VideosThought Leadership: IT has taken up a permanent seat at the Big Kids’ table

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VideosThought Leadership: Cyber Security- Companies Need to Hop On Board and Invest

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IT Blogs5 Signs It’s Time to Replace a Legacy IT System

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Companies often postpone replacing legacy IT systems for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, the systems are kept because everyone is comfortable with using them. Other times, companies don’t want to disrupt business operations or drain their budgets.

However, there is a point at which legacy IT systems become a burden and hurt businesses. Here are five signs that it might be time to replace a legacy IT system in your business.

1. Your Legacy IT Infrastructure is Not Well Protected

Legacy IT systems are at higher risk of being attacked because they typically lack advanced technologies that can help protect them from cyberattacks. For example, legacy printers do not include intrusion detection technologies to guard against in-memory malware injection and other types of attacks.

Similarly, legacy IT systems often don’t have the support needed to secure them against new types of cyberattacks. Software providers, for instance, typically don’t provide security updates for applications once they have reached the end of their life cycles. Applications that don’t receive security updates are at higher risk of being compromised by newly discovered security vulnerabilities and threats. To make matters worse, cybercriminals often keep track of when software suppliers stop supporting their applications. Once the support ends, they launch new cyberattacks targeting those programs.

2. Your Bottom Line is Taking a Hit

Legacy IT systems can gnaw away at the bottom line. They tend to break down frequently, and having experts constantly come in to fix the problems can get expensive. Plus, the downtime caused by a breakdown can be just as costly.

Another possible expense is having to pay extra to support software that has reached the end of its life cycle. For example, companies that want to continue using Windows 7 after January 14, 2020, will have to pay extra to receive extended security updates.

3. Your IT Infrastructure Isn’t Playing Well With Others

Getting old and new IT systems to work together can be frustrating. Often, it’s impossible. For example, a company might not be able to install a new business app on a legacy computer because the app requires a more modern operating system, yet the operating system can’t be upgraded because the computer’s hardware won’t support it.

In some cases, businesses can use a workaround to get a legacy system and a new system to work together. However, the workaround might be expensive to create if it requires special equipment or expertise (e.g., custom coding). Plus, the workaround might slow down operations.

4. Employee Productivity is Suffering

Legacy IT systems can take a toll on employee productivity if employees have to constantly wait for a legacy IT system to do its task. For instance, employees might have to always wait for data to download if their company’s Wi-Fi router supports only the 802.11g, 802.11b, or 802.11a wireless specification. These routers have slower signal speeds compared to modern counterparts. Or employees might have to continually wait for resource-intensive apps to finish an operation if those apps are running on legacy computers. Older computers usually have less RAM and processing power than newer ones.

5. Your Customers’ Needs are No Longer Being Met

Companies must evolve to meet customers’ changing needs and in turn the IT systems must be designed to help meet those needs. For example, a grocery store might want to add a curbside delivery service since customers are requesting it and the store is losing business to competitors that offer this type of service. However, the store’s legacy IT systems might not have the functionality to carry out the back-end tasks needed to provide a curbside delivery service.

Is Your legacy IT System Becoming a Burden Rather Than an Asset?

Determining when a legacy IT system should be replaced can be difficult. Occasionally, the need for replacement is painfully obvious, but most of the time more subtle issues arise such as having maintenance costs creep up while employee productivity slinks down.

Synoptek’s IT system experts can assess the situation and help you determine whether the time has come to replace your legacy system. We can also provide you with recommendations on the best replacement IT systems.

Learn how we can help bring your IT strategy quickly up to speed, and guide you to the best possible answers to even the most complex technical challenges.

IT BlogsMicrosoft Inspire 2019: The Demand for IT Strategy [Part 1]

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In this 5-part series, Synoptek’s leadership provides insight from the 2019 Microsoft Inspire Conference and how emerging technology influences the future of business.

Most of us can recall the catchy phrase from David Bowie’s 1971 hit song Changes: “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, Turn and face the strange, Ch-ch-changes, Don’t want to be a richer man, Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, Turn and face the strange, Ch-ch-changes, There’s gonna have to be a different man, Time may change me, But I can’t trace time.”

The meaning of the lyrics is interesting because some say it tells the story of a matured man looking back at the mistakes he’s made in life. As it pertains to modern business, the lyrics are interesting because companies that are afraid to move away from old, inefficient technology and face short-term disruption are left struggling to keep up with the changes.

Recently a cohort of us Synoptekians attended Microsoft’s Inspire 2019 event. After a conversation a few days later with our VP of Professional Services, Miguel Sanchez, we decided to share a little about what struck us most.

Microsoft Inspire 2019: What It’s All About

For starters, Microsoft’s Inspire conference brought more than 40,000 IT Industry professionals to Las Vegas this year. The three-day summit was packed with energy and enthusiasm. It’s no wonder — technology continues to improve business outcomes, processes, productivity and revenue like never before.

Take the cloud for instance, one of the most prominent topics at the conference. With features like real-time reporting, mobile optimization, centralized data and increased security, cloud solutions give organizations a leg up when it comes to agility, accuracy and speed.

Yet, we learned an estimated 60 percent of Microsoft’s server-installed base is still on Windows Server and SQL Server 2008. The thing is, if you’re not already in the cloud or in the process of migrating to the cloud, you’re falling behind.

The Growing Demand for IT Strategy

Throughout the five days of announcements around technology updates, security enhancements and advanced specializations, a sobering message remained clear — businesses must make IT strategy aligned with the business strategy, their number-one priority.

Leaders are often overwhelmed with technology’s unprecedented pace, but it demands they take action. Many are straddled with legacy systems, old technology investments and just trying to keep up. In this mindset, new technology becomes a random decision, deeming itself insufficient, negatively impacting processes and the bottom line.

Winning organizations no longer think of IT as a cost center (buying, building and managing onsite technology) but as an enabler — a partner — sitting at the table, involved in business decisions and strategy planning, from the get-go.

Innovative platforms have emerged as the primary centerpieces in an overall strategy simply because they support 70% of business. For example, ecosystems, which put a customer’s end-to-end journey at the center of an experience and shape their overall relationship with a company, stress the need for service providers to work together. The future of ecosystems will require the platforms they operate in to be open, dynamic and therefore integrated. In that way, they can be functional in real time.

Microsoft Is Lessening the Impact

For those afraid to take this first leap, Microsoft is lessening the impact. Their new ISV Studio provides a consolidated view into how ISV apps are performing across their customer tenants and enabling access to insights about key adoption metrics such as the number of tenants and install successes/failures, empowering ISVs to identify and act on bottlenecks slowing down adoption.

Microsoft is also moving beyond transactional partnerships to a world where partners are encouraged and incented to innovate on top of Microsoft products, adding value for customers and creating new solutions and revenue opportunities. For example, Microsoft Windows for Virtual Desktop (WVD) offers many benefits to adopting cloud-based virtualization and scaling a workplace environment — from cost reduction and flexibility to performance and compatibility.

So, How Does an Organization Start?

For some, it makes sense to select a completely integrated platform, yet they often feel ill equipped, under pressure and concerned about risk. IT leaders need to know it’s not about picking the latest and greatest application — it’s about taking that 30,000-foot view, looking at their strategic requirements and first asking what platform meets the needs of their business.

Which business applications will best enable our employees and operations? Where will they live? What sort of infrastructure do we need to win? How do we modernize our work to be more productive? These were the themes being hit at Inspire. The question remains, if IT strategy is an after-thought, an organization risks everything else becoming accidental, inconsistent and ineffective.

Concurrently, in a world full of data breaches, security weaves in and out of all things. When businesses think linearly — starting with a strategy, then a platform and how the technology within will operate in that platform — from the Cloud and Business Applications to Productivity, Data and AI — they set up a stronger infrastructure and in turn, stronger security. Microsoft is already investing over $1 billion in security every year and have pledged to increase their focus in this area even further. The Microsoft Security Competency was unveiled at Inspire, with an emphasis also on cloud security. By leveraging AI and other tools, the ability for the cloud to secure an environment is unparalleled. Microsoft is increasingly utilizing real-time AI to protect highly sensitive data, analyzing signals from billions of sources. Ironically, for those many CIOs who are overwhelmed and unsure of how to integrate new technology into their overall strategies, whose fear of risk keeps them from sun setting legacy processes and applications that no longer evolve, their weak infrastructure puts them at a greater risk for not only staying relevant and competitive but for security breaches.

The writing is on the wall — Microsoft’s emerging platforms offer a comprehensive suite of solutions, now and in the years to come. If companies want to take full advantage of these offerings and lead ahead, they have two choices: Create a 5 to10-year strategy — one that leverages IT — or continue to rely on disparate and archaic technologies with outdated applications and systems and become obsolete.

Final Thoughts

At Synoptek, we believe no business should be left behind because they can’t keep up with the pace of technology. Shift from reactionary — a backlog of projects, outdated systems, inefficient spending to growing and evolving — leveraging technology to improve your operations and your budget.

Put simply, we’ll be there with you as you turn and face the strange. Contact us to create a plan, remove the pressure and apply technology so your business performs to its fullest potential.

Stay tuned as Synoptek’s leadership shares their key takeaways from Microsoft’s Inspire 2019 Conference.  


Part 2: How Data and AI are bridging the gap between human and machine

Martin Liberal
Martin is the Practice Development Manager for Professional Services at Synoptek. He helps businesses get healthier and grow by improving their technology and aligning it with their strategy and goals. (And when it comes to customer service, he settles for nothing short of a home run.)

“Ninety percent of all stored data has been created in the last two years. Our brains simply don’t have the capacity to absorb it all. The machine will be there to augment not replace us, bringing more meaning to our day-to-day work.”


Part 3: Microsoft is making a major investment in developing and expanding cloud infrastructures

Ken KnoxKen Knox
Ken is a Practice Lead at Synoptek. He works with C-level business leaders to build technology into their overall strategy, ensuring IT aligns with business goals, delivers on time and within budget.

“From Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) to Office 365 to Modern Workplace, Microsoft is enabling better collaboration between Teams, SharePoint and applications that integrate with both.”


Part 4: Every company needs to become a technology company to participate in today’s digital economy

Joey Lei
Joey is Director of Service Management at Synoptek and leads the development and management of the managed services portfolio.

“Many organizations are fearful of the risk and disruption from integrating new technology, so they continue with inefficient systems. The risk of not evolving far outweighs this mandatory shift in perspective — to the point that it will crush businesses.”


Part 5: Power Platform and Dynamics 365 are Changing how organizations run, innovate, and grow

AK Nandwana
AK is Practice Development Manager for Professional Services at Synoptek and leads the Dynamics ERP practice team. He’s best known as a creative thinker and engaging communicator who finds new ways of helping its customers deploy Biz Apps, solve day-to-day business problems and save money in this fast-paced, competitive IT industry.

“Once an organization has the infrastructure, and Business Applications for harnessing data, they also need a layer atop that data that enables them to get insights easily. With Power BI, PowerApps and Flow, Microsoft has built a completely new app platform that reduces cost and changes how applications are built and deployed.”

Thought leadershipThe Evolution of Digital Platforms
by Miguel Sanchez

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How To Build Social Media Into Your Strategy and Create Customer Experience

 

 

By Miguel Sanchez,

VP of Professional Services

 

 

 

When we consider social media as a way to boost business, we typically think of advertising, blogs and articles. And while that can be all well and good (I’m writing this article right now), what builds relationships is customer engagement and customer service — and when used properly, it can impact the success of a business, tenfold.

With a smartphone clutched in everyone’s hands, companies have opportunities to engage, connect, and influence 24/7, like never before. It’s been proven, businesses that integrate social media marketing into their IT strategies are the ones increasing revenue and winning.

Let’s look at the different ways you can include social media in your strategy and then leverage a few strategies to capture attention — and revenue — some obvious, others might come as a surprise.

 

Who’s your audience?

In the past decade, we’ve seen the decrease of print and radio, leaving room for social media to step in. Whether you’re sharing through posts, ads or videos, social media is a direct connection to your target audience. How should you take the first step toward success? Choose the most effective social media for your business — consider your target audience and goals. For example, LinkedIn captures the attention of the professional world and Instagram caters to the selfie-taking millennials. Examine your industry, including competition, your brand, products, and objectives. Every channel has a unique audience and purpose. LinkedIn’s “Why and When to Use Different Social Media Channels” is a helpful guide.

It’s worth mentioning, as consumer demographics change, millennials are becoming a driving force in online shopping. With ecommerce sales in the United States projected to surpass $504 billion by the end of this year, it’s no surprise they’re the most valuable target demographic.* Businesses need to take millennial buying power seriously and know how to leverage social media to get them to engage them and respond.

 

Personalization

The latest trend? Personalized marketing, which uses data to deliver more relevant messages to your target audience.

Personalization makes consumers feel they have some control over what they want to see as they have information bombarding them from every direction 24/7. In fact, studies have found that three-fourths of all consumers are much more motivated to buy from a company that not only knows their name but also makes recommendations based on previous purchases.

If you haven’t already, the first step is to develop a strategy to help you better understand your customers, then customize your content to them. As social media platforms become increasingly segmented, it’s important to know which ones will reach your audience. Trying to create generalized content that will perform across all channels is misguided. If you’re selling video games you’d most likely want to communicate your personalized content through Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram because that’s where your target audience teens and millennials are.

After you communicate, next, listen and engage. To truly have a relationship, connect with your brand and build a relationship, you need to find out what problems you can solve and what they want — whether it’s products and services or more content.

Companies that don’t maintain communication with their audience will lose the personal connection that breeds loyalty. This is why personalization requires continual analysis on how well it’s reaching and connecting. You’re after long-term relationships, and if done right, personalization is the way to get there.

 

The Gap

What happens once a product or service is purchased?

There’s no control over the experience that happens after that. Shep Hyken, from Forbes, coined this “The Moment of Truth Gap.” Here he found opportunities for companies to step in and continue to connect. So, let’s say you purchase outdoor lighting from Bill’s Lights, Bill and his company can provide suggestions on creative ways to hang it. Or maybe it’s during the holidays, they could share ideas on how to decorate your tree or mantle. These are examples of a branded experience while the customer waits for the merchandise to arrive. This idea applies to services as well — maybe your daughter just got braces, her orthodontist could give information on how to ease pain, best foods to eat and good ones to avoid. It’s all about understanding a customer’s journey and meeting them there.

 

User-Generated Content (UGC)

Let’s go back to Airbnb – masters of UGC — which is what happens when you ask your customers to post their interaction with your product or service, usually searchable across social media channels using a hashtag. Because Instagram is where millennials go to share their lifestyle and Airbnb’s brand is associated with “cool,” it’s a perfect fit. If UGC is done correctly, with a lot of other strategic marketing efforts, then marketing will eventually happen organically. In the case of Airbnb, there are currently 3.8 million photos using #airbnb on Instagram — and counting. Wow!

 

Tweeting to Respond and Engage

Twitter was created for quick and honest conversations. This is an opportunity for companies to respond quickly and efficiently to customers’ concerns and comments. There’s more benefit — businesses can also take advantage of interacting and engaging with customers who share their #company experiences on Twitter from their main accounts. Again, real life interactions can speak volumes.

 

 

 

Seamless User Experience

What can you do to boost the customer experience? The highest levels of service. Make everything your customers could ever want or need right at the tip of their fingers. Put simply, you intuit what’s next for them. And Disney has it nailed. Once you’ve booked a trip, you can use the My Disney Experience tool to plan your entire trip, from where you’ll dine to securing your Fast Pass. In the park, you can use your mobile app to locate the attractions you want to see, as well as view the estimated wait time for each of them.

The entertainment company takes it one step further, though, with the release of its Magic Band Program. This tool acts as a hotel room key, a photo storage device for any pictures taken of you with Disney characters, and a food ordering tool. Plus, it even has Fast Pass integration to keep your vacation moving.

 


 

About the Author

Miguel Sanchez,

VP of Professional Services

Miguel Sanchez is VP of Professional Services at Synoptek, a Global Systems Integrator (SI) and Managed IT Services Provider (MSP) offering Comprehensive IT Management and Consultancy Services to organizations worldwide. Miguel is responsible for strategy development, business growth, and client relationship management for Synoptek’s consulting practice. . With over 18 years of experience in developing IT strategy, leading business solutions by leveraging best practice process methodologies and managing large-scale IT solutions, and systems implementation.

 


 

About Synoptek

Synoptek is a global systems integrator and managed IT services provider offering comprehensive IT management and consultancy services to organizations worldwide. Founded in 2001; headquartered in Irvine, CA, we have offices and resources across North America and delivery centers in Europe and Asia.

 

IT BlogsOvercoming Common Cloud Deployment Challenges

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When companies move operations to the cloud, they no doubt expect to see benefits such as reduced costs and more agility. But, do these expectations turn into reality?

To answer this question, researchers at Accenture  surveyed companies that have moved their operations to the cloud. In response to the survey, ZDNet staff decided to conduct its own research by interviewing a panel of senior IT executives. Here’s what Accenture and ZDNet found.

Achieving the Full Benefits of Cloud Deployment

To determine whether moving to the cloud is as beneficial as expected, Accenture researchers surveyed 200 senior IT executives (CIOs, VPs, and directors) at companies using public, private, and hybrid clouds.

What the Survey Says

The executives were asked to specify the degree to which their organizations have achieved the expected benefits of reduced costs, increased speed to market, better ability to meet business goals, and improved service levels. The executives were also asked to rate their level of satisfaction with the realized benefits and any barriers they encountered while trying to achieve them.

The researchers discovered that while almost all (96%) of the companies achieved the four expected benefits to some extent, only 35% have fully achieved all four benefits. Factors that appear to influence whether businesses are realizing the full benefits are:

Degree of adoption. Not surprisingly, companies with mature cloud deployments have fully realized the desired benefits more often than businesses that are just beginning or at an intermediate stage of cloud adoption.

Type of cloud. Only 28% of the companies with private clouds are fully achieving the benefits compared to 42% of businesses with public clouds and 38% of companies with hybrid clouds.

The top two barriers to fully realizing the benefits are “security and compliance risk” (65%) and “complexity of business and organizational change” (55%).

Interestingly, most of the surveyed IT executives were very satisfied (44%) or satisfied (49%) with the outcomes delivered. This has led the researchers to conclude that any degree of improvement is sufficient enough to clear the bar of minimum expectations.

What Senior IT Executives are Saying

After learning the results of the Accenture survey, the ZDNet staff wanted to see whether other companies are having similar experiences with their cloud deployments. It asked a panel of 12 senior IT executives (CIOs, VPs, directors, and others) if their companies’ cloud deployments are living up to their expectations. Half of them reported that they aren’t seeing the expected benefits.

However, this doesn’t mean these businesses aren’t finding high-value cloud services or providers, according to one of the panelists. “One misperception is that [the] cloud is simple and you just connect to it,” he noted. “Like premises-based services, it is a complex ecosystem that is ever-evolving (faster, hopefully). It takes ongoing diligence to get it right.”

How to Overcome Cloud Deployment Challenges

To close the gap between the expected benefits and reality of cloud deployment, your company needs to:

Prepare. A key step when migrating operations to the cloud is to define the goals for the cloud deployment and assess your company’s ability and available resources (including staff) to meet those goals. This assessment will highlight the gap between what you expect and what is realistically possible at that time so you can find ways to close it. The assessment can also help your business deal with the complexity of organizational change before it becomes a barrier.

Manage the security risks. With cyberattacks growing in number and sophistication, companies need to manage the security risks associated with cloud computing before those risks become obstacles. This can then help mitigate the risk of not complying with applicable privacy regulations. To manage the security risks, you need to understand the threats that your organization faces in the cloud and develop a security strategy to deal with them. You also need to put systems and procedures in place to detect attacks and minimize the damage that hackers can do if an attack occurs.

Get the help you need. Businesses often do not have the expertise needed to close the gap between expectations and reality. Unfortunately, organizations typically realize they lack the necessary cloud skills when performing the actual migration, according to a study conducted by Forrester. To achieve the best possible outcomes, cloud expertise should be sought early on.

Finding an experienced partner will help you fully realize the benefits of moving your company’s operations to the cloud. Synoptek’s cloud specialists can guide you through planning, securing, and managing your deployment.

Consult with a cloud expert so that you may fully reap the benefits of your cloud infrastructure.

IT Blogs5 Reasons Why You Should Choose a Cloud CRM for Your Business – Part 2

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The realm of enterprise systems has changed dramatically from being standalone systems that enable specific departments to carry out a curated set of tasks. They now play a much bigger role in modern enterprise.

In today’s highly integrated IT environment, they need to work in a cohesive manner with all other systems within (and without) the enterprise, so organizations can drive better value. For this reason, organizations need to make strategic moves to rationalize their IT environment so that the underlying applications fit into the new cloud CRM strategy.

According to a report by Gartner, cloud will represent 75% of total CRM spend in 2019. Unlike traditional on-premises CRM systems, cloud-based CRM systems are easy to set up, and use. Cloud CRM vendors offer a host of flexible deployment options, and manage all updates, maintenance, and storage.

Because of this, sales teams can focus on areas that matter the most – improving customer experience and driving substantial business value.

With intuitive UIs, deep integration capabilities, and round-the-clock accessibility, cloud CRMs are a great tool to improve team productivity and enhance business agility. Teams can seamlessly carry out tasks across multiple departments, and locations with ease.

5 Reasons to Implement a Cloud CRM

Here are 5 reasons why you should implement a cloud CRM for your business:

1. Easy Set Up

For any enterprise system to be widely adopted, it should be easy to set up and use. With cloud CRM, you can get up and running in no time. All you need is to do is purchase the CRM software, log into the system. From there, you can instantly leverage the host of capabilities. A cloud based CRM system eliminates the need to make upfront costs such as hardware set up, server and software maintenance, complex installations, data migrations, or even upgrades. Everything is taken care of by the cloud-CRM service provider. Your IT teams can drive their focus on more business-critical tasks, and let the provider maintain and manage the system end-to-end.

2. Seamless Integration

Ensuring fulfilling customer experiences tops the list for any sales organization. Cloud CRM can provide teams with end-to-end visibility into customer information such as personal details, and order history. Because it is well-integrated with a bevy of other enterprise, back office, LOB, and legacy applications, teams can view data from various sources in a centralized repository. With instant access to important customer data, teams can make better sales decisions, and boost customer experience with timely service and support.

3. Around-the-Clock Accessibility

Gone are the days when sales teams had to wait until they reached the office to access a critical customer complaint. With cloud CRM, teams can enjoy around-the-clock access to data and respond to customer queries in real-time. From the office, to on the road, even from the comfort of their own home,  the sales team can access these data using the device of their choice. Teams can make urgent sales calls on-the-go, make changes to sales proposals, quickly sift through the prospect list, send emails to their managers, and more.

4. Unlimited Sales Capabilities

A cloud-based CRM system streamlines complex administrative tasks, allowing you to focus on forging, and strengthening relationships that matter. It allows organizations of different sizes and industries customize the solution to suit specific business requirements. Using cloud CRM, teams can run multi-channel campaigns, nurture leads, personalize customer journeys, get insight into sales performance, track metrics, and communicate and collaborate with resources across the sales organization.

5. Increased Productivity

Whether it is contacting a lead, unearthing insights into customer behavior, making a sales call or personalizing an interaction, a cloud CRM enables sales teams to have access to a variety of tools needed to drive better sales outcomes. Because teams have real-time access to the data they need, there is a clear increase in productivity levels; teams no longer must sort through different applications to find the data they need. Every piece of information is readily available for immediate access, modification, and sharing.

Enhance Customer Retention and Loyalty

For sales teams looking to be more customer-centric in their approach, close deals faster, and offer unmatched customer experiences, a modern cloud CRM is a winner. It enables sales organizations to keep customer-related information in one place, personalize communications, and foster long-lasting relationships.

A cloud-based CRM system offers several functionalities needed to remain competitive, which enables sales executives to simultaneously access the same information at the same time – anywhere, anytime and any device. With instant access to real-time insights, it allows teams to perform important sales tasks such as qualifying leads, measuring sales metrics, closing sales deals, and more, while enhancing customer retention and loyalty.

Interested in learning how a cloud CRM can help your business? Contact one of our experts today.

IT BlogsThe Role of Cloud in IT Infrastructure – Part 1

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As businesses evolve with time, they acquire and accrue a melee of systems, software, and technologies. But despite being surrounded by an abundance of technology, organizations struggle in devising actionable plans that drive efficiencies, cost savings, and support growth in an efficient and sustainable manner.

This is because these systems, which made sense at the time they were purchased, tend to become obsolete as the market evolves, technology disrupts, and organizations need change. For CIOs looking to drive value through IT investments, it is important to embrace a cloud app platform to promote effective use and maintenance of IT assets and devise strategies to drive an IT infrastructure for maximum ROI.

Keeping Pace with the Constantly Changing Business Landscape

The business environment is constantly evolving. New applications, tools, and technologies are continuously being introduced which makes it critical for organizations to measure the effectiveness of their existing systems and their impact on business results.

There are several reasons why organizations must enable change through their IT to keep up with the constantly changing business landscape:

  • IT decisions that have been made by several decision makers over time are not in accordance and require CIOs to make major adjustments in IT strategies
  • Businesses who failed at carrying out due diligence to find a configurable off the shelf software product and built one in-house instead lack the agility they need to stay competitive
  • Software systems that get inherited from mergers and acquisitions often get stretched to encompass various avatars over time and need to be overhauled
  • Legacy systems that have been heavily customized pose a complexity barrier to a replacement as they are outdated and carry high opportunity and maintenance costs

Why IT Rationalization Makes Sense

Despite the massive degree of IT disruption, today’s organizations struggle with converting resources into actionable plans because their IT systems are holding them back – restricting them from driving efficiencies, cost savings, and supporting growth in an efficient and sustainable manner. Such obsolete technology is also looked down upon by the modern customer who expects agility and innovation in products and services.

For such organizations, rationalization is a great way to identify and assess the real value of their IT assets (as opposed to the perceived value) while allowing them to capitalize on their investments and reduce IT complexity.

IT rationalization helps organizations make the right IT decisions while streamlining the process of IT management. Not only is it cost-effective for businesses in the long run, it is also long-lasting, and scalable. It helps organizations effectively manage the IT portfolio in a manner that is predictive, value-based, and promotes efficiency. Through a continuous review of IT assets, it ensures maximum operational capability and flexibility at the lowest cost.

What’s in a Cloud App Platform?

As the public cloud service market grows to $331.2 billion by 2022 organizations on the road to digital transformation have a lot of benefit from. Cloud adoption is a great way for organizations to keep business and IT aligned, while enabling them to get rid of legacy systems that restrict them from easily meeting their goals.

IT rationalization using a cloud app platform offers modules and applications that are configured to specific business needs, allowing organizations to meet their goals faster:

  • A cloud app platform offers robust integration workloads that help in orchestrating complex workflows and built-in security that ensures critical data is always safeguarded
  • It allows businesses to easily connect applications and data across different clouds, accelerate time to insights, while offering better understanding of business, customers, market, and competition
  • It also allows organizations to continuously stay current with the technological landscape and carry out support/maintenance activities with ease
  • It helps them leverage modern, cutting-edge features that help in gaining a competitive edge, and provides a great platform to expand their tech ecosystem to keep up with the times

Drive Agility and Innovation

IT investment decisions are never easy to make. While it is easy to assess the perceived value of an IT asset, given how each asset is integrated in a complex ecosystem of distinct processes, applications, and technologies, calculating the real value is a Herculean task.

In a digital transformation era, an IT rationalization strategy can enable businesses to harness real value from existing IT portfolios, while reducing the cost of IT management, and improving operational efficiencies. And with a cloud app platform, organizations can drive IT growth and innovation like never before.

By opening the doors to new standards for legacy and new systems, it helps organizations effectively design, operate, and maintain those applications. Irrespective of where you are in the rationalization journey, using a cloud app platform is a great way to drive business agility and innovation.

Learn more about how a cloud app platform can help your IT infrastructure journey.

IT BlogsHow to Protect Your Data From a Cybersecurity Breach

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Suppose you’re a burglar who wants to break into a warehouse to steal merchandise. The only ways to enter are to squeeze through a small window that’s guarded by a burglar alarm or to steal the keys for the loading dock’s door. Which would you choose? Most burglars would choose the latter, as it’s an easier, less risky way to get into the building.

Cybercriminals are no different. Rather than devise a risky, time-consuming ploy to hack into a network that’s guarded by a security system, most cybercriminals would choose to enter through the main door by stealing the keys — the account’s username and password — for the database account.

Credential Theft for Data Breaches

Using stolen credentials for data breaches is very high on hackers’ tactics list. According to the 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report it’s topped only by phishing – another tactic to steal credentials.

Stealing account usernames and passwords is often referred to as credential or data harvesting. Data breaches aren’t the only reason why cybercriminals harvest information. They also use them to steal money, such as using stolen bank account credentials to pilfer money from an account, and hijack accounts, such as using stolen email account credentials to carry out Business Email Compromise, or BEC, attacks.

In addition, hackers sell harvested data on the dark web. For example, the credentials for an online payment service such as PayPal sell for $20 to $200, according to Experian.

Because of the prevalence and serious consequences of data harvesting, you need to protect your company’s account credentials. To do so, though, you first need to understand how cybercriminals steal credentials.

3 Common Ways Cybercriminals Harvest Data

Although cybercriminals are constantly coming up with new ways to steal data and credentials, they often rely on a tried-and-true method: phishing emails.

1. Phishing Emails

According to the 2019 Global Phish Report, credential harvesting is the goal of 41% of phishing emails. These mass emails typically try to trick recipients into clicking a link that leads to a malicious web page. The page might dupe them into entering their login credentials, or it might load credential-stealing malware on their devices.

Alternatively, phishing emails might try to trick recipients into opening an attachment that includes malicious code. The code initiates a process that installs credential-stealing malware on the recipients’ devices.

2. Social Engineering Scams

Another common way hackers steal credentials is through social engineering scams. These highly personalized scams can occur via email, over the phone, and even in person. The hackers often masquerade as employees, but sometimes they pretend to be business associates (e.g., suppliers) or trusted outside authority figures (e.g., external auditors).

They spin a tale to get the target to reveal the credentials for an account. To make the tale believable, the hackers usually learn the business lingo, search the internet for information that can help them with their impersonations, and use techniques such as caller-ID or email-address spoofing to make it appear as if the call or email is from a legitimate contact.

3. Malware

Malware is also commonly used to steal credentials. For example, cybercriminals like to use keyloggers, which capture victims’ keystrokes. Hackers get keyloggers onto victims’ devices through phishing emails, drive-by downloads, and other means.

Digital skimmers are also becoming popular among cybercriminals. Hackers insert these malicious scripts into web tools (e.g., plug-ins) on eCommerce websites. The digital skimmers then steal credentials that visitors enter into login pages and payment information they provide in online payment forms.

How to Protect Your Company’s Data

Data harvesting is a serious threat to all businesses, no matter their size or industry. Measures that you can take to help keep your company’s data safe include:

  • Educate employees about phishing emails and social engineering scams. Knowing about the common elements found in each type of attack can help employees recognize when one is occurring.
  • Use two-step verification for business accounts when possible. That way, if hackers harvest the credentials for one of those accounts, they won’t be able to access it.
  • Make sure your security software is up to date on your business’s devices so that keyloggers and other types of malware are detected. You might even consider using advanced security solutions that have features such as keystroke obfuscation and the ability to prevent employees from reusing their company credentials on eCommerce websites and other non-approved sites.

In addition, you can implement other measures to reduce your company’s attack surface and strengthen its overall security defenses. For instance, you can eliminate unnecessary local accounts and follow the principle of least privilege for the remaining ones.

Synoptek’s security professionals can walk you through your options and help you develop a comprehensive strategy to defend against data harvesting and other types of cyber attacks.

Contact us to set up a consultation about your cybersecurity options.

IT BlogsWhat is Ransomware? & How to Prevent Attacks

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What is Ransomware and Why are Attacks So Dangerous?

By design unlike other malware, ransomware is usually “resident” on a computer temporarily with “authenticated” credentialed access. To avoid detection before its encryption algorithm has completed its objective, ransomware tends to search for and neutralize endpoint protection to guarantee successful payload delivery. Additionally, the encrypting hostile code attached to ransomware may show up on the target system just prior to the encryption process being completed.

Is It Me, Or Is It Raining Ransomware?

Over the past 10 days, there has been a dramatic increase in ransomware attacks throughout the general public market, which has impacted many organizations as part of this growing problem. We continue to see this pervasive problem threaten the business landscape. We have noticed patterns of activity that should be addressed as part of proper IT security hygiene to improve cyber defense.

According to a recent report, ransomware detections have rocketed beyond 365% year-over-year in just the second quarter of 2019!

Many of the points of origin for these recent ransomware attacks are stemming from an initial compromise associated with Port 3389 (RDP). In June 2019, Synoptek sent out a public service announcement that reported the critical RDP exploit, also known as BlueKeep.

While there is no evidence to support that BlueKeep is the entry exploit that is impacting organizations, it does, however, contribute to the increased interest among bad actors to search for exploitable public facing RDP. In some observed cases, ransomware was a secondary malicious payload delivered after the attacker gained authenticated access to the system by leveraging publicly accessible RDP.

Reducing the Threat of Ransomware

Given the range and size of our client portfolio, Synoptek is working to ensure we are actively advising our clients of the potential risk associated with critical vulnerability such as the publicly accessible RDP issue (which may be either open by design or inadvertently, due to the communication protocols tied to the Microsoft Windows Operating System), and provide the appropriate contingencies ahead of a compromise.

With the introduction of SaaS services (i.e., Azure & AWS), vendors may not have considered security foremost because the implementation of quality-of-life features comes at the expense of basic security parameters.

There are some preemptive actions that can and should be taken. Preemptive measures aid in greatly reducing the threat of a ransomware attack. Additionally, it may improve the overall threat defensive posture of a computing environment against pervasive exploits.

How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks

While this problem continues to burden the general population, the following steps will go a long way to help businesses improve their chances of driving the bad guys elsewhere. Just like being chased by the bear in the woods—you don’t have to be faster than the bear, just faster than the guy next to you!

The tools are available; they just need to be used!

  • Secure configurations: The basics can go a long way. For example, proper network segregation, network and endpoint protection strategy, suspicious activity detection and response are just a few things that can help mitigate impact.

Don’t just give anyone the keys to the kingdom.

  • Role-based access and the “Least Privilege” principle: Restricted user permissions (relating to installing and running software applications), and “least privilege” end-user access based on the role should be core to business operations, maintenance, monitoring and management of IT systems. Keeping privileges restricted will impact the movement of threats including malware. The single most impactful configuration as part of a security strategy for authentication is to add multi-factor authentication for all publicly accessible assets and services.

Did you lock the front door?

  • Edge firewall basics: Be sure to regularly review all firewall configurations to ensure any unintended exposure is closed immediately. Consider subscribing to an OSINT reputation service to automagically block access to known malicious actors. As a result of this Port 3389 exploit, any external RDP access should be moved behind a VPN or at least IP restricted to known office locations.

What did you fix that needed fixing?

  • Patch management: Vendors provide fixes to known and exploitable vulnerabilities. Make it a point to implement the fixes and be sure that all systems and software are current with respect to their patching and updates. Ransomware and exploit kits hosted on compromised websites are the usual route for spreading ransomware, thus routine review of patching of vulnerable software play an essential factor to reducing the threat of compromise.

How Synoptek can Help

As a standard practice for all customers, Synoptek works to ensure that we are actively advising all clients of the potential risk associated with critical vulnerability, such as the publicly accessible RDP issue and providing appropriate contingencies ahead of a compromise.

By helping businesses cover the basics of security, we take preemptive actions listed above that could greatly reduce the threat of a ransomware attack, which may improve the overall threat defensive posture of a computing environment against these pervasive exploits.

Learn more about how Synoptek keeps up with the latest security practices to protect your systems.