How Long Do You Hold On To An Old Server?

There are many reasons to have a server in house as opposed to using a hosted (in the cloud) server. Like anything else, there comes a time to replace it. Resellers and IT service providers salivate at this idea so they can make the sale. But how do you know when to replace it? This article should help you determine that.

Manufacturers of servers stop supporting them at some point. That means you can’t get support for a malfunction on the server, the hardware. Manufacturers of the software that runs the server, like Microsoft who makes Windows Server Operating System, stop supporting a particular version, like Windows Server 2003, at some point. What also happens along the way is technology improves and requires a certain level of functionality to work with. What I mean is, an operating system may require a better, stronger, newer technology to run on, like a server that is not older than 7 years. Conversely, a new server will not work with an old version of an operating system because the old Operating System (OS) can’t work with the newer technology in the server. So many times we have seen companies holding on to their old servers and the antiquated OS because “it has never been a problem and it works just fine”. Well, let me give you an example why this strategy is not the best idea.

Say you have an old server running an old OS as well as running Microsoft Exchange. For this example, assume that all of this is very old. You decide to upgrade because another software product you need for your business, that would be loaded on to this server, can’t work with these old products. Now you must upgrade before you buy that new software. An upgrade will require the migration of the data to the new server. If your server and associated software is too old, this step will not be a direct migration. You will have to migrate in steps. For example, from Exchange 2003 to 2010 to 2016. You will need to purchase the intermediate software version, load it on another server and then migrate to that first. Then, when all is working well after that first migration, you can load the final latest version on the new server and then migrate to that. See my point? All of this will take a lot more service hours which means a lot more money. You may have saved money earlier by not upgrading your server but in the long run you are now paying a much bigger price because your products are too old.

You can call the manufacturers of each product you own and find out their respective support life. Server manufactures will tell you what software version their servers can work with. After finding this information you can then better determine when the time is to upgrade your server. Trust me, it will be cheaper in the long run to not wait too long.

Just trying to help.

Robert Lane
President/Owner
ASE, Inc.
Getting you ready for tomorrow today
703-273-8388 ext 111

ASE, Inc. is an IT technical support services and consulting firm in the Washington DC Metro area. Since 2000 ASE has focused on providing outsourced IT department services to small and medium businesses as well as providing senior level expertise designing, installing and managing complex networks as well as security consulting to very large entities in both commercial and federal markets. Call ASE today – 703-273-8388.

Backup & Recovery: Real Life Examples

During Hurricane Florence companies realized just how important multi-tiered backup solutions are. The coastal areas were of course affected, but the surprise was inland. Many people were caught off-guard by the amount of rain and how fast flooding occurred. When faced with the need to leave quickly, there are so many things you want to pack but simply can’t. When it comes to business, or even family, data is of the utmost importance. Having backups on-site is good, but having another in the cloud is better. People had to leave the buildings where they worked, families had to be rescued from dwellings as water levels rapidly rose. Grabbing a computer is the last thing on your mind when confronted with this. Keeping technology dry and safe is second to you and your family’s safety. Everyone knows you can replace the device. When your data is in the cloud, you can now restore from anywhere.

There are many ways to backup online. The better services provide not just data files, like word processing or spreadsheet files, to be backed up but system files like the operating systems files, updates, application files and more. When you lose your server, with this service, you can replace the server and then restore the system files AND the data files. This saves much more time and can be done from any location you can work from.

Many companies, particularly smaller ones, don’t feel the need for a multi-tiered backup solution. In most cases they don’t want to pay the extra money for it. It shouldn’t be a high cost at all. There are many reasons why it is a good idea to have this. A hurricane is not the only reason.

Call the experts at ASE to understand the many reasons why a multi-tiered solution is so important for Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity.

Robert Lane
President/Owner
ASE, Inc.
Getting you ready for tomorrow today
703-273-8388 ext 111

ASE, Inc. is an IT technical support services and consulting firm in the Washington DC Metro area.  Since 2000 ASE has focused on providing full outsourced IT department services to small and medium businesses as well as providing senior level expertise designing, installing and managing complex networks as well as security consulting to very large entities in both commercial and federal markets.  Call ASE today – 703-273-8388.

How Important is an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP)?

That depends on how much you value your time, data and money.

You must realize that if someone in your company is using your company’s assets for personal use, or, if they are doing things that can cause your network to be compromised (things you would not approve of), you will find that a lot of time will be needed to resolve whatever issues arise, most likely resulting in significant downtime. Also, in most cases data is in jeopardy. Last, you will spend a lot of money resolving all of this.

Now, would you like to know more about an AUP?

You have built a company, or you oversee running a company, and realize how important IT is to it. You are very busy trying to maximize each minute of the day and you keep track of every dollar. Now you need to educate your users as to what they can do with your assets to reduce problems. An AUP tells users what they can do, what they can’t do and if they do what is prohibited, then what the repercussions will be. You want users to understand how important it is to be careful how they use the web, email and introducing media containing files to the environment. It is not easy because people tend to forget, get to busy to remember or assume a questionable email is safe. In fact, you need to constantly remind them, make sure they understand and be vigilant keeping your company’s security features up to date.

Users will say they want to take a few minutes on break to get some personal things done using the internet, like getting someone a present or finalizing vacation, or, just looking at some pictures taken at the reunion over the weekend, or, just trying to catch up on some unread emails that have piled up in the In Box. You might ask them to keep the pictures on their phones, surf the web on their own device using the company’s Guest WiFi only.

The AUP is not just to educate, or as some have said, warn your users. It is to help you protect your data, your time and your money. It explains that the systems they use are owned by the company, make it possible for them to work there and help the company be successful. Therefore, they need to apply caution and common sense. If there is a question, ask it before not after. You are trying to tell them that you need their help and that you are asking them to be responsible with the systems you provide them. The flip side of that is if there is a disregard for the company, and it is shown that they blatantly, carelessly caused a problem, then the company has the right to hold the user responsible in some way. They need to share some responsibility to work there. They are part of a team.

You are not trying to scare them with the idea that any problem is their fault. For example, one of our clients finds pictures to celebrate whatever there is a national day of. In this instance, it was national cupcake day. A user was to scan the web and find a good picture of cupcakes to add to their website. They were attacked with ransomware. It wasn’t that user’s fault as it was an innocent accident. The big positive side of this was that their backups proved to be the savior. It was a fast and up to date restore.

If you need some help creating an AUP, or, if you need an experienced partner to create one, please call ASE. Lawyers can word things in such as way that it may be difficult to understand. We can help you use language that is easy to read. Again, you don’t want to scare the user, you want them to understand that they are part of a team and if the company is successful then they will be.

Robert Lane
President/Owner
ASE, Inc.
Getting you ready for tomorrow today
(703) 273-8388 ext 111

ASE, Inc. is an IT technical support services and consulting firm in the Washington DC Metro area.  Since 2000 ASE has focused on providing full outsourced IT department services to small and medium businesses as well as providing senior level expertise designing, installing and managing complex networks as well as security consulting to very large entities in both commercial and federal markets.  Call ASE today – 703-273-8388.

Using Email Service as Data Storage – Not Good.

More and more people are using their email application as a place to save all the data that is sent back and forth.  As IT gets more efficient and stronger people are moving faster.  It is easier to leave the files you received via email from your client in your mailbox than it is to take the time to move it to a more appropriate folder not in your email program.  Why is this a problem?  Suppose you lose your mail service or your email data file?  Many times, backup services don’t backup the email data file. So many companies realize after a problem that their email has not been backed up.

Here are some tips that can really help you:

  1. Make sure that you have a backup of your email. If your email is hosted somewhere, make sure that the hosting partner is backing up the data files, or, you ask if they have an add-on service that can do it. If not, there are third party solutions that you can engage to do it.
  2. As the emails come in, save all attachments to the respective client folders in My Documents, not folders created in Outlook or respective email solution. If you client sends you a file, make sure you take the extra minute to save that to their folder. If the name is not descriptive, change it to better explain what the file is. Trust me, in the long run you will be glad you did this.
  3. Make sure you are employing your Archive feature in your email program. This is another way of storing your emails but also, you can have your archive folder backed up. Archiving also keeps the inbox size down.
  4. Spend an extra second or two getting rid of junk mail as it comes in. Either click on Block or Send to Junk or simply delete the junk email.

These tips will help you reduce the junk in your email data file, create redundancy so that you can find the data in more than one place in the event of an emergency, and, help you find information such as client files better.

Hope this helps.

Robert Lane

For further information contact Robert Lane of ASE, Inc. @ 703-273-8388 ext. 111.  Robert.Lane@goaseinc.com; goaseinc-staging.coydhea2-liquidwebsites.com. ASE, Inc. is an IT Network Support Services & Consulting firm providing IT engineering and hosted & managed services in the Washington DC metropolitan area since 2000.

Emails That Hurt

Network security is a difficult subject to manage because it covers so many aspects of the network that a company runs on. Users need to understand that they play a very important role. Your emails are a big focus of the bad guys out there. Today, emails come from so many different sources, many of which are just being sent to cause problems for you and your network. Here is a simple step that can really help your company. Remember, if you initiate a problem you as well as your network might be down slowing, even stopping, your productivity for a period of time forcing you to miss deadlines and in most cases costing the company a lot of money.

I see emails that say, “IT Support Request” or “Need IT Support” from senders I don’t recognize. I really want to open them but because of what I see in the field I know that I need to investigate it a bit more. Without opening it, right click on the email and choose “Message Options”. In the bottom part of the window that opens you will see “Internet Headers”. To the right you can scroll down until you see the “From” line, in other words, who sent it. Notice the email address. If you don’t like it, delete the email. You can open your browser and type in the domain name to see if it is a legitimate company. (example: From: Robert@abc123.com. Type in www.abc123.com) You can call them to see if that person exists. You can even ask for that person. If you are in any way unsure who this is or why they sent it then don’t open the email, delete it and then go to the Deleted Files folder and delete it permanently.

IT support professional in many cases can determine which user initiated a network problem and how. It is not uncommon for companies to fire the user because that person broke an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). Don’t be that person!

Trust me; this little step helps a lot.

Robert Lane
President/Owner
ASE, Inc.
Getting you ready for tomorrow today
703-273-8388 ext 111

 
ASE, Inc. is an IT technical support services and consulting firm in the Washington DC Metro area.  Since 2000 ASE has focused on providing full outsourced IT department services to small and medium businesses as well as providing senior level expertise designing, installing and managing complex networks as well as security consulting to very large entities in both commercial and federal markets.  Call ASE today – 703-273-8388.

 

Backups for Small Business

Every year ASE reviews some backup solutions to see if they would be a good fit for small businesses. This year 2 issues were kept in mind during the review: is an offsite solution inexpensive, and, how to better protect the data against malware like ransomware (Cryptolocker, etc…).

This year some more providers offer the ability to both store in the cloud, and, use a device, like a Network Attached Storage (NAS), in the small business office to also store backups. Some providers are implementing a solution that better protects the NAS against malware that encrypts data. Having a local backup makes restores much better and faster in the event of a disaster. Then, if that proves to not be an option, the cloud backup can be used.

I’m old fashion and prefer to call a company, as opposed to just reading the website, to discuss their services. Ask them about the onsite option in addition to the offsite service. If you don’t have any compliance requirements there are great inexpensive solutions out there providing online, offsite backup services. Your local solution (NAS) shouldn’t cost any extra. Get a quote for the amount of data you have.

Hope this helps.

Robert Lane
President/Owner
ASE, Inc.
Getting you ready for tomorrow today
703-273-8388 ext 111

ASE, Inc. is an IT technical support services and consulting firm in the Washington DC Metro area. Since 2000 ASE has focused on providing full outsourced IT department services to small and medium businesses as well as providing senior level expertise designing, installing and managing complex networks as well as security consulting to very large entities in both commercial and federal markets.  Call ASE today – 703-273-8388.

Let’s Give Credit Where Credit is Due

I have often stated that sales people find the stage; it’s the engineers that put the show on. Sometimes IT engineers get a lot of heat from clients when they call tech support for the product they are working with at the client’s site. Some clients feel that they should not have to pay for the time it took the engineer to talk to tech support. “I could have done that!” they say. Recently I had one client use an example of a lawyer writing up a case. His comment was, “you learn from law school how to write up a case. When you are in business for yourself you don’t call the law school and ask how to do that.” My immediate response was, “No. But just before the lawyer finishes the write up the lawyer goes to the law library and researches all of the pertinent cases that apply. Cases are decided daily across the country and the lawyer needs to find what recent case law there is. You the client pay hourly for that lawyer to do that.” This client immediately switched the conversation to another subject.

It is a fact that IT engineers know how to narrow down (melt down) a problem, decipher the messages and alerts they are seeing, and, technically describe that problem to tech support. Most, if not all, clients don’t have a clue how to describe what they are seeing, can’t melt it down, and, don’t know how to follow steps being described by tech support without creating more problems. A client calling is much more difficult for tech support, and, it takes a lot more of the client’s time, in many cases resulting in more problems.

The second fact is similar in other industries. Manufacturers create patches and updates in part because of issues they become aware of over time. They come to market with a product or a new version of it, and after some time goes by they become aware of security breaches (holes hackers can use to get in), better ways to install or change the product, and/or simply create improvements. Over time the instructions describing how to install and setup a product can and will change. The steps/instructions the engineer knew are changed and the engineer has to call to get the most recent instructions. When encountering a problem the engineer contacts the respective tech support to see if they recommend different steps that THEY, the manufacturer, have recently developed for their product.

IT Engineers deserve a lot more credit. They are trying to provide the best possible service to clients. Just because they had to call Tech Support doesn’t mean they don’t know what they are doing, nor is it the case that the client gets to be relieved of the invoice for that time. I have seen appliance techs have to use manufacturer support and mechanics call in for the latest updates and changes. Just like the lawyer developing a case, IT engineers research the latest updates pertaining to the issue they have encountered. The clients who value the relationship with the engineer and/or their company understand and even expect this step to be performed. IT service providers must interact with manufacturers. Hearing from the field is one way manufacturers learn of issues that exist and it helps them better their product. Can you imagine what the client would say if they were to find out that the first engineer did not contact the manufacturer and a subsequent IT services provider did and solved the problem? In my experience, those clients who are always looking for a way out of paying will automatically question the need for contacting tech support. While I encourage clients to closely review all invoices, this intentionally overbearing scrutiny is unfair, damaging the client/engineer relationship, and a complete waste of everyone’s time. (Not to mention insulting to the integrity of the engineer!) Most likely they don’t value the engineer or their IT service company as a PARTNER and will pay for the cheapest tech support they can get regardless of quality. Like any industry, they will get what they pay for.

Rock on IT Engineers!

Robert Lane
President/Owner
ASE, Inc.
Getting you ready for tomorrow today
703-273-8388 ext 111

ASE, Inc. is an IT consulting, engineering, hosted and managed support services provider covering the Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC area.  Since 2000 ASE has focused on providing full outsourced IT department services to small and medium businesses as well as providing senior level expertise designing, installing and managing complex databases and network security consulting to very large entities in both commercial and federal markets.  Call ASE today – 703-273-8388.

Still have an XP machine?

More and more manufacturers of software and devices are not providing support for XP in their products. I know that many of you decided to keep your XP machines because you don’t have compliance to worry about like HIPAA, FINRA and SEC. Many more feel that if it works fine then why change anything. But as time moves forward, and, as manufacturers of products that you have update their software (create new drivers) you will find that these products will not provide support for XP anymore.

Let me give you some examples.

  • You have a program that tracks the inventory you purchase from a distributor. The company that gives you that program may have updated it and you need to get it. That update does not support XP.
  • You have to upgrade your financial software but the new upgrade won’t work on XP.
  • You bought a new printer but the disks don’t offer XP support.

Therefore, even if you don’t care about the security issues such as XP weaknesses created by hackers and expose to the world, you still might not want to deal with the hassle of compatibility.

If you do decide to re-use your computer and just load a newer Operating System like Windows 7, you may want to have someone verify that your computer is able to have Windows 7 loaded. Many older systems can’t handle Windows 7 or higher.

Hope this helps.

Robert Lane
President/Owner
ASE, Inc.
Getting you ready for tomorrow today
703-273-8388 ext 111

 

ASE, Inc. is an IT technical support services and consulting firm in the Washington DC Metro area.  Since 2000 ASE has focused on providing complete outsourced IT department services to small and medium businesses, and, FISMA & HIPAA Compliance services to all size companies including the Federal Government.  Call ASE today – 703-273-8388.

Small business Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity: 1 to 5 Users

After years of seeing very small businesses, defined as 1 – 5 people, endure worsening malware infestation and powerful virus infection disasters I recommend a simple inexpensive policy that really works continuing your business productivity.

Get a second system on your desk and now use two:

  1. One for working on data, documents, etc. This is your main machine and should be the newer one.
  2. One for internet browsing such as research on the web, programs that search the web for data and casual non-business “stuff”. This should be the older machine.
  3. Save a copy of your data to a separate storage device that is a central repository for all of your data including Outlook data or similar programs, and, your Favorites folder in case of a disaster.

You may recall me mentioning that the biggest problem when a system is down is that the user doesn’t have another system to work on. By incorporating this policy into your business practices you now address Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity better. Why? Even though you buy a new machine and transfer everything over to it you can leave applications you use to work with data such as your office suite, PDF apps, etc… on the older machine so that if the first (main) machine fails you can access your data that should reside on the separate storage device from your second machine and continue business. Plus, this methodology also helps you keep the older machine up to date better to be ready when a disaster occurs.

By incorporating this methodology you leave most if not all of the internet access to the older machine so that if it gets infected, and these days we are seeing so many more problems from accessing websites we thought we could trust like your health insurance company site, you still continue working since the machine that doesn’t have the data is the one that is infected, not the main machine. Better said, the one that does have the data is less exposed. Much better!

This is a very inexpensive method to recover from a disaster and continue business. Since you don’t have the infrastructure of a larger business then you don’t have expensive backup solutions, probably don’t have an IT administrator employee and don’t have a storage room of spare systems. This method provides quick switch-over to a functioning machine. Your data can immediately be accessed on the external storage device.

You should be able to get a very good new PC (Personal Computer – notebook, desktop) ranging from $400.00 to $800.00. The external storage devices are about $100.00. Setting them up is easy and you can use the manufacturer’s assistance. What’s more, if you are using Windows 7 you can take advantage of  the image backup utility that makes a complete image copy of your PC’s hard drive that can be restored quickly as compared to reinstalling all of your applications, updates, patches and, of course, data.

Objective: keep your most important machine off the web as much as you can..

Hope this helps.

Robert Lane
President/Owner
ASE, Inc.
Getting you ready for tomorrow today
703-273-8388 ext 111

ASE, Inc. is an IT consulting, engineering, hosted and managed support services provider covering the Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC area.  Since 2000 ASE has focused on providing full outsourced IT department services to small and medium businesses as well as providing senior level network security expertise to all size entities in both commercial and federal markets.  Call ASE today – 703-273-8388.

The Cost of the Cloud

You have heard so much about “the cloud” and you probably don’t know exactly what that means but more importantly you have heard that it can save you time, which can equate to money, and money. Let me tell you what we see in the field.

As IT consultants to small & medium businesses we help them utilize what they have as well as discover what new technologies they can employ to save time and money. It is true that the cloud is an amazing thing. Here are some quick helpful facts:

  1. If you are thinking of starting a business you can get up and running much faster these days with a lot less capital expenditure. That is extremely helpful in this economy.
  2. The cloud can help you off load some very important services that your company must perform such as backups, email and, depending on what data you generate, database type services as well as financial.
  3. From a disaster recovery/business continuity perspective you can recover from a disaster and continue doing business quickly as your data is off site (like backups, email) and you can simply log in from a new location or system and get your data.

Now let’s talk about the cost. We have seen so many companies pull back out of the cloud mostly due to the cost. Many companies did the math up front and found that for their needs and based on what they had, the service they were looking to use in the cloud was too costly. Here is an example: a company of 10 people has 150 GBs of data that is critical (yes, there is a difference between important and critical data) and that data needs to have a SAS 70 Type II facility (for reasons that would take too long to explain in this article) – IF – they are to store off site. What’s more, they need snapshots of data at intervals of 6 months to be stored. Many cloud backup services don’t have SAS 70 Type II facilities nor do they do 6 month snapshots. They perform rolling 30 day backups meaning that on day 31 the data that was backed up over 30 days ago is gone or copied over. Just like many other companies in the U.S. right now, money is tight and watched like a hawk. Based on the above criteria the cost per GB averages a little over $3.00 so that means that the company would have to pay $450.00 per month for this cloud service. Many would just say, “no”.

Here is another downside. We have seen some small businesses completely outsource all of their software to the cloud (In this case the cloud is basically a company that has a datacenter who owns the software and lets the user “rent” the use of it). This means that the user owns nothing and has nothing on their server and personal systems. You may think it’s a great idea. You would until you encounter the time when you have to be or want to be productive and you have no internet connection. Remember, you need the connection to get to the server that has all of your software which is at the datacenter where all of your software is hosted – the cloud. To do this you have turn on your computer, log in, connect to the internet, log in to their server, open up the application and start working. (So much for quick productivity!) Since, in this instance, there is no internet connection AND since you have no applications on your personal system you cannot simply turn on your personal computer, log in, open the app and start typing.

What should you do? You want to take your time when making decisions about the cloud or any outsourced services. If you don’t have the time or the knowledge to research what you need find a consultant who can not only research the latest services out there but who also may be able to provide them to you. The reputable ones will research with you what you have, your needs, your budget and make the appropriate recommendations. For example, off site backups may be too expensive but hosted email – a perfect fit.

Hope this helps.

Robert Lane

President/Owner
ASE, Inc.
Getting you ready for tomorrow today
703-273-8388 ext 111

ASE, Inc. is an IT consulting, engineering, hosted and managed support services provider covering the Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC area.  Since 2000 ASE has focused on providing full outsourced IT department services to small and medium businesses as well as providing senior level expertise designing, installing and managing complex databases and network security consulting to very large entities in both commercial and federal markets.  Call ASE today – 703-273-8388.