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Natural Disaster Survival Guide: Flooding August 31, 2017

Every business has to prepare for the worst. From Hurricane Harvey to flooding right here in Metro Detroit- if you don’t have a game plan for disaster, you’re doomed to fail. In fact, those that don’t have a game plan may never fully recover from a disaster. But not all disasters are created equal. And not all businesses areat risk for every kind of disaster. That’s why we’ve put together this quick Disaster Survival reference guide to help you ensure that your business can keep operating even if a natural disaster strikes

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The One Type of Angler You Want to Avoid This Summer August 8, 2017

Summertime in Michigan is filled with sunshine, bon fires, and lake life. A vast amount of Michiganders enjoy fishing; a few may even dub themselves anglers. However, there is one type of angler everyone should try and avoid – and no, it’s not Uncle Joe after a few too many pops.

Angler, is a type of ransomware, and it’s as vicious as a Muskie looks. Angler constantly evolves to evade detection by security software products. Essentially, it’s an exploit kit that uses HTML and JavaScript to identify your browser and any installed plugins. This allows the hacker to select an attack that is most likely effective against you.

Studies dating back to 2015 have shown pages running Angler are created every day, along with other threats of similar nature. Hackers have taken profitability up a notch, and have created “ransomware-as-a-service,” allowing just about anyone to conduct a variety of attacks. Don’t assume your company needs to be targeted by a Mr. Robot-esque genius. Thanks to the creativity of hackers, minimal computer skills are needed.

Is there anyway to protect your small business from ransomware and hackers? Yes and no. There are certainly protocols you may put in place to defend yourself. Remember the WannaCry threat in early 2017? Not a single Vision Computer Solutions customer was impacted, thanks to our enterprise-grade solutions we secure our clients with. However, if a threat was to sneak through layers and layers of protection, having a top-notch business continuity plan in place is crucial.

If you’re ready to get back to the sunshine and forget about Angler impacting your company and profitability, give us a call at (248) 349-6115.

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5 Overused Cloud Cliches That Need to Die [Updated] July 18, 2017

Change can be very stressful. And sticking to your traditional way of doing business is a comforting path of certainty. When we’re talking about a cloud migration, you’re initiating a change in the way you do business, and that’s not something to take lightly. Here are some overused cloud cliches we can agree to let go by the wayside.

1. “It’s Not Trustworthy

Encryption

Whether you’re binge watching your favorite TV show, managing your checking or savings account from your phone, the cloud is an integral piece of your productivity for your personal life. That’s no reason to fully trust just yet. The livelihood of your business and personal life are two completely different coins. But surely, benefits from the cloud for your personal life can deliver 10 fold in the business world.
Encryption For business data in transit, industry leading solution like Azure from Microsoft transports your data seamlessly between users and devices. And for data at rest, Azure data centers offer a wide range of encryption capabilities for extra stronghold on security, using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)

Control

Perhaps the best feature of a unique hybrid solution is controlled. Azure takes control seriously and it will let you decide what information gets stored on-premises and what goes to the cloud. You can also filter information back and forth to on-premises or cloud, at your convenience.

  1. “All cloud is the same”

On the surface level, yes, but clouds are all built for the same purpose. Digging deeper we can start to differentiate areas of opportunity where the cloud makes the most sense for your business. Azure, above all, provides an excellent way for your business to acclimate to certain elements of the cloud. The Azure Hybrid Solution debunks the assumption that “all or nothing” is the only way your business can adapt to cloud functions. With an Azure hybrid solution starting small with email migration or data backup and recovery is best practice before forcing a complete overhaul.

  1. “We’ll Have to Change all of our Applications”

Moving any sort of application into a cloud will require some level of re-design to the solution. But Azure supports the broadest selection of devices, operating systems, databases, languages, frameworks, and tools. The beauty of leveraging hybrid cloud is that the same Hyper-V Virtual Machines (VMs), for example, that is running on-premise or through another third party cloud can easily be moved to Azure and will run without needing to make modifications on Azure VMs. You can leverage the free 30 day trial of Azure Site Recovery to migrate your customers’ on-premises physical Windows/Linux servers, on-premises Hyper-V VMs, and/or on-premises VMware VMs up into Azure with ease. If they are migrating on-premises VMWare VMs then Azure Site Recovery will convert the VM to a Hyper-V as part of the migration.

 

  1. “A cloud IT environment doesn’t have enough transparency to manage” 

To make sure your cloud transition goes smoothly, there are highly dedicated tools and resources that are developed to oversee your entire business and users in the cloud. Hiring a cloud service provider to help scale adoption of the cloud is the most sure-handed path to a successful migration.

The truth is, there is MORE transparency with off-premise servers and workstations, and you may not even know it, but a lot of critical applications inside your company and your life are utilizing off premise data storage at this very moment. Banking, Christmas shopping, and many apps we use today are perfect examples of the clouds effectiveness to manage bank accounts, transfer large data when and where we need them. Partnering with a cloud service provider to manage off-premise solutions means less worry to what could happen to your systems that are on-premise and clear expectations of how your business will operate daily with the a unique small business cloud solution.

 

  1. “ The cloud and cloud hybrid model is too complicated for our business.”

Major benefits of a hybrid Manage IT support model that you could start seeing right away include:
1. Reducing Cost: No more “Sunk costs are sunk” when it comes to technology expenditures. Typically, most businesses working with a Managed Service Provider start seeing a more energy efficient machine that could lower your energy costs in weeks. A proactive approach to IT can also help predict your future technology downtime, forecasting to prevent issues. Proactive = freeing up human capital with repairs and also cash resources.

2. Focus on the Core of your Business: A balance between internal and external IT Managed Support means more attention to your core business. Let your internal personnel focus on workloads that need the most attention and then pass tasks such as help desk to your Managed Service Provider.

3.Stay Upgraded: Cloud migration, network upgrade, and software patches can take a painstakingly long time. A diverse team of experts that are certified and focused in certain areas of technology for your business will keep you running at where YOUR business should be. Keeping up with industry changes will help your business solve technology problems faster.

4. Network Health: Managed IT support should require a Network Security Specialist to be at the helm. This is going beyond your regular firewall and anti-virus products. Your Network Specialist can offer a wider range of disaster and back-up solutions to quickly respond and detect any threat to your health.

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Tech Appreciation: When Great Detail and Invoicing Build the Customer Experience July 11, 2017

In today’s lightspeed demand for IT support services. How does the transactional process keep up? Particularly as a Managed Service Provider, effective, precise and easy invoicing is an important challenge all small and medium-sized businesses face. As a business owner, freelancer or Financial Controller, it’s not something you take lightly. Sending out a good invoice can mean faster payment, a return customer and a valuable touch-piece that reiterates your value.

Vision Computer Solutions’ Controller Annie Stewart understands the challenges in place. The method of collecting payment is a sensitive one and the methods our accounting department uses to invoice our clients is a reflection of the company as a whole. Here are some potential problems and pain points to be wary of:

  • Vague description of the product or service
  • Incorrect invoice number or purchase order
  • Missing details
  • Sending invoices to the wrong company or person
  •  Misuse of your invoices

For Stewart, ConnectWise Automation and CloudConsole simplify the customer experience. As a cloud solution provider, Vision Computer Solutions benefits from proactive monitoring of every Office365 & Azure License authentication of every billing cycle. When CloudConsole automates the billing process, Stewart can save time counting each specific user, and more time delivering accurate information about our client’s usage. CloudConsole also recognizes when your user’s billing cycle is accurate or missing some information based on usage for that month. This kind of predictability in your accounting department will be appreciated by your customer, especially if you’re agreeing to terms with IT services that include capped licensing for users.

Want your customers to pay you on time, or even ahead of schedule? With ConnectWise Automation, invoice billing mistakes that slow down the transaction process are now error-free and easier to understand from the clients perspective. The idea with this automation is to put detail in what matters most. Vague product and service descriptions only halt the cycle of delivering a crucial touchpoint where your trust and credibility are on the line.

When it comes to productivity tools in technology, one might only appreciate the tech that’s always in the spotlight. WiFi, geofencing and voice recognition are all profound in our daily life. However, customizable service tools like ConnectWise Automation, CloudConsole, and Quickbooks are a core function of those very same technologies and to all of our clients in Southeast Michigan.

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Protect Yourself From a New Hire Disaster With These Questions June 28, 2017

 

Whether you’re in the process of starting your own firm or adding a new location to your business, hiring the right people is a critical undertaking that requires a systematic approach. Like any personnel, hiring the right Managed Service Provider (MSP) to support IT functions inside your small medium-sized business. We want to empower your decision-making to be a lasting and productive asset to the core operations of your business. If you’re shopping online for a managed services in the Detroit area or heading into the first introductory meeting to discuss IT support, arm yourself with these questions:

  1. How long have you been in business?

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, roughly 50% of small businesses fail within the first 5 years, your ideal candidate will have a track record for staying open well past the 5-year plateau.

2.How many engineers do you have working on your helpdesk, what kind of specialized training does your company mandate before technicians will serve my company?

Your goal should be to find a firm with multiple technicians that specialize in a variety of services. Most MSP’s incorporate the philosophy of being good at everything. We all know in reality this is not possible. The great Managed IT support in Detroit focus certain technologies on a core group of people in their staff. This ensures your outsourced IT department will have engineers dedicated to a singular project handling different processes

3.Do you have a ticketing system that prioritizes my specific needs?

Your company is unique, your MSP should recognize and sort through your needs based on every attribute of your business. Utilizing a ticket system coordinates all points of contacts that have been made, conveys the urgency of certain problems and creates a uniform understanding of the stability in your environment.

4.Are you on the MSPmentor 501 list?

MSP Mentor Top MSP's nationwaide

This places a good measure on your chosen partner that you’re interviewing or through online search. Each year MSPmentor publishes the highest rated MSP’s in the world. If your candidate in on this list, they must be doing something right. Bonus Tip: don’t hesitate to ask an MSP to provide references.

Signing over key components of your business can be a daunting task, but if you know the right questions to ask you will find the right fit for your company. Start your search today with confidence!

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Managed IT Services are a Perfect Fit For Detroit Business June 15, 2017

 

 

Say you have an idea that is setting your business up for future success. Actually, you have a GREAT idea; one you believe can find its place in a competitive small-and-medium business market to benefit the Detroit area. So, what are the next steps to fund, nurture, and grow your fledgling company into prominent viability?

This used to be a daunting question for many. However, in the past 5 years, Detroit has shown resiliency for small businesses across a multitude of industries. And what’s even more impressive is the success achieved by taking the path less traveled.

Small and medium sized startups across the U.S. are thriving- particularly TechTown Detroit, which has established itself as one of the most vibrant. According to the Michigan Economic Development Commission, private investments for startups totaled $770 million, in 2015 alone.

There is a lot of hype pertaining businesses in Detroit, and for good reason. A different kind of consumer exists now where a combination of unique needs for products and services is at an all-time high. No matter the industry or stage you’re in, an investment into your company’s IT is one of the most critical early steps many underestimate.

Managed IT services are the perfect fit for Detroit business in three ways:

1. Access to a local enterprise-level IT support staff

Focus is a tremendous challenge even for mature companies with years in their industry. To build structure to your organization, a focus on sales and marketing needs to be unwavering. Getting the right people on your bus, so-to-speak, is important, but your time and funding are finite. One of the greatest benefits of working with Vision Computer Solutions’ Managed IT Services is the immediate access to several technical staff across multiple departments. This allows you to alleviate time spent on finding 3 new hires for security, and 2 more just to take care of your end-users troubleshooting.

2. Network and Infrastructure expertise

A lot of small and medium-sized business in Detroit thrive off innovation and impact technology brings to their company. Whether you’re aspiring to be the next big software company or just looking for more office space to grow your 10-seat law office, chances are you won’t have the technical staff whose skills and knowledge are ideal to keep up with vast network and infrastructure changes constantly. Instead of forcing a talented developer or employee with light knowledge of networking to wear multiple hats, your goal should be to build a talented team which allows breadth and depth. Consider partnering with managed IT services to work on the MSP model becoming a valuable asset and extension to your organization. Let your employees do what they were brought on to do, and Vision Computer Solutions will handle the rest.

3. Scalability

Whether you’re in the first 2-3 years as an organization or an established entity- one of your primary concerns should be scalability. One person in-house working for your staff of 4 is quite normal, but in a year or 2, what happens if you employ 30 more across multiple office locations? Planning a business roadmap accordingly is a make or break and in this market, there is a viable opportunity to experience

that kind of growth in a short period. As you grow, your extended managed IT support will have the resources and equipment to scale your success and measure what you need along the way.

As a managed IT services firm in Detroit with over 20 years experience, Vision Computer Solutions is ready to serve all of your networking, security, planning and support needs. We’ve been a leading IT provider committed to helping Michigan businesses thrive. When you succeed, we succeed.

 

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5 Ways SMBs Can Benefit More With Cloud Services June 8, 2017

 

If you’re in the process of finding the best cloud service, you’ve probably come across Microsoft Azure at some point during your search. That’s not a mistake, it’s the most robust cloud platform currently out there. Offering a wide variety of cloud-based options for your business, from mobile application deployment to in-depth analytics. In fact, there is so much Azure brings to the table it can appear as a little overwhelming when searching for the right small business cloud solution. Azure’s most admirable feature as a small business solution is its flexibility. So as an owner, you can choose (and pay for) only the services you need. Here are five ways small businesses reap the value out of Microsoft Azure.

  1. Back up your data: These days, losing data can mean the livelihood of your business. If you currently do not have an off-site backup for worst case scenarios, you might want to consider Azure as the primary backup to any on-premises server and PC. Backup is the easiest and most secure long-term solution for archiving data without having to rely on phased out expensive and slow tape backups. And, your data securely stored and replicated across Microsoft data centers so it’s always there when you need it. Regulated industry? Azure can backup will preserve your data over the span of several years, so it’s always there when you need it.
  1. Be Prepared with Disaster Recovery: What would your business do if your on-premise server went down, or were damaged? How long could you go until you were up and running again? Azure Site Recovery is a cost-effective solution that applies replication to your virtual and physical servers in Azure so you’re back to where you started prior to downtime, in a matter of minutes.
  1. Manage Mobile Devices: As our work environments become more and more complex with mobile devices. Bring Your Own Device means we need to keep data secure while also improving access to key services that keep your workforce productive. Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) delivers with a set of services from Azure to help do just that. With their ID and password, employees can securely and safely sign into more than 2,500 SaaS applications. This empowers your organization to take control of devices in your network and selectively keep the data you need in your business.  Also, there is a rights management feature that lets you choose who can use which information and how they use it.
  1. Create Virtual Machines: Azure lets you spin up a newly created Virtual Windows Server, SQL server in just minutes. Which means the power of a server on-demand without the physical process of buying/setting up all the hardware. This is an easy way to run test environments to newly transitioned application into the cloud at an easily scalable rate.
  1. Improved mobile access to applications: With Azure RemoteApp, pick and choose which Windows applications are available down to every device, then run it securely through Azure infrastructure, even having the option to pick and choose what data stays on-premises.

As you can tell, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the cloud platform Azure. And as a small business cloud solution, security and scalability provide a great opportunity for innovation. If you’re still wanting to take a deeper look into the platform, send us an email or call at (248) 349-6115 and we’ll set up a free assessment of your environment.

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The Secrets to Keeping Your Employees Working (And Extremely Happy) June 1, 2017

Telecommuting and Flexibility 

Not all work and productivity happens between the hours of 9-5, nor does it need to happen inside the office. Today’s high demand for customer satisfaction around the clock forces business to operate outside standard operating hours. Remote work is fast becoming the new norm in the small and medium-sized business. Your employees will start to feel a sense of freedom and flexibility and also, for local smaller businesses, plus you can start taking advantage of a workforce that is outside of your normal boundaries for hire.

Cloud-based tools such as SharePoint or OneDrive are huge when bridging the gap between remote workers. This technology is easy to collaborate in a virtual environment where teams can work together in real-time on Office documents, or share saved files with accessibility to certain users. And don’t forget, your team will enjoy working from home but be sure you make weekly plans to interact weekly catch-up meetings. A hyper-collaborative work environment will only foster unity when employees can depend on each other.

Excellent Communication

With great access to tech tools that will empower your workforce, you also have the power and means to communicate proficiently with anyone at any time. Despite major improvements to workplace messaging, most companies still rely on email. You should still use email inside your company but having different avenues of communicating will keep employees from feeling that they’re always stuck in an email rut.

Per CareerBuilder, 55% of employees felt cell phones and texting were the biggest productivity killers, and 26% named email. Better communication leads to increased productivity, which can also tie in with employee retention. Office365 offers a ton of user-friendly programs featuring role-based project management and messaging to stay updated on progress for campaigns and internal events. If you have Office365 right now, look to Microsoft Teams, Planner and Skype for Business for the benefits mentioned above.

The Right Tools
There may be personal reasons for sticking with the old when it comes to technology. Unfortunately, this may affect how you’re perceived by your employees. If you embrace innovation your employees and brand are likely to follow that same path. And if your employees notice this, soon your customers will too, which ultimately leads to a transparent companywide mission that reinforces a unique culture. Above all, with the right technology solutions and IT provider, you can boost your organization’s efficiency and productivity.

Team members who are empowered to make the right decisions with their out of office roles will be your happiest and most fulfilled in the long run. And to make their job easier, leveraging technology cloud-based tools to automate at least some of their assignments throughout the week can match the increased demands in the workforce.

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Signs That You’re Falling Behind With Your Current IT Service Provider May 24, 2017

Your business only extends as far as its intended reach. Your current IT department may have started with a freelance expert, or maybe the family member or recent college grad who is “good with computers.” Doesn’t matter how you got here, but chances are, your business has developed more complex needs that are unique to specific personnel inside your company. All things considered, you may have outgrown your current model and may not even be aware. Here are the most common signs that it’s time to move on from your current IT solution:

Your email is frequently failing or just down completely

If your organization is consistently suffering from email outages or daily visits from your IT technician to reboot your server there is a strong possibility you’re behind in upgrades- delivering a serious decline in productivity, not to mention security.

Gone are the days when you needed to have your own dedicated email server, software, and technical support. Today, cloud email services are the new model for small and medium sized businesses. With a cloud email service like Office365, all you need is a connection to the internet and you’ve got mail. Also, with this solution, you can take out the grueling downtime and lost emails.

Your current IT support isn’t proactive, just reactive

If you look around your office and just see desktops running old versions of Windows operating systems, your IT provider should be urgently guiding you toward a plan to replace outdated and unsupported software. If you’re using end-of-life machines that are not supported with the latest software you’re taking the critical risk of doing business while operating a vulnerable network, which jeopardizes clients, partners, and your employees. If your outdated network is the only reason your current provider keeps getting your business, can you say they’re truly looking out for the health of your company?

If you’ve noticed that you are never in a position to make decisions for the future, but just relying on quick fixes to negate the past it’s time to begin searching for a new IT provider.

Searching for your new IT service provider

The first thing you need to do is evaluate your technology and overall company goals. Consider what benefits your organization needs when outsourcing your IT department. Vision Computer Solutions is a managed service provider (MSP) that can help you transition. Read our guide to managed service benefits or contact us for tailored solutions that fit any size business

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What we all Learned from the WannaCry Vulnerability May 16, 2017

On Friday, the globe experienced the wrath of a well-coordinated ransomware attack, known as WannaCry. This attack crippled thousands of public and private institutions overseas in an event that even led to hospitals having to postpone medical procedures.

Before the attack could reach the United States, a lone British researcher was able to find the WannaCry kill-switch. Serendipitously, this lone researcher analyzed the code of ransomware, found an unregistered domain name in the ransomware combination of characters and bought it for 10 dollars and change. Using the purchased domain they were able to analyze a particular pattern in the ransomware which led the domain to assert total control over the virus.

This widespread attack should serve as a warning to all of us. Even though this particular string of ransomware has been foiled, it certainly will not be the last string of ransomware that poses a threat to your security. So, what are the best practices for protecting your business or personal machine from ransomware? This is how our customers fight against ransomware right now:

  • Keep your software on all your machines up to date– Despite recent patches to the Windows 10 OS in March, many IT environments are still behind in their own patches of the software and/or may run an OS like Windows XP, which is no longer supported due to end of life support. Machines running current versions of the Windows OS we’re not affected by this ransomware. Vision Computer Solutions can automatically manage Windows OS patches for you, so you will always have the latest and most secure version of windows on your machine.
  • Always backup your data- A Datto Server backup is a savior when it comes to backing up files offline, so they cannot be infected. With a superior backup recovery solution like Datto, if you happen to get infected, your machines and data can get back to normal quickly without having to pay any type of ransom.
  • Be ultra careful with email attachments- Never open attachments in an email that are sent by someone you don’t know. Most common attachments with malicious intent usually contain Office documents like Word, Excel or PowerPoint, especially ZIP files. To keep our clients safe from email exploits, Clearmail Spam Filtering scans for ransomware and stops it before it gets to your inbox.
  • Security Solutions- Running a security solution that covers all your network devices from workstation to tablets. As ransomware variants are always evolving, a robust security solution thats up to date will detect its variants.  Services like Webroot Antivrius and Sonciwall Firewall are engineered to provide detection and removal of the latest definitions that are harmful to your environment.

If you’re currently unsure about the state of your IT environment take this free assessment, it is in your best interest to seek a robust solution these potential vulnerabilities in your network. We can offer a wide array of support to facilitate any of the services mentioned above. A safe a secure network is only a few clicks away! 

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