored in SharePoint, CRM and other enterprise systems, dramatically improves efficiency and reduces the costs associated with generating large volumes of complex documents.

Document automation tools can further assist businesses become more collaborative and efficient, and produce better-quality documents, reports, proposals and RFP responses.

Microsoft Office Integration

Adding content to SharePoint for use in future documents is simple. Clever document automation plugins for Microsoft Office allow people to create, locate and suggest content to SharePoint libraries without leaving the Word, Excel or PowerPoint document they’re working in.

Customised for Your Organisation

SharePoint developers are able to customise SharePoint tailored to your specific needs, and design for it to work seamlessly within your familiar Microsoft Office environment.

While many business have SharePoint, not many are using it to its full potential. Explore what SharePoint can do for your organisation and unlock the possibilities today.


Do you need help with setting up SharePoint? Speak to our friendly team on 1300 302 207 or send us a message online here.

Office Lens

Office Lens will revolutionise your note taking

Office Lens – Your Scanner on-the-go

Office Lens is a mobile app by Microsoft that lets you take pictures of whiteboards or printed documents, then enhances your photo by cropping, sharpening and straightening it, so it looks almost like a scanned image. Your picture is added to your OneNote, so you can retrieve it later. The app also has the ability to convert these scanned images directly into Word documents and PowerPoint presentations—that you can edit, author and edit again.

This video demonstrates the app in action.

Download for free now

This app is available for free on Android, iOS and Windows Phones.

Download Office Lens for Android Phones

Download Office Lens for iPhones

Download Office Lens for Window Phones

Office 365 now available on Android Tablet

Office 365 now available for Android tablets

Keep your business running wherever you go with Office 365 for Android tablets

Office 365 is now available for Android tablets – download the apps now and start doing more on the go!

Click on the icons below for the Google play download page:

wordlogoexcellogopowerpointlogoonenotelogo

Microsoft Office is pre-installed on Windows Phone, but you can also get it for iPhone®, iPad® and Android™ phone.

Download on the App store Get it on Google play


Need help getting started? Speak to us today on 1300 302 207 or send us a message online here.

 

The End is Near for Windows Server 2003

The end is near for Windows Server 2003

For companies that don’t make the move to migrate off Windows Server 2003 before Microsoft ends support in less than two months, there will be a rise in security and compliance risk for your business.

Windows Server 2003 has been a reliable operating system used by millions of servers globally, but as of 14th July 2015 Microsoft will no longer issue patches and security updates for its Server 2003 operating system, meaning the potential for vulnerabilities will increase significantly.

“Unprotected systems make organisations more susceptible to data breaches, loss of critical, confidential data, and business disruption such as an inability to run mission critical transactions or deliver customer services – all of which damage the brand and the customer’s trust. On top of that, organisations incur the costs associated with system remediation, investigation, customer care and potential lawsuits following the attack,” said Piero DePaoli, senior director of global enterprise security product marketing at Symantec.

A system remaining on the Server 2003 operating system is essentially an open door for attackers looking for the path of least resistance into an organisation’s infrastructure, potentially compromising the entire organisation.

“We expect attacks will peak around mid-July when support officially ends, as [Server 2003] will then be one of the least secure systems in existence,” DePaoli added.

If you are still running Windows Server 2003 in your datacentre, you need to take steps now to plan and execute a migration strategy to protect your infrastructure. By migrating to a new, more secure operating system or service that can do the job of your old Windows Server, you can achieve concrete benefits, including improved performance, reduced maintenance requirements, and increased agility and speed of response to the business.

Are you uncertain about whether this applies to your business or what your next steps should be? See our quick migration checklist below:

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Migration Checklist – End of Life of Windows Server 2003:

  1. Check if Windows Server 2003 is running on your network
    Contact your IT service provider for an assessment or download the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit to analyse your current IT infrastructure
  2. Understand your options
    There are a few main options for server migration:
    –  Upgrade the Operating System on your existing hardware
    –  Migrate the roles and services of the old server to a new one
     –  Offload services to the Cloud (such as Office 365)
    If you are unsure which is the best for your business situation, speak to an IT service provider as they can help you understand your options further and suggest the most suitable plan of action for your business requirements
  3. Assess your situation
    Identify the applications and workloads that are running on Windows Server 2003 and categorise them by type, importance, risk factor and degree of complexity
  4. Build migration action plan
    Based on your assessments, determine the migration destination for each application and workload, and plan your migration around these processes to ensure a seamless transition

Not sure where to start? Interlinked can help! Speak to us today on 1300 302 207 or send us a message here.

 

Office 365 now hosted in Australia

Office 365 now live in Australian data centres

Microsoft has now gone live with Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online hosted in data centres located in Australia.

Despite the rising popularity of cloud computing, security has remained a major business concern. With Microsoft’s cloud services previously being hosted overseas, varying privacy laws could mean unwanted access to business data stored in the cloud. Microsoft addresses such data sovereignty concerns by its move to local data centres, a key step in the rollout of Microsoft cloud services in the country.

These services will use the same infrastructure as its Azure public cloud, and Office 365 partners can deliver geo-redundant backup as well as faster performance, said Microsoft’s director of partner business and development, Philip Goldie.

Existing Office 365 customers with services hosted in its Asia Pacific region will be automatically moved to Australia unless they opt-out. Customers will be given six weeks advance notice of their move date, which will occur out of business hours.

Microsoft partners expect the arrival of Office 365 on Aussie shores to drive uptake, with some customers waiting for locally hosted services.

Are you looking to move to Office 365? We can help! Interlinked is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner – contact us today for your Office 365 needs.

Shadow IT

5 Step Plan of Attack on Shadow IT

Technology is becoming more and more readily available, with such things as cloud storage and web applications instantly accessible at the click of a button. Individual users can now easily access the latest technologies, and there is no doubt that employee productivity and work efficiency are reaching new peaks. However, how can management ensure that sensitive business data is being processed securely through external IT solutions?

What is Shadow IT?

Shadow IT” refers to applications and IT solutions used inside organisations without explicit organisational approval, and describes solutions deployed by departments other than the IT department.

Unsanctioned use of IT solutions exposes the organisation to extra risks, putting sensitive data beyond the reach of corporate firewalls and other security measures. IT costs can also quickly spiral out of control as different applications are being used by different people across a multitude of devices, many of which have been purchased outside of traditional IT and procurement channels.

If your organisation is affected by Shadow IT, you are not alone. In a recent study by marketing firm Outsource on behalf of Red Hat, an interview of 110 Australian and 40 New Zealand senior IT decision-makers found that only 13.3 percent of respondents are using cloud applications or platforms with full approval from senior managers.

Why does Shadow IT happen?

Before any company can tackle this issue, they must first identify the reasons why employees have looked externally to begin with.

“Organisations using cloud technologies without senior management approval tend to do so because they cannot get the speed and agility they need from existing, approved organisational systems,” Max McLaren, Red Hat’s ANZ regional vice president, said in a statement.

Shadow IT exists because people need to get work done and “official” IT hasn’t been responsive enough, or because it lacks the necessary tools. This drives employees to find an adequate solution on their own, and security would not be their priority.

To overcome the problems that arise with Shadow IT, it would require long term efforts, communication and cooperation between management, IT staff, service providers and employees.

How can Shadow IT affect my organisation?

  • Usually more costly.  Duplicate subscriptions and services that don’t receive the benefit of volume discounts could be rampant throughout the company.
  • Can degrade app performance. The organisation’s internet connection could get clogged with cloud traffic. Cloud use depends on network access. If IT is in the dark about cloud services and doesn’t account for them in its capacity planning, network pipes can fill up fast.
  • Can increase your vulnerability to hacks. Shadow IT services aren’t connected to your core directory structure, and users are prone to reusing their existing credentials with the new, non-IT-sanctioned service for the sake of convenience. Identical credentials to your core directory, then, can get leaked in other systems, which significantly increases the risk of security breaches. IT cannot manage these credentials because it doesn’t know about them.

Plan of Attack

1. Adopt a more progressive approach

Shadow IT highlights those areas in which current IT systems are falling short of the needs of the employee. Management needs to enable productivity by building the right environment to bring the tools in-house as needed. Try to make official IT as easy and responsive as Shadow IT while still asserting appropriate control over corporate intellectual property. With a more progressive approach, management could implement regulations that actually support Shadow IT initiatives, helping them to understand employee grievances to achieve the right solutions.

2. Implement flexible management tools

The distinction between work and non-work is quickly diminishing, and policies towards device and software capabilities should reflect this. Employees will likely reject the notion of management controlling personal devices but will generally accept control of corporate information on those devices. Therefore, businesses should look for mobile applications and management tools that offer greater flexibility.

3. Reach out to Shadow IT vendors

Proactively contact vendors and suggest that they work with you directly over letting employees or individual business units implement their services on an ad hoc basis. This will not only help you maintain control and visibility, it will help the vendor establish a more long-term and profitable relationship with the company.

4. Educate your team

Once management has sight of the applications in use throughout the organisation, the next step is to educate employees about why certain activities have been blocked. Offering alternative apps that have similar features, but are lower-risk, means employees will feel empowered by using apps and devices they enjoy, while corporate security is maintained.

Consulting and providing feedback also reflects your strong position to give guidelines of approved applications, policies and alternatives. Staff will want to be informed and discuss their IT queries so they can get the job done and improve business processes. Ultimately, this open approach will give management greater visibility and insight into what applications users are deploying.

5. Engage a Managed Service Provider

With a wealth of knowledge and experience in the industry, a Managed Service Provider would be able to provide all of the above. They are in the best position to analyse the applications currently being used by your team, whether these solutions are suitable for standardised use, and suggest possible alternatives to cater for your business needs. They can also manage the entire project from start to finish, ensuring that any new services and solutions deployed integrates smoothly with existing business systems, and provide any necessary training to ensure employees’ technology use does not compromise business security.

Accessibility to technology has meant a much more complex working environment, however companies that manage to leverage it to perform at their peaks will be able to gain a great competitive advantage in this new world.


Do you have concerns about Shadow IT in your organisation? Chat to us today on 1300 302 207 or send us a message here.

Long Term Relationship with MSP

Tips for a long-lasting relationship (with your MSP)

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) take a proactive approach to monitoring your IT system, giving you the advantage of preventative care in place of the traditional break-fix approach. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we’re sharing some insights into what makes a relationship with your MSP work and how your business can benefit from it.

Let them know what you’re thinking

A strong relationship is one that begins with a solid foundation of visibility and accessibility. Your MSP needs the opportunity to fully understand your operating environment and your business as they evolve. The MSP should have exposure to nearly every level in your organisation, and as your contingent workforce and business strategies change, your MSP needs to know in order to better serve you.

Get to know yourself better

In any relationship it is often true that your partner makes you learn things about yourself that you never knew before. This is no exception in your relationship with your MSP.

MSPs are experts in their field and have years of experience in working with other businesses similar to your own, so they are most likely already familiar with many parts of your IT system. This means they are able to easily detect any possible concerns that would otherwise be overlooked, as well as ensure you are utilising your existing or new IT system to its fullest potential. According to The Standish Group, more than 60 percent of software features are rarely or never used – so take advantage of  your MSPs’ experience to get to know your business system better!

Trust is vital

Many times the value of the MSP service can be hindered by technology that doesn’t work the way it is meant to, or a technology provider that are unable to customisation changes. That is why it’s important to trust in your MSP and consult them with any goals or concerns you may have. They have a wealth of experience in dealing with a range of vendors and products, so they are in the best position to provide you with an integrated solution for your organisation to achieve your business objectives.

Know that they are there for you no matter what

The readiness of your partner to be there for you is what distinguishes a relationship from a casual fling.

In the traditional break-fix approach, ad-hoc service requests were made only after a problem arises. The IT service provider performs once off work, and charges again should you require any further projects to be completed.

With the managed model, your MSP will work hard to identify potential challenges and threats to your IT system and solve them before disruptions occur. You’re dealing with IT professionals that take pride in keeping up with the latest trends, best practices, and newest software, so you can be confident that they’ll keep your system up-to-date and running at maximum efficiency. MSPs also offer peace of mind that you can’t get with break-fix. When your server shuts down, you’ve got a professional who is already familiar with your system standing by to get your business back up and running.

Conclusion

MSPs are here as your strategic business partner on a long term basis, and will work with you to ensure that you receive maximised utility out of your IT system to achieve your business goals.

As for those who have not found a partner yet, we have the perfect match for you ;)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Benefits of MSPs

12 Benefits MSPs bring to your Cloud Deployment

It’s often a tough juggling act for businesses as they try to increase efficiency, cut back on costs, while staying ahead of competition and utilising the latest technologies. Especially for those planning for a migration to the cloud, with so many different options available and the increasing complexity of cloud integration and management, it can be a daunting task to make a choice that best fits your business needs. That is why Managed Services Providers (MSPs) are here to help.

Going back to the basics of economics, we know that businesses should make the best use of available resources to ensure that nothing goes to waste and scarce resources are used to their fullest potential. MSPs as experts in the field are able to provide invaluable service and advice from their extensive experience, and are available to you as an extra resource so you may focus existing resources on building your core business.

The most difficult part of a business cloud migration is the aggregation, integration, deployment and management of multiple cloud-based applications to deliver a fully managed enterprise solution. With years of experience in offering these services even before the rise of cloud-based infrastructure and the integration capabilities that are available today, MSPs are technology experts who provide immense value in the entire migration process. Economic science also tells us that specialisation, by allowing MSPs to take care of your cloud deployment and IT while you concentrate on your everyday business, means that every party can focus on what they do best rather than relying on self sufficiency. Benefits of this includes quicker and higher quality output, as well as cost and time efficiency.

These are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to benefits of working with a MSP for your cloud solution, and we’ve summarised ten more for you below:

  1. Tech Savvy Professionals
    MSPs are experts in the areas of cloud infrastructure, data warehousing, security, business continuity, as well as core business applications. They also invest significant resources in keeping their staff current with the latest technology and application developments. MSPs are able to predict upcoming needs and work with their clients to build a technology roadmap for the future.
  2. Extensive Network & Relationships
    MSPs have developed their own cloud ecosystems with technology and other feature specific service providers, allowing them to package services from multiple cloud service vendors that collectively create new functionality.
  3. Customisation
    MSPs understand that one size does not fit all and all cloud deployments require some level of service integration and customisation. MSPs expect to tailor every deployment and offer a full range of professional services to support that.
  4. Application Experts
    MSPs understand applications, how they run in various environments and offer functional support. They truly understand their client’s business workflow and work to enhance it.
  5. Skilled at Large Cloud Deployments:
    MSPs regularly deal with large application deployments. They are experts at understanding how the applications will run in various cloud environments, allowing them to know what works and doesn’t work, which are often underestimated by in-house IT, and develop a low risk deployment plan.
  6. Simplification Experts
    MSPs are experts at taking the complex and simplifying it for their customers.
  7. Service-centric
    MSPs become an extension of their client’s team and understand what it takes at all levels of the organisation to make the relationship work.
  8. Anticipate Problems
    MSPs proactively manage both infrastructures as well as applications, anticipating problems and trying to resolve them before the client is impacted.
  9. Single point of contact
    MSPs serve as the single point of contact to enable complex business workflows regardless of the services used. They own any problems that should arise and ensure continuity, with support delivered by a dedicated support team that is empowered to serve your business 24/7.
  10. Simplified Billing
    MSPs provide a wide range of services under a simple recurring business model.

In the way of today’s technology advancement, moving to the cloud has become a crucial process to stay competitive. The cloud has also brought about many benefits to businesses of all sizes. It is undoubtedly a complicated process, however with the help of MSPs with their knowledge and technical expertise, cloud deployment can be made hassle-free to you and your team.

Ready to speak to a MSP? Contact Interlinked today on 1300 302 207 or enquiries@Interlinked.com.au to discuss your requirements!

Also see here for tips on how to choose a MSP.

aaS

All about that aaS

These days we keep hearing “something-aaS” “blah-aaS” “everything-aaS” – so what is aaS?

“aaS” stands for “as-a-Service”. With the use of cloud, the idea is to offer traditional products “as-a-Service”, to allow businesses and users to take advantage of products and infrastructure on a pay-as-you-go or subscription basis, removing the need to invest huge sums of money upfront to purchase the physical item.

As we have previously explored, the cloud divides mainly into four types of “aaS”-es:

1) The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model allows businesses to provide direct access to the applications by employees, partners or clients. Because these applications are centrally managed on the cloud, there are no licenses or upgrades to maintain.

A popular example of this is Microsoft’s Office 365, which allows users to access their documents and collaborate with colleagues using a range of devices via the cloud.

2) The Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) model is an application development platform delivered on demand through application hosting, allowing developers to focus on software design, development and deployment — without the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware, software, provisioning and hosting.

3) The Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) model delivers compute power, storage and networking on demand, eliminating the high cost of maintaining, staffing and providing for an in-house data center if the service is provided externally. If it’s provided internally at a departmental level, it still offers greatly improved speed and efficiency in providing compute resources needed for the business.

Organisations are able to choose between simple hosted servers that allows them full control of the system, or managed services that maintain the system for them.

4) The Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) model describes services for network transport connectivity.

Moving data to where it needs to be is both a technical and a financial consideration when weighing up any cloud deployment. NaaS allows for users to pay for just the data networking they use on an as-needed basis, driven by application requirements rather than provisioned in large blocks or channels that are destined to sit idle when a workload inevitably slows down or changes.


When describing cloud computing, almost any usage can be followed by ‘as-a-Service’ to define it as a networked operation, rather than a standalone computer or hard drive locally. Other variations include ‘Storage-as-a-Service’ (STaaS), ‘Data-as-a-Service’ (DaaS), and ‘Security-as-a-Service’ (SECaaS), which are based on the fundamental models described above.

Want to find out more about the benefits of Cloud? See our previous post – What is Cloud Computing?