Managed Services Case Study – Coomera Anglican College

What is Managed Services?

Managed Services can be many things to different organisations.  It is essentially the efficient management of a client’s IT environment provided by a third party.  We tailor our Managed Services to meet the specific requirements of our clients. This can be as minimal as providing ad-hoc services to compliment their current IT team, or as extensive as providing a total IT Services solution by utilising our highly experienced technical teams who are local and readily available.

Who are Alliance Business Technologies?

Alliance Business Technologies is the dedicated Managed Services division of Computer Alliance. They are a leading Managed IT Services, Security and Cloud Solutions provider to the Small and Medium Business market throughout Australia.  As a respected and trusted partner, we help our customers focus on their business by deploying quality IT Infrastructure, Information Security and Cloud Solutions that support critical business applications, and drive business outcomes, employee productivity, and efficiency.

How does Managed Services work?

We start with an on-it assessment of the client’s environment, and discuss what that the business would like achieve and manage.

We then generate a Service Level Agreement, which is specific to their needs with defined roles, responsibilities to provide the best possible outcome.

What are some of the features and benefits unique to this solution?

Alliance Business Technologies delivers value added services to all of our clients. This includes comprehensive reporting, risk analysis, strategic planning and recommendations on new innovative technology and trends. We offer monthly strategic planning where we are involved in Coomera’s own strategic planning to ensure that we are not only on the same page and understand the schools strategic agenda, but we are also keeping them informed on the latest industry trends and developments. We strive to become our clients trusted advisor and aim to exceed their expectations. 

How has this solution helped the Coomera Anglican College overcome their specific challenge?

The College leadership team are very forward thinking and did not want to be tied to a traditional IT Services model.  By transitioning services to Alliance Business Technologies, they now have a trusted partner they can rely that offers peace of mind to continue their objective of being a technology-focused school.

To find out more please do not hesitate to contact us.

Improving security posture by blocking legacy authentication

We have spoken to you about Multi-Factor Authentication and it is good to see so many of our clients are taking MFA seriously and are using to keep their data safe. But sometimes we still see user accounts being compromised. How is that possible? The main culprit here is older software. Applications that can’t use the benefits of modern authentication can’t be safe, unless we simply deny access. Think of older versions of Office, or older email applications on your smartphone. The only remedy here is to stop using the older software, and have us turn off any access that is using these systems.

When MSPs refer to ‘Legacy Authentication’, we’re talking about old user authentication protocols that were previously used by Office clients 2010 and older. Microsoft started fazing these protocols out in September 2019 in attempts to wean users off of sending usernames and passwords, often stored on or saved to devices.

Why was this change important?

  • Older Microsoft Office apps and apps using mail protocols like POP, SMTP, IMAP, and MAPI can’t enforce MFA, making them the preferred entry points for adversaries attacking your organization. 

What do I do if I have older apps with Legacy Authentication?

  • To prepare for legacy authentication you must ensure that everyone in your business meets and understands these requirements
    • Use only Android Phone version 9 or higher: If you have an Android phone, you must use Android version 9 or higher. Modern iOS (Apple) is okay.
    • Use Outlook mail app: Email applications other than the Outlook app may not work after the changes are completed.
    • Ensure Office is the most current version
    • Ensure Line of Business applications are up to date and compatible with modern authentication. It is up to the third-party provider to ensure compatibility and  resolve the issues.

Find out more!

Talk to us about making sure your data is safe by disabling legacy authentication.

For more information please watch the video below:

Why does my Server need Endpoint Protection?

Microsoft Defender Anti-Virus consistently performs highly in independent tests, displaying how it’s a top choice in the antivirus market. Since June 2020, Defender has scored 100% on every test by AV-TEST  in realistic test scenarios and real world threats.

With Microsoft Defender built in to Windows 10, Microsoft has access to threat insights on a global scale allowing immediate detection of new threats and vulnerabilities.

When adding cloud heuristics to Microsoft Defender via Defender for Endpoint (formerly Advanced Threat Protection), we gain significant visibility into attacker activities and reduce manual work for our security team to resolve threats and detections with Automated Remediation.

With Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence powered by Defender for Desktop, Microsoft can analyse behaviour and stop viruses and malware at first sight. Stopping a cyberattack seconds after a campaign start.

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint will automatically attempt to remediate any threats detected without intervention using their AI reducing exposure time and increasing overall security.

In comparison, with any other Anti-Virus product, whether Defender Anti-Virus, Webroot or even ESET, any remediation is manual and recovery time back to full operation can take up to days.

Defender for Endpoint reduces this time to mere seconds keeping you secure for longer and saving you money.

Microsoft Security – leading the market in Antivirus Endpoint Protection

Global events of the last 12 months have spurred major changes in the business environment, including rapid digital transformation for many businesses. The pandemic has changed the way people and businesses work.  Whilst the dynamic new business landscape offers excellent opportunities, it is also fraught with risk. Working from home, using less standardised devices, poorly protected networks and limited physical security has led to an increase in cyber threats previously unseen. And your staff need to be protected from this.

As the largest IT Vendor, Microsoft has invested significantly in security software. According to a recent Gartner report, Microsoft is the leader in Unified Endpoint Management.

Whilst previous versions appeared less effective, Microsoft Defender Antivirus has evolved into a complete antivirus package. It has the ability to use machine learning, data analysis, in-depth threat resistance, and the Microsoft cloud infrastructure to deliver improved protection against malware. Defender also blocks exploits and network-based attacks and protects against phishing sites. Whether you are looking for security for a remote machine, a virtual machine, or multiple PCs in a large organisation, Microsoft Defender Antivirus can provide advanced enterprise endpoint protection for little to no cost to your business.

Some key facts about Microsoft Defender Antivirus

  • Tested against more than 20,000 malware examples, Microsoft Defender Antivirus received a perfect score for protection against zero-day malware attacks, inclusive of web and email threats, as well as the detection of widespread and prevalent malware discovered in a 4-week spread.
  • Automated malware detection has improved accuracy for fewer infections and false-positives, as well as better automated investigation capabilities.
  • Combining the knowledge of cybersecurity experts across 77 countries interpreting and contributing to the insights gained from advanced engineering, telemetry, artificial intelligence (AI) and Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure, this solution is able to analyse over 8 trillion security data signals per day through continuous, real-time monitoring.
  • Artificial intelligence accurately identifies legitimate attack patterns while allowing safe software to pass.
  • Detects and mitigates ‘zero-day attacks’, a new discovered vulnerability exploiting weaknesses in software unknown to the vendor or developer.

At Alliance Business Technologies, we ensure all our security practices evolve with the changing digital environment. Our solutions are comprehensively tested and up-to-date with the latest technology before being deployed internally and externally to our clients. We will soon be moving your workstations to Microsoft Defender Antivirus, providing your Windows 10 with the most comprehensive antivirus security for businesses in 2021.

Additionally, Microsoft has developed Microsoft Defender for Endpoint. The next-level enterprise security platform designed to help organisations prevent, detect, investigate and respond to advanced threats. We strongly recommend our clients to use Microsoft Defender Antivirus together with Defender for Endpoint, to have the best possible protection.

IT Business Strategy – What does good look like?

When it comes to business development, it is easy to look for short-term fixes and realize that things aren’t working out the way you want it. What if we told you that your IT can help you change your business’s success?

Information Technology is continuing to challenge the way companies organize their business processes. Establishing new ways to communicate with current and potential customers and deliver their services. Simply put, Information Technology enables business, and business drives IT.

The Alignment of IT & Business Strategy

As businesses rely on a comprehensive technology plan to meet business goals, without aligning the two strategies companies may spend too much on technology without ever solving the business challenges they face.

While there is no standard way to align both strategies successfully, it is best to break them down into sub-processes to review against industry best practices. By doing so, we can effectively identify key factors needed to improve:

  • business functionality,
  • make more profit,
  • and see better ROI,

in order to hit their goals with less effort. Therefore, aligning technology and business strategies can improve agility and operational efficiencies.

Business Strategy meets Best Practice

Best Practice is defined as:

A method that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means. Used as a benchmark, a “best” practice can evolve to become better as improvements are discovered.”

An IT Best Practice Review is able to reduce the cumbersome processes by identifying what is important to your business. Reviews can vary greatly, depending on context. What matters to a company of 500 staff does not necessarily apply to a typical SMB. We understand this from the 500+ businesses we have been fortunate to have done business with.

It will highlight areas your business is doing well, as well as what areas could be improved; such as any risks, or potentially useful technologies or processes. This process will also include recommendations moving forward, so you know the cost implications of identified issues.

In order better understanding of ‘What Good Looks Like’ for your business, don’t hesitate to contact one of our Client Relation Managers on 1300 705 062 for more information.

Security, MFA, and the Impact of the End-User

One of the biggest liabilities to a company’s security starts at the frontline – surprisingly not with your IT, but your employees. It is reported that 99 percent of cloud security failures will be caused by human error or behavior. It is vital to recognize the importance of protecting company data by educating your frontline.

As a Managed Services provider, we are here to help you along your path of learning to be security conscious. It is important for us today to cover key tips for known issues should you run into them.

User Access & Device Security

The ability to work remotely has increased more and more due to COVID-19 and the flexible culture shift, providing even more points of access that need to be protected. Hackers do not solely target desktops, laptops and PCs, they can also access your data via your tablet, smartphones as well as other mobile devices. Companies can no longer rely upon an employee being physically on the same network as a security factor.

  • Secure non-domain joined devices connecting to your company network and data by using MFA Authentication and VPN Settings. As businesses move their data to a cloud environment that can be accessed anytime and from any place, MFA can ensure your personal and financial information has a second layer of defence outside of your company network. Employees also need to be wary of network connections they decide to use working remotely. At public places with WIFI or hotspot access, there is always a risk of tapped networks. Control the data exchange over your network by encouraging employees to use only trusted network connections. If in doubt, have a VPN installed for your remote uses to connect to your network.
  • Never approve a MFA Authorization Request that you did not prompt for. Treat your Microsoft or Google Authentication App as the gateway to all your personal and company data. If a ‘MFA Approval Request’ has been prompted and you did not request it, MFA is doing its job and someone else is trying to access your data. Deny or decline the request!
  • Lock your device before you leave your desk. Sadly, security threats are not confined to just cyber attacks. Stop people accessing your information when you’re away from you desk.
    • Windows: Hold the Windows key and press the ‘L’ key.
    • Mac: Press Control + Shift + Eject (or Power key) at the same time.
  • Never use obvious information to set up passwords, use a ‘passphrase’ instead. Please read our article ‘What are Passphrase Passwords?‘ for more information.

Social Engineering Attacks and Phishing

Social engineering attacks rely on unsuspecting users to bypass security protocols in order to access valuable data and resources. Firewalls, email filters and malware protection software are some of the key tools used to help secure data being transferred over network. These tools however won’t fix user-caused security issues, that’s where user training comes in.

7 signs to check if you’re being ‘phished’:
  1. “From” line – Ever seen an email from someone you thought you knew and then was like “Oh, you’re not my friend Mandy…”. Hackers know you’re more likely to trust an email from someone you know. Always pay close attention to the sender email address.
    • Example: peter@abtechnologies.com.au vs peter@abtechnologes.com.au. The second email address is missing the “i” to appear legitimate.
  2. “To” line – Check if the email you’ve received has additional unknown people also attached. Hackers try to target as many people as they can.
  3. Hyperlinks – Check if the embedded link matches what the text relays by hovering over it before you click. Only click links from a trusted sources.
  4. Time – Do you usually receive an invoice from an accounts department around 2am? Always pay attention to what time you have received emails, especially around the holiday season. Hackers are out to get your financial information increasingly during these times.
  5. Attachments – In addition to checking the time of emails, do not open attachments that you’re not expecting. These may contain some sort of virus or malware to compromise your system’s security.
  6. Subject – Have you won a $1 million dollars recently? Or possibly an invoice that needs urgent payment now? Hackers try to real you in with various tactics that alert you to take action immediately. If ever in doubt, validate the source of the email with a phone call before you take any action further.
  7. Content – Again, hackers try to real you in with various tactics that alert you to take action immediately. Never provide personal details without validating the source first.

Don’t click! If you believe that you’re being phished, inform your MSP or IT Team via our support channels!

Microsoft Inspire Banner

Pandemic pushes the importance of cloud technologies

Microsoft Inspire, an annual Microsoft Partner Conference for the first time in history, was showcased virtually this year allowing partners from around the world to join.

Partners heard from various inspirational keynote speakers, along with executives taking point on the subject of the changing business and consumer landscape as an effect of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Gavriella Schuster – Corporate Vice President of Microsoft, in her opening keynote announced the four key areas which are Microsoft’s key focus for FY21, impacting organizations in a post-COVID world:

  • Enabling remote work
  • Business continuity
  • Security
  • Cloud Migrations

Many of the product announcements and future roadmaps at Microsoft Inspire 2020 centered around the theme of making remote work more accessible, “the full value of Microsoft 365 as a secure, remote work collaboration solution” Gavriella said.

Here are some of the main headlines and and product announcements.

The future of Remote Work for Partners

Part of the new “remote everything” movement, Microsoft announced that it’s focus would be on:

  • Empowering employees,
  • Optimizing operations,
  • Transforming products,
  • and Customer Engagement.

What was first considered to be a temporary solution, has now become a permanent shift in the way businesses will operate post COVID-19. By empowering their end customers with new modes of working and building resiliency and rebuild businesses. Delivering more cloud-based enhancements like Windows Virtual Desktop, Microsoft Teams, and Power Platform solutions.

The new face of Microsoft 365 – Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams, this year’s ‘game changer’ mentioned through the event was established as the new ‘remote work ecosystem’. Uniting communication and collaboration between employees through one platform.

As partners began the transition around empowering employees through these solutions, security concerns were addressed as data is transferred between digital locations.

“We are helping customers meet compliance requirements and protect their most sensitive information. The new Endpoint Data Loss Prevention in Microsoft 365 helps organizations identify and protect sensitive information across all their endpoints,”

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

Microsoft Inspire 2020 – Product Announcements

Business Applications Announcement

  • Microsoft released a pre-built Power Platform solution that will help customers prioritize health, security, safety and streamline the process of returning employees to the workplace.

Microsoft 365 and Teams updates

  • Power BI personal app for Microsoft Teams – a centralized hub for data visualization and accessibility.
  • Microsoft Lists – a new Microsoft 365 app that facilitates easy information tracking and organization of works. Available in Microsoft Teams by Mid-August.
  • New capabilities in Microsoft Teams to support the first-line workers.

Azure Updates and announcements

  • New multi-factor authentication and Privileged Identity Management support in Azure Lighthouse.
  • Launch of the latest member of Microsoft’s hybrid portfolio – the next generation of Azure Stack HCI. It is the fastest and easiest way to integrate existing datacentres with cloud.
  • New Azure Migrate enhancements to enable customers to conduct richer datacentre assessments.

Dynamics 365

  • Dynamics 365 Customer Voice capability to offer out-of-the-box integration with everyday applications.
  • Preview of Dynamic 365 Connected Store – the AI tool that uses intelligent edge devices like video data and IoT sensor data to deliver triggered alerts and actionable recommendations.
  • General availability of Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection with new capabilities like Account Protection and Loss Prevention.

Extended Meeting Capabilities with Teams Apps

Microsoft is excited to announce new meetings extensibility points that will enable project services like us to expand the Teams meeting experience. With this new capability, developers will be able to build apps or integrate their existing ones within the meeting surface and provide a richer collaboration experiences for users across the entire meeting lifecycle – covering events and actions from before, during, and after a meeting. These new extensibility points will be available soon for preview over coming weeks.

Empowering solution services with new meetings surfaces
Until recently, developers could integrate Teams apps within the constructs of channels, 1:1 chats, and group chats – but not meetings. Now, these new meetings extensibility points provide an opportunity to enable their apps within the scope of a meeting as tabs, in new surface areas like the app panel, through in-meeting app signals for notifications, and access to critical APIs to enable powerful app experiences. Developers will be able to enable these capabilities by configuring Teams app to be available in meeting scope within their app manifest.

Enabling richer collaboration experiences across the meetings lifecycle
Microsoft Teams is the hub for teamwork and with these new meetings extensibility points, developers will be able to enable richer collaboration experiences across the meetings lifecycle. End users will enjoy an enhanced end-to-end meetings experience as they go from scheduling the meeting to attending the meeting to collaborate with meeting attendees after. Below are a few examples of the possibilities with these extensibilities.

Before meeting experiences
Users will be able to add Teams apps during meeting set up. Through the “roles” API, technicians will be able to configure the apps to tailor the experience based on the user’s role/persona (e.g., presenter, attendee, guest, anonymous).

before meeting experiences.png

During meeting experiences
Developers will be able to design how the Teams app uses the app panel (right pane) within a meeting. They can build experiences integrating tools such as adaptive cards, HTML, and other platform capabilities to create an engaging surface for users to interact with. Again, technicians can configure how the apps will behave based on the specific roles/personas in the meeting. The apps themselves will be visible from the meeting tool bar to host tabs.

during meeting experiences.png

Another capability that clients will be able to take advantage of are through in-meeting notifications (content bubbles), where the app will be able to surface important content to the users based on their role/persona.

during meeting experiences2.png

After meeting experience
The benefit of these new meetings extensibility points is that, like today, end users will have benefit of having their apps persist within this meetings surface to continue to use and draw back upon for further collaboration.

after meeting experiences.png

Consistent level of administrative controls and management
While these new extensibility points provide new sets of capabilities, developers can remain confident and leverage their existing toolset to manage Teams apps that integrate in meetings. We’ll be able to continue to have the same controls, tools, and policies to ensure enterprise grade security, manageability, and trust.

Unlocking meetings scenarios together with Microsoft Partners
Meetings extensibility has been a highly requested from both MSP Clients and Managed Service Partners for good reason. There are numerous scenarios across lines of business, industries, and competencies where these extensibility points will unlock opportunities to enhance collaboration and productivity. We’re excited to announce that several of Microsoft’s key partners, including Polly, Open Agora, Miro, iCIMS, and HireVue are integrating these new capabilities in their Teams apps at the time of our anticipated general availability launch later this year – unlocking new scenarios and experiences for Teams users to interact with their apps across the meeting lifecycle.

polly and open agora.png

Polly and Open Agora are apps that allow users to create and distribute polls and surveys to gather data easily for real-time insight and analysis. With the new meetings extensibility points, these partners will be able to build more integrated polling/surveying experiences directly within the scope of meetings.

mirro.png

Miro provides users a virtual whiteboard for visual brainstorming and organization. With the new meetings extensibility points, users will be able to enable these apps across the entire meetings lifecycle for whiteboarding before, during, and after meetings.

icims and hirevue.png

iCIMS and HireVue are talent acquisition and interviewing platforms that provide organizations end-to-end recruiting, interviewing, and hiring solutions. With the new meetings extensibility points, users using these Teams apps will be able streamline and enrich the candidate hiring experience, such as entering interview feedback directly while facilitating virtual interviews.

Design, build, and expand new meeting experiences
Microsoft are excited to provide partners these new meeting extensibility points. As Microsoft roll out the developer preview over the coming weeks, Microsoft invite us to begin integrating your apps with these new extensibility capabilities and look forward to collecting your feedback to help us improve. General availability is expected later this year.

The ‘Flexible’ Culture Shift

In recent years, flexible working conditions are becoming increasingly popular, and with COVID-19 causing businesses to assess new strategies and processes to maintain the frontline, the emphasis to move to a modern workplace has only been accelerated.

Understandably, some business owners may fear that this shift in culture may lead to less collaborative work, or hinder business processes with the struggle to manage staff remotely. However, what many business owners fail to realize is that creating a tailored approach to providing a flexible work environment has many benefits moving forward.

Learn from the experts

In 2016, Vodafone conducted one of the largest global surveys of its kind, which drew on responses from small and medium-sized businesses, public sector organizations and multinational corporations within three continents. From the 8,000 employers and employees surveyed, 83% of respondents reported an improvement in productivity, with 61% stating their company’s profits had increased, and 58% believing that the flexible working policies had an enhanced positive impact on their organizations reputation.

“Vodafone’s research reveals a profound and rapid shift in the modern workplace. Employers are telling us that flexible working boosts profits while their employees tell us they’re more productive. Central to all of this are the new technologies that are reshaping every sector, from high-speed mobile data networks and fixed-line broadband to the latest collaborative cloud services. We truly are in an era when work is what you do, not where you go.”

Nick Jeffery, Vodafone Group Enterprise Chief Executive: <https://www.vodafone.com/business/news-and-insights/press-release/vodafone-survey-reveals-rapid-adoption-of-flexible-working>

Benefits to a flexible work environment

With greater flexibility for employees, there is a positive flow-on affect for both the employee and the employer.

  • Greater flexibility equals happier employees, enabling a greater work-life balance, and ability to engage in activities that contribute to their personal growth and professional development. 
  • Greater employee engagement at the workplace, thereby increasing productivity and decreasing absenteeism.
  • Boost the business’s bottom-line by increasing staff retention. Studies show that replacing an employee earning a median salary of $45,000 a year could cost up to $15,000.
  • A business completive advantage, with an increasing number of workers prioritizing flexibility over higher invoice, with the ability to hire highly-talented staff that may not normally be accessible.

Adopting a business intelligent strategy

Moving to incorporate a flexible work policy may seem overwhelming, however with the right tools and technology in place will ensure that business continues to run smoothly.

  • Adopt Modern Technologies: Leverage technologies that encourage teamwork and streamline business processes; such as project management systems, Microsoft PowerBi, and Microsoft Teams. Cloud-based systems and collaborative software provide new platforms for analytical insights, drive competitiveness, and business growth.
  • Modern Workplace Training: Employees aren’t necessarily familiar with how to work in a remote environment efficiently. Through adequate training, communication and teamwork will be done with ease using through virtual cloud-based platforms.
  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! It is important to schedule weekly or daily team meetings virtually to ensure staff feel connected and reduce email dialogue. Make it an essential part of your daily culture.
  • Consistency is key. Create a culture and work environment based off of trust and respect. Ensure that the flexible work policies have been made clear, and available to all employees to benefit from.

Looking to join the movement? Book some time with one of our consultants and see how we can help your employees and your business adapt to the change.

Citation: Karum, Louise. Why SMEs Should Embrace The Flexi-Time Movement. Entrepreneur, 2018.