Business IT Support Sydney - 100% Australian Owned and Operated

Pretty much every creative on the planet uses the ubiquitous Adobe Creative Cloud suite of apps, and many non-creatives use some apps, like Adobe Acrobat Pro.

But can you use your CC licence anywhere at any time? The answer is, basically, no.

This article explains how the Adobe Creative Cloud licences work. Essentially:

Recently, we switched to Sophos Intercept X Managed Protection for our endpoints (Macs and PCs) and Windows Servers. The reason we use Sophos is that it offers a range of integrated protection products, as part of our broader cyber security services.

INTEGRATED

The product we deploy as standard, Intercept X Advanced, is used to protects endpoints - PCs, Macs, tablets, phones. Infrastructure is protected with different products. At the standard level, Sophos protects against malware, ransomware, exploits, and viruses, and offers device encryption, anti-phishing, email protection, and web filtering (you saw this in action when it stopped access to alcohol sites).

For servers, we deploy Intercept X Advanced for Server to protect the physical server and it's hypervisors.

If you wanted to provide intrusion protection and device isolation in the event of an attack, we could deploy the Sophos Firewall to protect against attacks entering your network; deployed via either a physical device or a cloud service.

As corporate security needs grow, Sophos offers higher product levels with more features. For example, Intercept X Advanced with MTR offers proactive 24/7 global threat hunting to guard against threats before they arrive at your door.

And all Sophos products are monitored and managed from a single dashboard, so we can see and manage threats to your business.

Sophos is not just a product for today, but for when your business grows.

INSURANCE

Many companies are purchasing cyber security insurance, and these require providers like us to sign-off on IT parts of the business. For these sign-offs we are liable, so we won't provide sign off for anything which we don't manage, or with inadequate coverage.

Should you apply for cyber insurance, you may be subject to carve-outs and increased premiums at the very least, or even denied coverage. For certain business types - finance, medical, for example - these choices are even more important to get right.

YOU DECIDE

As a business owner it’s your right to decide your risk appetite, but as an IT provider we strongly advise against using consumer-grade products as they just do not cut it in the business world. Sophos provides advanced protection now and even better protection in the future, if and when you need it.

If you'd like the protection of Sophos Intercept X (or above) please call us on 02 8213 4225 or email support@ihelpit.com.au

So, you've got some staff. Mostly full time, maybe some are part time, maybe even interns. You decide that they have their own computer and you can save some coin by letting them use that instead of company-owned gear.

Bad idea!

There are a range of reasons why this is bad business practice. Some technical, some purely business. Here are our top 6.

1. Data loss

It may be their gear but it's your data. You have no control over backups, can't decide if a laptop needs to be encrypted, if a firmware password is used, or implement and monitor anti-virus software.

Despite all this it's your operation, business flow, and possible a sizeable ransom which is impacted when a laptop is left on a train, falls into the ocean, or is infected with ransomware.

2. Data theft

A staff member’s personal computer is theirs to do with as they want. They can install any piece of software, and inadvertently install malware, which can easily lead to data theft.

Additionally, once they leave you can never be sure that all your client information isn't going directly to your competitors.

3. Risk to reputation

No matter what sort of business you run, data loss and theft can lead to high damage to your reputation. From simply being unable to complete work on time as you try to reclaim documents from another location, to being unable to complete work at all due to loss of vital information only on one staff member's personal computer.

If you run a legal practice, a medical practice, or a financial institution the loss or theft of data can have extreme financial and reputational consequences.

4. Increased support costs

With everyone running their own gear and their own apps with their own licensing and their own version of an operating system, there will always be more IT support issues, leading to greater costs to fix the smallest things.

On top of this, without a standard anti-virus application, which stays up-to-date, the unnecessary risks increase. Security patches aren't always applied, and backups are rarely front of mind.

5. Loss of productivity

How often do your staff buy new computers? Every couple of years? 5 years? Are they using a hand-me-down computer from 10 years ago?

Their equipment may be underpowered or lacking in storage, and unable to effectively run effectively for the business. Most commonly, home computers are likely to be so poorly maintained as to be costing your staff members hours of lost time every day; time which you end up paying for.

6. Inability to monitor staff

In an increasingly working-from-home world, a valuable tool for business owners is to monitor the effectiveness of their staff.

Are they really working on that proposal, or are they spending two hours a day on Facebook? If the computer they're using is theirs then they will likely object to the installation of activity tracking software, limiting your visibility of their activity, but on your equipment this is less of an issue.

We always encourage our clients to provide their staff with the equipment they need to to their job, and hopefully this article outlines the reasons why we do this. If you'd like to know more please call us on 02 8213 4225 or email info@ihelpit.com.au.

Apple's exciting new CPU processors are around the corner, and if the Apple M1 chip is anything to go by, get ready to get happy. Apple is expected to put it's own silicon in iMacs and MacBook Pros by mid 2021, so if you don't need to replace your current equipment, then hold off.

This week Apple reported that it has fixed three crucial bugs which hackers have been actively exploiting to attack iPhones and iPads. We recommend updating you devices to iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 (or above) if you haven't already. Read more at TechCruch here.

Ransomware can destroy your business.

Thousands of Australian businesses have received ransom threats over the past year. As a business owner, you need to ask yourself whether your business could afford to pay a $50,000 ransom to stop your corporate data being deleted? How would you react? How would the loss of money or your files impact your business?

Change is Everywhere

The CyberSecurity and Ransomware landscapes changed significantly from 2018 to 2019, as highlighted by two 2020 reports. The CrowdStrike Global Threat Report 2020 and the 2020 Ransomware Resiliency Report (a cyber security study commissioned by Veritas). together these reports outline concerning changes in ransomware attacks from 2018 to 2019.

Targets now include almost all sectors. Previously, attacks were predominantly targeted towards government bodies and large corporates.

Attacks are focussing less on espionage and more on political disruption and economic gain.

Attackers are targeting people, as computer systems become better defended.Sophisticated scams via email, sms, and fake web sites are attempting to steal credentials.

Ransomware-as-a-service is a thing now; attackers no longer need the smarts to attack you, they just rent the service.

As these trends continue it’s clear that smaller business will increasingly be exposed. 2019 saw ransom demands soar into the millions, with amounts up to US$12.5 million. You business will likely be unable to pay a ransom as high as that, and attackers know this, but attacks of the order of around $50,000 for a small business is easy to envisage.

According to the the 2020 Ransomware Resiliency Report 42% of businesses surveyed had experienced a ransomware attack, with 66% estimating it would take 5 days or more to recover if they didn’t pay the ransom.

Many smaller businesses are choosing to pay the ransom rather that be out of action for 5 or more days. Can your business afford to be at the mercy of ransomware attackers for $12.5 million, unable to to anything until the ransom is paid?

Working from Home presents new challenges

Corporate offices can be secured in multiple ways; from the network firewall and antivirus on computers, to simple communication between staff to avoid suspect activity. Additionally, IT providers were better able to communicate and educate against threats to their clients en-masse.

Working from home breaks almost all of these defences, especially when staff start to use their own devices, leaving businesses more vulnerable than ever.

In Australia we’re lucky, as 75% of so-called malware-free attacks target North America, with only 30% of these extremely effective attacks affecting us here, so there is time to prepare your business and staff for malware-free attacks.

How to protect yourself and your data

There are a number of ways to protect you and your business.

Secure Equipment

The first line of defence is to protect your equipment.

The use of anti-malware software (e.g. antivirus) is vital, and locking machines down so that staff can’t inadvertently install malware is also extremely effective. When staff use their own equipment they will (rightly) protest at necessary locks, so it’s extremely important to provide staff with corporate-owned equipment which can be centrally locked, maintained, and monitored.

Implement Policy

Policy is the next line of defence.

Policies like password complexity and change frequency, and enforcing the use of multi-factor authentication. Add to this ongoing software maintenance to ensure the latest, most secure versions of operating systems and applications are used. Implement strict policies on where corporate data can be stored and that it must be transmitted securely. The last piece of policy is frequent backups, as they may be your last line.

Isolate, Minimise

Limit risk by isolating systems and minimising the overall system count.

The more systems are used the more likely an attacker will find a weakness. It’s also important to keep systems separate; for example, never have your email on the same server as your web site. Use different passwords for different systems, to limit any damage done by an attacker.

Prepare People

With evolving threats, your people are your greatest asset.

Changing the behaviour of your staff is the most difficult and most important part of your security strategy. Educate staff to be aware of suspicious activity and then contact IT departments if in doubt. We have seen numerous examples of how companies have lost money via human error.

Contact Us

If you’d like a security consultation then contact iHelp IT on 02 8213 4225. We take a multi-point approach to securing your environment and business against attacks.

And it costs a lot less than $50,000!

Have you recently purchased a new printer? Excited that it has WiFi direct, even though you're not really sure what it is?

Don't be. It's useless. Here's why.

WiFi direct is a technology which allows your printer to create it's own WiFi network, and it ships with many new printers. Once done, your computer or phone or tablet can connect to that wifi network and print.

Sounds neat, right? Wrong.

The problem with this scenario is that when you connect to the WiFi being offered by the printer, you're no longer connected to the internet. So, unless you don't want to connect to the internet, or are on the road with a physical tether to your phone's 4G or 5G, it's pretty useless. Even in this case a WiFi-enabled printer can connect to your phone's WiFi hotspot, making WiFi direct even less useful

Yet, bizarrely, most printers manufacturers turn this feature on by default, and many people make the mistake of connecting to the printer's wifi, only to realise subsequently that they suddenly can't get emails, search Google, view Netflix, or any of the millions of other things available via the internet.

The solution is simple: turn WiFi Direct OFF.

Since 1992, Device Technologies has been dedicated to improving patients lives through leading edge technology and services.

Successfully supplying hospitals and healthcare professionals with the finest medical solutions for their patients, Device Technologies continues to grow, with over 200 trusted brands and 850 highly skilled staff Australia and New Zealand-wide.

Leading the way in the medical technology field, Device Technologies provides the highest calibre of medical supplies – with innovation and client care at the core of its values. All products distributed by Device Technologies are compliant with quality regulatory requirements, with in-servicing and ongoing support provided as part of the trusted partnership between Device Technologies staff and healthcare professionals.

The Brief

With about 20 Macs in an office of around 400 Windows PCs, the Device Technologies desktop support team knew their way around their Windows PC, but continuing problems with their Macs was frustrating them.

Their Macs wouldn't integrate into the Windows Active Directory environment, so Mac login credentials would differ from their server credentials. Simple things listing a folder's contents on the server was frustratingly slow for Mac users, VPN for Macs just wouldn't work, and printing for Macs was a disaster.

iHelp IT was called in to help resolve all the issues, and pass knowledge onto the local support staff.

The Solution

We worked out that every Mac had been incorrectly configured to work with the Windows AD, reconfigured every Mac to the correct AD settings, and migrated all local user accounts to be directory accounts. Login credentials were now consistent.

Working with the desktop team, and bringing a Windows server on-site we worked eliminated a number of possible issues with SMB on the Macs, and determined the problem to the the server, thereby resolving that probelm.

We then resolved the VPN issue - being a question of configuration, and finally fixed the multiple printing issues, including troubleshooting software issues with the Fiery RIP.

The Outcome

Mac users were finally on a par with their Windows counterparts. Staff were able to login to their local machines and the server without password conflicts, and password policies could be maintained. VPN access worked consistently, and Mac users could take full advantage of the significant internal print resources.

We wrote documentation to guide the internal IT staff on all the solutions we had deployed, and trained the staff so that they could manage the Macs moving forward.

While there, we also gave the support team general tips regarding Mac support, improving their ability to directly support their Mac users.

So, your internet is playing up. You've run Speedtest, you've called your ISP, and still it's crawling along at a frustrating 5 Mbps (or slower!) - even at 3am!

Before you pull out your remaining strands of hair, go through our internet troubleshooting check list to make some sense of the situation and know where you stand.

As with all troubleshooting, there's a methodology, and the key thing is that you start from the inside and work your way out.

If the steps here don't work then give us a call, and we'll help from there.

  • Restart everything; your computer, the modem, everything - just because that's what IT people tell you what to do, and it sometimes works
  • Use multiple computers to test the wifi, in case one has a hardware issue
  • Connect a computer to your modem with an ethernet cable. You may need an ethernet adapter, as most laptops don't come with them these days
    • If ethernet doesn't work then it's your modem or service, so contact your internet service provider (ISP)
    • If ethernet works then the issue is your wifi, so continue the troubleshooting
  • If you're on a Mac then buy WiFi Explorer or get the free Wifi Explorer Lite from the App Store, and if you're on Windows then download Wifi Analyser, to examine the wifi network
  • There are 2 wifi network radio ranges
    • 2.4 GHz: the older standard with slower speeds but longer reach, which tends to be crowded
    • 5 GHz: the newer standard with faster speeds but shorter reach, which tends to be empty
    • NB: 5 GHz WiFi is not the same as the mobile 5G network
  • If the network is crowded
    • Change the wifi channel (this will need to be done on the modem)
    • Change to 5 GHz (and change the wifi channel there too, if needed)
  • If that doesn't work then move the modem to another location entirely
  • If all that doesn't work then it's likely a hardware issue

Over the many years iHelp IT has been around, we've gone through many products and services. Over time we've developed a best-in-breed suite of solutions (hardware, software, and services) which we recommend for small businesses. Our guiding principle is to deliver the best outcome for our clients. Each solution must:

Some IT providers will be a one-stop-shop, typically offering only that which is available from one supplier. This does not align with our guiding principle, as no one supplier offers the best products or services.

In this post I'll go through the solutions we recommend for our clients, and why we've selected them.


External Communications

Any business must effectively communicate with the outside world. Your web site is often the first thing a potential client sees of your business. If your web site impresses and informs then there is usually a follow up via email or phone call. All these have to work without fail to deliver clients to you.

Mail: Exchange

Over the years Microsoft Exchange has proven itself again and again. It's reliable, universally used, integrates well with other services, and configuring mail client apps is straightforward.

The integration of mail, contacts, calendars, notes, and reminders conveniently brings all this related information under one location. We use Microsoft to host, and never host on-premise. The 50 GB quota offered by Microsoft is plentiful for the vast majority of people.

Web: AWS

Unlike cPanel hosting, where your site is one of hundreds or thousands on a server, AWS hosting enables us to host web sites on it's own dedicated server, so sites on AWS are not impacted by other sites' use of resources or attacks on them.

Additionally, the AWS infrastructure is extremely stable, with a 99.99% uptime guarantee. Access to your AWS-hosted site is via security key, which is well beyond the simple password offered by standard web hosting services.

Phones: 3CX

For over 100 years, the telephone has been the #1 way for clients to connect with businesses. There's nothing like connecting with a human voice on the phone, and there's no greater failure than an unanswered phone.

3CX is the recognised leader in PBX telephony with a wide range of business critical features. Our cloud hosted solution has 99.99% uptime, and calls to business are answerable anywhere in the world, so you never miss a call.


Desktops and Laptops

Many services are moving inexorably to the cloud, so it may seem logical to conclude that whether you're on a Mac or Windows PC is not as relevant as it once was. This isn't the case. There are significant differences between the two platforms, and an analysis shows why we usually recommend macOS over Windows.

Apple MacOS

Apple's walled garden approach brings everything in-house. Hardware, software, purchases, repairs, and distribution are all handled directly by Apple. Apple's focus on quality over price results in robust and enduring devices, but at higher prices.

So while Macs having a lower market share, they are much more stable and user-friendly, have few virus or malware threats, and are cleaner and easier to support.

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft largely leaves hardware manufacturer to third parties. Having multiple parties involved in sales, distribution, and repairs means wide availability, but also necessarily results in tech support complexities.

These multiple purchasing options resulting in wide adoption of Windows. That adoption means that most apps are available for Windows, but it also means that so are every virus and malware threat.

Pros

  • Stable environment
  • Long lifespan
  • Greater resale value
  • Sturdier hardware
  • Few security threats
  • More price option
  • Niche apps available

Cons

  • Less stable environment
  • Short lifespan for low-end products
  • Lower resale value
  • Inconsistent hardware quality
  • Many security threats
  • Higher up-front cost
  • Some niche apps unavailable

File Sharing

While there is an occasional scenario for them, we abandoned on-premise servers some years back, and with more people working remotely - with distributed business becoming the norm - there's no turning back.

Dropbox established itself early in this space with consumers, and reinvented itself with business. The consistent product improvement and clarity of vision of the Dropbox product continues to delight. The comparison of Dropbox and the mix of Microsoft apps and services shows how far ahead Dropbox is for small - medium business.

Dropbox for Business

  • 1 app - Dropbox
  • Authenticate via Active Directory
  • Familiar, no training
  • Relatively simple to setup, migrate, and manage
  • Documents in one place
  • Open architecture with 3rd party connectivity
  • Direct edit Office, Google, many other file types
  • Integrates with Slack, full Zoom integration

Syncing options
Better syncing saves HD space & network use

  • Smart: download and remove files as needed
  • Selective: only sync a selection of files
  • LAN: sync with local computers
  • Streaming: open files while downloading
  • Delta: open large files quicker
  • Remote wipe
  • Remove all company data from a device in the event it's lost or stolen, or staff are unexpectedly terminated, in seconds.

Microsoft sharing suite

  • 3 apps - OneDrive, SharePoint, Teams
  • Authenticate via Active Directory
  • Unfamiliar, needs training
  • Difficult to setup and manage, costs more to support
  • Documents in multiple places
  • Closed architecture
  • Direct edit only Office files
  • No slack integration, some Zoom Teams integration

Syncing options
Fewer syncing options

  • Smart: partly; removal only on Windows 10
  • Selective: partly, OneDrive only
  • LAN: No
  • Streaming: No
  • Delta: yes (called Differential sync)
  • No remote wipe (click here) but:
    • OneDrive can remote sign out a user, in 30 mins
    • SharePoint can stop sync, but can't remote wipe
    • SharePoint has a work online only option, but this needs a constant internet connection which may be slow

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