Monday, August 10, 2015

Windows 10 Upgrade?

We are all excited by the announcement of a FREE upgrade to Windows 10. Stop for a moment and think about what that really means for your computer. Pay attention to the version number. We went from Windows 7 to Windows 8. Then we went to Windows 8.1 to fix some problems. Now we will skip 9 altogether and jump to 10?

You want the new, improved Windows! First, read the system requirements. Is your computer compatible with the new Windows? Now, and most important, where is your computer and what programs do you use?
  • Is this a computer at your place of business? 
  • Is it connected to a local area network? 
  • Do you use any software specific to your business?
If you answered 'Yes' to any of these then you need to check with your IT department/person to get approval to upgrade.

Not all software is compatible with Windows 10 yet! Not all networks are ready for Windows 10 yet! 

We have seen unauthorized upgrades bring work to a halt. Proprietary software crashes and the network suffers. Please think before you do something that will have consequences beyond your own use.

If you have questions about this, give us a call at 602-432-1079 or email us at

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Outsourcing your IT Department?

For businesses seeking a technology company to act as their IT department, one thing to consider is what kind of monitoring and remediation does this organization provide? The reason I bring this up is that it is very important to be proactive when dealing with IT networks of any size. Having to constantly chase ghosts to find out what caused this problem or that problem is time consuming, inefficient and costly in man hours and lost productivity.

One of the best things M5 Systems ever did was procuring a very powerful software monitoring tool to assist us with our clients in helping them be proactive. We know in advance when a piece of hardware is about to fail, or when a drive is badly fragmented, when anti-virus software is out of date or when Windows Updates are not being done. We can also auto-remediate many of these issues so they don’t become a problem later. This makes for a more efficient and trouble free network which reduces costs and downtime. Why be reactionary when you can be proactive and avoid issues in the future?
Be Proactive

Speaking of being proactive, why is it whenever I walk into a new client the normal way of doing things when it comes to IT almost always seems to be reactionary? I never quite understood this philosophy. It always comes with higher costs and headaches, cleaning up viruses, finding out that a data backup hasn’t been done for weeks or months, hard drives failing, systems running too hot, etc.

It makes no sense to me to run an IT network in this fashion especially when it’s the lifeblood of most businesses! What we are doing at M5 Systems is constantly retraining how our clients think about maintaining their networks. At the end of the day through all the kicking and screaming their systems run more smoothly, they have far fewer issues and sometimes even ask me why there haven’t been any recent issues! Make sure your IT provider is helping you to become proactive and not reactive when it comes to maintaining your systems and network.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Data Backup and Disaster Recovery

In my last Blog post I talked about file encryption and securing your data from the bad guys. I want to continue on that topic with an emphasis and data backup and disaster recovery.

 Many of the small businesses I encounter have very little regard for backups and disaster recovery. I find this disturbing since their data is one of their most important assets. Many of the excuses I hear relate to the cost of backup and recovery software. Even if the cost is around a couple grand it’s not worth it to them? I see what these people drive, what their homes look like, etc. and believe me when I say 2,000.00 is pocket change! My larger clients have no problem with the investment as they acknowledge losing their data would be a disaster to say the least.

One of our solutions we recommend is the Dell Appassure Backup and Disaster Recovery software platform. It’s easy to install and use and will replicate your data to an offsite hosting facility every hour of the day or at night if you so choose. There are options for converting your data into virtual machines (Hyper-V, VMWARE) to create a hot standby. Data retention can be configured for months or years depending on how much data storage you have.

Our clients replicate their recovery points to a local data center here in Phoenix. They have peace of mind knowing that their data isn’t stored in some ambiguous place in the cloud. There is no reason your business should ever be at risk from data loss unless of course you don’t consider that data to be worth very much.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

7 Deadly Sins

As IT networks become more complex protecting them becomes even more difficult. Did you know that malware growth on Android devices has increased 1800% over the last 12 months? How about that Apple MAC devices have become more susceptible to malware? Here is something very alarming: 64% of users don’t lock their phones! Employees losing their phones which are not even locked can give any IT administrator heartburn. If infected mobile devices are connected to a corporate network really bad things can happen. Mobile device management has never been more critical.
How about unsecured WIFI networks? I have run into this one many times in the past and when I confront the client I ask them to give me the keys to their home. Of course after the laughter stops I explain that leaving their WIFI network unsecured is just about the same thing. I mean this is not something which is difficult to do but so often overlooked.
Firewalls are great security devices but when they are misconfigured or not setup properly they can do more harm than good. By giving the end user a false sense of security thinking that their network is protected when in reality it isn’t and is vulnerable to attacks. Don’t let this happen to you! Make sure your firewall or UTM device is looked at very carefully by a security professional who is certified.
Is your corporate data a valuable asset? I would the answer to this question is a resounding YES! Well one of the best and cost effective ways to ensure that it remains safe from the bad guys is to use data encryption. Sophos data encryption is not expensive and is an excellent way to keep your data safe. Suppose one of the computers on your network has been infected with one of the ransomware viruses like CryptoLocker. Your files are encrypted by the virus and you either have to restore from backup or pay the ransom to get your files back. Well if your files were encrypted with Sophos data encryption it wouldn’t make any difference. The ransomware virus would not be able to do any harm to your data and there would be no need to go through a time consuming restore process. Every corporate network should encrypt their files, no excuses here!
Attached to this blog post is a nice little PowerPoint presentation about the 7 Deadly IT Sins, some of which I have discussed here. Please take a look and let me know if you have any questions!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Are Your Network Security Systems Integrated?

Since I first got involved in the IT Security world one of the things which I have always found frustrating and inefficient is the disconnect between desktop anti-virus products, firewalls, and UTM devices. Solutions from one vendor never meshed with another so in almost every case managing these technologies for the customer was difficult, inefficient and frankly almost impossible. I always wondered when one of the major players would meld their desktop solution with their edge or gateway solution. Maybe you are asking why this is  important. How does this help my customer’s network or more importantly how does this help me from a management perspective?
Well if you could have both the desktop and the edge or UTM side talking to each other, feeding each side information about threats and what to do if there was an infection wouldn’t that be worth something to you? For example let’s say a desktop gets infected by malware and this information is then communicated to the UTM. The UTM then makes a decision to shut down the infected machine and quarantine it from the rest of the network. Remediation then takes place on the infected machine and just for good measure the rest of the machines on the network are also scanned.
I have been waiting for this technology to become reality for many years and now it’s finally happening. Sophos has been doing a tremendous job on the security front and later this year will be integrating this technology into their desktop and UTM products. For my customers their networks will not only be protected but will also be “intelligent” when it comes to security. Instead of having desktop anti-virus from one vendor and a UTM product from another vendor with no real ability to respond to an attack, Sophos protected networks will be able to respond to an attack without someone like me having to do anything!

This is really an exciting time for me being able to offer security products to my customers which actually work together forming a total solution with the ability to quarantine and mitigate potential problems automatically.