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Time is Running Out on the Free Windows 10 Upgrade

Microsoft’s free Windows 10 upgrade offer will end on Friday, July 29th. After that date, the cost to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro will be $199. The free upgrade is available to qualified new or existing Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1 devices. To initiate the upgrade, users just need to click on the Windows 10 pop-up window when it appears on their desktop screen. All of your files will be automatically transferred, but we recommend backing up your data prior to initiation.

Windows 10 logo

What’s in It for Me?

If you have been hesitant to make the switch to Windows 10, here are four reasons why you should do so by the 29th:

  1. Look out Siri, here comes Cortana: This voice-commanded personal assistant can play music, take notes, tell you jokes, and remind you to pick up milk before you head home from the office. As a plus, Cortana’s Notebook function keeps track of your interests for future use.
  2. The new browser, Microsoft Edge, offers improved compatibility and speed, as well as helpful new capabilities like webpage markup and reading mode.
  3. The upgrade includes enhanced security features, such as Device Guard, Microsoft Passport, and Windows Hello.
  4. It has universal apps, including an Xbox feature that lets players stream games from the console to the PC and play multiplayer games from your PC against other players on Xbox.

In addition to Windows 10, Microsoft has stated that all future upgrades will be free, including the 1-year Anniversary Update, which is scheduled for Tuesday, August 2nd.

Business Benefits of Windows 10

Now running on more than 350 million PCs, Microsoft expects Windows 10 be running on 1 billion machines by 2018. While most of the first-year adopters have been individual consumers, business users who have completed the upgrade have noticed improved ease of use, improvements in worker productivity, and an increase in cost savings by enabling security features provided by the upgrade, such as Credential Guard and Device Guard.

If you have questions about how to make the most of the Windows 10 upgrade for your business, contact Dorset Connects today at 484-845-1600.


Microsoft Azure: The smart person’s guide

By James Sanders

The rise of cloud computing provides businesses the ability to quickly provision computing resources without the costly and laborious task of building data centers, and without the costs of running servers with under or un-utilized capacity due to variable workloads.

Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, launched in February 2010. In addition to traditional cloud offerings such as virtual machines, object storage, and content delivery networks (CDNs), Azure offers services that leverage proprietary Microsoft technologies. For example, RemoteApp allows for the deployment of Windows programs using a virtual machine, with clients on Windows, OS X, Android, or iOS using the program through a remote desktop connection. Azure also offers cloud-hosted versions of common enterprise Microsoft solutions, such as Active Directory and SQL Server.

This easily digestible introduction to Microsoft’s cloud platform will be updated periodically to keep IT leaders in the loop on new Azure services and ways in which they can be leveraged.

Executive summary

  • What is it? Microsoft Azure is a collection of various cloud computing services, including remotely hosted and managed versions of proprietary Microsoft technologies, and open technologies, such as various Linux distributions deployable inside a virtual machine.
  • Why does it matter? Azure lacks upfront costs or an appreciable time delay in resource provisioning — capacity is available on demand. With a usage-based billing formula, Azure is a compelling option for enterprises transitioning from on-premises Windows servers to the cloud.
  • Who does this affect? Azure can be utilized at any scale, from a garage startup to a Fortune 500 company. Because of the ease of transition, organizations with an existing Windows Server deployment may find Azure to be best suited to their needs.
  • When is this happening? Azure launched in February 2010, with additional services and regional data centers being added continually since launch.
  • How do I get it? New users receive a $200 service credit good for 30 days when signing up for Microsoft Azure; the credit can be applied toward any Microsoft-provided service. Additional discounts and credits are available for startups, nonprofits, and universities.

What is Microsoft Azure?

Microsoft Azure is a platform of interoperable cloud computing services, including open-source, standards-based technologies and proprietary Microsoft solutions. Instead of building an on-premises server installation, or leasing physical servers from traditional data centers, Azure’s billing structure is based on resource consumption, not reserved capacity. Pricing varies between different types of services, storage types, and the physical location from which your Azure instances are hosted.

For example, Storage pricing varies based on redundancy and distribution options. In the Central US region, locally redundant storage (LRS), with 3 copies in one data center, starts at $0.024 per GB. Zone redundant storage (ZRS), with 3 copies distributed across different data centers, starts at $0.03 per GB. Geographically redundant storage (GRS), with 3 copies in one data center and 3 copies in a second geographically distant data center, starts at $0.048 per GB. Read-Access GRS, which allows for read access at the second data center, starts at $0.061 per GB.

In addition to the aforementioned storage, virtual machine, CDN, and Windows-related services, Azure also offers a variety of other services. Azure IoT Suite offers various options for connecting and monitoring devices, as well as providing telemetry and analytics services. Redis Cache is a managed version of the popular open-source Redis data structure server; DocumentDB is a hosted NoSQL database for specific use cases; and Search is an OData-based managed search service. Azure Media Services offers cloud-based video playing, indexing, transcoding, and content protection services.

Why does Microsoft Azure matter?

Azure, like other cloud service providers, offers the ability to instantly provision computing resources on demand. Compared to the laborious task of planning and building an on-site data center, along with the requisite hardware upgrades, maintenance costs, server cooling requirements, electricity costs, and use of floorspace — particularly for offices with associated real estate costs — the savings can add up very quickly.

The benefits of Azure extend beyond cost control, however. The laborious task of administering certain technologies such as Windows Server, Active Directory, and SharePoint can be greatly eased with the combination of Azure and Office 365. This frees up IT staff to work on new projects, rather than spending time on general system upkeep.

Who does Microsoft Azure affect?

Organizations with an existing deployment of Microsoft technologies, particularly Windows Server and Active Directory, will find Azure to be a compelling upgrade. As Windows Server 2008 has reached the end of mainstream support, planning for a migration to cloud-hosted Azure services may be preferable to investments in new server hardware and Windows Server licenses.

As with any cloud service, the cost benefit is more real for cash-strapped startup organizations that lack the capital for provisioning hardware and associated costs of a traditional on-premises deployment, or leasing dedicated servers in a traditional data center. Because the billing structure of Azure is based on resources used, turning to the cloud allows the IT backbone of a given company to scale with corporate growth.

When is Microsoft Azure happening?

The Azure platform was announced in October 2008, and reached general commercial availability in February 2010. Originally called Windows Azure, it was renamed to Microsoft Azure in July 2014.

Under Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Azure has expanded to include support for a variety of Linux distributions available in virtual machines on the Azure platform. Presently, CentOS, CoreOS, Debian, Oracle Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise, openSUSE, and Ubuntu are supported in the Azure platform. Additionally, Azure supports Docker images.

How do I get Microsoft Azure?

Microsoft’s BizSpark program offers $10,000 per month of Azure service credits for users of BizSpark Plus for one year for a total of $120,000. Eligibility is dependent on collaboration with a startup accelerator, with Microsoft partnering with over 150 startup accelerators in 47 countries.

For other organizations, BizSpark is available to privately-held companies less than five years old that earn less than $1 million annually. The standard tier provides up to $750 per month ($150 per month for up to five developers) for three years for a total of $27,000.

Microsoft has also pledged to donate $1 billion in cloud services to universities and nonprofit organizations over the next three years. Eligible organizations can register for free access at Microsoft Philanthropies.

For individual developers, new registrants receive a $200 platform credit applicable toward any Azure service, excluding third-party offerings in the Azure Marketplace. Certified Microsoft Partners, such as Dorset Connects, can help your business evaluate Azure and make the best determination for your organization.



Skype updates for Outlook for iOS and Android

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Today’s updates to Outlook for iOS and Android make it easy to schedule and begin a group chat and call with your friends and colleagues using Skype. Additionally, we updated Outlook with new calendaring features, improved our navigation for Android and delivered on some of your top feature requests.

Let’s take a look at what’s new.

Skype and Outlook—the best way to schedule and join a call

It can be challenging keeping up with friends, family and colleagues. Finding a time that works for everyone and remembering to show up is difficult enough. And then sometimes technology gets in the way: “How do I find you? How do I invite you? Do you have this app installed?”

Outlook and Skype have solved this problem. When creating a new event on your calendar, Outlook now includes the ability to add a Skype Call. When you tap the Skype Call toggle, Outlook includes a Skype link in the description of the event. When your scheduled meeting time arrives, recipients simply click the link in their calendar to launch Skype and join the conversation.

And with the recent launch of Skype for Web, your friends or family can join the conversation as a guest from their computer and enjoy group instant messaging, voice and video calls. No Skype account or app download required.

New Outlook calendar views and navigation improvements

In addition to the new Skype Call scheduling features, we updated the calendar section of Outlook to give you more ability to manage your personal and professional life on the go.

Managing your schedule starts with being able to navigate quickly to any day. With the new two-week mini-calendar, your events for the upcoming week are just a tap away. If you need to go farther into the future or past, simply swipe in this section to get a full month view.

New Outlook calendar views and natigation improvements

Outlook also now provides a three-day view, so you can see more of your schedule at a glance. In addition, we added the ability to set your week start preference—whether it is Saturday, Sunday or Monday.

Skype and Outlook top features 3

The two-week mini-calendar and ability to select week start preferences features are available today for iOS and are coming soon to Android.

Improved Android app navigation

Outlook for Android now sports a new navigation bar to make moving around the app a breeze. This change brings the Mail, Calendar, Files and People sections to the bottom of the app, within easy thumb-reach, decreasing the time it takes to check your calendar or find that important file.

Skype and Outlook top features 4b

Building a better app, together

We’ve been hard at work improving our app with your suggestions. In the past month, we delivered on several of your top requests, including:

Contact push (20K+ votes)—Outlook now allows you to save your contacts to the default Contacts app for iOS or Android. You can easily see the name of a contact when you receive a call or text message from them and view all of their contact information directly from the default Contacts app. Currently, contact push provides one-way sync from email service to the phone. New contacts or contact changes made in your email service (e.g. Outlook.com, Office 365, Gmail) on the web or in Outlook on the desktop will sync to your contacts on your mobile device. Edits made on the mobile device will not sync back to your email service. We are committed to improving Outlook contact capabilities over the coming months.

If you’d like to remove these saved contacts, you can toggle this switch at any time and they will be removed from your address book. For more information on how contact push works, click the ? next to the feature on your device to access the FAQ.

Save files to your Android device (22K votes)—Outlook now supports the option to save files and attachments from your inbox and cloud services to your device’s local storage.

Set Automatic Replies (11.5K votes)—Forget to set your out of office message before you left? You can now set an automatic reply right from Outlook on your mobile device. Go to Settings > select an account > Automatic Replies. For Office 365 and Exchange accounts, your automatic reply is synced from Outlook on your desktop or Outlook on the web.

iOS calendar widget (6K votes)—With next week’s update, Outlook will provide a widget for the iOS Notification Center, making it easy to see your schedule quickly without opening the app. Set this up by going to Edit at the bottom of the iOS Notification Center.

iOS print (5K votes)—Outlook now gives you the option to print emails using available AirPrint printers.

iOS–3-D Touch (3K votes)—Outlook for iOS now supports Quick Actions using the new 3-D Touch technology available on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. On the Home screen simply press Outlook to begin a new email or view your next event.

We continue to work to deliver amazing improvements in Outlook every single week. We need your feedback to help continue to make Outlook even better! Let us know what you think of our new features in a comment below and suggest and vote on future feature ideas right within Outlook by going to Settings > Suggest a Feature.

Frequently asked questions

Q. Does the new Skype integration work with Skype for Business?

A. The Skype Call button creates a link to join a group chat for the consumer Skype app. We will add support for Skype for Business in an upcoming update.

Q. How does the Skype Call link work? Do I need to know the recipients email? Or do I need to send it to an email address associated with their Skype account?

A. No! They just need to click the link to join your conversation.

Q. Can my recipient share the link with other people who want to join the chat?

A. Yes! Simply copy and share the link however you want—in an email, on Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger or Twitter.

Q. When will this feature be available on Outlook Mail for Windows 10 Mobile?

A. We will deliver this feature in a future update for Outlook Mail on Windows 10 Mobile.

Q. How does the contact sync feature work differently on iOS and Android?

A. Due to the underlying capabilities provided by the platforms, the contact sync feature works slightly differently on the iOS and Android versions of the app.

On iOS, contacts can be saved to your address book for Office 365 and Exchange accounts. If your phone is set up to sync your contacts to iCloud in Settings, the synced contacts will be added as a group in your iCloud account. These contacts will then sync to all devices that are signed in with the same iCloud account.

On Android, contacts can be saved to your address book for any email service that syncs contacts (e.g. any connection but IMAP). To do so, navigate to your account within Settings and tap Sync Contacts.


The End is Near for Internet Explorer!

Support for older versions of Internet Explorer will end on January 12, 2016!

Microsoft is set to retire Internet Explorer 8, 9 and 10 for most versions of the Windows operating system next Tuesday, according to a support page from Microsoft. What this means is that while these older browsers will continue to work, Microsoft will cease providing security updates, putting people still using them at significant security risks. Additionally, many Microsoft web services, such as Office 365 will no longer function properly on these unsupported browsers.

Microsoft warned of the change last year. The only exceptions to the planned retirements will be for Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2012. The first two will see Internet Explorer 9 still supported, while Internet Explorer 10 will continue to be supported on Windows Server 2012.

Organizations that are on Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 have nothing to worry about, given that they come with Internet Explorer 11 installed. For now, organizations that are still running soon-to-be-retired versions of Internet Explorer on unsupported platforms are well advised to upgrade as soon as possible. While any existing patches or updates will still be released as part of Microsoft’s monthly Patch Tuesday release next Tuesday, continuing to use them beyond Tuesday will put them in a position of increasing risk.

There are many options for small and medium businesses considering a browser upgrade. Small to mid-size organizations (<500 employees) without web applications can update automatically using Automatic Updates. Those with dependencies on existing web applications can locate a Microsoft Certified Partner, such as Dorset Connects, to understand the best options to meet their business needs.

Visit the End of Life page for more information



The impossible task of rapid Disaster Recovery – and how Microsoft Azure can help

The impossible task of rapid Disaster Recovery – and how Microsoft Azure can help

Hurricane Joaquin is bearing down on the East coast and may, or may not, cause serious issues for residents and business ranging from the Carolinas to Massachusetts. While I hate to be reactionary, it is times like this that make me want to shout from the rooftops the importance of having a Disaster Recovery solution in place for your organization.

dr-planDisaster recovery means different things to different people. For some businesses, they may be fine for a week or two without their PCs and access to their business applications. For others, a building or power loss could cripple their business within a day. How would a disaster impact your company?

As the old adage states: “fortune favors the prepared”. Microsoft Azure provides a safe and reliable disaster recovery solution through its Azure Site Recovery service. If your network is running virtualization for its servers through either Microsoft Hyper-V or a supported version of VMWare, then it is easy and relatively inexpensive to replicate these systems to the Azure cloud. Replication can then be configured to update the cloud “mirror” as often as every thirty seconds, ensuring that the replicated systems have the most current copy of your data.

In the event of a catastrophe, businesses have the assurance that their data is safe in the Azure cloud and can turn on the replicated systems to have an operational datacenter in the cloud and be back up and running in a matter of hours instead of weeks.

If disaster recovery is not on your radar, then look at the Storm Trackers being shown on every local news channel to see just how close disaster can be. When you are ready to start planning, contact Dorset Connects and we can help get your business onto the high ground!


What Windows 10 Means for Your Business

The Windows 10 release means big changes for the OS. Here’s what SMBs need to know.

Windows 10 logoIn a historic move, Microsoft has just released the latest iteration of their Windows OS, Windows 10, as a free upgrade for existing Windows 7 and 8.1 users.

The Windows 10 release signifies a shift in direction for Microsoft as its new leadership gains traction. However, it also brings many changes to the product itself.

Here’s what your business needs to know about the latest Windows release.

1. The upgrade has an expiration date

The official release date of Windows 10 has been listed as July 29, 2015. But, there’s so fine print. According to Gartner vice president Steve Kleynhans, it’s essential you do your research to determine if it is a good deal for your company within the timeline.

“Certainly it is nice getting the upgrade to Windows 10 for free, but it requires that you move in the next 12 months,” Kleynhans said.

2. Windows is now a service

Software upgrades used to be a major source of revenue for Microsoft in the past, but with Windows 10 comes a new model. Users will receive updates to the OS as time goes on.

“Windows 10 will be a ‘final’ upgrade that receives three to four upgrade packs a year that include new features,” said JP Gownder, a vice president and principal analyst with Forrester. “Windows as a service means you won’t be stuck with some 10 year old OS, as many were with XP, but it does require a little rethinking of resources, even these upgrade packs require some testing along the year.”

3. You have to be ready for the updates

As you consider whether or not to make the upgrade, it’s important to consider if you can handle the deluge of service packs that will come your way in this new system, Kleynhans said. You won’t have much time to “settle” into the new service packs before the next one comes.

4. You can only upgrade from certain versions

To qualify for the Windows 10 upgrade, you must be upgrading from a Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 device. The availability of the upgrade for Windows Phone 8.1 varies by manufacturer, carrier, and operator. You’ll also need to have Windows Update enabled. Many of the enterprise versions are excluded from the upgrade offer, so make sure you check if yours is compatible.

5. There are different versions of Windows 10

Depending on your starting OS, you will get a comparable version of Windows 10 when you upgrade. Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, and Windows 8.1 (4) will yield Windows 10 Home. Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate, and Windows 8.1 Pro and 8.1 Pro for Students will yield Windows 10 Pro.

6. Follow best practices for deployment

Just because Windows 10 is a new model for the OS doesn’t mean that it won’t come with some of the standard deployment pains you may have faced in the past. Make sure you time everything properly to minimize the number of problems you run into.

7. Upgrade for security

Especially for SMBs, protecting your assets is critical. If you’re already a Windows shop, upgrading could bring some added security to your company.

“Security threats are only growing, and Windows 10 has some inherent application containerization that makes it more secure than its predecessors,” Gownder said.

8. It doesn’t (technically) require new hardware

While you will need a certain set of specs to run Windows 10 and a set amount of hard drive space, you probably won’t need to update your hardware. However, Kleynhans said, you might need new hardware to make use of new features such as Windows Hello or the advanced security. Unfortunately, he said, in may cases, that hardware won’t ship until later this year.

9. It’s a new user experience

One of the most contentious aspects of Windows 8 was its tile-based design. Some loved it, while others switched back to the standard desktop view immediately. Gownder said that Windows 10 is poised to provide the best of both tiles and the standard desktop, and will be optimized for mobile.

“If you have a detachable keyboard — say, on a Surface Pro 3 — the OS will default to desktop mode if the keyboard is attached, and to tile mode if it isn’t,” Gownder said. “So, it’s smart about desktop vs. mobile usage.”

10. The ecosystem might not be perfect

As we creep closer to the release date, it’s important to remember that although the OS might be ready, that doesn’t mean the ecosystem is. As an SMB, you might need additional support and, with the novelty of Windows 10, you might have trouble finding someone to provide the support right away, Kleynhans said.

Also, just because your key software or application works on Windows 10, that doesn’t always mean your vendor will provide Windows 10 support.

“They might need some time to complete some testing and make some tweaks,” Kleynhans said. “Talk to your software and service providers and understand their plans and timeline as your develop yours.”
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Contact Dorset Connects to discuss Windows 10 for your business

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Show, Don’t Tell: the Business Value of Data Visualization

– Provided by Anita Campbell, Small Business Trends

The Business Value of Data VisualizationRecently my team was debating whether to use a bar chart or a pie chart to illustrate sales data when a new employee asked why we were spending so much time on such a low value activity. “Why not just embed the spreadsheet?” she asked.

I was surprised and intrigued by the question, but the answer is simple: because a chart saves the viewer valuable time and energy by providing near instantaneous context and clarity.

Our challenge, like that of most businesses today, wasn’t in collecting and presenting data, but pulling meaning out of it. When done properly, data visualization solves this challenge because it takes advantage of the fact that human beings are visual creatures. A good chart packs more of a punch than a column of figures or a block of text. It persuades by isolating and highlighting a few bits of relevant data so the viewer isn’t overwhelmed with irrelevant detail that may obfuscate the point.

Today’s powerful software tools help us gain insights from data. We just have to use them wisely.

More Choices in Dashboards and Business Intelligence Software

Business dashboards — such as the free Power BI tool from Microsoft — excel at making data obtained through business intelligence software meaningful. With these tools, small business owners can get from data collection to understanding and insight faster, and with less manual effort.

The challenge for us as business owners is knowing how to use the computational power of these of tools to organize data into charts and graphs to help us, and our employees, extract meaning out of our company’s information. That’s where knowing some best practices around data visualization come in handy.

  • A good chart points out relationships between data points, such as by:
    showing the growth of numbers over time (bar chart),
    illustrating how big a part something is to the whole (pie chart), or
    forecasting the direction of things to come (trend line).

One of the charts we use in our business is a production time chart. Knowing how long it takes to produce our product (in this case content) helps us allocate writer and editor time. And it helps us project cash flow to know standard turnaround times and determine capacity to take on more work.

Here is a spreadsheet showing our actual turnaround times to produce five different types of content.


As you can see, you glean some information from the spreadsheet. But it’s hard to make sense of it and use it to make business decisions. That’s because there’s a lot of detail and it’s not presented well.

The average figure further confuses matters. If we were just to look at a raw unweighted average for all content types, we might assume it takes at least one week to turn around most of our content. However, that’s not true.

For some types of content, it takes just a day or two. Other types of content can take two weeks to turn around, because an interview has to be scheduled, transcribed and then written up (the “Founder interview” types of articles). In other cases, considerable research has to be conducted pushing times out further (the “Product choices list” types of articles).

Now, here’s the same data, but grouped and averaged by product type, and then presented in a bar chart so you can see it at a glance:


Doesn’t the bar chart make it much easier to tell instantly which types of articles have had the longest turnaround times?

And doesn’t it now become a simple matter to estimate standard delivery times and understand what’s a realistic expectation, now that we have a clear view of the right data?

That, you see, is the value of a good chart.



Today, July 14th 2015, is the date when support ends for Microsoft Windows 2003. One of the most successful server platforms in history goes the way of the dinosaur. What does that mean for your business? Are you ready for the end?

Windows 2003 Server End of SupportWhile Windows 2003 servers will not suddenly stop working they will now be at a higher risk of cyber security dangers such as malicious attacks or data loss. Also, as US-CERT notes “Organizations that are governed by regulatory obligations may find they are no longer able to satisfy compliance requirements while running Windows Server 2003.” While some may not have taken this seriously, it’s much more notable since the government’s breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as during the hearings it was noted that one of the major issues was that they had legacy systems that could not be protected with modern forms of cyber defense.

What can you do? The obvious answer is to upgrade these servers as soon as possible. Another step you can take is to see if it is feasible to move all sensitive data from the Windows 2003 servers and use a combination of segregation and monitoring between the sensitive data and the now legacy servers. A final option is to use a commercial ‘virtual patching’ product of which there are many on the market. Simply put, it is a product that looks at known vulnerabilities and compares them against vulnerabilities on your Windows 2003 server, then creates rules to defend against the vulnerabilities until a patch is applied to fix the issue (although in Windows 2003 the issue will never be patched due to it being end of support).

Don’t get caught without adequate time to plan and budget for upgrades. Be sure to maintain an inventory of all products used by your organization, review at least annually, and then budget and plan for migrations well in advance. Get started today by contacting Dorset Connects


The manageable side of risk management

Maximize opportunity. Minimize worry.

Remember the classic scene in the 1987 movie Wall Street in which Gordon Gekko places a call from a beachfront using a two-pound, football-sized cellphone? The underlying message: only a wealthy robber baron like Gekko could afford such extravagant technology.

Oh, how far we’ve come. By 2025, there will be upwards of 4.7 billion people online. Most data will move through or be stored in the cloud. And there will be 4 billion mobile Internet subscriptions globally. Nearly every business of every size relies on the digital world—from computers and mobile devices to cloud services and social media—to do things Gekko only dreamed of, from updating sales figures from the road to serving global markets in real time.

Rising security threats—to all businesses
Along with the incredible business advancements, SMBs also face security challenges nobody imagined in 1987. According to the security company Symantec, small businesses with 1¬–500 employees were targeted in 41 percent of all attacks in 2013—and attacks are rapidly increasing. In fact, targeted attacks on businesses with 1–2,500 employees rose an alarming 61% from 2012 to 2013.

Why are cybercriminals targeting SMBs? Because smaller businesses have the same valuable bank account information, customer data, and intellectual property as big businesses, often with far less stringent security practices and less advanced technology. Also, because SMBs may serve big businesses, they can be a convenient entry point for infecting their much larger partners and business customers.

Get in front of the problem
Despite the headlines and alarming rhetoric about cyberattacks, SMBs generally do not need to invest in million-dollar digital security solutions even if the resources for such solutions were available. Because most security threats involve malware attacks or insider misuse (losing a laptop, etc.), the most effective solutions are similarly mundane: only use protected software and cloud resources, and keep your software updated.

Focus on implementing products, services, and policies, especially in the following areas:

Identity: Protect mobile devices with customized security by user, location, and device – including the ability to lock devices, reset pins, and remotely wipe data.

Access control: Invest in solutions that ensure secure, remote access to sensitive business applications and data.

Desktop and device management: Use centralized tools to manage all your devices, and keep desktops and devices automatically set to receive the latest security updates.

Data protection: Make sure your software – from server and desktop to email, mobile and cloud — has built-in protections against hackers, malware, and viruses that exceed compliance and privacy standards.

Train your employees: your team is your first line of defense. Ensure all your employees understand the policies in place and how to help implement them. Learn more about how to get your team on board to help.

While cyberattacks can be problematic, there’s no reason to fear. Instead, invest in products and services that are inherently more secure, with security built in and prioritized throughout design and development. And make sure they’re also built for manageability and ease of use—so you can easily take advantage of the exciting benefits afforded by today’s highly connected digital world.

Explore the following resources for information on how to help keep your business protected:

Microsoft Internet Safety & Security Center
Office 365 Trust Center
Microsoft Intune Trust Center

Some of the links on this page do not lead to translated versions of the articles. These pages will display in English only.


Windows Server 2003 End of Support – Migration Options

Windows 2003 Server End of SupportCompanies now have just two days left before Windows Server 2003 End of Support, and getting off the aging software could mean reaching into their wallets. With Windows Server 2003 nearing its end-of-life point, many businesses are looking for ways to migrate away from the software — without suffering downtime or hefty costs.

Microsoft will no longer guarantee security fixes for Windows Server 2003 after the middle of 2015, making companies still using it vulnerable to attack and causing any servers running it to fall out of all compliance requirements. That looming threat makes it imperative for a business running important or mission-critical tasks on the aging OS to give serious thought to migration.

Microsoft positions Windows Server 2012 R2, which is the latest version of its server operating system, as a key piece in its so-called Microsoft Cloud OS initiative. Organizations migrating to a newer Windows platform would see benefits in several key areas.

Windows 2012R2 shines with improvements to its Remote Desktop Services (formerly known as Terminal Server), Hyper-V for virtualizing multiple servers on one piece of hardware, and improved file delivery services.

An inflection point for cloud

One option for Microsoft shops is Azure. The cloud service’s initial costs are far less expensive than investing in new hardware. This point is critically important for organizations running Windows Server 2003 because that OS ran on 32-bit chip architecture; newer software requires 64-bit systems.

Going to the cloud means less data center infrastructure to manage. Billing is done in small intervals, and costs are more closely tied to actual usage. Also, workloads are scalable, without the need to invest in more physical storage.

However, cloud services come with concerns. Costs will accrue over time, and there’s a good chance organizations will eventually spend more on the services than on the hardware itself. Downtime is a potential issue for some, as no provider has demonstrated a perfect track record when it comes to maintaining cloud services. As with any service provider relationship, customers are at the mercy of the cloud provider. So, if Microsoft decides it wants to deprecate, change or remove an Azure feature, it can do so at any time.

Still, it’s a compelling option for businesses that want to stay ahead of the curve. And an increased number of businesses are considering it: 19% of North American respondents to a 2015 IT Priorities survey plan to build a private cloud this year.

One aging platform to another — Windows Server 2008

Windows Server 2008 R2, an x64 operating system released in 2009, is an OS organizations are considering in the interim. It is a stopgap option for companies that need to move off Windows Server 2003, but don’t have the hardware to support the latest and greatest.

Companies that choose this path can reap a number of benefits. In virtualization, Hyper-V has expanded capabilities, including Live Migration and Cluster Shared Volumes using Failover Clustering. Also, Active Directory added a recycle bin feature.

Still, Windows Server 2008 is a burning platform — mainstream support ends in 2015, and extended support expires in 2020.

Wait for Windows 2016

Due out in 2016, the next version of Windows Server is expected to contain a number of improvements. However, since the new OS isn’t expected until 2016, companies wishing to migrate to it directly from Windows Server 2003 would have to bite the bullet and go a few months without security updates — something Microsoft strongly recommends against.

If your business is running any Windows 2003 servers, you need to work with your IT department or consultants to plan for the End of Support on July 15.

This entry was posted in Business Intelligence, Cloud, Technology, Windows and tagged Business, Good for Business, Security, security threats, Windows on June 9, 2015.

To learn more about your options, visit our Windows 2003 Server End of Support page.