Posts by: Michael Yantz

Michael Yantz is the Marketing Manager at IT Support Guys, with a passion for data, marketing and technology, you'll find him writing about the latest IT news, security alerts, crafting copy, creating emails or tinkering with integrations. Unless sleeping, he's probably in front of a few screens or at the dog park with his Shiba Inu named Raiden.

Microsoft Teams – The Future of Collaborative Workplace Hubs

We’ve come a long way since the early days of Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) in the 1980s and the instant messaging craze of the late 1990s with ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). Today’s businesses have the ability to collaborate on documents, make video calls, share files, and communicate in real-time from anywhere on Earth as long as internet access is available.

As the chat and collaboration app market evolves, one collaboration solutions is leading the way with intuitive and innovative features that increase workplace communications for greater productivity – Microsoft Teams.

What is Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is an application that integrates people, content, and tools to help companies be more productive through effective communication. Teams is available for use via a web browser, as a desktop application or as a native mobile application for both iPhone and Android devices.

Is Teams the Future of Collaborative Workplace Hubs?

Teams makes collaboration in the workplace more inclusive, effective, and secure. Microsoft Teams is improving workplace collaboration by helping organizations move from an array of disparate apps to a single, secure hub that brings together what teams need, including chat, meetings, and calling, all with native integration to the Office 365 apps most businesses already use. Users can customize and extend their experience with third-party apps, processes, and devices, giving them the tools, they need to get work done faster.

More than 500,000 organizations, including 91 of the Fortune 100, use Teams to collaborate across locations, time zones, and languages. Teams break down geo-barriers so that no matter where your business, employees, and clients are located, your team can stay connected. Teams is currently available in 44 languages across 181 markets, and soon Microsoft will roll out support for nine additional languages, including Hindi, Filipino, Bangla, Telugu, Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, and Malayalam.

8 New Teams Features to Improve Collaboration & Employee Productivity

  1. Customized Backgrounds – Intelligent background blur technology allows meeting participants to use a custom background, like your company logo or an office environment. This is perfect for remote workers or when parents need to work from home to take care of a sick child. Microsoft’s built-in background blur feature is steps ahead of other applications which would require a green screen and/or separate paid-application to achieve the same results. Background blur encourages attendees to use video while reducing distractions to improve the effectiveness of conference meetings.
  2. Whiteboard with Teams – If you’re anything like us, finance might have given you a weird look when you ask for another Thankfully Microsoft Teams provides an endless digital canvas for your team to collaborate in real-time. The board is automatically shared with all meeting attendees during the meeting.
  3. Content-Aware and Intelligent Capture – With a Content Camera, members can present can use a physical whiteboard without obscuring the view for other participants. Teams will intelligently find, crop, and zoom in on the whiteboard to create a full-screen experience while creating a transparent overlay of the person presenting. To use this great feature, you will need a “Content Camera”, here’s a list of approved content cameras.
  4. Live Captions and Subtitles – Microsoft leads the way by introducing live captions to improve accessibility among individuals who may be deaf or hard of hearing, have varying levels of language proficiency, or are attending from a location with a lot of background noise. Make your meeting more inclusive and effective by allowing attendees to read captions in real-time, so that everyone can sync and collaborate more efficiently.
  5. Privacy and Security When You Need IT – Microsoft has released secure private channels, businesses are not able to customize which employees have access to specific chat channels and associated files. Admins can restrict channel participation and limit exposure when needed without creating separate teams.
  6. Prevent Conflict of Interest – Teams allows organizations to limit which individuals can communicate and collaborate. This is particularly important for Law Firms that need to adhere to Ethical Wall requirements, as well as, HIPAA covered entities that need to implement security controls to safeguard ePHI data.
  7. Enhanced Data Loss Prevention (DLP) – Teams enables companies of all sizes to prevent internal and external collaborators from sharing sensitive information in messages and documents. DLP, you can now define policies that prevent people from sharing sensitive information in a Microsoft Teams channel or chat session.
  8. Live Events in Microsoft 365 – Teams enables organizations to deliver power on-brand communications to customers, and partners. Live events can be deployed across Teams, Stream, or Yammer enabling you to connect with up to 10,000 attendees from anywhere, across their device, and preferred application. Expert Tip: Leverage Team’s powerful artificial intelligence (AI) automatic transcription feature to quickly turn a recorded live event into a blog post (or set of blog articles) to maximize your content strategy and generate more traffic to your business.

Teams for External Collaboration without Added Costs

Do you need to collaborate with individuals outside your organization’s Office 365 instance? Microsoft Teams enables admins to add guest access or external access. External users are able to take advantage of the same features like file sharing, private calls, group chat, @mentions, screen sharing, and online meetings as your regular employee Teams members, securely, without the need to spend more business dollars on additional Office 365 licenses. It’s the best of both worlds for everyone, and when a relationship or project ends, your Teams admin simply removes access of the external users.

Gain Enhanced Compliance and Security with Microsoft Teams

Teams comes out of the box with advanced security controls and features including data loss prevention, information barriers, retention policies, eDiscovery, legal holds, and more. Microsoft Teams is built on the Office 365 hyper-scale, enterprise-grade cloud, delivering the advanced security and compliance capabilities businesses need, especially considering the ever-evolving digital threat landscape. According to Microsoft, Teams is Tier D-compliant. This includes the following standards: ISO 27001, ISO 27018, SSAE16 SOC 1 and SOC 2, HIPAA, and EU Model Clauses (EUMC).

Microsoft boasts an impressive range of compliance capabilities, Teams is designed and ready to meet 42 national, regional, and industry-specific regulations. These range from DFARS, FEDRAMP, HIPAA / HITECH, HITRUST, SOX, GDPR, and even the coming California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) which goes into effect January 1, 2020. Microsoft’s dedication to security and compliance completely eclipses that of competitors like Slack which only lists 10 regulatory and compliance standards met.

Final Thoughts – Why use Microsoft Teams?

Teams was built from the ground up to support a digital workforce and build an open-collaborative digital culture by keeping all your chats, conversations, online meetings, tasks, and shared files within a single application and interface. Keep everyone on the same page and prevent inbox overflow with well-thought-out channels. You can post your message in a relevant channel, @-mention the people or group of people that need to know while leaving the message available for all members to read if they want.

Help make work fun again – employees can use emojis as well as gifs to respond and recognize one another, thereby increasing engagement and creating a fun collaborative atmosphere across departments. If you already have Office 365, Microsoft Teams comes free with virtually all features unlocked (Business Premium is required for Audio Conferencing) and comes free for everyone with the essential chat features that integrate with Office 365’s native app and third-party applications to enhance your team’s productivity.

Collaboration plays a pivotal role in growing your business, meeting deadlines, and delivering on your client’s expectations. Not all technology and technology partners are created equal. Investing in the right technology and managed IT solutions partner ensures your business can reach its full potential

When you partner with IT Support Guys, you’ll receive the technology and software expertise you need at a cost-effective price point. IT Support Guys continues to provide outsourced IT for small to mid-sized businesses since 2006. Call us today at (855) 448-4897 to learn how we can help your organization leverage more effective collaboration to gain a competitive advantage over the competition.

Managed WiFi Solutions Deliver 5-Star Hotel Experiences

mother and son watching a movie in a hotel room

“I’d give this place 5-stars, if the WiFi wasn’t so awful.” This doesn’t need to be your review.

Let’s face it – if you work within an industry where consumers spend more than a few minutes inside your building, you need to make WiFi accessible to your customers. Not only available, but if you want to create loyal customers, the WiFi connection needs to be blazing fast, reliable, and easy to access by your patrons everywhere, at all times.

It’s almost 2020 – consumer expectations are at the highest we’ve seen since the internet was invented; but unlike pre-internet days – today’s buyers are well-armed and willing to vocalize their pleasure, or rather, their displeasure if your establishment provides a poor customer experience.

In the hospitality industry, specifically hotel and lodging – the quality of your WiFi connection can make or break your ability to retain and gain returning customers. In fact, 83 percent of hotel guests will take time out of their busy day to report a bad WiFi experience, 36 percent will not rebook with a brand if the WiFi quality was poor.

If after searching your TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Google My Business, or Yelp reviews you notice a common theme of complaints about your WiFi, it’s time for your team to get serious about leveraging WiFi as a revenue-generating asset.

Where could your business be with a 36 percent increase in revenue? If that sounds desirable, keep reading, we’ll show you how to leverage managed WiFi to support a 5-star customer experience.

What is Managed WiFi?

Sometimes called “Smart WiFi”, a managed WiFi system is able to intelligently orchestrate the connectivity of guest devices by automatically changing its connection to the access point with the strongest signal. This is crucial when patrons move about your property to enjoy amenities such as your pool, fitness center, clubhouse, bar or lounge.

A managed WiFi system is more than smart access points, in order to be effective – it must be a carefully choreographed enterprise-grade infrastructure comprised of distributed wireless access points, smart WLAN, switches, controllers, switches, and high-quality cabling, designed by a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) that specializes in WiFi as a Service (WaaS).

Additionally, there are some key differentiators of managed WiFi for business:

  • Access To A Team of Specialists – managed WiFi is administrated by an outsourced team of specialists to ensure guaranteed uptimes, exceptional reliability and support to ensure patrons receive the high-quality connection their entire stay.
  • Lower IT Costs – managed WiFi solution reduce internal IT overhead, MSPs are consistently able to implement and maintain robust wireless solutions at a fraction of the cost than would be required to hire a host of in-house IT specialists to manage onsite IT support.
  • 24x7x365 Proactive Monitoring – Hotels are open 24/7, shouldn’t your IT support be too? A managed WiFi plan enables your team to have 24/7 around-the-clock access to professionals who can proactively optimize your network’s performance on the fly to ensure guests stay connected.
  • Scalability – managed WiFi services offer superior scalability by leveraging an MSPs vendor relationships and expertise to expand coverage or capacity as needed without experiencing any downtime.
  • Hardened Security Protocols – 94 percent of hotel guests report that they are concerned with hotel Wi-Fi security and privacy protection. (HIS – Hospitality WiFi Study) For good reason, after the Marriot International data breach debacle that occurred in November of 2018, and widespread headlines of other hotel breaches. It’s never been more important for the hospitality industry to focus on network security and defending their infrastructure against malicious threats.

Before discussing why businesses are taking advantage of Managed WLAN services to shift their WiFi from a cost to a competitive advantage, let’s take a look at some key statistics.

Hospitality and Hotel Wi-Fi Statistics You Need to Know:

  • 83 percent of hotel guests will take time out of their busy day to report a bad WiFi experience
  • 36 percent will not rebook with a brand if the WiFi quality was poor
  • 81% of guests have experienced a poor WiFi experience in the last 12 months
  • 76% of guests connect multiple devices to a hotel’s WiFi
  • 74% of frequent hotel travelers use an iPhone (n = 725)
  • 41% of business travels report they’ve selected a hotel based on WiFi access.
  • 7 minutes – the average time a hotel guests takes to log onto WiFi after entering a guest room
  • 63% of hoteliers believe they can make improvements on WiFi security and privacy

Is your hotel leveraging the best technology to improve the WiFi experience, security, and privacy of your guests?

Why are Hotels Turning to Managed WLAN Services?

According to research, 85% of hotel guests now carry two or more devices when they travel. Thanks to the massive lift in mobile technology, more users are connecting more devices on the go than ever before. If a hotel has 400 rooms, there may still be thousands of connected devices between employees, internal infrastructure, and guests. The modern WLAN must support thousands of devices while delivering reliable enterprise-grade connectivity and security, from an easy and intuitive WiFi access portal that doesn’t slow down guests. In addition to the number of devices, customers demand high-speed connections that can support a multitude of simultaneous streaming services across all your guests.

Wi-Fi conditions are in constant flux and require steady attention from IT staff to manage well. For most IT teams, it feels like a never-ending battle against user complaints about lost connections, dead spots, and agonizingly long waits for videos to buffer.

Managing a hospitality’s internet network can consume a tremendous amount of time and resources.

Taking advantage of a wireless as a service solution allows your team to recoup this time and streamline the entire hotel wifi experience. A managed WiFi provider will take care of equipment, network configuration, and maintenance, ensuring you have a smooth, steady connection for everyone that needs it. Your business can save time and money while freeing up internal resources to focus delivering exceptional customer experiences that keep customers coming back.

Fully Managed WiFi Services by Experts In Hospitality

Did you know that 70 percent of the hospitality market – and 86 percent of the world’s luxury properties rely on Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi to deliver first-class wireless connectivity that delights customers and builds long-term brand loyalty? As a Certified Ruckus Partner, it’s something to brag about.

Whether you’re an exclusive beach side resort, historic B&B, or a downtown high-rise with hundreds of rooms, you need a technology partner who understands the hotel industry, your infrastructure, unique needs and priorities. An IT partner with the pedigree to deliver reliable and robust IT solutions that will help you delight customers with 5-start guest services, day-in and night-out.

If customers are complaining about the quality of your WiFi, call us today at 855.4IT.GUYS for a free IT Assessment we’ll run a full network diagnostic to identify deadzones, latency issues, and provide a personalized solution guaranteed to improve your guests’ wireless experience.

Tip of the Week: Mobile Data Management


 
There are hundreds of things that a business owner has to do, so managing the security of the data coming in and going out from mobile devices might not make the hierarchy of considerations that need to be immediately addressed. Today, we will take a look at why paying attention to the mobile end of your business is so important, how Mobile Information Management (MIM) helps with that, and how MIM fits in with the rest of your mobile strategy.

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How Google is Trying to Make Passwords Easier and Better

Common opinion more or less states that passwords aren’t so much “necessary,” as they are a “necessary evil.” The best practices that are recommended to maintain the efficacy of passwords today can certainly feel excessive – which tempts many users into ignoring these practices, to the detriment of their security. Fortunately, many large companies – like Google – are trying to make passwords easier to manage.

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Why You Need To Be Leveraging Cloud Solutions to Drive Business Growth

Happy employees using cloud technology to grow their business while on the go

Businesses That Leverage Cloud Services Experience 19.63% Growth Over Non-Cloud Competitors.

While motivations vary, businesses of all sizes, industries, and regions are harnessing cloud services to accelerate business growth and increase competitiveness.

According to Flexera’s 2020 State of Tech Spend Report, cloud spend has surpassed on-premise software spend, with 22 percent going towards on-premise software and 25 percent allocated for cloud solutions. Businesses are expected to increase cloud workloads by 21% in 2020. In January 2019’s “State of Cloud Report”, 94 percent of businesses surveyed use the cloud, with 91 percent adopting public cloud solutions and 72 percent utilizing private cloud services.

Why?

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Delivering Efficiency with Managed IT – A Guide to Managed Services

Anyone that uses a computer knows just how frustrating it is when that computer doesn’t function as intended. For a business, it negatively affects profitability. If you don’t have the support structure in place to mitigate your technology problems, you could be spending a whole lot of money on nothing. In this post, we talk about how being proactive keeps your technology, and your business, working fluidly.

What are Managed IT Services?

Managed IT services work to mitigate computer problems through the use of remote monitoring, management, and proactive maintenance. This strategy helps a business in several ways. Firstly, by using state-of-the-art Remote Management and Monitoring tools to monitor a business’ network and hardware, our certified technicians can ascertain how this technology is running. What’s more, if a piece of hardware isn’t working as intended, our techs can typically troubleshoot and resolve any performance issues before they become business roadblocks. The top-tier Managed Service Providers (MSPs) utilize advanced automations and AI to create self-healing infrastructure that detects threats, outdated software, or other roadblocks to resolve issues before they become roadblocks.

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Importance of Patch Management to Avoid Business Vulnerabilities

How many of us have received an update notification and clicked the “Remind me later” button? We’re busy at work and think “I’ll do it later” or “it’s probably not important” *click.

It happens to the best of us; however, this seemingly innocent event can have serious consequences for businesses.

What this post will cover:
  1. What is patch management?
  2. What are the different types of patches?
  3. What is the purpose of patching?
  4. How important is proactive patching to businesses?
  5. Patch Management by the numbers – Statistics you need to know
  6. Patch Management for Cybersecurity & Risk Mitigation
  7. Patch Management Lifecycle and Process
  8. Patch Management Best Practices for 2019
  9. Patch Management & Compliance
  10. Value of Working with a Patch Management Partner

Patch Management Definition

Patch Management is the process by which businesses/IT procure, test, and install patches (changes in code or data) intended to upgrade, optimize, or secure existing software, computers, servers and technology systems to maintain operational efficacy or mitigate security vulnerabilities. While simple in nature, most growing businesses struggle to identify critical patch updates, test and install patch releases to fix problems as they occur. In fact, the average time to patch is 102 days according to Ponemon.

It’s no surprise that with over 16,500 security vulnerabilities reported in 2018, it’s virtually impossible for a small or medium-sized business with strained IT resources to keep up and protect your company. Patch management is a time consuming and often misunderstood task, yet the impact can have devastating effects:

57% of cyberattack victims stated that applying a patch would have prevented the attack. 34% say they knew about the vulnerability before the attack.

The window between the disclosure of a vulnerability and exploitation has shortened forcing companies to race and deploy a patch before cybercriminals can compromise systems.

What are the different types of patches?

Software patches fix existing vulnerabilities or bugs as they are found after a piece of software or hardware has been released. There are several types of patches:

  • Hotfix – A hotfix patch is designed to fix a specific issue and unlike typical patches, these hotfixes are developed and released as soon as possible to limit the effects of a software issue. Hotfixes can be applied while the software or system is still running (hot), without the need to restart or close the program. A hotfix may not be publicly disclosed.
  • Point Release – A point release (also known as a dot release) is a small or relatively minor update intended to fix an error or flaw of a piece of software without adding features.
  • Maintenance Release – Incremental update between service packs or software versions to fix multiple outstanding issues
  • Security Patches – A security patchis a change applied to an asset to correct the weakness described by a vulnerability. This corrective action will prevent successful exploitation and remove or mitigate a threat’s capability to exploit a specific vulnerability in an asset. Patch management is a part of vulnerability management – the cyclical practice of identifying, classifying, remediating, and mitigating vulnerabilities (security risks).
  • Service Pack (SP) or Feature Pack (FP) – Major patches that comprise a collection of updates, fixes, or feature enhancements to a software program delivered in the form of a single installable package, these typically fixe many outstanding issues and normally includes all the patches, hotfixes, maintenance and security patches released before the service pack. Most of us are familiar with Windows Service Packs, for example Microsoft began rolling out the Windows 10 Version 1903 Update service pack on May 21, 2019, which became available to all users on June 6th. Microsoft Windows 10 Version 1903 introduced privacy setting updates, more control over how Window updates are applied, a sandbox for Professional users, Passwordless Login, screen mirroring for Android phones, enhanced troubleshooting and security features.
  • Unofficial Patches – These patches are created by a third-party or a user community, most often because of a lack of support from the original software developer (e.g. the software company went out of business) or when a software product has reached its defined end-of-life. Like an ordinary patch, these are designed to correct bugs or software flaws. Nefarious individuals can introduce unofficial patches to create security vulnerabilities; while this is rare and quickly reported, we recommend only installing patches from trusted sources and for businesses to avoid unofficial patches.
  • Monkey Patches – Similar to unofficial patches, a monkey patch (also known as a guerrilla patch) is an update designed to extend or modify the behavior of a plugin or software product locally without altering the source code.

What is the purpose of patching?

Patches are designed to repair a vulnerability or flaw identified after an application or software is released. As we’ve learned, there are many types of patches. For this article, we’ll focus on official patches (hotfixes, point releases, security patches, and service packs).

Unpatched software can make the device a vulnerable target of exploits. Software patches are a critical component of IT operations and security.

How important is proactive patching to businesses?

We talk to small and medium businesses owner every day. When we ask a prospective partner “how do you manage your system updates and proactive patching?” 8 out of 10 times, the answer is that the business does not have a formal patch management process, or “I don’t know.”

Let’s look at the world’s largest ransomware attack in history to understand how critical patch management is for the survival and operational effectiveness of your business.

The WannaCrypto (WannaCry) ransomware cyber attack was the perfect storm against individuals and businesses with poor patch management policies. Even though Microsoft released a patch one month before WannaCry ransacked 200,000 computers across 150 countries causing damages estimated from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars in May 2017.

The cryptoware exploited a known vulnerability dubbed “ExternalBlue” allegedly developed by the U.S. National Security Agency. Unpatched computers were again targeted by the 2017 NotPetya cyberattacks for the same vulnerability.

Now two years after the largest ransomware outbreak in history, attack attempts involving ExternalBlue continue to increase, reaching historic peaks according to ESET.

Why? Do we learn from the past?

Unfortunately, not everyone does, or individuals might not understand the critical threat patches prevent. For example, according to research by Shodan there are over 400,000 computers located in the United States that have not patched their systems to prevent hackers from exploiting this vulnerability.

Poor security practices and lack of patching are likely reasons why malicious use of the EternalBlue exploit has grown continuously since the beginning of 2017. This low hanging fruit is too attractive and lucrative for cybercriminals to pass up.

Patch Vulnerabilities by The Numbers (statistics)

Patch Management for Cybersecurity & Risk Mitigation

Prompt patching is vital for cybersecurity. When a new patch is released, attackers use software that looks at the underlying vulnerability in the application being patched. This is something that hackers perform quickly, allowing them to release malware to exploit the vulnerability within hours of a patch release. Security patches prevent hackers and cybercriminals from exploiting vulnerabilities that could halt operations. Imagine if a hacker encrypted all your data, servers and computers for a ransom. Does your team have the resources, expertise, and recent backups needed to keep your business running?

By now, we should have a good grasp on how important an effective patch management procedure is to the cybersecurity of your business, clients and customers. So, what does an effective patch management process look like? We’ll review below the patch management lifecycle below.

Patch Management Lifecycle and Process:

  • Step 1: Discovery
    • Before implementing a patch management process, any IT professional worth their weight will have a comprehensive network inventory or conduct an IT assessment to understand the types of devices, hardware, systems, operating systems, OS versions, and third-party software and applications in use across your business. As businesses grow, IT resources become strained and it’s not uncommon for systems to become neglected or forgotten. Spreadsheets are difficult to keep up with and so internal IT may lose track of the many systems and programs in use.
  • Step 2: Categorization & Prioritize
    • Now that we have a good grasp on our IT environment and infrastructure, we need to segment the systems and/or users according to their risk level and priority. At the user-level, you might prioritize the C-Suite and users that frequently need to share, download, or install programs. Specifically, we can rate users that frequently need to share documents over email or online as ‘high risk’ since they are more vulnerable from outside threats. Looking at hardware, you might prioritize the company’s server and business-critical hardware over a laptop that is infrequently used.
  • Step 3: Patch Management Policy Creation
    • Next, we develop patching requirements by deciding which systems, users, software needs to be patched, under what conditions and the frequency these systems/users need to be updated. For instance, you might wish to make sure some systems or users are patched automatically and with greater regularity (liking patching employee laptops weekly) versus a server or network firewalls which might require more manual and less frequent updates.
  • Step 4: Monitoring for New Patches and Vulnerabilities
    • Modern businesses utilize a range of systems, software, and digital products, each with their own patch release and vulnerability disclosure schedules. While time-consuming, it’s vital that your team takes the time to catalog each technology vendor, their primary page used for vulnerability disclosures and product notifications (e.g. SonicWall Product Notifications). Creating an organized patch release tracking system or notification feed will save your team hours (possibly days) over a year. Another example is “Patch Tuesday” for Microsoft who has a pattern of releasing patches the second (sometimes fourth) Tuesday of each month.
  • Step 5: Patch Testing
    • Before rolling out patches, especially on mission-critical elements like business servers, create a non-production test environment, deploy the patch, and monitor for incompatibility or performance issues. If creating a test environment is not possible, we recommend testing patches on a small segment (two users) to assess if any adverse effects occur.
  • Step 6: Configuration Management
    • After the testing phase, document the intended changes and results. Should your rollout go awry, you’ll be able to quickly identify and troubleshoot unintended changes.
  • Step 7: Patch Roll Out
    • Now that your team has validated the patch(es), you will want to follow the Patch Management Policy established in step three to rollout as needed.
  • Step 8: Patch Auditing
    • Post-patch rollout, take a moment to identify any failed or pending patches. Monitor these for incompatibility issues. We recommend reaching out two a few tech-savvy end users that can help provide feedback if needed.
  • Step 9: Reporting
    • Each business unit has stakeholders, IT is no different. Prepare a monthly patch compliance report to share with the C-Suite and executives when needed. This will ensure everyone understands the importance of patch management and the fruits of your labor.
  • Step 10: Review, Optimize, and Repeat
    • As with most business processes – periodically review, update and repeat steps one through 9. Look for systems that have reached their End-of-Life (EOL), outdated hardware/machines, review policies quarterly, and revise as needed to ensure the effectiveness of your patch management policy.

Patch Management Best Practices for 2019

  1. Take a “Critical Updates First” approach and patch exploitable vulnerabilities as soon as possible. Critical vulnerabilities that have published exploit code should be given the highest risk rating in the Patch Management Policy.
  2. Implement a Data Backup & Recovery (Rollback) Plan. Every business should already have a Backup and Disaster Recovery plan, complete with on-site and off-site (cloud) full-system image backups. If your company does not, you can learn about the 11 key elements of an effective Disaster Recovery Plan in our recent post. With system image backups in place, your team can easily rollback any computer or servers that experience incompatibility or performance issues post-patch. These backups can save you hours, hard-earned money and frustration if anything goes wrong while rolling out major patches across the organization.
  3. Make proactive patch management a core practice of your policy. Taking a proactive approach to your patch management strategy will prevent your business from frequently going into emergency patching mode like many companies experienced with the WannaCry outbreak in 2017. Instead, by focusing on releasing patches as they occur, based on severity level, CVSS score, product name, and the prioritization model you created in step three above. This will allow your team to focus on strategic objectives that grow your business.
  4. Centralize and automate your patching process. While patching can be time-consuming, automated patch management allows you to save time and reduce errors. Most patch management software enables you to automate each stage of the patching process, from scanning applications of devices, downloading missing patches, scheduling and deploying patches based on designated policies to reporting.
  5. Utilize a Principle of Lease Privilege (POLP) approach for end-users. Many organizations often allow employees to have admin privileges with their company devices; this is especially common in the SMB space. What happens? Most employees will dismiss or ignore important updates, patches, and security vulnerability updates. A frequently overlooked patch management best practice that is to not give full admin rights to end-users. While it’s ultimately the responsibility of the IT department to execute a least privilege policy to restrict employees, end users really should only have a minimal amount of access or the privileges necessary to meet the demands of the role within an organization.
  6. Patch and update “golden images” at least once a quarter. “Golden images” are master software/system images used by IT as a template to set up and deploy new devices. When your company orders a new laptop or onboards a new employee, IT will often have a preconfigured system image that contains all the business applications, software, settings, privileges, and operating system necessary for the new user to hit the ground running. When your master images already contain the most up-to-date software and security patches, your team won’t have to do the same legwork again when setting up a new device.

Patch Management, Compliance, and Risk Management

As security breaches continue to increase, compliance regulations will continue to evolve to protect consumers. Government institutions, healthcare services and financial sectors are among the most heavily regulated, but other industries are rapidly creating their own security compliance rules and guidelines. Implementing patch management is commonly required by security frameworks or standards, such as PCI DSS, CIS Critical Security Controls for Effective Cyber Defense, ISO 27001 Annex A, and NIST. In June 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) clarified in their OCR Cybersecurity Newsletter that promptly patching systems is a crucial element for covered entities and business associates to remain HIPAA compliant, going so far to explain that patch management is a requirement under – – 45 C.F.R. § 164.308(a)(1)(i)(A), 45 C.F.R. § 164.308(a)(1)(i)(B), 45 C.F.R. § 164.308(a)(5)(ii)(B) and 45 C.F.R. § 164.308(a)(8).

Due to the complexity of modern IT environments, the patch management process can be a major undertaking. However, failure to comply could potentially result in significant legal penalties for your business. Patch management ensures your business remains compliant and protects customers, consumers, and stakeholders. Here are a few compliance best practices you can implement to secure your business:

  • Know who your vendors are and what security protocols they have in place
  • Require certain levels of security compliance and protection from all third-party vendors, with a zero-tolerance policy towards vendors that fail to meet your security compliance standards
  • Implement multi-factor authentication to reduce access to your environment via third-party connections
  • Implement strict access control policies for your business applications, equipment, hardware, and software to reduce the risk of potential third-party vulnerabilities or tampering

Value of Working with Managed Patch Management Partner

A solid patch management process is an essential requirement for any size business. Unfortunately, most organizations do not have the expertise, software or mature processes/systems in place to effectively secure their infrastructure.

Manually checking for and applying patches in is almost an impossible task. Do you prioritize servers or employee workstations or third-party applications? Do you focus on security fixes or compatibility updates? And how do you keep track of which patches have been applied? These are difficult questions for any IT team. IT teams are struggling to keep on-premises, data center, and cloud infrastructure up to date with the latest versions of operating systems, databases, and third-party applications.

Without the right investments in people, process, and technology, an organization can quickly fall behind on critical patches that address security and compliance requirements.

Rather than forcing already strained internal IT teams to update critical systems manually, many small and medium-sized businesses look to partner with IT Support Guys. As a Managed Service Provider (MSP), we have the expertise, software, and mature systems in place to effectively secure your infrastructure using time-tested patch management processes that has evolved over 13 years.

We create a comprehensive Patch Management Policy for your business, use patch management tools to automate the mundane and have our engineers on standby to provide human intervention when needed to ensure that your entire network of devices, databases, servers, applications, and systems are protected. Your business will remain up-to-date with latest features, functionality, security, and capabilities offered by application and OS vendors resulting in improved employee productivity, security, and compliance.

Automation provides an auditable change management process and helps plug exploitable holes in your security posture while complying with various regulatory mandates such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, NIST, FFIEC, GLBA, SOX, FERPA, and others.

Call IT Support Guys today to learn how our Patch Management solution reduces the risk of having a security breach and all the related problems that come with it, like data theft, data loss, PII and PHI violations, reputations issues or even legal penalties today at 855-4IT-GUYS (855-448-4897).

Conclusion

  1. Patches are not an option; they are a requirement for secure to prevent security breaches, data theft, data loss, PII and PHI violations, reputation issues, legal penalties and ultimately protect your business.
  2. High-risk and critical security patches need to be deployed as fast as possible (within days) in order to prevent hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities.
  3. Hundreds of thousands systems and thousands of business could have prevented the WannaCry ransomware attack of 2017 had they deployed the security patches in a timely manner, saving hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in lost revenue and damages.
  4. 57% of data breaches are attributed to poor patch management.
  5. Prompt patching is vital for cybersecurity.
  6. End users should have the least amount of privileges necessary to fulfill their role.
  7. Patch management is a requirement of HIPAA and seeks to mitigate compliance or regulatory risks.
  8. Taking end users out of the patch management process will result in more secure environments.
  9. These aren’t OS-specific issues; everyone is vulnerable.
  10. Many small and medium-sized businesses work with Managed IT Services Providers to ensure an effective patch management policy is implemented.

11 Key Elements of a Business Disaster Recovery Plan

 

Hurricane season is upon us, while we’ve been lucky in the Tampa Bay Area these past few years, the threat of a major storm could be weeks away. You may not need to start boarding up your windows or raiding Publix for dry food, water and batteries but you do need to start thinking proactively about how you’re preparing your business for a potential disaster. Many of us remember Hurricane Irma which rocked the South East United States in 2017, potentially disrupting 2,108,378 (yes – 2.1 million) businesses in Florida alone. Of these 145,415 businesses were in located Hillsborough county.

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