November 24, 2020

Is Your Password Policy Strong Enough to Outsmart Cybercriminals?

Implementing a password policy in your company is an easy first step in protecting against costly cyberattacks. Modern hackers are using advanced password software that can use a variety of methods to gain your login information. To combat these hackers and protect your data, strong password guidelines is key.  Below are password policy best practices you can easily implement across your organization to act as the first line of defense against a data breach.

Password Policy Best Practices

Having strict password standards in your company lowers the chances that hackers will be able to get access to your network. Implementing a strong password policy and revisiting it regularly will make sure you are staying on top of the latest hacking strategies. An effective password policy will include guidelines around:

Password Lockout

Lockout rules will cause an account to be inaccessible due to too many failed login attempts, usually after a period before the account will self-reenable. Setting the password lockout to three or four attempts will slow the process of a password being guessed and potentially flag an account as being under attack.

Password Age

Creating guidelines around password age will require a periodic password change for all users. We recommend changing passwords every 60 days. Keeping a password for a long period of time allows a hacker to have a prolonged amount of time for identifying a password. Additionally, there is a higher probability that the password will be reused or identified on the dark web.

Restrictions of Reusing Passwords

Reusing the same account password that was used previously on an organizational account is an extension of the password age parameter above, the longer a password is in use, the more time a hacker has to crack the password.  We recommend your system remembering the last 24 passwords so an account is not able to reuse.

Password Complexity Requirements

Password complexity slows the process of a password being identified. Complexity requirements should include using uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols for every password created.

Password Length Requirements

Password length also slows the process and lessens the odds that a password would be guessed. We recommend using passwords of 14 characters or more.

Many of these policies are all within the same place on your network server. If your environment is large enough that it has centralized management, such as a domain controller, you can enforce the settings among your group all at once. If a domain controller is not present, applicable settings will have to be applied individually.

Anders Technology can help you develop a strong password policy and implement cybersecurity best practices to protect you and your organization. Contact an Anders advisor to see how we can help you mitigate security risk and defend against a costly cyberattack.

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November 10, 2020

Flexible, Secure and Cost-Effective Strategies to Build into Your 2021 IT Budget

Year-end budgeting is going to look a lot different this year in the midst of a global pandemic. Business objectives have undoubtedly changed over the past year and innovation is more important than ever to address these changes and recover from the effects of COVID-19. Making the case for flexible, secure and cost-effective technology platforms will be vital going into 2021.

Flexibility

Remote work was forced upon many companies this year, and if virtual work options were not already part of the company’s technology strategy, it caused a lot of time, money and frustration to implement quickly. Being flexible became the name of the game, and the need to be agile is here to stay. In the coming year, businesses will want to build their technology strategy with a focus on flexibility, so as business goals or environmental factors evolve, they can easily adjust using technology. Going into 2021, three flexible strategies to consider are:

Along with having a flexible IT strategy, keeping it secure should also be top-of-mind.

Security

Continuing to maintain and build a robust cybersecurity strategy is another vital focus going into 2021. Cybercriminals are getting more and more sophisticated, and breaches are getting larger and more costly. Now is the time to review your cybersecurity architecture and develop a road map going into the new year that includes:

  • Governance, Risk and Compliance Measures
  • Vulnerability Management
  • Information Protection and Privacy
  • Cybersecurity Training and Testing

Even with the best cybersecurity safeguards in place including backups, firewalls and software patches, it takes one click by an unknowing employee to cost your business a lot of time, money and important data. Employee cybersecurity training can equip everyone in the company with the tools and knowledge needed to do their part in avoiding a data breach.

Flexibility and security are important pieces of every technology strategy for 2021 but coming out of a pandemic, companies also need to be mindful of budgets.

Cost-Effectiveness

With cost-cutting being a reality amidst a global pandemic, business owners and CIOs need to decide which parts of their IT strategy need to be done in-house, and where they can find cost efficiencies by outsourcing.

Anders Technology specializes in bridging the gap in technology needs, from co-managing alongside internal IT staff to supplement expertise, to being the entire IT team, we can step in as much or as little as needed. Below is an example of ways we partner with our clients.

Bridging the Gap in Your Technology Needs | Anders Technology

Anders Technology can help be flexible by taking on more when needed and pivoting the strategy with supplemental resources. With a team of advisors with in-depth knowledge in several areas, we can help you develop a technology strategy that helps you meet business goals while staying secure and cost-conscious. Learn more about Anders Technology or contact an Anders advisor below to get started.

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October 27, 2020

Do Your Employees Actually Need Cybersecurity Training?

We can all agree that protecting your business and employees from data breaches is important. But is company-wide cybersecurity training necessary? Some businesses have periodic training courses along with phishing tests. Others send out a friendly reminder to employees to “be careful not to open suspicious emails”. What is enough?

The Importance of Identifying a Scammer

The probability of an employee opening a malicious email may be directly related to the amount of training they received. Let’s say your company has the friendly reminder approach with employees. Here is what happens when an employee clicks on a ransomware link:

  • Hopefully, your anti-virus and firewall has up-to-date patching to HELP prevent an attack
  • However, just clicking the link is enough to activate the sequence for the attack and many times a firewall and anti-virus cannot help you after that action
  • After that, the characteristics of the specific malware will start to deploy in your system – however, you may not notice, and the virus does not always execute immediately
  • You may feel forced to pay a ransom. The government may punish organizations who pay the ransom after a ransomware attack

Beyond ransomware, scammers are using other tactics to gain valuable information through phishing and spear-phishing attempts. By posing as a colleague, manager or other credible source, employees could be conned into:

  • Wiring an ACH payment
  • Using a personal or company card to buy a gift card or other unsuspecting errand
  • Providing their password  

Invest in the training of your human firewall. A traditional firewall cannot do it alone. Even with the best laid cybersecurity safeguards in place including backups, firewalls and software patches, it takes one click by an unknowing employee to cost your business a lot of time, money and important data.

How to Train Employees on Cybersecurity Best Practices

Now that we know the importance of cybersecurity training for employees, how can you get started? Anders Technology has cybersecurity advisors that can implement a training program for staff based on their skill level. Maybe they can already identify a suspicious link but could still be fooled by a credible-looking domain. We use a personalized approach to ensure each employee is equipped with the tools to keep themselves and the company safe from scammers.

Anders Technology can help you implement the best cybersecurity practices to protect you and your organization. Contact an Anders advisor to see how we can help you mitigate security risk and defend against a costly cyberattack.

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October 9, 2020

Microsoft Ignite 2020: New Features Coming for Businesses

Every fall, thousands of IT professionals and Microsoft experts from around the world gather for the annual Microsoft Ignite conference. Ignite provides an opportunity for Microsoft to showcase products and services and announce upcoming changes and improvements. This year’s feature enhancements align seamlessly with Anders Technology’s approach to flexible, secure and cost-effective technology.

The major themes of Ignite 2020 were agility and resilience. Modern organizations need the ability to swiftly pivot and respond to new business opportunities, while maintaining business operations in the face of challenges that we could not have imagined a year ago. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Anders had several of our engineers attend the all-virtual Ignite 2020 conference to better understand Microsoft’s roadmap and help our clients navigate the complex Microsoft environment. Below we dive into Microsoft’s upcoming changes and improvements to look forward to.

Enhancements to Microsoft Teams

With the increased reliance on remote work, businesses now rely on Teams and Teams Calling more than ever. Big changes are coming to Teams that will enable better collaboration and flexibility.

Together Mode

The biggest announcement in the Teams space is called Together Mode.  Together Mode places all video meeting participants together in a virtual onscreen space, like a conference room or a coffee shop, so that everyone in the meeting looks like they’re in the same room together. This new format has a profound impact on group cohesion during a video conference. Together Mode makes it easier for participants to process and understand nonverbal cues like gestures and eye contact while videoconferencing.

Teams Recaps

Microsoft also announced Teams Recaps.  After a meeting, participants can now access meeting recordings, transcripts, chat and shared files directly from their Outlook calendar. If you miss a meeting, forget what was said, or just want to refer back, the entire meeting can be available from your Outlook calendar.

Presenter Mode and Live Reactions

Microsoft is adding Presenter Mode and Live Reactions to meetings. Presenter Mode allows a Teams meeting presenter to superimpose him or herself over a slide deck so that participants can see both the presenter and the slides. Live Reactions already exists in Microsoft Live Events, but previously had not been available in Teams meetings. This functionality allows participants to nonverbally react to a meeting event with an emoji, allowing presenters and participants to maintain a sense of the room.

Breakout Rooms

Another major Teams feature announcement is Breakout Rooms, coming in early Q4 2020.  Meeting hosts will be able to create breakout rooms that participants can use for smaller group discussion, enabling meeting participants to organize and formalize side activities in a more productive format. Once the breakout activity is complete, hosts can then call the participants back to the larger group. Microsoft has placed Breakout Rooms on their roadmap for October 2020 for the standard and web Teams clients, and December 2020 for the Android client.

PowerBI Integration

Microsoft has announced enhancements to the PowerBI Teams app that will integrate almost all of the PowerBI feature set into Teams. Further, they announced a new PowerBI Professional Per-User licensing scheme. Previously, premium PowerBI features were only available at the organizational level, with entry level pricing at several thousand dollars per month. Going forward, organizations will be able to license PowerBI Premium features at the user level, allowing for much smaller engagements at a much lower cost.

Security Announcements

Windows Defender is part of a comprehensive cloud-based security suite called Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP). At Ignite 2019, Microsoft announced better medium-sized business licensing schemes for Defender ATP. At Ignite 2020, Microsoft announced that starting in Q4 2020, new Defender Antivirus (AV) capabilities will be added to the Microsoft 365 Business Premium licensing. This means that if your organization is already paying for Business Premium, you will be able to get advanced, automated, cloud-based antivirus for little or no extra licensing cost.

Microsoft HealthCare Cloud

Microsoft’s HealthCare Cloud is its first cloud offering built from the ground up for a specific industry. HealthCare Cloud is designed to integrate Azure, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics 365 for fully native compliance with all healthcare rules and regulations. 

In Private Preview, the Teams Electronic Health Record (EHR) connector allows clinicians to meet with patients and providers in Teams directly from the patient’s EHR. Currently, Microsoft is focusing on Epic EHR support, but other systems will be supported soon.

Azure Enhancements

Azure Communication Services bring communications APIs from the Teams stack into your Azure apps. This allows your organization to utilize Teams voice, video, and telephone features from within your own homegrown applications. 

The significant depth and breadth of new features and services announced at Ignite 2020 are sure to keep IT professionals busy until Ignite 2021. Anders Technology advisors strive to always stay ahead of what’s new in the technology industry so that we can be your trusted advisor, whether your organization wants tried-and-true or cutting-edge solutions. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we have the skills and the knowledge to meet your organization’s unique needs. Contact an Anders advisor below to discuss your situation.

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October 6, 2020

Harnessing Microsoft Intune and Autopilot to Work Better from Anywhere

In the days of social distancing and remote working, flexibility is more important than ever. Businesses that excel at finding ways to not just work remotely, but to work better remotely have a significant advantage over their competition, both during the coronavirus pandemic and afterwards. 

Companies are now trying methods that they never would have considered a few months ago. Anders Technology has used this as an opportunity to automate processes in a remote, contact-less environment using Microsoft® Intune and Autopilot.

The Power of Microsoft Intune: Configuring Computers Remotely

Many small and medium-sized businesses rely on a small but dedicated helpdesk staff to care for their internal technology. The helpdesk performs jobs like installing new software and configuring PC settings at the user’s desk or via remote control software. With Microsoft Intune, many of these tasks can be performed completely automatically and in bulk, freeing the helpdesk staff to handle more difficult problems. 

Example Using Intune

With Intune user groups, it’s possible to roll out a mass update. For example, if you want every member of your front-line staff to get the Teams app installed wherever the user logs in. Or if you want to ensure that Acrobat Reader is always installed on all machines in your company.  With Intune, it only takes a few minutes to set it up.

It’s also possible to have personalized configurations. For example, if you want all of your C-Suite staff’s devices to be encrypted. Or if you want to force a OneDrive backup policy for all of your HR employees. These types of custom or company-wide configurations can be easily set up and managed to provide the flexibility and security you need.

The Magic of Microsoft Autopilot: Contact-Less Deployment of New Computers

In the short term, most businesses are concerned with just getting by remotely, and haven’t considered how to deploy new hardware when it may be unsafe for users to visit the office.  In the past, configuring a new PC was a long, hands-on affair that required hours of personal attention from a from a trained technician before it ever landed on a user’s desk.

Example Using Autopilot

With Microsoft Autopilot, it’s possible to deliver a brand new PC, fully customized and configured to a specific user without ever touching it. In fact, you can have the device shipped directly from the manufacturer to your business. All the user needs to do is plug it in and login, and all of their apps and files will show up. I assure you it’s not magic. It’s Microsoft Autopilot, used in conjunction with Azure and Intune technologies.

The backend configuration of Intune and Autopilot can be very complicated, but the frontend benefits are extremely valuable to businesses. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Anders Technology has expertise and experience in these powerful technologies.  We can gauge and understand the unique needs of your business and design technology solutions that work flexibly, securely and in a cost-efficient manner. Contact an Anders advisor below to discuss your technology goals and how we can simplify your IT infrastructure by harnessing the power of Microsoft.

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September 24, 2020

Communicate Easier from Anywhere with Microsoft Teams Calling Plans

Over the past few months, many of us have received a crash course in using collaboration tools such as Microsoft® Teams. Even those employees who were the most vocally opposed to working outside of the office are now developing new knowledge and skills with remote collaboration tools. On March 31, 2020, Microsoft reported a new record of 2.7 BILLION Teams meeting minutes spent in one day, a 200% increase from just two weeks earlier.  We are all learning new tools right now at a pace that can seem overwhelming.

Bridging the Communication Gap Between Employees and Customers

One of the major pain points of remote work is knowing how to reach employees, wherever they are, on whatever device they’re using. Microsoft Teams helps internal employees with this. They can install Teams on almost any device and take it with them wherever they go.

But what about customers? What about vendors? What about any phone in your company that might be ringing to an empty desk? How can we leverage these new technology tools to make your phone system more flexible? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have the same corporate phone number that rings whether you’re in the office, at home, at school, or at the grocery store? It’s possible with Teams Calling Plans.

Replacing Your Company’s Phone System

We’ve previously touched on the basic functionality of Microsoft Teams. Those features however, barely scratch the surface of what’s possible.  With Teams you can:

  • Utilize calling plan numbers anywhere a Teams app can be installed – on a PC, a Mac, a smartphone, a tablet, a video conferencing device, or a compatible desk phone
  • Assign phone numbers to Teams users and place or receive calls using the Teams app
  • Port your company’s existing phone numbers into Teams and assign them to users
  • Build Auto Attendants, Call Groups, and Phone Trees
  • Receive voicemail, transcribe it, and automatically forward voicemails to Outlook
  • Assign and reassign phone numbers to your employees as needed
  • Call internationally if necessary

You can effectively use Teams as your company’s entire phone system, wherever your employees are located.

Getting Started with Microsoft Teams Calling Plans

Teams Calling Plans are available as add-on licenses with Microsoft Office 365.  Microsoft licensing can be very complex. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Anders Technology has both the expertise and the experience to guide you to a solution that’s tailored to your company’s unique and specific needs. Contact an Anders advisor below to discuss your situation.

Download our recorded Teams webinars to learn how to collaborate remotely with Microsoft Teams.

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September 4, 2020

4 Ways Not-for-Profits Can Be Flexible and Cost-Effective Using Technology

If your not-for-profit is looking for ways to empower staff and continue with your mission during this time, but are concerned about spending, you’re not alone. New technology can and should be accessible, flexible and cost-effective to implement and managing going forward. With these goals in mind, below are five ways not-for-profit organizations can implement new technology to help move their mission forward while staying on budget.

1. Stay Productive in the Cloud

By moving to the cloud, not-for-profit organizations can stay on top of the latest tools, applications, and innovations. In the past, expensive server hardware was required to be purchased every 3-5 years, or longer depending on budgets. Organizations can now move to the cloud with little to no licensing costs. Companies such as Microsoft offer free or heavily discounted licenses for not-for-profits to move to the cloud. Microsoft ® Azure and Office 365 allow employees to work from anywhere in a secure network.

2. Collaborate and Connect in One Place

If your organization rolled out Microsoft ® Teams during the switch to a remote work environment, you may already be familiar with the chat, teams, channels and apps features across your organization. Maybe you’ve deployed meetings and conferencing. Now you’re ready to add calling workloads to Teams to eliminate your old or outdated phone system. By adding in Teams Calling, you can now better collaborate with one place for all of your meetings, files, chats and calls.

3. Stay Protected with Top Notch Security Included

Staying collaborative is important but staying secure while doing so is vital. Cloud technology such as Microsoft ® 365 has built in security measures to protect your users’ accounts, files and email from spam and phishing. As of September 2020, not-for-profits have access to 250 seats of E1 license, 10 seats of Microsoft 365 Business Premium, and $3,500 in credits for Azure services to be used at your discretion over a 12-month period.

4. Move at Your Own Pace

Upgrading technology and moving your environment to the cloud doesn’t need to happen all at once. Leadership and employees are often overwhelmed by changes to technology. We recommend developing a roadmap for your approach to change. By utilizing migration paths to the cloud, changes can happen slower to accommodate training and budgeting. 

To access and utilize Microsoft’s not-for-profit benefits, your organization must first sign up with TechSoup. TechSoup seeks to create an infrastructure for nonprofits to stay informed on how to use technology to increase their social impact. As a “connector across sectors,” TechSoup is backed by more than 90 leading tech companies – including Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, and Intuit– and they network with other social enterprises, companies, foundations, and technological activists.

As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Anders Technology can help your not-for-profit use technology to enhance flexibility and collaboration across your organization and board. Contact an Anders advisor below to learn more.

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August 18, 2020

Why Real Estate and Construction Companies Need to Update Technology to Continue Adjusting to the New Normal

As businesses are still facing unusual times with unknown futures, some companies are still completely intact, some are struggling, and others are still awaiting the whiplash of a fluctuating economy. All of this unknown will undoubtedly shrink a pipeline of projects to bid, impact leases, reduce or modify office space buildouts, and ultimately change the way businesses view their real estate and construction needs for their companies.

The Growing Need for Agility

Agility had a whole new meaning in spring of 2020, and technology played a huge part in that. Many companies were scrambling to evaluate whether their networks would be able to sustain an entire company working from home and taxing network firewalls and internet bandwidth. The real estate and construction industries specifically had to navigate having employees at a construction site or a dispersed field of agents in both a technical sense and workaday sense.

The construction industry typically spends significantly less on technology than most other industries. Those who made the investment in technology and were able to pivot easily were able to avoid some of the issues making the transition to a remote workforce. Those who had put off increasing that internet bandwidth, buying that bigger firewall or moving that workload to the cloud were behind on multiple fronts within a few days. Not to mention the remote support capabilities necessary to provide help for employees in all things technical. While the late adopters may have struggled, it’s not too late to get your technology up to speed as we continue to adjust to the new normal.

New Security Threats

As if maintaining productivity didn’t require enough attention, hackers immediately went to work to find ways to find vulnerabilities in the newly relocated workforce. Cybersecurity training, VPN connectivity, password policy and home network security were important topics pre COVID-19 but have now been taken to a new level. Those who had made their best efforts in these areas were thankful they did prior to COVID-19, but those who didn’t are forced to orchestrate a plan to deploy remotely without causing a significant disruption. A quick network assessment to evaluate your current technology framework will help identify areas to ramp up your security

If certain technology concerns that needed attention pre-pandemic have become mission-critical items during the pandemic, re-evaluating budgets are a very important decision. Bigger objectives that have more agility, like moving workloads to the cloud, or properly configuring a firewall with cybersecurity best practices require an experienced technology partner. Contact an Anders advisor below to make sure you are getting the value and service you need to move your business forward or learn more about Anders Technology.

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August 11, 2020

Bridging the Gap In Your Technology Needs

Learn how Anders can add to your bench strength by working with or as your technology team.

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June 16, 2020

Marty J. McCormack

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