For JEH Homes, which in 2013 was named one of the Top 10 Residential Homebuilders in Atlanta, the economic recovery has meant beneficial growth in both its business and its stature. With that growth, however, came a challenge―how to ensure its technology systems were robust and well-managed enough to keep pace. For JEH Homes, fast, functional technology is vital, not only for office workers, but also for sales agents in the field.
When the company outgrew its previous IT provider, it found a new technology "home," as well―with DynaSis and its all-you-can-eat, flat-fee Digital Veins IT service package. For the solution, DynaSis migrated JEH Homes’ email to hosted Microsoft Exchange, providing company personnel with remote access to corporate email on their laptops and desktops. DynaSis also provides JEH Homes with proactive, 24/7/365 network and system monitoring, management, remote issue resolution and system updates, plus round-the-clock Help Desk with an online ticketing system that JEH Homes’ users access through a dedicated portal on their PCs.
To complete the package, DynaSis offers on-site assistance for problems that cannot be resolved remotely and helps JEH Homes manage some other hosted solutions that are outside the scope of Digital Veins’ sphere. DynaSis' IT planning experts also consult with JEH Homes on upgrades and other improvements that would benefit JEH Homes’ utilization of technology.
According to JEH Homes’ Controller Christina Campbell, the DynaSis solution and service are exactly what JEH needed to keep its own homebuilding on track. "We called DynaSis in, and they were a bigger operation with more resources than our previous provider," says Campbell. "It made sense to go with a company that was more equipped to handle our volume. DynaSis took a look at what we had, how we were setup, and where we needed to go. They presented what we needed to do, and they discovered a lot of things that should have been happening but weren't."
Backup It Up
One of the operations that wasn't happening as it should was JEH Homes’ backup procedure. Although JEH Homes had never had a backup failure, Campbell says, DynaSis gave them a strategic plan where none had existed before.
"The old IT company wasn't giving us the backup recommendations we needed, like backing up to an offsite location as a better safeguard," Campbell says. "Before we signed up with DynaSis, we didn't realize that our backups were not sufficient and were not happening often enough."
Campbell reports that DynaSis has also helped JEH Homes get a handle on its support for its remote site. Of the 36 individuals on the JEH Homes’ network, 10 are sales agents that rely on remote access to the network. "DynaSis has really stepped up; they helped us to get our remote access problems under control and provide a better system to support the agents," says Campbell.
"From a company perspective, it all really starts with agents in the field," she continues. "One of the biggest rewards we have seen is that now our remote locations are up and running smoothly. DynaSis also makes sure that our agents have access to our SharePoint site, and if they don’t DynaSis works with our SharePoint hosting company to straighten things out."
Campbell says the whole company's IT and productivity flow has improved while under DynaSis' care. "They are a really well-rounded IT company, and the Help Desk is phenomenal," says Campbell. "Our prior firm had an online ticketing system, as well, but DynaSis' response time is 10 times better now that our users have options to call or go online. We typically get a call back from DynaSis within 45 minutes―their response time is 100 times better."
Campbell also notes that DynaSis is helping JEH Homes plan for and implement the upgrades that will carry the company into the future. "It was crazy-insane, the differences in technology our people were using; the laptops and desktops," says Campbell.
"DynaSis told us, 'Eventually this is what you need to do,' and they have worked with us to make the purchases as we need them, so we didn't have to order 15 laptops at once. We give them the specs, and they deliver each unit, set it up and make sure the user is good to go."
About JEH Homes
JEH Homes is an Atlanta new home builder known for creatively designed homes with superior construction and attention to detail. With a focus on understanding and appreciating the true meaning of "Home," all of its Atlanta new homes include JEH Homes' GREENdesign Initiative smart features, remarkable value and an exceptional Worry-Free Warranty. For more information, visit www.jeh-homes.com.
By the DynaSis Team
[featured_image]The weekend before we posted this article, news broke that Google’s DNS server had been hacked. The DNS (domain name system) is a system that assigns and keeps track of the Internet addresses for every Internet-connected resource. A DNS server uses this information to translate the domain names we associate with websites into their numerical equivalent (called IP addresses) to allow Internet users to reach their destinations.
For 22 minutes on Saturday, March 15, Google’s DNS server was under the control of hackers, who had the ability to redirect traffic to any domain they chose. In this case, millions of users who used Google were redirected to British Telecommunications’ Latin American division in Venezuela and Brazil―but their connection could also have been routed through any other Internet server along the way, exposing their connections and information, en route.
This news comes at the same time the media are announcing that Target ignored advice from its cybersecurity firm before its historic holiday 2013 data breach, and shortly after Bitcoin exchange MtGox filed for bankruptcy, saying it had lost some 8.5 million Bitcoins to hackers. (Bitcoins are a form of currency used for various online transactions―users deposit real money into these exchanges to keep Bitcoins readily available in their accounts for later use. All of them may have lost their investments.)
These stories once again underscore the vulnerability of even the largest merchants, Internet providers and financial institutions. In the case of Target, the news also reinforces the notion that companies can be culpable in the event of bad decision making―possibly leaving them deeply liable for their negligence when security breaches occur.
For this reason, DynaSis urges all its blog readers―customers and others―to have security assessments done and to ensure their networks are as robustly defended as possible. Furthermore, based on the recent spate of news, we encourage companies not to consider large entities or their Internet sites and services to be “safe.” As this news illustrates, any company whose personnel used the corporate network to access Google for searches or Target to purchase office items could potentially have put company IT assets at risk. Stout security defenses may be able to prevent such redirection, and, if not, they can certainly prevent attackers from accessing company information during the redirects.
We also remind our customers to upgrade all their Windows XP computers before the end-of-support deadline on April 8, 2014. At that point, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates for that operating system (OS), exposing to attack both the Windows XP computers and the networks to which they are connected. Upgrading your office systems to a new OS may require hardware upgrades, as well, so companies should not wait until the last minute to engage in this effort.
Our technical experts can perform a network assessment for your company, complete with a full software inventory, to identify and let you address every instance of Windows XP running on your network. To learn more, fill out our inquiry form or give us a call.
By the DynaSis Team
[featured_image]In last week’s blog, we talked about the upcoming end-of-support date for Windows XP (April 8, 2014) and touched upon the two migration options―Windows 7 or Windows 8 (8.1 is the most recent release). Although Windows 7 will “look” more familiar to users, Windows 8 helps companies make a huge leap towards the largely mobile world predicted for our business futures.
If your company is going to undergo the effort of a widespread operating system (OS) migration, you owe it to yourself and your business to fully consider the benefits of jumping straight to Windows 8. Some of the issues to consider as you are making your decision include:
1. Mobility: How many of your employees currently use, or will soon use, tablets? What about smartphones? Windows 8 was built from the ground up for mobility, and it is likely the best choice for companies that currently have―or intend to have in the next few years―a largely mobile workforce.
Even if your users are already running iOS (iPhone; iPad) or Android (“Google” devices, often by HTC or Samsung), there is a benefit in migrating to Windows 8 for your desktops. Windows remains the OS of choice for business usage, by far, and some (but not all) devices running the iOS or Android OS can run Windows 8. In cases where this is not possible, adopting Windows 8 for compatible desktops and mobile devices now―and changing platforms incrementally with planned upgrades in the future―lets companies eventually standardize on a single platform. A single OS streamlines user governance and training, and it facilitates the “Three Cs”―connectivity, communication and collaboration.
2. Legacy Equipment: Are your PCs running Windows XP old and outdated? If so, you will likely need new desktop PCs (or a shift to virtualization) in order to run either Windows 7 or Windows 8. Such a move requires thoughtful planning and resource allocation. If you are undergoing a major IT project like this, anyway, it makes sense to upgrade to the most recent version of Windows, now.
3. User Uptake: When Windows 8 came out, its highly mobile-centric interface elicited frustrated comments from many early adopters. However, with Windows 8, Microsoft added many elements of the “classic” Windows interface back into the user experience. Without any modifications, users can click one of Windows 8’s “tiles” to shift from the mobile-optimized interface to the classic Desktop.
It’s also possible to make the classic Windows user interface the default for Windows 8 machines and to disable the mobile-centric interface entirely, either through system tweaks or via a third-party applet. This approach lets employees enjoy a largely classic Windows experience as long as necessary to facilitate user adoption.
There are other considerations, of course, and DynaSis’ virtual CIOs can discuss these with you, helping you evaluate your business and user needs and create a workable roadmap for adoption. The takeaway here is that, while Windows 8 does involve a learning curve, this curve leads to the future of Windows-based computing. With Windows 7 (as much as we all love it), there is no comparable benefit. To evaluate your options, or to order a network assessment (during which we will identify exactly which OSs your users are running, and where), fill out our inquiry form or give us a call.
By the DynaSis Team
[featured_image]After 12 years, Microsoft will end support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. Once support ends, Microsoft will issue no further security updates and will not offer any technical support for the Windows XP operating system (OS). Although Managed IT Services firms like DynaSis can continue supporting Windows XP, they will not be able to provide the same level of protection for their customers that they offered in the past. They won’t be able to apply anymore patches or fixes, because there will not be any.
Malware experts predict that Windows XP will become a prime target for cybercriminals, and having even one Windows XP system in a company’s network will put the entire firm’s IT infrastructure – and its intellectual assets - at risk.
If your company is still running Windows XP on some of its desktops, you are not alone. Estimates for the number of companies running the OS range from 30% to as high as 45%. Last year, one survey found that 20% of companies planned to continue running Windows XP after its “sunset” date of April 8, 2014. We urge all companies – our customers and others – not to take this dangerous path.
Consider Your Options
The most current version of Windows is Windows 8.1, and it offers numerous benefits for corporate users, including a common interface across desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Windows 8.1, while powerful, works differently from Windows XP, Vista and 7 and does require a learning curve. (We’ll talk about this in our next blog.)
For companies that want a more traditional Windows experience, Windows 7 is a stable, well-respected OS with an interface very similar to that of Windows XP. It is still available for purchase both as software and preinstalled on business machines. In fact, Microsoft recently announced that although it would stop selling Windows 7 for pre-installation on “home” computers in October 2014, it did not have any current plans to stop selling Windows 7 for business machines.
Migrating to a modern OS will give companies dramatically enhanced security, increased productivity, and a lower total cost of ownership. If that’s not enough to persuade you, consider this. Microsoft quit selling retail copies of Windows 7 (both home and professional versions) On October 31, 2013. However, a number of retail outlets are still selling it, so it is currently an option for companies that are hesitant to move to Windows 8 due to the learning curve or any other reason.
Companies that do not upgrade now, and wait to end their usage of Windows XP until their systems are compromised or obsolete, may be forced to migrate all their users to Windows 8.1 or it successor at once, with no time for their users to become accustomed to the differences in this intriguing OS.
Our virtual CIOs can evaluate your company’s needs and determine which users would be better suited to Windows 7 and which would benefit from the jump straight to Windows 8.1. We can also perform a network assessment, with a complete software inventory, to identify and let you address every instance of Windows XP running on your network. To learn more, fill out our inquiry form or give us a call.
By the DynaSis Team
[featured_image]Two major IT research firms―Gartner, Inc. and Forrester Research―have announced their 2014 IT spending forecasts, and they indicate some interesting patterns that we believe small and medium businesses (SMBs) should consider. Forrester predicts worldwide technology spending will grow 6.2 percent to $2.2 trillion in 2014. More cautious, Gartner Worldwide’s IT spending forecast estimates that international IT spending will expand 3.1%, reaching $3.8 trillion.
Most interestingly, perhaps, Gartner attributes its more conservative figures to various cutbacks that are directly related to the explosive growth of new technologies, including cloud computing and mobile devices. Despite differences in their overall IT spending forecasts, both firms see bright prospects for SMB expenditure on cloud computing and office mobility products this year.
So what does this mean for your company? If you’re like 66% of SMBs (per a recent survey by Spiceworks), it means you are either using cloud-based solutions or are planning to implement them in the first half of this year. SMBs that adopt cloud services cite cost savings, low maintenance and convenience as factors in their decision to replace old servers with cloud servers. Firms with smaller IT staffs find cloud-based services especially practical due to the minimal configuration and maintenance they require.
Mobile devices, which will account for another large share of projected IT spending in 2014, will also create tangible value for an increasing number of SMBs. Gartner projects spending on devices such as mobile phones, tablets and PCs to rise 4.3 percent to $697 billion worldwide in the coming year.
We’ve talked about mobility―and BYOD (bring your own device)―in this blog before, but we recently came across some new insights we found interesting. In addition to increasing employee productivity, employee mobility also improves customer response time for some 66% of businesses. Furthermore, a recent Dell Software study found that employee mobility and BYOD also leads to greater creativity, more innovation and more productive office collaborations.
Still, two thirds of the survey’s respondents stipulated that the benefits of mobile devices were limited unless the company made sure those devices fulfilled the needs of each user. In other words, comprehensive evaluation of devices and their feature sets, as well as effective planning and implementation of corporate-data-access mechanisms, will bring companies the most value from their mobile device investments.
If you’ve allocated more budget for cloud or mobile solutions in 2014 but are not 100% certain of your roadmap for those expenditures, the virtual CIOS at DynaSis would be happy to help you explore the possibilities. With proper program execution and device management and security, cloud services and mobile solutions can absolutely provide your business with a competitive edge. To start a discussion about how to achieve these goals cost-effectively and with minimal technical complexity, fill out our inquiry form or give us a call.
By the DynaSis Team
[featured_image]In late 2013, Internet security firm Fireeye released some disturbing news. Their research had uncovered evidence that a string of sophisticated, seemingly unrelated malware attacks had a common origin. Fireeye referred to the effort as a “broader offensive fueled by a shared development and logistics infrastructure.” In other words, multiple criminal entities and operations were working together, pooling and sharing resources and logistics to make it easier and more efficient to develop and launch highly sophisticated but distinctly separate attacks.
Fireeye dubbed the large operation, which provided the framework and resources for at least 11 separate malware campaigns, the Sunshop Campaign. All 11 of the attacks were built on the same infrastructure of malicious services and applications, including shared malware tools, code, timestamps and digital certificates. This “malware supply chain” supported a centralized planning and development effort, operating in much the same way as a large manufacturing facility―or a multi-player, organized crime ring.
The idea of advanced, highly organized and well-funded groups working together to make their efforts even more streamlined and effective should cause any IT security expert to shudder. It certainly got our attention here at DynaSis.
Malware attacks being masterminded by criminal organizations is nothing new, but security experts have always assumed most of them worked largely in isolation. The fact that they have decided to team up, sharing their best minds and practices to achieve an even more deadly and ruthless result, is positively horrifying.
It’s one of the reasons DynaSis has been emphasizing the importance of cyber security so much and so often, of late. It’s also one of the reasons we launched our enhanced anti-malware and spyware service earlier this year. This state-of-the-art anti-malware/spyware solution not only roots out and blocks known menaces but also works to identify “zero day” attacks― assaults that exploit unknown vulnerabilities in computer applications before researchers identify and write code to plug them.
It’s exactly the type of protection everyone is going to need in the brave new world where malware “factories” with sophisticated supply chains may well become the norm. To learn more about the current malware landscape and why we are so concerned about it, or to explore the specifics of our new malware service, fill out our inquiry form or give us a call.
By the DynaSis Team
[featured_image]You may have noticed us alluding to a new term: Modern Officing, rather than talking about the Modern Office, which is often defined as an office environment not constrained by time or place, where technology powers the anytime-anywhere concept. That concept has now morphed into a verb, and folks are talking about Modern Officing.
This is the practice of enabling your employees to achieve anytime-anywhere productivity. It might incorporate letting personnel come into your physical office only occasionally―if at all. Of course, the core of this practice is technology―especially mobile and network technologies.
However, companies that succeed in this effort are judicious in how they weave other technologies into the solution. The idea is not to allow technology to expand organically, with everyone bringing their favorite solutions to the table. Rather, companies should strategically plan and deploy the right technologies, implemented security but accessibly. Not only should companies avoid too many solutions (especially if they overlap), but those solutions should not be too permissive or unrestrained. So, let’s look at a few of the technologies you likely use, and how your approach to them can be “just right” for the modern office.
|Technology||Not Enough||Just Right||Not Smart|
|Internet Access||Wired Ethernet.||Wired and Wireless, with managed policy administration and separate secure networks for staff and guests.||Wide open Internet where employees and visitors can do anything.|
|Data Storage||Outdated, multiple on-premise servers.||Virtualized or cloud-based servers with dynamically allocated storage.||Large capacity servers or storage devices that are not integrated and/or with significantly more capacity than needed.|
|System management and maintenance||“Fix it when it breaks” mentality.||Proactive monitoring and intervention to prevent outages.||Giving employees permission and budget to handle their own upgrades/ problem resolution.|
|Remote Connectivity||Email only.||Secure email and data access, managed by user profile.||Unrestrained access to corporate data for anyone with a log-in.|
|Mobile Devices||A single approved corporate device.||A palette of approved devices with different profiles and operating systems, all managed under corporate policy.||If you own it, you can bring it.|
These are just a few examples of dozens of technologies where right-sizing is beneficial to your company, its personnel and its bottom line. If your technology environment is insufficient or outdated, not only can your employees not achieve their missions, but customers to your physical space will perceive your firm as dated. Too many solutions, too much capacity, or an approach that is too unrestrained, and you could be throwing money, productivity and security away.
DynaSis has strategic planning experts that can help you pinpoint what improvements make sense for your firm, and which ones are unnecessary or unwise. To get started, fill out our inquiry form or give us a call.
By the DynaSis Team
[featured_image]Business owners hear frequently that they should have a good mobile site or application for their customer-facing efforts (e.g. sales or marketing), but what about corporate mobile apps? Are those important too? Depending on your business model, the answer can yes―or no. Corporate apps can be an important contributor to “Modern Officing,”―an operating model where employees can perform many or all office duties wherever and whenever it suits them, without the boundaries of time and space. However, as with public-facing mobile apps, corporate apps must be “done right” to succeed.
Corporate mobile apps are company-branded and approved tools that enable employees to run processes and connect to the corporate resources from their mobile devices. They allow companies a greater level of control and access restriction than simply allowing personnel to get direct access over the Internet. And they are becoming increasingly affordable to develop. So, what’s not to love?
Of the nearly 70% of employees that use personally owned smartphones and tablets in the workplace a majority (58%) abandon the corporate mobile apps they should be using for work-related tasks (per a 2013 survey conducted by ResearchNow). Most concerning, the report revealed that 64% of employees "go rogue," freely downloading public “productivity” apps of their choice and putting corporate security at risk.
Some 26% of smartphone users―and nearly 20% of tablet users―report that they "stick with" the corporate mobile app, but that productivity suffers as a result. A majority of users also reported returning to their desktops to complete tasks they could not effectively accomplish via mobile apps.
Now for the big question: what should your company do? That depends upon your level of technological sophistication and need for the apps. The reality for all businesses―especially small and medium-sized businesses―is that corporate apps are not a requisite in the way that customer-facing apps are. You do have options:
Secure cloud-based access: If you want employees to have access to corporate resources, for a very reasonable fee you can make those resources available securely, “in the cloud” Cloud security has improved substantially, especially when your data is hosted at a world-class data center or on your company’s own servers. Such setups are dramatically more secure than public apps. DynaSis’ ITility solution and DynaSis BLUE are approaches that incorporate this model.
Public apps with strict BYOD policy enforcement: Not all public apps are bad. It’s the unrestricted usage of them, without any corporate screening, that is dangerous. The survey we mentioned earlier found that only 24% of the businesses surveyed were enforcing a formal BYOD policy. Developing and enforcing a BYOD policy that lets employees download only approved, secure, well-respected mobile apps will go a long way towards reducing your risk, as well.
This effort is about incentives and enforcement as much as access. If personnel are using devices they paid for, you won’t be loved for restricting them from downloading public apps for personal use. You can incent them to use only company-approved solutions instead, through a combination of perks (company-paid minutes and data bonuses) and routine “health checks” with serious penalties for those that break the rules. Just make sure your choices are well-designed and intuitive or you may find yourself firing a lot of employees.
In-House Apps: If you want to develop in-house apps, they must be functional and intuitive. Companies developing them must adopt the best practices that are common with customer-facing apps. These practices include identifying user personas and use cases and targeting functionality to the broadest base of users. Corporate apps may not be a requisite, but if you are going to use them, they must work elegantly and offer a rich, mobile app experience.
DynaSis’ on-demand CIOs can help you evaluate and develop your mobile strategy and decide which of these approaches is best for you. The most important point is to do something. If you are waiting to make a decision about corporate mobile apps―or public mobile apps in the workplace―you are putting your company at risk. In the absence of a clear policy and directive, don’t wonder if your mobile-enabled employees are downloading public apps without your knowledge. Be assured that they already are.
By the DynaSis Team
Last year, we published an article that introduced the concept of Social Business and hinted at what it can do for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). We also promised to share more information to help you explore the value of this approach.
Social business, as we mentioned before, is an operating model where companies embrace social media at the enterprise level, not only for outward-facing marketing and communications but also for internal collaboration and information sharing among employees―and possibly partners and vendors, as well. Despite the availability of an array of enterprise-grade social tools such as Yammer and Socialcast, the approach is not taking off like gangbusters―yet. Per Forrester Research, only 8% of employees use social collaboration tools more than once a week.
Despite that discouraging statistic, many studies indicate that these tools and platforms can provide companies and their employees with substantial benefits. For example, a 2012 survey by consulting firm McKinsey & Co., found that social collaboration software can reduce the time employees spend processing email by 20-25%.
The challenge, of course, is adoption―by both SMBs and their personnel. Companies want secure, controlled-environment social collaboration tools; users prefer to “socialize” via Facebook or Twitter and don’t want to learn a new platform. Early adopters struggle to obtain user buy-in, and many become frustrated when it doesn’t happen.
Patience Pays Off
So, how can you deploy enterprise-level social tools without becoming a statistic? To borrow a phrase from the 1970s show Kung Fu, “Patience, young grasshopper.” Increasingly, major technology players from Salesforce to VMware are embedding social features into their platforms. Salesforce has reported success with its social networking and collaboration tool, Chatter, and Microsoft has integrated Yammer with Office 365 and SharePoint as a by-the-seat, SaaS (software as a service) offering.
In other words, you won’t have to force users to adopt a totally new platform, and you also don’t have to give in and abandon your craving for control and security. (Control and security should not be negotiable, no matter which solution you choose.)
The trick is to find an offering that integrates with enterprise-grade systems you already use (or are planning to deploy), rather than to expect workers to learn a new platform (and keep another window open on their desktops.) The more tightly social tools integrate with other technology systems, the easier it will be to encourage users to adopt them―and the more benefit you will see.
This is true, not only because social collaboration and information sharing is more approachable when employees access functions from a familiar interface, but also because interconnected platforms work together to convey more and better information. With an integrated solution, for example, your sales people might be able to receive alerts when a pending contract is executed. Then, your warehouse manager might receive an automated tweet because the contract was for more items than your current inventory levels could support.
This may sound like a futuristic scenario, but it’s already happening in larger enterprises. The potential for social collaboration and information sharing to foster amazing achievements is increasing, every day. Social platforms and tools are even helping some companies create “corporate brains” for vital knowledge sharing between departing Baby Boomers and their younger successors.
At the SMB level, we expect many larger developers to debut solutions that target (and are affordable for) smaller enterprises. Some already have. After all, that’s the real beauty of SaaS. Developers can serve an identical interface and feature set to a 50-person company or a global conglomerate at an affordable, per-seat cost.
To see if these solutions make sense for your firm, give us a call. Our virtual CIOs can perform an analysis and help you devise a strategy that will carry your business into a very bright future.