Top 4 Windows 11 Interface Updates

Microsoft has launched the all-new Windows 11, bringing users some much-needed improvements and updates. Take a look at the top 4 interface updates on Windows 11:

Overall Interface

The Windows 11 interface will soon rival the design world’s beloved MacOS interface. Features include a cleaner, minimalist design with rounded corners and light, pastel shades.

Start Button

Since Windows 95, the Windows Start Button has always been in the lower-left corner. On Window’s 11, it will now be placed at the bottom center of the screen. This is one of the most significant changes in interface and navigation, allowing the start button to be more visible.

Taskbar

When Windows 11 first rolled out, users found the taskbar not as configurable as Windows 10, and some customization needed to be done. Since then, Microsoft has made some changes making the taskbar more manageable. For example, users can decide whether the taskbar shows more of their chosen pins, recommendations from the software, or the default combination of both. Users can also view the full taskbar on 2nd or 3rd monitors and choose the size of the taskbar.

Microsoft Teams Integration

Microsoft Teams is essential for productivity with the continued importance of remote work. Microsoft Teams will be located in the Windows taskbar, allowing the app to be more integrated than before. This is comparable to Apple’s FaceTime app in macOS, where launching video calls is easy to navigate. As always, Microsoft Teams will be available on Mac, iOS, Android devices, and Windows PCs.

Now Micro is ready to deploy devices that are compatible with Windows 11 for your organization. Visit our website or reach out to our Senior Systems Consultant and Windows expert, Jon Anderson at jona@nowmicro.com to learn how you can integrate Windows 11 into your network.

5 Reasons You Should Consider Outsourcing Your IT

There is already so much unpredictability when running a business, but IT issues don’t have to be a part of that. Managed service providers can remotely monitor your network 24/7, 365 days a year to ensure you experience as little downtime as possible.

Here are 5 reasons you should consider outsourcing your IT:

1. Cost

Many small to medium-sized businesses expect that outsourcing their IT is unnecessary and not worth the cost. However, most companies are surprised to learn that they usually save money by outsourcing their IT.

When switching to an MSP, your cost is a flat monthly rate. A good MSP will offer an a-la-carte solution rather than a one-size-fits-all model because each business is different and should be treated as such. This way, you can decide how much or how little support you will need.

When your IT is managed in-house, and something breaks, you likely will be faced with the “sticker shock” attached to the solution. If something breaks, that is worked into the monthly cost with an MSP, meaning no surprises.

2. 24/7/365 support

One of the most significant issues small to medium-sized businesses face is the lack of support when they need it most. If something goes wrong, it can take a lot of time and research to figure out how to troubleshoot the issue and get back up and running.

With a managed service provider, businesses have IT support at all hours of the day, including non-business hours.

3. Productivity & Time Saving

Many small to medium-sized businesses do not have a dedicated IT employee, and when they do, they are often faced with more challenges than they can handle on their own. Sometimes, an employee takes on IT work as a second job function, which takes away productivity.

If you have a single IT employee, and something goes wrong, maybe they can fix it, but what if more than one thing goes wrong at the same time? Or what if it takes hours or days to resolve the issue, and your company can’t perform its main objectives?

Working with an MSP is a sure-fire way to ensure your employees are focused on what is most important, their jobs. They can even prevent issues from occurring. Even when a problem does come up, your IT provider can get you back up and running in record time.

4. The Highest Level of Cybersecurity

There are many ways to improve your cybersecurity in-house. Some of the things you can do are educate your staff, require password changes, implement two-factor authentication, install a firewall, and ensure your anti-virus software is always on the latest update.

However, as cybersecurity practices get better, the threats get more robust by learning to work around these practices. An MSP can constantly monitor your network and systems for threats and vulnerability, sometimes preventing an attack before it even happens. Therefore, it is imperative to work with an MSP to ensure you have the highest level of security possible.

5. Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity 

One of the biggest headaches for business owners is system and hardware failures that lead to data loss and put their data at risk. It can take hours to days to get back up and running, and even worse, data is at risk of being lost forever!

Working with an MSP gives you the best chance at recovering data and reducing downtime.

Closing thoughts: 

Running a business comes with a lot of responsibility and risks. Utilizing an MSP can benefit your organization in many ways by relieving you from the many headaches associated with IT. This way, you can focus on what is most important, operating your business.

If you’re looking for a managed services provider you can trust, look no further than Now Micro. Our goal is to provide services and solutions for every aspect of your technology needs. From end-users to enterprise data centers and up to the cloud, we’ve got you covered. Visit our website to learn more.

How to prevent laptop battery swelling and explosion

Now Micro’s Technical Services team has seen an uptick in hardware repairs involving rechargeable laptop batteries swelling. Swollen batteries are caused by an overflow of current inside the battery’s cell, generating heat and gas to build up and potentially burst into flames. You may have heard of cases like that involving cellphones on airplanes where the DOT banned specific models. Battery swelling is becoming a common issue because laptops and cellphones are getting slimmer, and therefore, batteries are getting smaller and have less room for current flow.

Here are ways you can prevent your laptop battery from swelling and exploding.

Don’t leave your device connected to a charger all day.

Leaving devices plugged in for extended periods cause the battery to overcharge. Most rechargeable batteries are supposed to discharge and recharge in a cycle, so constantly connected batteries can’t reach their capacity. If you’re working remotely, remember to unplug your laptop at the end of the day.

Replace your device battery if it’s broken or not performing efficiently.

If a battery becomes damaged, for example, by dropping your device or spilling liquid, the battery may have difficulty working correctly. If the battery is old, it may also start underperforming. You may try to find a solution by just charging the battery more, but as we said before, the battery can overheat when it’s overcharged. All batteries get old over time, so it’s a great idea to replace them.

Use the correct charger.

Finding a cheaper version of your laptop’s charger may seem like a savvy money saver but having the wrong charger can cost you in the long run. Make sure you find the right charger with the same power output for your device to run smoothly.

Upgrade your laptop when it’s out of warranty

Laptop manufacturers are constantly upgrading the battery functions of their devices. In 2021, we’re seeing a trend of “smart charging” features in new devices. These devices will maintain battery or stop charging once the battery is at or around 95% when plugged in. Now Micro can help you find the right laptop for your organization that fits all your charging needs.

Store the device in a cool, dry environment

Keeping your laptop safe and secure will help it last longer and prevent accidental damage. While working remotely, it can be tempting to laying on the couch or in bed with your laptop, but this can cause the laptop to overheat. Try using a lap desk with a built-in fan instead to prevent your computer from overheating.

Be sure to treat your device with care. Now Micro is always here to help with hardware repairs for your organization’s devices. Learn more about Now Micro’s Technical Services here.

How to Prevent Cyber Attacks in 2021

It makes sense that Cybersecurity Awareness Month falls in October. One of the scariest things a business owner faces is the fear of falling victim to a cybercrime.  So, what are the business implications of a cyber-attack? Loss of data/intellectual property, damage to reputation, loss of productivity, increased expenses, lawsuits, and more. 

Here are some facts:

In just the last year, cybercrime has increased by 40%.

60 % of cyber-attacks are targeted at small – to medium-sized businesses.

But… only 30% of small- medium-sized business owners consider themselves “very concerned” about ransomware.


Hackers who once went after the Targets and Amazons of the world are now going after smaller businesses who likely don’t have the necessary tools or support needed to prevent & recover from cyber-attacks.

Unfortunately, it is no longer a question of if your company will fall victim to a cyber-attack, but when, so it is imperative that your business invests in quality cyber support.

Some of the things you can do internally:

  • Require regular password changes
  • Implement two-factor authentication
  • Make sure anti-virus software is up to date
  • Install firewalls
  • Educate your employees on best practices

These are all great ways to add an extra barrier of protection to your network, but the best way to prevent a cyber-attack from occurring is to outsource your cybersecurity support to a managed services provider. Today, we have security threats coming at us from every direction. A good MSP can monitor your network 24/7, 365 days a year to prevent attacks before they happen. If a cyber-attack does still occur, they will have a team of experts in place to make sure you recover as quickly and painlessly as possible.

As Cybersecurity Awareness Month comes to an end, it is important to make sure cybersecurity remains a priority all year round. If you are curious about where your network stands in terms of security threats and/or other IT-related issues, reach out to me at sydneye@nowmicro.com to schedule a free network assessment. Visit https://www.nowmicro.com/managedservices to learn how Now Micro can become your managed service provider.

#BeCyberSmart

Does your small to medium-sized business have what it takes to manage IT efficiently and effectively?

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the work from home business model had been gaining popularity. Today, most businesses have adopted this mindset or at least a hybrid model of working from home a few days a week. As workers continue to work remotely, IT organizations face additional challenges including security threats, help desk overload, and increased costs.  

A few things to think about to assess your IT support needs:  

What does your current IT support look like?  

There are typically three answers: You have a dedicated IT employee, an employee(s) takes on IT work as a second responsibility, or you outsource your IT support. Whatever the plan looks like, you want it to be reliable and efficient so there are no implications to productivity.  

A managed service provider (MSP) would be able to take on IT management so your company can focus on its main objectives. An MSP is a company that offers IT support and tech support services on your behalf. The services they provide are customized to your organization’s IT support needs and can include 24/7 helpdesk services, network monitoring & management, cyber security protection, backup & recovery, and cloud management & migration. Managed service providers will work with different vendors to give their customers the best assistance. 

What are your current response times?  

Response times depend on how big your company is, the number of in-house IT employees, and how complex each IT issue is.  

When outsourcing your IT management to a managed service provider, the company can proactively monitor your networks and systems to prevent IT issues from happening in the first place. Whereas without preventative remote monitoring, your IT person only knows there is a problem after it occurs.  

In addition, your IT person goes home at the end of the day and takes sick days, vacations, and time off for holidays. A managed service provider can remotely monitor your networks 24/7, 365 days a year. With a larger team available, MSPs can track assets, hardware health, networks & servers, bandwidth & connectivity, and IT inventory management. 

Can your IT support remotely monitor and perform maintenance?  

With employees working from home, it is important to be able to monitor and perform maintenance virtually. No matter where your employees work, you can rely on a managed service provider helpdesk to resolve issues as quickly as possible so your team can focus on their jobs, not their IT issues.  

How are you ensuring your systems are secure?  

Unfortunately, your company’s network is always at risk of falling victim to cyber-attacks (read more from our blog post on cybersecurity), but this risk increases as employees work from home and connect to their internet.  

It is more important than ever to partner with a managed service provider to ensure you have the highest level of security. MSPs can help your company prepare for cyber-attacks with backup & recovery planning, proactive monitoring of threats, 24/7 helpdesk, security awareness training, network security updates, and much more. 

How are you backing up your systems?  

All companies experience system failures and data loss. It is crucial to have a disaster recovery protocol. managed service providers can help ensure your data is safe and secure when failures occur by offering services such as end-to-end encryption, device & file-level backup, productivity cloud apps (like Microsoft 365), and local or virtual backup solutions. 

Closing thoughts:  

Running a business comes with many risks and headaches. Working with a managed service provider can keep productivity up, prevent issues from occurring and get you back up and running ASAP.  

As a trusted Minnesota managed service provider, Now Micro is here to help with your business’s IT support. For additional information visit our Managed Services page. 

Users: Your largest and weakest attack surface

October is Cyber Security month! When you exclaim that this month’s focus is security to most admin and IT stakeholders, you’re likely to receive a chuckle or an eye roll. They know the truth of the matter. Our mindfulness of security can’t be limited to a singular month. 

It’s an ongoing process that literally never ends.

Who then is Cyber Security month for? I’ll give you a hint. They interface with your organization’s data, devices and services daily and often don’t regard security as their first or even third priority. You got it; Cyber Security month is all about making your users more aware of the threats your organization faces.  

We often spend a lot more time discussing our plans to harden servers, implement new identity security policies or protect our users’ credentials with MFA. Don’t get me wrong, those things are essential in today’s world, but it’s hard not to notice a gap in those strategies. That gap is the users.  

Most experts estimate that 70% – 90% of malicious breaches start with or include some form of social engineering. Our users are every organization’s largest attack surface and softest target. Bad actors know this and are increasingly aggressive and cunning in their attempts. Every user holds something a bad actor would like to get their hands on. 

Take a user who doesn’t need access to any data or systems but needs email to communicate. If that user leaks credentials, it can still be a treasure trove for a bad actor in the form of a global address list harvest or intel derived from exfiltrated emails that allows them to refine and target spear-phishing attempts. When we read about a large breach in the news, we often picture a group coordinating an attack to launch all at once when it’s far more likely that attack started very small and happened over time.

So how do we go about hardening our users? It would be nice if we could just apply a patch or update their firmware, but a more tactful approach is needed. We believe that process is three-pronged.

Communication

Your organization culture around communicating anything IT-related is very important and often overlooked. 

Simply making your users aware of the current threats and where to report them can go a long way to thwarting social engineering. Be consistent with your communications. Set up a shared mailbox so multiple crafting IT-related messages can appear as one unified voice. Apply templates to your emails, so the appearance is consistent. Be concise; not enough or too much information can be harmful. Stick to the who, what, why, and how of the threat. Don’t forget to include where a user should go to report social engineering attempts.

Training

This can mean different things depending on the size of your organization. In smaller organizations, it may mean taking 10 minutes during a company meeting to show examples of social engineering attempts. In larger organizations, it may mean contracting a professional trainer to speak to individual business units or even training leaders in those units to talk about threats to their teams.

Attack Simulation

The benefits of a simulated penetration test against our networks are obvious, but we can also apply this approach to our users. An attack simulation targeting your users with social engineering or a fake malware payload will not only give your organization an idea of its vulnerabilities but is also one of the best ways to raise your users’ awareness. The approach of an attack simulation with training and communication as a fast follow can grab your users’ attention far better than any of these components on their own.

How do I simulate attacks? 

Just like network penetration testing, there are plenty of tools to help you launch attack simulations and parse the data you receive.  

  • Microsoft 365 Defender P2 – If you happen to have Defender P2 or an M365/O365 A5/M5/E5 plan, you have a very robust set of tools for simulating attacks.
  • Choose from a wide variety of templated attacks that help target specific business units, just like a seasoned spear-phisherman.
  • Simulate malware payloads and malicious links with a variety of different delivery methods.
  • Automatically assign pre-built training modules to users that click malicious links or input their credentials.
  • Robust after-action reporting to help you know where to invest in training.   
  • Now Micro Security Awareness Training – If you don’t have Microsoft Licensing, you’re not out of luck, Now Micro has the tools to simulate attacks against your Microsoft or Google environments.
    • Phishing Security Tests
    • Automated Security Awareness Program
    • Security Hints & Tips
    • Automated Training Campaigns
    • Phish Alert Button (Ability to report & delete phishing emails)
    • Phishing Reply Tracking (Track if a user replies to a simulated phishing email & what information)
    • Industry Benchmarks
    • Monthly Email Exposure Check: Monthly reports show which email addresses are exposed on the Internet and are a target for phishing attacks

Recognizing the growing need to protect all your endpoints, including your users, is our focus at Now Micro.  If you have any questions or would like our help, visit our Managed Services page on our website.

Are you prepared for IT threats?

Many things cause a business owner to have nightmares — at the top of the list is a computer failure that stops operations in its tracks. Unfortunately, no company is immune to the threat of data failure. Recently, for retail giant Target, the fear became a reality as nearly every register in all stores throughout the United States went down.

Fortunately, the system outage only lasted two hours. But, that two hours of downtime cost Target roughly $50 million in lost sales and caused their stock shares to drop by two percent. In reality, Target’s ability to go from a catastrophic outage to getting back online in such a short time is a huge accomplishment. With significant IT infrastructure in place to respond, the company could investigate the problem, determine that there had been no data breach, and reboot all systems to full operation quickly. For the company, assuring that no data had been compromised was vital. In 2013, a data breach affected 41 million customers and resulted in a legal settlement costing them millions.

How you protect your data is critical to the success of your business — no matter your size. For a health organization, your data includes detailed medical and insurance information. There are endless client files and records for law offices, financial planners have high-level access to sensitive financial portfolios, the list goes on. No matter the industry, data is critical. In many cases, data security methods are heightened by legally mandated regulations like HIPAA and PCI.

Be Prepared

So, how do you protect your company from cybersecurity threats and data failure? Target spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The key is to find an affordable technology partner who you can trust. As seen in the Target event, data issues and cyber attacks don’t only happen during business hours. You have to be prepared to respond 24/7. At Now Micro, we make it a priority to be available when the need for help arises. Our service desk technicians answer the phone live 24 hours a day. But that is only a tiny piece of your Cyber Security response plan. Most of our work occurs before disaster strikes. We help ensure that you have up-to-date systems needed to prevent an attack or data failure and back-ups in place when an attack occurs.

Your Industry Needs

Although all industries need comprehensive data and cybersecurity infrastructure, the needs vary depending on the types of data stored and industry-specific regulatory requirements. Here is a shortlist of how Now Micro customizes our services to serve the cybersecurity needs of different industries:

 Manufacturing

We protect your intellectual property — the core of your ability to be profitable for the long term — and put in place processes to ensure the reliability of manufacturing operations.

 Healthcare

HIPAA and other compliance requirements are critical in the healthcare industry. We address these needs and ensure brand protection, secure connectivity, and offer a unified security platform.

Small and Midsize Businesses

Each small and midsize business has its own unique needs, with expense management a key factor. Therefore, we provide affordable options, giving you access to the same level of expertise that large companies have at their disposal.

Retail

In a retail operation, the ability to continually process transactions without hiccups is critical. We help you ensure the reliability of your POS system while also assisting with compliance needs.

Law & Finance

Legal and financial institutions/advisors need to secure sensitive data and are subject to intense compliance regulations. We help ensure all needs are met and a backup system in place to allow recovery in the event of a data attack or failure.

Ready to Serve

Information technology and cybersecurity are overwhelming topics, but they don’t have to be. Click here to learn more about our comprehensive IT and Cyber Security services. Give Now Micro a call today, and we can work together to define a plan that meets your needs so that you can relax knowing that your business is well cared for.

New Vlog Series: What’s in the Lab?

Now Micro has recently launched a new vlog series called What’s in the Lab. This series features Bernard Carter, Chief Technology Officer, going over various players we have in our lab. Our innovative digital signage & IoT solutions and services help customers from a range of industries better procure, deploy, manage and secure their visual communication devices.

Our first video covers the Lenovo ThinkEdge SE30, a rugged media player built to face the most hostile environments. The SE30 also uses the latest 11th Generation Intel® processors that run Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning to deliver the insights you need. The unit is also fanless and can function in a thermal range of -20 – 60C.

Stay tuned to our YouTube channel every Thursday for the next 4 weeks to see how our solutions and services can take your IoT beyond the edge!

To learn more about Now Micro and our purpose-built digital signage and IoT solutions, visit https://www.nowmicro.com/.

Now Micro Launches Device Management Software, DICE

Now Micro, known for its expertise in computer hardware and services, introduces DICE, a software solution that helps organizations manage computing devices from the time of purchase and throughout the lifecycle of the product.

Last year and continuing today, the rapid shift to remote learning and work from home environments created challenges for IT departments, specifically in the areas of asset management, system security and tech support. Almost overnight, organizations had to purchase, configure and deploy computing devices to support an increased number of remote employees, students and educators.  With this, came all the associated technical support challenges ranging from hardware malfunctions to internet connectivity and general usage challenges such as logging into Zoom calls.  

“You’d be surprised how many organizations are tracking device information in spreadsheets.  DICE not only puts real-time device data at their fingertips, but allows for remote troubleshooting and restoration, saving time and eliminating costs associated with shipping a device back for repair,” says Bernard Carter, CTO at Now Micro.

Previously, organizations might have used numerous spreadsheets and invoices in different places to keep track of purchases and separate software to enable remote technical assistance. Now Micro recognized the need for a software solution that enables quick access to device information through a centralized, real-time online portal.  Streamlining device lifecycle management activities is crucial for organizations who have hundreds or thousands of devices under their supervision.

DICE is available in three versions with the base package included at no charge with every device purchased from Now Micro.  Customers may upgrade to two paid versions that include additional features outlined in the table below. Pricing is based on device count and administer access.

DICE DICE+ DICE Complete
Dashboard Real time device status Geotracking
devices
Order information Driver information Remote device
support
Device information Graphic adapter
information
KVM
Warranty lookup Monitor detection File System
Open API Usage information Console

To learn more about Now Micro and DICE, visit nowmicro.com.

Q&A with Now Micro’s new CTO, Bernard Carter

Now Micro is excited to announce Bernard Carter’s promotion to Chief Technology Officer. After working for the last year and a half as the Vice President of Technology, he will continue leading our commitment to innovating device lifecycle management for our partners.

Bernard Carter has a track record of success in infrastructure, security management, and software development at Fortune 500 companies and in the public sector. In 2013, Carter started working for Now Micro. Under his leadership, his teams have successfully developed hardware and software solutions for IoT, digital signage and device lifecycle management.

How is this new role different from your previous?

BC: My previous role was Vice President of Technology.  This new position reflects our changing role with our customers from procuring devices to really being an integral piece of the device lifecycle management journey.  The concept is a message we have been communicating to our customers for years, but I do think this new role really doubles down on Now Micro’s commitment to be part of the journey/solution and moving beyond a transactional relationship to true partnership.

Anything you would like to plug about DICE?

BC: Our official launch of DICE 4 is next month. I am beyond excited about this release as it reflects feedback from our customers, consultants and technicians.  Having a team to bring all of it together is a distinct privilege for me as it reflects the trust the organization has placed in us building our future with customers.

What are you looking forward to in this role and for Now Micro in general?

BC: Leading a focused technology organization has always been a dream of mine.  My team at Now Micro really gets that technology is more than buying a box- the effectiveness of our technology really has a huge human component, and that value is reflected in this organization and our mission. I am also looking forward to eventually meeting with customers face to face again and having some time to build technology demos/talks to share.

To learn more about Now Micro, Bernard Carter, and DICE, visit https://www.nowmicro.com/.