New service: Appointment scheduling

Alliance Business Technologies always aims to give you, our client, the best experience possible when reaching out to us for assistance. We know that sometimes it can be a little challenging to find a convenient time for us to work on your issues. We typically will call you and potentially disturb you while you are working on something far more important.


With one of our external partners we have implemented a feature where you can choose when you would like us to reach out to you. We will actually give you access to our scheduling systems! This is how it works.

  • Our service desk initially receives your request for support and classifies it.
  • Depending the urgency of the ticket we will plan our actions. We may call you directly if the issue is urgent, or assign the ticket to an engineer.
  • The engineer (or their team leaders) can then invite you to book a session.
    • The first step will be to have the system send you an email with a link to our scheduling system.
    • In this email we will let you know if we need a quick phone call, a remote session on your PC or even an onsite visit. You then proceed to choose the best time that suits YOU.
    • Your selected date and time is directly booked into our system and the engineer will contact you at the agreed time.
    • Of course we will send you a confirmation by email. If something isn’t right you can just give us a ring and we’ll happy rebook the session.

Please do note there are situations where waiting for a scheduled appointment is simply not practical. In those cases we may reach out.
We welcome any questions or comments about this new service. We do believe this solution will make your experience much more convenient.

Patch Management

In the last 12 months, we have strongly increased our efforts in making your IT systems more secure. We speak to you often about security measures such as MFA (Office 365), Anti-virus (Webroot or Eset), firewalls (Barracuda), backups (StorageCraft) and the need to keep your devices in warranty. Another major component of a compliant IT is system patch management. Microsoft continuously improves their software, and releases updates to keep the operating system of your server, desktop or laptop stable and secure. Rather than leaving it to Microsoft to deploy these patches to your machines, we can do this for you. That way the installation of these updates is managed by us, and you can take measures to prepare for them. We test patches before they are being deployed as much as possible, but cannot verify each patch with each application you use. Sometimes a patch can cause issues, and it is good to know we are here looking after your IT infrastructure.

All our managed clients are now on a patch plan. Patch management is now also available to our Core clients. This saw our level of covered workstations dramatically increase:

But more importantly, the patch compliance has increased as well.  Currently, our patch compliance is 97%. This means that almost all available and approved patches that have gone through our test- and the pilot stage has been installed on the workstations we manage. There can be many reasons why patches are not installed, but the most frequent reason is that devices have not restarted. Your servers will typically restart once per month, depending on the installed patches, but your workstation should be restarted frequently to make it work better. And note: If we don’t have our “ABT Health Monitor” installed on your computer we cannot manage it, and therefore cannot install updates on it.

Welcome to our new Team Members

It has been a few months since we have informed you about new members of the ABT family.  But we haven’t sat still! ABT is constantly growing and we are always on the lookout for the best staff available to help you, and us, be successful.

We would like to introduce you to a few of our latest additions. This time most of our new friends are in roles that are not directly technical but will be assisting us in increasing our efficiency. 

Cheero Biswas – Queensland Office  – Project Coordinator

Cheero has recently been appointed the new role of project coordinator. With many projects on the calendar, varying from small MFA rollouts to Office 365 migrations and full infrastructure upgrades, it is becoming increasingly important for all this work to be planned and organised efficiently. Cheero has had many years of experience in similar roles, and we look forward to introducing him to you when you have a new project on the agenda.

Nathan Wheeler – Queensland Office – Technical Consultant

With the recent departure of Luke Winstanley and Wayne Ash, our Technical Consultancy team was a bit light on. In Nathan Wheeler we found an excellent new TC, bringing in a wealth of experience in the managed services industry. Nathan is highly regarded for his technical seniority and client care experience.  Nathan’s tasks will include the standardization of our technology stack, and helping our clients embrace the opportunities new technologies bring to the business.

Ryan Cunningham – Queensland Office – Customer Relationship Manager

A very exciting new role in our company has been developed over the last few months. We have identified a need in our organisation for Customer Relationship Managers. As part of the Business Development team, the CRM’s will act as the bridge between your business and our organisation. Our CRM’s will act on your behalf, be an internal client advocate and be responsible for your success. They will assist you in learning about new technologies and be your contact person for accounts-, sales- and operational issues.  Ryan has recently started with ABT in this new role and is currently being educated on our clients, our processes and our systems. Ryan has extensive experience in IT and is very keen to get to know you.

Marc Kneeshaw – Queensland Office – Customer Relationship Manager

In Marc we have hired another CRM. Similarly to Ryan he is currently getting to know all about us, and you, and will soon be ready to form the CRM team with Ryan and Nick Jennion. Marc has come from a MSP background as an engineer, so he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in practical IT challenges. The CRM role itself is not a technical role, but our CRM’s will be able to translate your business requirements into technically feasible solutions that will ultimately help you to be successful.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-Factor Authentication. What is it, and why do I need it.

MFA. It is a term you will have heard. The IT industry loves acronyms, so you’ll find MFA plastered all over news articles, blog posts, and maybe in an email you would have received from us. As your IT Partner we take your security very serious, and MFA is part of this. But what is it?

Simply put, MFA is another way to let a system know you are who you say you are. You’ll have a password, sure. But what if a bad guy knows your password, by guessing it, or by stealing it? With your login ID, which is often easy to find, and your password, suddenly all your email, documents, photo’s of your family, financial information and browsing history becomes available to use.  And passwords are only as safe as they are secure. Most people hold well over 50 passwords, so many will duplicate passwords across systems and, sometimes very unsafe websites. A password manager can help, and please reach out to us if you need one, but even then you’re still vulnerable.

Multi-factor verification is more secure than just a password because it relies on two forms of authentication: something you know, and something you have with you. The something you know is your password. The something you have with you is typically a phone. The way it works is that after you log in with your password, the system will ask you to verify who you are by sending a text message to your phone, give you a code in an “authenticator app” on your phone or have you confirm on the phone that all is good and access can be given. Two-factor verification can help to stop malicious hackers from pretending to be you, because even if they have your password, odds are that they don’t have your device, too.

MFA is a little bit of extra effort. You’ll need to create a credential up front and need to enter it when you want access. We can sometimes make it a little easier, for example by limiting the number of times you need to authenticate when you’re in your company’s internal network or give you an “app password” that can make it easier. But in all situations having two forms of authentication is better than having one.  Safety is no longer guaranteed in business, or even your personal environment (you really should use MFA for your personal email and documents as well). If you’re not protected, the question isn’t whether you’re going to be compromised, but when. And how much it is going to cost you or your business.

ABT have performed MFA projects for dozens of our clients, enabling security for thousands of our users. If we haven’t yet reached out to you to enable MFA on your company’s data, we will. If you would like more information, or would like us to engage with you to increase your security even more, please reach out to sales@abtechnologies.com.au

Microsoft 365 Business Banner

How Microsoft 365 Business can help improve your business.

Welcome to our blog on the recent addition to the Microsoft skus – Microsoft 365 Business. Today we’re going to help our clients by talking about the product, some of the note-worthy features that are included, as well as hopefully giving you some insight into where they can help improve your business.

The first thing we want our customers to recognize is that the Microsoft 365 Business sku is separate from the traditional Office 365 licensing. It has been built on the foundations of the popular Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium, however with new additional and advanced features that will change the way you think about your IT Infrastructure. We’ll address these features shortly, however this is an important segue to think about where your business is in its technology life-cycle.

Infrastructure Diagram

What we’re seeing is that there are still many organizations using very, very old-style technologies such as Windows 7 as well as XP systems. Remember these systems have next to no support, which basically means that they lack the ability to work in a modern workplace. The lack of security features such as single sign-on seen in Windows 10, branching the security management, group policies and ease of access across Office 365 and other application connectivity. Lack of up-to-date systems and security features acting as one of the major defenses against modern-day infections such a cryptolocker, ransomware and other malware.

Another fact to point out with older infrastructure is you may:

  • Different PC’s being purchased over time,
  • Multiple arrangements of different operating systems,
  • Multiple desktop configurations with various versions of software compatibility.

Infrastructure that probably isn’t consistent across the organization creating frustration and preventing users working consistently. In turn, businesses are looking at very different style of solutions to bridge this gap, and this again makes it more complicated and potentially more expensive to manage.

So our goal is to bring a consistent environment to all our customers to give them what’s modern, up-to-date, and also provide the ability to manage these things in a better fashion. That’s where Microsoft 365 Business comes in.

So think of Microsoft 365 Business as an infrastructure and software integrated solution. Microsoft 365 has expanded from the traditional foundations of the Office 365, still inclusive of the Desktop and Online Office 365 Applications and features of the Office 365 Business Premium licensing you may be familiar with, however has added additional security features typically seen in the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) licensing:

  • Mobile device management, to consistently manage security across your environment remotely from the cloud with Microsoft Intune. Manage all devices whether they’re mobile or on the desktop, Windows 10, Android, iOs and Mac, and with an additional range of compliance features that are becoming more in demand now based on things like the Data Breach legislation. Therefore all customers need to be aware of their compliance requirements and needs, and these services to allow that.
  • The ability to encrypt documents and do things like forcing multi-factor authentication, and restricting copy and paste.
  • Information Rights Management to protect sensitive information and data effectively no matter where they go on the internet; embedding permissions we can protect them inside teams, we can protect them inside OneDrive, we can encrypt the emails leaving the business.

We know users have multiple devices and therefore must have all sorts of things that need to be protected based on a single logging that users has with your Active Directory. We’ve got the ability to do a selective wipe of just corporate data, we’ve got full right capabilities once we put those devices under management, so if they get lost there’s no need to go and declare data breach because those devices are encrypted.

As we can see, the new Microsoft 365 Business product has bundled a number of significant skus together to make one hefty product. But that’s not all. Putting the bigger picture together Microsoft have also included the benefits of upgrading your Windows 7 or 8 pro to Windows 10 at no additional cost, as well as introducing the new Windows Autopilot tool. Basically, this tool simplifies device administration allowing you to deploy a full Windows 10 out-of-the-box experience significantly designed for you business. Imagine a business manager buys a new PC for an employee, The employee opens it up, they log in with their AD Credentials, and then they are logged into Office 365 where the software is pushed down and is automatically configured based on the policies you set at the back end. If you haven’t already realized, this ability means that the deployment of devices throughout your organization are seamlessly consistent, with all the security features and functionally preset. All the one operating system, all the one desktop set up, all the one security set up, and no ugly surprises. A question you may ask; “What if I have an app that still needs Windows 7?” No problem. Since your business has just upgraded to Windows 10 you’ll be able to run the software using Hyper-V. For more information on Hyper-V please refer to: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/virtualization/hyper-v-on-windows/about/

Now before we rap up, three things to note:

  • Microsoft 365 business is aimed typically at the SMB customer up to 300 users.
  • Microsoft 365 Business sadly does not give you the voice capabilities to do cloud PBX.
  • Microsoft 365 Enterprise will however provide you these features if the above does not fit your business model.

If we reference the detailed comparison of the plans below, Office 365 Business Premium is around $18 ex GST, and Microsoft 365 Business is only about $10 more to which if you’re paying for Microsoft Azure Active Directory Premium P1 for MFA, and other 3rd-Party products for things like archiving then you’d waver those products and already be saving about $12 per user per month. For your information we’ve provided the features of the Microsoft 365 E3 and the E5 licensing as well. If you would like more information on the Enterprise skus don’t hesitate to contact us.

Alright, well if you’ve landed here from our Monthly eNewletter, or have wandered in from our website then thank you for tuning in and I hope we have provided you with the product knowledge you’re looking for. Don’t hesitate to contact us further on any of the information talked about here today, otherwise feel free to explore the gallery below.

Information Source: Robert Crane, “What is Microsoft 365 Business?” SlideShare (blog), September 7, 2018 , https://www.slideshare.net/directorcia/what-is-microsoft-365-business

The Best Practices for Email Security Webinar

Last week we kicked off our Webinar Series.

Modern attacks are rapidly growing in volume and sophistication.

All it takes is for one employee to open a single malicious attachment, or click one infected link, and your company’s entire cybersecurity is put at risk.

Due to these actions being so simple and common – opening an email, following a link to a website – it is becoming more difficult for companies to increase their security. However, with the addition of robust employee user training, your business can reduce the risk of staff members opening the door to digital attackers. Modern attacks are rapidly growing in volume and sophistication

Watch our Webinar on Best Practises for Email Security to learn important ways to protect your business. 

Hosted by Mark Lukie from Barracuda Networks alongside our Senior Solutions Architect, Jarred Jenkins.

Stay tuned for more upcoming webinars.



Company Updates

The month of February 2019 saw some changes in our staffing.

Welcome to Ojas Bhagat (System Engineer, Team Leader)

Ojas is a familiar name for some or our clients, as he has previously worked with us.. Ojas has returned to AB Technologies after exploring other career options. As team leader of the Systems Engineering group Ojas will help the team become even more focused on your success, while he himself will bring extra experience from working for successful other MSP’s.

The SE group had another new member in Campbell Duncan (System Engineer ).

Campbell has been working in our Service Desk team since starting with ABT in September last year. Due to his ongoing development and excellent skillset he has been promoted to the role of Systems Engineer.

Congratulations Campbell!

Another promotion was for Wayne Kirby. (Technical Consultant)

Wayne has been with us since July. He has worked in the Systems Engineering group with great success and has proven to be an invaluable asset to the team. Wayne’s skills and experience have now helped him to become our newest Technical Consultant. As TC Wayne will be the endpoint for the most complex technical issues and will become a technical account manager for some of our clients.

We’re looking forward to having Wayne in this role. Congratulations Wayne!

It is official, ABT now has a local staff presence in Western Australia and Victoria.


Sergey (Serge) Mironenko (Systems Engineer – Western Australia)

As our business in Western Australia is growing, we have had an internal staff member working from Perth. To further solidify our position in WA we have now hired Sergey (Serge) Mironenko. Serge will work with our client base in WA and be a valuable part of our systems engineering team. Welcome to Serge!V


Nick Jennion (Technical Consultant – Victoria)

Equally important to our geographic heatmap are our clients in Victoria. We now have our technical consultant Nick Jennion based out of the Melbourne area, servicing clients locally. If you would like Serge or Nick to visit your office for an onsite consult, please let us know and we will make this happen.

Windows Patching Q & A

Windows Patching Q&A

Q: On my invoice I now see Managed Server Patching. What is that?

Alliance Business Technologies manages the installation of Microsoft updates on your servers and workstations. Microsoft updates are important patches to your operating systems. They ensure stability and safety and keep your IT secure. Systems that are not updated are vulnerable to attacks and become a big risk to your company.

Q: Why am I being billed for patching?

A: Patching previously was not covered in your agreement. We would alert you if your servers were out of date and install patches upon your request. We then would invoice you separately for this work. This caused unexpected cost and increased risk for you. We have now covered patching in your agreement. You are billed for $45 per server per month. If your server systems were patched frequently in the past, this should not be an increase. We are simply spreading it per month.

Q: What about workstations? I thought you were patching them too?

A: Previously Windows Updates on workstations were managed by the operating system. This means updates were installed without our involvement. We now also manage the installation of patches on your workstations, as long as we have a maintenance agent installed on them. We will charge you a fee of $4 per month for the maintenance agent.

Q: Why are you not yet charging me for the workstations?

A: Technically we are not charging for workstation patching. We will need to charge you for the installation of our management agent. The patching service itself is free of charge. However, we have received some feedback from a small number of clients about the stability of the notifications the agent sends out for workstation patching. In a few situations this has caused a workstation to restart in the morning without notifying the user. While we work this out we will not charge you for the workstation agent. Server patching is working flawlessly and as expected.

Q: What if we have problems after patching?

A: Unfortunately, Alliance Business Technologies does not have control over the patches Microsoft develops, your internal applications and their dependence on the updates or your hardware. Should a Windows Update cause an issue on your workstation or server we will do everything possible to fix the issue, but if your managed service agreement doesn’t cover support, we may need to invoice you for this. Please speak to us if you would like to include support in your agreement and enjoy the benefits of all-inclusive management and support.

Q: The numbers seem incorrect. What do I do?

A: The quantity of workstations and servers comes directly out of our management system. If you believe they are incorrect, please let us know immediately. If the number is too high it is possible that you have devices you were not aware of. We can tell you what they are, and you can check. If the quantity is too low there may be machines without a management agent on them. That is risky because those devices are not patched and may not have adequate protection.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Email: Support@abtechnologies.com.au

Phone: 1300 705 062

Securing your Web Site with HTTPS to build trust with your audience.

Chrome web browser is now marking all HTTP sites as “not secure”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chrome used to display a neutral information icon, but starting with version 68, the browser will warn users with an extra notification in the address bar. Chrome currently marks HTTPS-encrypted sites with a green lock icon and “Secure” sign.

Google has been nudging users away from unencrypted sites for years, but this is the most forceful nudge yet. Google search began down-ranking unencrypted sites in 2015, and the following year, the Chrome team instituted a similar warning for unencrypted password fields.

The Chrome team said the change was mostly brought on by increased HTTPS adoption. Eighty-one of the top 100 sites on the web default to HTTPS, and a strong majority of Chrome traffic is already encrypted.

If your website is not currently defaulting to “https://” or cannot be viewed via “https://”,
then we can help.

For further information, please get in touch.

Phone: 1300 705 062

Email: Sales@abtechnologies.com.au

 

Cyber Safety at Tax Time

It’s tax time and the common scam email informing that you’re eligible for a tax refund is doing the rounds again!

Scammers are becoming more sophisticated, so sometimes it can be hard to know whether a message is really from the ATO or a scam.

In 2017, the ATO received over 81,000 reports of scams with $2.3 million reported lost and almost 10,000 people divulging personal information.

Australian Government Releases Warning about Current Tax Scam Email

The email, which has the subject line ‘Important information regarding your account’, includes the myGov logo and claims to be from the myGov team. Instead, the email is a phishing scam designed to steal your personal and financial information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The form asks for your name and contact details, your myGov password and your credit card number.  After you supply this information and click the ‘Continue’ button, you’ll be automatically redirected to the myGov website. By then it’s too late and the scammer has your details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The scammers use this information to commit credit card fraud and identity theft.

If you receive an email like this one, do not click any links or open any attachments.

Remember: the ATO and myGov will NEVER send an email or SMS asking you to click on a link and provide login, personal or financial information, download a file or open an attachment.

Tips for Staying Safe

Know the status of your tax affairs. If you are aware of the details of any debts owed, refunds due and lodgements outstanding, you are less likely to fall victim to a scam.

Here are some simple steps you can take to avoid an email scam:

Tax Tips Infographic

Where to go for more information