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Is BYOD DOA? Not for MSPs

By Managed Service Providers, NewsNo Comments

by Ashley Leonard, president and CEO of Verismic

Driven by the introduction of new technology and the desire to increase employee productivity, employers are embracing Bring Your Own Device [BYOD] policies. 2016, Gartner expects 38% of companies to stop providing devices to workers. Whether in the office, at home or working remotely, BYOD allows for effortless device connectivity and exchange of data and information anywhere, anytime.

The benefits are clear for companies; increased flexibility and productivity for staff, and increased profitability for the business. Employees gain privileges in mobility and freedom to choose from a wide range of devices and applications. Over 70% of mobile professionals will conduct their work on personal smart devices by 2018, according to Forrester Research. For MSPs, the opportunities are growing significantly.

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While there are benefits to employees using personal devices, organisations are experiencing numerous challenges. The complexity of managing multiple-platform devices obscures the movement’s benefits, forcing companies to weigh the costs of providing secure access to a corporate network and implementing measures to avoid potential hazards.

The real inhibitor for uptake is not necessarily the security implications of applying a BYOD solution or policy. It’s about balancing costs between increased flexibility versus the management and control of personally owned devices.

Read the full article at microscope.uk

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Fill your cloud toolbox and put it to good use

By Managed Service Providers, NewsNo Comments

It would be easy to switch off when people start talking about cloud. The subject is not only worn out, but is one that means so many different things to so many people. As a result of that jaded confusion, there is a danger that some of the potential opportunities cloud presents could be missed.

MicroScope garnered opinions from across the channel about what cloud technology could offer resellers this year and where efforts would be best placed for those looking to grow their businesses. The good news is that there are plenty of suggestions, and with Microsoft Windows Server 2003 support ending next month, it is a good time to encourage those running on traditional setups to look at a hosted alternative.

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Management of systems
Ashley Leonard, president and CEO at Verismic, says the channel community, particularly managed service providers (MSPs), need to arm themselves with a simple, cloud-based systems management tool.

“PCs and laptops are not going away, despite the rush to adopt tablets and smart devices. PCs and laptops need managing, monitoring, patching and licensing. Windows 10 will likely create a flurry of upgradework, application compatibility testing and roll-out,” he says.

“MSPs need a systems management tool that combines the cloud with agentless end-device setup, so they don’t need to deploy and maintain another piece of software at every customer site and on every
PC,” he says.

Read more at microscope.uk

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Microscope: Windows of Opportunity

By Managed Service Providers, NewsNo Comments

This summer’s launch of Windows 10 promises to be a shot in the arm for the channel

Ashley Leonard, president and CEO, Verismic

Windows 8/8.1 was not popular with users, which could prompt XP and 7 users to jump to Windows 10 when it launches. Microsoft has also said 10 will be a free upgrade for a fixed period, which makes this upgrade jump even more likely.

In any scenario, a flow of OS upgrades stretches IT resources, not just through OS roll-out, but through testing, fixing, repackaging and preparing existing applications for the new environment. It really is no small feat to deploy applications.

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Channel businesses – specifically managed service providers (MSPs) – are in a great position to provide this support. They can commit resources to creating, testing, preparing and delivering OS roll-outs and applications packaged with a high first pass success rate.

MSPs need to arm themselves with a simple systems management tool. Pick the right tool and they should be able to benefit from ‘dissolving agent- less’ technology, which means they don’t need to deploy any software at the customer site on any PC to con- trol them – it’s easier and less expen- sive for them. These will be the channel firms really making a profit from the Windows 10 bonanza.

Read more at http://www.microscope.co.uk/

The end of Patch Tuesday?

By Managed Service Providers, News, Patch Management, Patch TuesdayNo Comments

Rob Brown, Director of Services at Verismic and Patch Management expert, discusses the potential impact Microsoft’s announcement will have on IT Managers and System Administrators.

At the Ignite conference a few weeks ago, Microsoft announced that it would be doing away with Patch Tuesday for Windows 10. Of course, they’re not getting rid of patch updates altogether, but they will be moving to continuous 24/7 updates over the monthly update cycle it currently has. Since announcing the news there’s been a lot of comments from IT professionals discussing the potential pros and cons of moving to a continuous update cycle, and I personally think it’s absolutely a great thing for end users and consumers but, for IT managers, it’s the worst thing.

Toolset

Traditionally, you pool a collection of patches into a baseline and roll that baseline out once a month following Patch Tuesday, prioritizing patches by CVSS and severity ratings. These baselines can take weeks to compile due to testing before roll out, so if Microsoft begins releasing patches on an ad-hoc basis, IT teams will have to continually re-run baselines throughout the month.

Some business won’t be in a position to run multiple baselines per month to remain up to date and will have to wait until the next patching cycle is scheduled – patching multiple times per month means downtime. However, Microsoft isn’t forcing businesses to use this model, and update cycles can remain as a monthly update process.

The problem here is that once Microsoft issues a patch, it lets the whole world know that a vulnerability exists within a particular product. We already know that exploits targeting vulnerabilities go up after each Patch Tuesday, as hackers look to exploit weaknesses in Microsoft’s products. This will only be exacerbated by a continuous update cycle.

However, on the plus side, with fewer patches to roll out at any one time, there’s a smaller chance of compatibility issues being encountered with a patch. Patch baselines will be smaller, so testing and roll out will be more controlled and faster, so it will improve change management success. On top of this, the impact on the network will be reduced, as baseline file sizes will be much smaller

Of course, there’s no need to worry just yet – Windows 10 is yet to be released, so it remains to be seen how successful continuous patch updates will be.

Look out for further updates and handy tips on Patch Management from Rob Brown or Patch Management Services information at http://verismicblog.com/

|Patch Tuesday

May 2015 – Patch Updates

By Managed Service Providers, News, Patch Management, UncategorizedNo Comments

This month sees three patches rated Critical by Microsoft affecting Internet Explorer, Windows, the .NET Framework, Office, Lync, and Silverlight. The CVSS scores from US-CERT rate all three at 9.3, so they certainly pose a risk if left unpatched.

Patch Management Web Clinic

The first Critical patch MS15-043, resolves 22 separate vulnerabilities across InternetExplorer; only Internet Explorer 7 installed on Windows Server 2003 is not affected by this vulnerability. To address the vulnerability, the update modifies how IE handles objects in memory, ensures affected versions of Jscript, VBScript and IE to properly implement the ASLR security feature, as well as adding additional permission validations. The most severe of the vulnerabilities could allow for remote code execution if a user view a specially crafted web page.

The second Critical update from Microsoft MS15-044, address vulnerabilities in Windows, .NET Framework, Office, Lync, and Silverlight by correcting how the Windows DirectWrite library handles OpenType and TrueType fonts. Both vulnerabilities in this update could allow for remote code execution, allowing a hacker to gain the same admin rights as the current user. Those with fewer user rights could be less impacted than those who operate with admin rights.

The final Critical update MS15-045, addresses six vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows that could allow remote code execution if a user opens a specially crafted Microsoft Journal file. Two of the vulnerabilities were publicly disclosed but, luckily, are not being actively exploited.

10 further updates

All 10 are rated as Important, addressing 18 separate vulnerabilities. There is some disparity however, as US-CERT has given a CVSS of 9.3 for three of the Important updates, meaning they should probably be Critical updates.

MS15-046, MS15-048, and MS-049 should be the next three after your Critical patches to update. The first update address vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office, and could allow for remote code execution. The other two updates here could allow for elevation of privilege and affect Microsoft Windows, .NET Framework, and Silverlight.

Patch ManagementInterestingly, US-CERT has given MS15-051 a CVSS of 2.1, whilst Microsoft gives it an Important rating. What’s interesting is one vulnerability within this patch, allowing elevation of privilege, has been publicly disclosed, meaning hackers know about this vulnerability. At the time of writing, Microsoft has confirmed it’s aware of some limited, targeted attacks that are attempting to exploit this vulnerability.

Based on Microsoft’s rating along with US-CERT’s CVSS scores I would recommend prioritising the top six patches in the table below, and then working down the list.

As always, I’d recommend testing patches before rolling them out across your IT estate to avoid any issues or conflicts, and this month you should pay special attention to MS15-044, which may require more testing because of the variety of different products that are impacted.

Author: Rob Brown Director of Services at Verismic and Patch Management Expert

Update no.

CVSS Score Microsoft rating Affected software

Details

MS15-043

9.3 Critical Microsoft Windows, Internet Explorer Cumulative security update for Internet Explorer
MS15-044 9.3 Critical Microsoft Windows, Microsoft .NET Framework, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Lync, Microsoft Silverlight

Vulnerabilities in Microsoft Font Driver could allow remote code execution

MS15-045

9.3 Critical Microsoft Windows Vulnerability in Windows journal could allow remote code execution
MS15-046 9.3 Important Microsoft Office

Vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office could allow remote code execution

MS15-048

9.3 Important Microsoft Windows, Microsoft .NET Framework Vulnerabilities in .NET Framework could allow elevation of privilege
MS15-049 9.3 Important Microsoft Silverlight

Vulnerability in Silverlight could allow elevation of privilege

MS15-047

8.5 Important Microsoft Server Software Vulnerabilities in Microsoft SharePoint Server could allow remote code execution
MS15-050 7.2 Important Microsoft Windows

Vulnerability in Service Control Manager could allow elevation of privilege

MS15-055

5.0 Important Microsoft Windows Vulnerability in Schannel could allow information disclosure
MS15-054 4.3 Important Microsoft Windows

Vulnerability in Microsoft Management Console File Format could allow denial of service

MS15-053

3.5 Important Microsoft Windows Vulnerabilities in Jscript and VBScript Scripting Engines could allow security feature bypass
MS15-051 2.1 Important Microsoft Windows

Vulnerabilities in Window Kernel-Mode Drivers could allow elevation of privilege

MS15-052

2.1 Important Microsoft Windows

Vulnerability in Windows Kernel could allow security feature bypass

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Verismic will take on 20 MSPs by end of year

By Managed Service Providers, NewsNo Comments

The company’s 20 new MSPs will support sales and deployments of its endpoint management technology

Verismic is hoping to recruit 20 new MSPs before the end of 2015 to help drive sales and deployments of its endpoint management technology, Syxsense .

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Ashley Leonard, President and CEO, Verismic says: “CMS is perfect for MSPs enabling them to get more value from customers and deliver better service levels. There are still lots and lots of MSPs who are providing services using old premise client/server management tools or even physically sending out engineers to help customers with problems.

He explained that the company’s endpoint management tool enables MSPs to monitor endpoints and intervene as soon as they need to, rather than having a reactive approach whenever a system goes down.

“Being cloud based, we allow MSPs to support their customers from anywhere and anytime,” he said. “CMS has been developed with MSPs in mind, enabling them to more effectively manage their customers’ IT environments with minimal admin burden.”

Read the full article at channelpro.uk

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A patchy channel

By Managed Service Providers, Patch ManagementNo Comments

Downtime: one word to strike fear into the hearts of even the hardiest IT manager.

Avoiding downtime at pretty much all costs is the name of the game now. However, with the reliance on Microsoft products and their attendant regular security updates, some downtime will inevitably be necessary to roll out patches to keep systems secure.

The problem is that the more updates there are, the more downtime is needed to update and install patches. This can be a challenge for customers, but for IT service providers and managed services companies it can be a real headache. Invariably, your customers have a very limited window where systems can be taken offline to install patches.

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“Do your own research and don’t be afraid to look elsewhere when advising customers about patches and security vulnerabilities.” – Ashley Leonard, President and CEO of Verismic

This is all well and good when there are only a few patches, such as in Microsoft’s January update, but when there are a large number (generally eight or more), it can be a real challenge. Microsoft has its own rating system for its patches: critical, important, moderate, and low.

On a typical Patch Tuesday we will see a small number rated critical, and the rest are invariably rated important. If taken at face value, you’d presume to roll out critical patch updates first, and work down the list.

But what may be a critical patch for one of your customers could in fact be almost unnecessary for others due to the different systems they use.

Read the full article on channelweb.co.uk

Ashely Leonard pasword reset quote|

Common helpdesk complaints businesses face – and how to fix them

By Managed Service Providers, NewsNo Comments

Help your users help themselves!

Working on a helpdesk can give you a sense of deja vu when it comes to some of the difficulties you hear from users. If you have heard a problem once, you have heard it a thousand times.

Whether you are a newbie on the support desk or a seasoned pro, many helpdesk problems that clog up the helpline can easily be avoided or solved. In doing so, you can save time and money and concentrate on the more interesting and critical challenges.

Here are some of the most dreaded helpdesk issues that plague IT staff, and how they can be avoided.

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1. I can’t remember my password

Forgetting a password is by far the most common problem users call up the helpdesk with. The reason behind this (aside from people’s inability to remember several passwords, each requiring a lower case, an upper case character, a number, a symbol, etc.) is that people think calling the helpdesk is the easiest and most efficient way of solving their problem.

“Lost passwords and Active Directory password resets are still the leading cause of service desk calls,” says Ashley Leonard, president and CEO at Verismic. “A lack of education [and often business technology] can mean that some users will still see a helpdesk call as the easiest and quickest way to sort out their problem.”

He says helpdesks need a self-service password reset tool that allows end users to control and reset personal passwords without calling the helpdesk. “End users, including remote workers, should be able to reset personal passwords by correctly answering a series of private questions. In many cases, a password reset tool can reduce helpdesk calls by up to 40%.”

2. My PC is too slow

Is the user running umpteen applications at once? Other reasons could be that system scans have been scheduled for the wrong time of day when the user needs their computer the most.

Izak Oosthuizen, consultant at Exec Sys, says that to reduce the volume of the most common IT maintenance complaints, such as a slow PC or network, organisations should look to automate maintenance items as much as possible with increased use of automation tools.

“Try automating the following ongoing, critical support tasks, including security patches, apps such as browsers, the scheduling of regular disk defragmentation, temporary file deletion and enabling real-time scanning,” he says.

3. I can’t print anything!

It’s the call helpdesk people dread – the user cannot print anything. The obvious things to look for are to see if the printer is turned on, is loaded with paper (in the correct tray) and has enough toner or ink. The trick to making these calls go away is to have users check for these issues first before calling in.

If it doesn’t appear to be an obvious answer then a connection problem could be the cause, i.e. the printer is not connected (or indeed the computer!)

David Weeks, channel strategies manager at N-able Technologies says that issues such as this can be resolved through a self-healing automation policy, which is typically implemented via the MSP’s remote monitoring and management (RMM) platform.

“Once the MSP has rectified the initial reactive issue, from there they can look at the subcategories that may have led to this issue occurring in the first place. If the print spooler is commonly filling up – why is this happening?” he says.

4. My mobile device isn’t syncing my emails?

According to Charlie Goulding, managing director of IT support firm Greencorn, this is quite common and quickly solved by ensuring that “push” is enabled on a phone so that new data is pushed to a user’s phone from the server.

“If you are using an Android phone, you may want to try removing all accounts on your phone, and then clearing all the data and cache files before shutting the phone down. Next, turn the phone back on and re-add your accounts. The ‘turning it on and off again’ method may sound overly simplistic, but it does in many cases solve syncing issues,” he says.

5. I can’t find anything in Windows 8

Windows 8 is a real departure from previous versions and some people find it difficult to get used to. Just remember that you can search for and find anything in Windows 8 using the top right search function, and that you can always get back to the last screen you were on by hovering at the top left of your screen – your active windows will pop up and you can select amongst them, says Goulding.

6. Why is the internet/network so slow?

The main cause of a user suffering slow internet access is usually down to malware or spyware. This is when you need your users to be honest with you and find out about sites they may have visited or applications they have downloaded.

Another reason why the internet or network may appear slow to the user could be because the user is connecting to the network via wireless. In an office building not everywhere will get a good signal, or could just be too far away from the Wi-Fi router.

7. My computer/application isn’t working!

In most cases, an application or hardware failure complaint is usually caused by a user’s lack of knowledge. Oosthuizen says that users must be “educated via scheduled training sessions; try creating a knowledge base for users and install workflow/procedures for complicated, propriety in-house software.”

8. I can’t log in!

Another common call to the helpdesk and reasons behind this range from the user leaving Caps Lock on when entering their password to an expired password that the user forgot to reset. Again, a self-service reset system should solve this issue.

Article published on techradar.pro

MSPs Need A Simple Systems Management Tool

By Managed Service Providers, NewsNo Comments

It would be easy to switch off when people start talking about cloud. The subject is not only worn out, but is one that means so many different things to so many people. As a result of that jaded confusion, there is a danger that some of the potential opportunities cloud presents could be missed.

MicroScope garnered opinions from across the channel about what cloud technology could offer resellers this year and where efforts would be best placed for those looking to grow their businesses. The good news is that there are plenty of suggestions, and with Microsoft Windows Server 2003 support ending in July, it is a good time to encourage those running on traditional setups to look at a hosted alternative.

Management of Systems
Ashley Leonard, president and CEO at Verismic, says the channel community, particularly managed service providers (MSPs), need to arm themselves with a simple, cloud-based systems management tool.

“PCs and laptops are not going away, despite the rush to adopt tablets and smart devices. PCs and laptops need managing, monitoring, patching and licensing. Windows 10 will likely create a flurry of upgrade work, application compatibility testing and roll-out,” he says.

“MSPs need a systems management tool that combines the cloud with agentless end-device setup, so they don’t need to deploy and maintain another piece of software at every customer site and on every PC,” he says.

Read the full article at Microscope.co.uk

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PCR MSP article|Ashley Leonard of Verismic

Race for free Windows 10 will create MSP windfall

By Managed Service Providers, NewsNo Comments
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Following the news that the new Windows 10 update will be free for a year, Ashley Leonard, president and CEO of Verismic, shares how he thinks this will affect managed service providers.

The latest figures from Netmarketshare suggest usage of the XP platform is dropping. Market share was 18.93 per cent in January 2015, down from 26.29 per cent in April 14.

OS upgrades to Windows 7 will be common in 2015 as customers come to realise support for XP has been stripped away, leaving them adrift.

Windows 8/8.1 has not been popular with all users, which could also prompt those XP and 7 users to actually jump to Windows 10. For a limited time only, one year, Microsoft has also said 10 will be a free upgrade, which makes this upgrade jump even more likely.

In any scenario, a flow of OS upgrades stretches IT resources not just through OS rollout, but through testing, fixing, repackaging and preparing existing applications for the new environment. It really is no small feat deploying applications.

Read More on PCR…

About the author Ashley Leonard, President and CEO of Verismic.