Business Continuity Planning

Will your employee be able to work from home in the event of a catastrophe or company lock down?
 
Disasters can come in all shapes and sizes. Over the last several months a number of disasters have affected the ability of  Australian businesses to operate, and as the world faces a continued risk with the COVID-19 (Corona) virus outbreak, now is the time to consider your business continuity plan (BCP). Being prepared for disasters mitigates much of the risk extended unavailability of your office presents to your business. A BCP considers these risks, and helps you assess the ability of your staff to work remotely, or from home.
 
The key is to define the roles of your staff members, and identify those that are required to keep critical business processes running during these unplanned and stressful circumstances. When this is established, you will need to consider how these users are going to access the network. Things to look out for are:

  • Can users access internal IT resources (files, devices) via a VPN?
  • Does the company have the required internal IT Infrastructure and applications available for workforce mobility?
  • Can Email and Office 365 be accessed externally?
  • Is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) in place to mitigate security concerns?
  • Do staff have critical software and business applications available on personal devices?
  • Do you have a suitable working remotely/from home policy in place to reduce WPHS risks

ABTechnologies can help you with finding the answers to these questions. Modern workplace technologies can assist you in having your staff work remotely when disaster strikes. We can assist in setting up Microsoft Teams for collaboration, enabling workforce mobility. And if needed we can deploy Windows Virtual Desktops for your staff to use while not being in the office, providing a secure and efficient way to continue working when the office is not available.

Please reach out to our Customer Relations Managers at crm@abtechnologies.com.au if you would like to discuss these options with us.

Quick Tip: How to lodge a support ticket

We are here to help. If you have any questions or problems, please don’t hesitate to reach out. 

To request support, please use one of the following methods: 

  • Our agent: In the taskbar of your workstation you’ll find our AB Technologies Health Monitor. We use this to connect to your machine and ensure it’s working well. It also gives you the option to send us a help request. If it’s not there, please let us know and we’d be happy to install it for you. For more information about logging a ticket trough the agent, have a look at this PDF.
  • Email: support@abtechnologies.com.au. We typically advise our clients to use email for non-urgent requests.
  • Phone: 1300 705 062. If your issue is urgent, please call us and our service desk staff will attend to your issue as quickly as possible.
  • 24/7 Support: for emergency support outside our business hours you can call our main number at 1300 705 062. Please listen to the prompts carefully as After-Hours Emergency Support is a premium service with extra charges.

When requesting support please include as much information as possible: 

  • Your name and contact number.
  • A description of the symptoms you are experiencing.
  • When the symptoms started.
  • Names of other staff affected.
  • The workstation you are using.
  • Any information that may help the technicians solve your issue faster.

What happens next? 

When our service desk staff receive your request, we will: 

  • Create a ticket in our ticketing system (ask us about the number for future reference).
  • Allocate an appropriate priority to the ticket (higher priorities are handled with urgency).
  • Request approval if the nature of the request requires it.
  • Escalate the ticket to senior level engineers if the issue is more complex or urgent.
  • Work with third-party providers to resolve issues beyond our control.
  • Resolve the issue within an appropriate timeframe.
  • Reach out to you for more information if needed.

Approval 

When you are not the primary contact for your company, we may need to obtain approval before we can proceed. We will typically do this in these cases: 

  • Your request involves considerable (more than 1 hour) of billable time.
  • Your request involves access to privileged information.
  • Your request involves purchase of hardware or licenses.

Feedback 

When the ticket has been resolved you will receive an email from the system, informing you of the work we have done and asking you to provide feedback. Please let us know if you’re satisfied with the work we have done for you. And especially if you’re not. This is how we learn. 

We look forward to assist you in getting the best value out of your IT. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to us. 

ABT is proud to introduce our two new Client Relations Managers

Marc Kneeshaw and Ryan Cunningham have joined the ABT family recently as Client Relations Managers

(CRM’s). With the introduction of this role, we have continued our restructure of how we work with you outside the normal support, including project and technical consultancy work.

An explanation of what the CRM role is should start by pointing out what it is not. The CRM is not a typical account manager, with a sales target and comms incentives. Sure, your CRM will help you get on to a new, better agreement, or help you buy the new hardware your business requires, but selling is not the main task of our CRM.  Marc and Ryan (or Nick, our Victoria-based CRM) will be your primary contact within ABT.  For any issues, concerns, complaints you can directly reach out to them and they will be your “advocate” within our organisation. Clients who enjoy our fully managed services agreements (Comprehensive and Complete) have a dedicated CRM. Our customers who have not yet transitioned into these agreements, where remote support, monitoring, maintenance and a host of other features are included, will be assigned a CRM on a per-case basis. However, the CRM will be more than happy to discuss with you what the benefits of the support packages are and help you make the best choice.

Customer Relation Managers

  • Accountable for the relationship with the client.
  • Lead/Assist in CRM part of onboarding.
  • Review monthly reporting.
  • Escalation point in complaint handling and general client care.
  • Assist/lead in quotes and proposals
  • Manage opportunities.
  • Help the client understand IT requirements required for their success.
  • Communicate with client stakeholders on important developments.
  • Consult client on important IT strategies.
  • Consult client on new technologies.
  • Visit clients where possible and needed.
  • Lead/present Business Technology Reviews.
  • Contact point in major incidents.
  • Be the advocate for clients within ABT.

If you would like to reach out to one of our CRM’s don’t hesitate to contact us at 1300 705 062 or email CRM@abtechnologies.com.au

The End of Windows 7 – January 2020


What does Windows 7 “End of Life” mean?
Microsoft have announced that Windows 7 will be “end of life” in January 2020. “End of Life” means that Microsoft are no longer considering the decade-old operating system, a viable and secure option for users. In fact, mainstream support for the product ended in January 2015 but has been in an “extended support” phase since. This means, no new features have been added, and warranty claims no longer valid. With the EOL planned in January 2020, this phase of extended support will also end.

What does this mean for you, if you are still running Windows 7?
Microsoft will no longer provide security patches and bug fixes for the operating system. With vulnerabilities continuously discovered, this causes serious concern for the security and stability of your data. Windows 7 is likely going to be a focus point for hackers and criminals, as the system will be increasingly vulnerable to attacks. Due to the product considered obsolete, Microsoft’s support for it will end as well. This means that if we, as your IT partner, need Microsoft’s help with resolving an issue, we no longer receive assistance. Once support becomes end of life, you can still use the software however, you should not.

ABT have received many questions from concerned users on what to do next.
The most beneficial options for those still working on Windows 7 are to upgrade the software or replace the workstation altogether. Changing to an alternative operating system such as Linux or MacOS is usually not viable, we strongly advise our clients not to consider the upgrade path. It is very questionable whether the cost of upgrading old Windows 7 machines to Windows 10 provides value. Typically, these devices are more than 3 years old and out of warranty, this means long-term reliability cannot be guaranteed. If you do decide to upgrade, you will have a modern operating system, however, the cost of licensing, downtime and labour associated with an upgrade does not justify the benefit. It is likely, that this upgraded device will soon require new hardware, causing these upgrade costs repeated.

Speak to us about your options to remove an existing, aging Windows 7 computer from your fleet. You will often find this to be a more economically viable solution in the long run. While we have you, we will discuss other expiring technologies with you, such as Office 2010, Server 2008, all critical Microsoft systems due for the end of their extended support.

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.