Client Area

This section can be repurposed a number of ways.

Operations

Cloud Prisoner

Don’t become a prisoner of your computing infrastructure or private cloud. Understand who has custody of your data. 

The cloud simplifies remote access, business continuity, and disaster recovery. But what happens when you change IT service vendors? 

‍From basic services like email and Office365 to Infrastructure as a Service and complete virtual desktop, an organization can gain flexibility, redundancy, business continuity, security, and even competitive advantage by working in a Cloud environment. 

 

As reported on by HelpNet Security in late 2020, high-availability access, on-demand computing power, limitless storage, and enterprise grade security lifted the rate of Cloud adoption among small/mid-size businesses even before the pandemic, and hit ludicrous speed once the remote workforce took to their homes. 


Since most organizations will use a technology integrator or managed service provider for the migration, what happens when that vendor is no longer providing services? Even without a “long-term contract”, because of how some Cloud environments are designed, a business can get stuck in a scenario that makes it hard to change IT vendors. So, how can your business stay protected? Here’s what you need to know: 

1) When MSPs first began considering Cloud for their clients (almost a decade ago) public Cloud wasn’t what it is today, and most built their own.

2) Leveraging private data centers, these technology firms invested in massive infrastructure, and built highly proprietary “walled gardens
 
3) Offering clients a scalable environment with business continuity and integrated disaster recovery, a solution was born
 
4) Over the years, IT firms spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital expenses and upgrades to ensure performance, availability, and security. Changing their Cloud offering isn’t typically an option
 
5) Clients in these environments have only one choice when it comes to who can provide services/support. Migrating to a new platform is costly and time intensive

Technology firms that made the leap to offer public infrastructure do see thinner margins, but they also have access to the most cutting-edge technology, integrated cybersecurity tools, and tremendous flexibility for clients that understand data custody and have concerns about uprooting an entire virtual ecosystem if the need for a new technology partner arises.

So What Can You Do?

 

Understanding who has custody of your data (where data resides), how it’s accessed, and what’s involved when it comes time to sever a relationship is critical, and it’s up to you, the client, to figure it out. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Where exactly is your data stored? 
  • What virtualization tools/systems are used for access?
  • Is there anything proprietary about the infrastructure?
  • Is there anything proprietary about the access tools? 
  • What happens if the vendor is no longer providing service?
  • Is it a total “lift and shift” of your data, email and apps?
  • Is it simply changing the owner of record?
  • What’s involved in a typical migration?
  • If possible, speak with references and even former clients to discuss their migration experience

At the end of the day, no one of us want to think about ending a relationship before things even get started. But since change is one of the few constants, being prepared is critical and it’s always better to address these issues now when the relationship is healthy.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on Cloud adoption, or a story relating to Cloud on-boarding/off-boarding. Drop your info below, set a time on our calendar or shoot us an email.

Backup Testing

These days almost every business has a data back-up process.  But who’s testing the restore?

 

Last year, John Edwards, from Tech Target wrote that “creating and adopting a data backup plan is only the first step. To achieve complete data protection, you also need a backup testing strategy.” 

 

We agree and have republished his 10 Step Guide for Testing Backups below. 

1. Understand why backup testing is important and necessary

If files can’t be successfully restored from backup after a system failure or some other type of disaster, there’s a very strong risk that your organization will someday face business and financial catastrophe, including the possibility of fines and lawsuits.

 

Testing backups ensures that essential data is being fully and accurately preserved. If a test fails, the problem can be fixed before the data is lost forever. Testing backups also validates the effectiveness of the organization’s backup policies and schedules.

 

2. Create a documented backup testing plan

A documented testing plan ensures that employees have the guidance and rules necessary to successfully perform data recovery, providing confidence that essential files will be rapidly available and fully intact when needed in the event of a primary storage system failure.

 

The plan should designate the parties in charge of backup testing and how often tests should be conducted.

 

3. Make testing backups a routine task

To assure backup validity and integrity, it’s essential to carry out regular data restoration tests. Don’t assume that an absence of error messages indicates that backups are running successfully.

 

Test backups with a full restoration process every week or month — or even more frequently if critical data is involved — to ensure that a hardware or software issue isn’t compromising successful backups. Routine and comprehensive backup testing is necessary to highlight anomalies so that corrective action can be taken.

 

4. Take a holistic approach to backup testing

Every enterprise needs to understand its unique data layout and backup needs. A backup testing strategy that works well for one organization might be entirely insufficient for another.

 

Every organization has different backup objectives. Banking industry firms, for example, need accurate backups to meet compliance, audit and legal obligations. Healthcare organizations, meanwhile, are responsible for protecting patient data, so they must focus on security, retention and meeting various legal requirements.

 

Decide on your backup needs and begin planning from that point. To be thorough, all restore and recovery testing should include data, application and system state testing.

 

5. Test frequently in sync with a regular schedule

Ideally, a test should be conducted after every backup completes to ensure that data can be successfully accessed and recovered. In the real world, however, such a schedule is usually impractical due to a lack of available resources and/or time constraints.

 

A general rule of thumb is to commit to a regular schedule of weekly and/or monthly restores of systems, applications and individual files with checks to ensure that the data is valid and accessible as intended. Such an approach will also provide your organization with a realistic time frame for recovery in the event a storage system failure or disaster strikes.

 

It’s also important to remember that not all data is created equal — a fact that should affect the frequency of backup tests. Some types of data is more important than others. Government- or industry-imposed compliance data, for instance, might be considered more important than marketing data. Advance planning should be used to determine which types of data backups should be subject to more frequent tests.

Originally published at Tech Target, chart shows a backup test schedule for several different types of assets

6. Tap into the power of automation

Automation should play a key role in any backup testing strategy. Organizations should strive to automate as much of their backup testing as possible to ensure consistency and data validity, as well as to reduce the burden on staff charged with testing backups.


Automating the entire backup and testing process will save time and effort, enabling team members to focus on tasks that require their high-level skills and insights.


7. Ensure that the backup test covers all bases

If the backup test doesn’t actually test the entire workload being restored, it can’t be considered a real test. Simply restoring a handful of files from a random archive and declaring success is tempting fate.


Test effectively by restoring complete archives to databases, applications and virtual machines.


8. Make testing backups an integral part of internal app development and deployment

Backup testing should never be an afterthought. Testing should always be kept in mind when developing and introducing new applications to the organization.


The most successful enterprise data management strategies involve knowing how and when to perform backup validation tests before allowing data to move into a production workload.


9. Ensure backup accuracy

Whenever data is restored, storage and database administrators should perform an initial health check to ensure there are no abnormalities or omissions in the recovered files.


A cursory examination might not be sufficient, however. Data that appears accurate to an IT expert might actually contain subtle errors that only a trained eye can detect. The end users of specific business applications are often the individuals best positioned to determine if a set of restored data is accurate and consistent.


10. Create redundant backups

Although cloud backup services are generally reliable, you might want to use at least two services in the event one cloud provider is unavailable when a rapid full restore is necessary or a test reveals some form of data absence or corruption on the cloud provider’s end.


Inside the data center, never back up to only one tape or set of tapes. Maintain multiple backup media sets and test them all before storing the tapes in separate locations. Replace the cartridges every year or two, or even more frequently if signs of damage or wear are detected. The same holds true if hard drives are used for backups.


Published by John Edwards at Tech Target on October 11, 2021

VPN is dead

Today’s modern and mature business can’t function through the VPN or an antiquated remote desktop solution.

Remote access to corporate technology (email, data, infrastructure, financials, etc) isn’t new. Most organizations have had some sort of solution in place for at least the last decade, with stragglers getting a push from the pandemic. 

 

 

But as conversations like Zero Trust or UX (the user experience) become more common, our clients look to better position themselves and it’s no longer just about “accessing the network”. Cost, compliance, latency, security, productivity, collaboration – all of these are shaping the way IT teams and corporate leaders consider the future of their information technology and nothing can match a virtualized environment. 

 

Users want easy access to business applications, data, and email. Managers need productivity analytics and integrated collaboration tools that are easy to use. Regulatory and compliance requirements call for advanced cybersecurity. Finance wants a cost-effective solution with clear billing and no long-term obligations.

 

 

 

The solution is an integrated cloud computing model with a native user experience and services that include analytics, cybersecurity, computing, database, mobile, networking, storage, and web apps.

 

VPN is Dead
Fortunately, we’ve come to a place and time where all of this possible, at a cost that’s affordable and easy to understand.

Next-Gen Cloud from OWG is built on the Azure infrastructure and from safety to UX we’ve considered it all. For a closer look, check out our published live demo. From a higher level, our solutions let’s you and your team: 

Stay productive from home and outside the office. Sign on to any device and quickly launch office apps and securely access corporate data.

 

Protect IP and business-critical data. Give users freedom and easy access to their work from anywhere over a secure network.

 

Control access through the user profile. Conditional access controls determine user access based on user profile, geo- location, team, etc.

 

Simplified licensing and billing. Can be included with Offices 365 billing which you’re likely paying already.

 

• Leverage advanced cybersecurity features. Including integrated and enforceable multi-factor authentication, and auditing features for easy compliance and reporting.

 

Remain vendor agnostic. Don’t get hamstrung by your IT services vendor. Next-gen cloud allows you to select the vendor of your choice and makes it easy to leave when you decide.

 

To learn more, or have a conversation about how Next-Gen Cloud from OWG can benefit your business complete the request for info below, or just book a time on my calendar.  

Customer support experience

Small and midsize businesses deserve the best technology support and services at fair prices. 

 

Partners in business. Not just words.

 

These are stressful times, and our support staff understands that you never know what the person on the other end of the phone is going through. 

 

Providing world class service to the small and midsize business community, our help desk technicians realize they are the front-line for your business.  They bring their a-game every single day and we can’t say enough how much we appreciate all of their efforts! So we’ll let our partners speak for us with this handy animation —

 

Customer service

Our client satisfaction (C-SAT) rating in 2022 is over 98%. Not getting the experience promised from your IT services provider? We wrote about this recently in our blog on all-inclusive support, and talk about our (more than 100 five-star Google Reviews often.  Delivering on end-results is what OWG is all about. 

 

Book a time on my calendar and let’s talk about your concerns.

Client Support

For some businesses, an all-inclusive monthly support fee seems like a great option when engaging an IT services vendor.

While in principal we don’t disagree with the model, how does a business leader understand what they’re getting? 

 

What do you do when “the trip doesn’t match the brochure”? 

 

Managed IT services contracts generally follow a rigid set of one-size fits all services and support terms. While most issues are covered, many customers find themselves with unexpected monthly bills for issues that don’t fall within agreed to parameters.

 

So what can you do if you want a predictable billing model? What if that’s the only option the vendor is offering? Here are a few things to do…

1) Review the “fine print”. Discuss service exclusions, data retention fees, technology refreshes, and network updates. These “edge cases” (which many are led to believe will never happen) are in fact where IT vendors can profit the most.  

 

2) Ask about what’s not included. It’s not just about Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) and response times. Exclusions should also be clearly documented and easily explained. Most IT providers won’t cover things like printers, phones and 3rd party apps. But what if those are critical to your business?

 

3) Talk with your team.  Understand all your company’s specific technology needs. A more technically savvy staff with modern equipment could require less support, but things like remote access, collaboration tools, cybersecurity, and support for third-party apps should be considered.  

 

4) Don’t get locked in.  Critical is a solution where you aren’t locked into a single provider and can move business apps and data without a massive lift and shift operation. This is key to the client-vendor relationship and ensures transparent billing and the best service possible.

 

5) Check the MSP’s reviews! And not just two or three referrals…It’s 2022 and every service business on the planet is being reviewed by satisfied and not-so-satisfied clients. OWG has over 100 five-star reviews

It’s important to note that as systems have advanced, some service providers can now match all-inclusive offerings with specific, individualized client needs. 

 

However, this is more difficult than it sounds and requires a mature MSP with an empathetic approach, and an ability to problem solve. It also requires buy-in from both sides, and a true desire to for that trusted partner relationship. 

 

Success today stems directly from an organization’s flexibility and its ability to adapt. A trusted IT services partner/MSP is a must-have, and critical for any organization looking to build or even remain competitive. Take your time, chose your partner carefully, and reach out with any questions or concerns. We’re happy to be a resource!

Drop your name and email below to learn more, or tag our calendar and let’s have a conversation.

Incident Response Plan

It’s Monday Morning and your organization was just hit with a cyber-attack.  Your response to the incident in the next few moments is critical.

Do you know what to do next? Does your team? Is the process documented? What’s automated and how much manual intervention will be needed? 

 

Your company needs a published Incident Response Plan OWG can help you get organized.

Welcome Aboard

I learned long ago that the experience I had on my first day of work at my very first job was fairly unique.

When I showed up to work at 7am my first day, I was given the obligatory office tour, handed my access badge, introduced to the key players on my team, shown the lunch room, and received a very warm welcome. 

 

Once it was time to get to work, I was shown where my desk was; on the desk was a branded tin box with a mouse keychain, flash drive, pen (all branded), a box of business cards with my name spelled correctly and a polo shirt in my size. I didn’t appreciate this at the time but I do now.‍

On my desk was a large envelope with the following inside:

 

  • My usernames and temporary passwords for all company technology
  • A welcome letter wishing me success within the organization
  • A contact list for all the departments and key players 
  • A laminated card with details on contacting the Service Desk

I read through all of the materials and I was off to the races within a few minutes. From that point forward I knew who to email for anything I needed, call for support, and where to send just about any kind of request. Asking for support within the organization was easy and there was never any doubt that what was needed would get handled and handled in a timely fashion. I didn’t think much about it at the time to be perfectly honest and being my first job, I subconsciously assumed this was just how employee orientation and onboardings were handled everywhere, but I could not have been more wrong! This was in 2006 and thinking back, is pretty impressive for the time.

Years later, I was flown into a new city for an interview and subsequently accepted an assignment with a new organization. The first impression was vastly different. My laptop hadn’t arrived, so I used my personal laptop for a week. I had no idea who to call to get logged in to company applications; it also turned out that the person who I was supposed to report to had been relocated to a different division — I had no boss?!  It took me at least a week to get access to all company applications, all my logins to various platforms, and finally a company laptop. A few weeks later my business cards arrived with my email address spelled incorrectly so those became scrap paper.

New user frustration

While I enjoyed my time and the challenge of that project, in hindsight, my “orientation” and onboarding experience was indicative of things to come and unfortunately it set the tone for the bulk of the subsequent work my team and I had. Sadly, the experience became a bit of an internally accepted joke.

Since then, my career has shifted more towards the service delivery aspect of the IT industry and luckily, I was able to retain both of those experiences and apply my experiences from both sides of the coin. I now know what is possible and learned valuable lessons from both experiences.

Overseeing ITSM practices for an MSP comes with a new set of challenges. We work with thousands of users from hundreds of different partner organizations spanning many different sectors. Each group maintains different leadership styles at each helm. 

I firmly believe that the relationship and confidence in our service all starts from an employee’s very first day and from the very first time an end user logs in to their company computer.

In my current role, I often ask myself questions such as:

 
  • What will their first experience with IT and their new employer be like?
  • Will they know how to get ahold of our service desk for support?
  • Will they know what software and systems we support?
  • Do we have processes in place to make the technology aspects of their job as seamless as possible?
  • How do we make sure they know we truly care and want to support their needs?

How do we do it today?

 

As part of continual service improvement, below are a few steps we have taken and questions our team must review on a regular basis to make sure we are creating the best possible first impression for our own new employees as well as those of our partner organizations.

  • Creating unique onboarding forms for each of our partner organizations
  • Each form generates a series of service tasks 
  • All get assigned directly to our onboarding team

When these forms are submitted, do we know the who, what, where and when of everything pertaining to that new user from an IT standpoint?

  • Communicating realistic expectations to our partners 
  • Clearly addressing needs and timelines

How much time is needed to procure devices? How much notice do we need from the submitter?

  • Knowing and understanding our inventory
  • Understanding the capabilities of our suppliers
  • Being realistic with current supply chains issues 

What do we have in stock today? What does the current supply-chain look like? How fast can we get equipment to a remote location?

Are we delivering new credentials in a secure way? Is 2FA a part of our on-boarding checklist? (Passwords on a sticky note just don’t fly with our team.)

 

Does a staff accountant need a different computer than a graphic designer? Does a graphic designer need QuickBooks? The word standard means repeatable and repeatable always equates to a better user experience and is almost certainly more efficient.

 

How long does each onboard take? How many are we doing? How many tickets do new users open after they start? Are there seasonal trends we can prepare for? What can we automate? 

  • Maintaining a living, breathing Service Catalog for all users that contains:
  • Instructions on how to get ahold of our service desk using their preferred channel (Portal, email, phone, etc)
  • Ticketing portal for guided support on common ticket types
  • Clear guidelines on what we support and what we don’t support
  • Clear explanations on how we provide support and what to expect
  • A flowchart of ticket handling practices we use to provide the best support possible
  • How to get emergency support after-hours
  • How to provide real-time feedback directly from a service ticket (positive or constructive)
Trust

Our process will likely never be perfect, nor will there ever be a one-size-fits-all manual for all businesses and users, but we can keep striving to get better on every interaction and create the best possible first impression for our partners’ users on their first day.

We believe this reflects just as much on the organization itself as it does on our services. It should not matter what title or position a new user holds — trust and confidence (or lack-thereof) is slow to be gained, quick to be lost and can be extremely contagious.

Shadow IT

Protect your company from Shadow IT.

Shadow IT may seem like a resourceful attempt to problem solve, but it actually can be quite harmful and introduces serious security risks through data leaks, compliance violations, unpatched software and more.

 

Protect against Shadow IT

Michael’s trying to share a file with a client, but’s having trouble… the file’s too large to send in an email. After a few unsuccessful attempts he’s getting frustrated.

Then he remembers a free file sharing app and tries downloading it to his company computer.
Within minutes he gets a notification from the IT Service Desk reminding him company policy prohibits “Shadow IT”, or the use of non-approved software. They also explain that he has Office 365 and can take advantage of its easy to use, secure file sharing abilities. 
Bonus! The client also uses Office 365. The process is seamless and the two can easily collaborate without dealing with multiple versions, emailing back and forth, and lost data. 

Drop your name and email below to learn more, or tag our calendar and let’s have a conversation.

Azure Cloud

Microsoft Azure features an ever-expanding set of cloud services to help your organization meet your business challenges. Its integrated cloud-computing services include analytics, computing, database, mobile, networking, storage, and web apps. All this leads to moving faster, achieving more, and saving money.

  • Fast app delivery
    Quickly develop, deploy, and manage your enterprise, mobile, web, and Internet of Thing apps anywhere with your choice of tools, language, or framework.
  • Security
    Ensure the safety and privacy of your apps and data through Azure Backup and Disaster Recovery, as well as more comprehensive compliance coverage
  • Better decision-making
    Make strategic decisions using predictive analytics and valuable insights
  • Scalability
    Seamlessly scale up or down with Azure according to your business cycles

Use Azure and free up your team and allow them to focus on where your firm can add value and great customer experiences. 

Drop your info and get a free consultation today!

Verify.

How do you protect your company from business email compromise (BEC)?

Here’s a tactic we call #Human2FA

Verify financial requests

Ever get an email asking for financial or banking information? Ever fall for it?
Today’s social engineering tactics are pretty good and more than a few corporate executives have fallen prey.


But there’s an easy way to stay a step ahead of the criminal and we call it Human Two Factor Authentication. 

 

Watch the video, share it with your team and make verifying finical requests policy at your organization.