5 steps to securing identity infrastructure

According to Microsoft, in Azure Active Directory, there are 50 million password attacks daily, yet only 20% of users and 30% of global admins are using strong authentications such as multi-factor authentication (MFA). Attackers who get control of privileged accounts can do tremendous damage, so it’s critical to protect these accounts. Read our checklist to learn more:

Strengthen your credentials
Strengthen your credentials by enabling strong authentication, banning commonly attacked passwords, implementing expiration rules, protecting against leaked credentials, adding resilience against outages, and implementing AD FS extranet smart lockout.

Reduce your attack service area
Reduce your attack service area by implementing cloud authentication, blocking legacy authentication, blocking invalid authentication entry points, implementing privilege access management, and restricting user consent operations.

Automate threat response
Automate threat response by implementing sign-in and user risk security policies, integrating Microsoft 365 Defender with Azure AD identity protection, and setting up monitoring and alerting.

Utilize Cloud Intelligence
To utilize cloud intelligence, your organization should monitor Azure AD, Azure AD Connect Health in hybrid environments, Azure AD Identity Protection events, apps, and consented permissions.

Enable end-user self-service
Implementing self-service password reset, self-service group and application access, Azure AD access reviews, and automatic user provisioning will create efficient ways for end-users to secure your organization’s identity infrastructure.


Now Micro Professional Services

Systems Management
We create a simplified desktop and data center management experience for your robust, complex, and heterogeneous environments. Through configuration and automation of systems management tasks, we allow you to keep control of your complex IT business, whether it is on-premises, in the cloud, or across the country.


Cloud Productivity
Now Micro helps you implement a cloud-based infrastructure, giving you unparalleled access, robust security, and greater control in your environment. Moving the infrastructure to the cloud pushes technology out of the way so you can focus on your job.


Identity Management
Our identity management solutions help you create simplified synchronization between identities on-premises and in the cloud while allowing administrators to monitor user access and behavior.

How to Equip Your Office for Hybrid Work

The ongoing pandemic is changing the way companies are structured. Remote work adds flexibility to workers’ lives and protects them from COVID-19, while in-person work allows staff to communicate nuances and socialize. Companies are now offering their employees the best of both worlds: a hybrid office. Read our top 4 tips on providing the right technology for a smooth transition into hybrid work.

Hoteling Stations

The new hybrid office system can look different for every company or for different departments within one company. For example, not all employees work on the same day in many companies, so to save space, a company could opt to have unassigned desks, also known as hoteling. Pairing hoteling with seamless workstations makes for a great hybrid office that saves space and money.

Invest in seamless workstations

After working the last two years at home, many employees have perfected their home technology to be able to work exactly how they want. However, with hybrid schedules, going back and forth between home and the office can be quite the hassle if you’re bringing things like laptops, headsets, and charging cables back and forth. A way to solve that challenge is to invest in seamless workstations for assigned desks or hotel stations. The arrangement can look different depending on each company’s needs. The setup used at Now Micro allows staff to bring only their laptops and plug them into monitors, which connect the laptop to charging, a wireless keyboard, and a mouse.

Conference Room AV Setup

Some days employees may choose to be in the office, while others work remotely. However, that doesn’t mean meetings have to only occur in person on only by video. Simply adding a small media player, a display on the wall, a web camera, and a speaker/microphone can equip conference rooms to help teams collaborate no matter where they are working.

Borderless Data Center

Storing company data can be challenging when employees are based in many locations. A solution to this is the borderless data center. The borderless data center is a hybrid cloud concept that brings the basic tenants of cloud computing to the brick-and-mortar data center for seamless application operation. Disaggregating the traditional physical infrastructure through a cloud-enabled Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) facilitates a software-defined, unified system combining all the elements of a conventional data center: storage, compute, networking, and management into a cloud infrastructure on-premises with lower costs, more control, and improved security.

Office setup and workplace culture are not going back to the way things were before. Therefore, it is essential to adapt to the times and equip offices that push us towards a more innovative future. Now Micro and its partners are here to help your office transition to a hybrid office. To learn more, visit nowmicro.com or email sales@nowmicro.com.

Now Micro Expands to New Location

Now Micro rang in the new year with a ribbon-cutting at our new headquarters in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. Just a short drive from the previous address in Saint Paul, the new facility accommodates a growing services organization, expands warehouse and production capabilities, and caters to a new hybrid workplace culture.

Hybrid Office

The move to a larger facility coincides with changing workplace dynamics driven by the pandemic. Thanks to today’s technology, most organizations can now accommodate both remote and hybrid work models. Accounting for accessibility, uptime, and security is essential for successful remote or hybrid environments, but it can be difficult for organizations to adjust quickly. As a result, IT departments and organizations have had to change strategies to manage PCs and peripherals, data centers, collaboration technologies and provide sufficient help desk support for end-users. 

We built our new facility with a hybrid workplace in mind. Permanent offices and cubes are available to anyone who chooses to be in the office. Hoteling cubes and workspaces are open to employees who split time between working remotely and in-office. Microsoft Always On VPN technology keeps our sales team securely connected to our ERP systems as if they were in the office. While Microsoft Teams has been in place for some time, it is now our primary communication tool. The use of video in calls has increased substantially.

Digital Signage

Having digital signage engineers on staff has been a big help in deploying visual communications throughout the building. There are 15 displays installed throughout the building, with the majority focused on tracking business metrics in the warehouse and manufacturing space. In addition, the displays in the front office serve to greet customers and provide real-time performance metrics to our sales team.

Solutions

Now Micro has embraced these changes to lead by example and help accommodate customers in this different work world. As a result, demand for our services has increased. So we’re here to answer the challenging questions:

1.    How can my organization successfully provide technical support if no one is in the office?

2.    Where do my end-users go if they need troubleshooting on their devices?

3.    How do I solve connectivity issues with an end-user’s home Wi-Fi network? 

4.    How can I keep track of my organization’s devices when users’ offices are across the state or country?

2022 is off to a great start at Now Micro. We are excited about our new facility, a new hybrid-work environment, and a new skill set to give our customers additional support to enable their digital transformation.

Why are SMBs being targeted in cyber-attacks?

Did you know that small to medium-sized businesses are potentially more vulnerable for cyber-attacks than large businesses? With the growing complexity of IT challenges, it’s crucial to stay up to date on the latest cybersecurity threats and how to protect your business.

A Foot in the Door

Cybercriminals target SMBs because they are often a foot in the door to hacking into larger companies. SMBs are often vendors for larger entities and may have access to online portals and the banking information of these companies. Cybercriminals go for SMBs because they are likely to have weaker cybersecurity practices, making their vulnerable information, customer data, intellectual property, and financial data easy to compromise.

What to look out for

Every year, cybercriminals are advancing how they target their victims, which can be tricky to spot. Below are the leading causes for security breaches:

Weak and Stolen Credentials/Passwords

Hackers will take any opportunity to steal weak passwords from organizations. The key is to have a policy that requires strong passwords that include eight characters, at least one upper case letter, one number, and one special character.

Back Doors & Application Vulnerabilities

Sometimes software applications are poorly written, or network systems are poorly designed. These may have holes that cybercriminals can easily exploit and get your data directly without needing a password. The way to prevent this is to make sure software and network systems are up to date and properly patched.

Malware

Malware is software loaded unintentionally that a hacker can open up and exploit a system through. The key to avoiding malware is never downloading anything from questionable websites or opening suspicious emails.

Social Engineering

Have you ever received a fake email saying you’ve won a million dollars? That’s what social engineering is. It’s easy to evade cyber-attacks from this tactic as long as you know that if something looks too good to be true, it is.

Insider Threats

An angry employee or unaware employee can cause harm on your networks if given access to data. The simple solution to prevent this is to ensure that you keep your data backed up and your permissions up to date.

Physical Attacks

Hackers don’t always sit at home to commit cybercrimes. They can break into your building and use your computers to find secure data. Make sure your physical structure is protected to prevent a security breach.

Improper Configuration

Sometimes mistakes can be made when configuring systems, so it is essential to triple-check and have multiple people look at the work to keep errors minimum.

There are plenty of resources out there to help you get started on securing your company’s data. One of them is working with an MSP, like Now Micro. To learn more about our managed services, visit our website or reach out to Sydney Ellison at sydneye@nowmicro.com.

4 Reasons to Conduct a Network Assessment

Q1 is a great time to check IT systems and determine how to revamp them for the year. Performing a network assessment is essential when gauging areas for improvement. A network assessment looks at disk & memory utilization, BDR sizing calculation, warranty summary, device stabilization requirements, software and device inventory, active directory user list, and much more. Read more to find out how a network assessment can help your organization.

1. View a detailed and comprehensive report and analysis of your company’s existing IT infrastructure.

If you’re seeking out a network assessment, you are likely trying to learn everything about your organization’s system and see where you’re succeeding or where you’re falling short. A network assessment will look at network performance, security protection, server/storage performance and determine which issues are network-related or user-related. It’s essential to get a comprehensive report on your network so that you can catch hard-to-find errors and fix them.

2. Create a strategy for your IT systems and people.

You’ll likely be working with a managed service provider to execute a network assessment, which will benefit you. A managed service provider has a team of IT experts to gauge the network assessment results and then offer guidance. MSPs, such as Now Micro, work with a variety of clientele and will be able to customize their offerings based on what your organization needs. Once the strategy is in place, your IT issues will be solved in no time.

3. Discover money-saving opportunities.

By filling in the gaps of your IT strategy, you are saving time and money. For example, most IT management is protection, prevention, and modernization. These new changes will save your organization from an IT disaster and save resources that would have been used in recovery and fixing errors.

4. Get an explanation for C-suite Executives.

Sometimes C-suite executives need raw data to convince them to approve significant upgrades. A network assessment will lay out all the data you need to get them on your side. As stated in Reason #3, the improvements may be a high cost upfront, but over time, the company can save money by keeping their IT up to date and not constantly paying for repairs when disaster hits.

If you would like to have a network assessment of your organization’s IT infrastructure, visit Now Micro’s managed services website and click on the “Free Network Assessment” button to get started or email our Managed Services point of contact, Sydney Ellison, at sydneye@nowmicro.com.

Chromebooks, Chromebooks everywhere!

Chromebooks stored in Now Micro’s warehouse

The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most innovating and challenging times in educational technology. According to a United States Census Bureau survey, 80% of households with school-age children used online resources for distance learning in 2020, so having the right equipment is essential for quality education. However, with fluctuating infection rates in 2022, schools and businesses still have to react quickly to procure, customize, and distribute technology to their users. For many districts and universities, this is an impossible feat without the support from Now Micro. 

Over the last few months, Now Micro has procured HP Chromebooks to offer customized solutions for educational institutions. Flexibility in our warehouse and production processes, combined with highly trained technicians, allows us to produce roughly 1,000 units a day in our Mendota Heights, MN facility.

The imaging center at Now Micro

As a Certified Google White Glove service provider, Now Micro manages the enrollment and configuration of Chromebooks on behalf of the schools. This service saves K-12 schools and universities time, money, and organizational headaches and allows them to focus on education.

The Now Micro Certified White Glove Services for Chromebooks include:

  • Enrollment of the device to the customer domain
  • Enterprise enrollment and validation
  • Application of network configuration settings
  • Wireless Configuration (Wi-Fi SSID and Pre-shared key)
  • Management Console Training

Now Micro Imaging services:

  • Populate custom fields in the Google Chromebook Management Console with your required data
  • Assign devices to the correct organization unit
  • Utilize Now Micro’s DICE Portal to allow you to see all of your devices combined with purchasing and hardware data in an easy to use, exportable format
Now Micro staff working on Chromebook customization

To learn how Now Micro can help your organization meet its technology needs, visit https://www.nowmicro.com/ or contact Marty Linden, Vice President of Sales at martyl@nowmicro.com.

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.

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.

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/.