03 443 5499

Given the recent spate of storm events, and the weather experts saying we’re going to get more in the future, now is the time to check your IT equipment is protected from weather events. 

New research from NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) has shown that extreme events have occurred four to five times more frequently in the last decade.

Many IT technicians had call-outs from clients after the recent storms. Thunderstorms can literally fry electronics, and this causes not just replacement cost, but also work disruption and even possibly data loss. 

Our technicians carry surge protectors in their cars, so that whenever they are working, they can ensure that sensitive IT equipment is at least surge protected. But for clients we see less often, or who are not on a managed service agreement, it’s easy for IT devices to not be surge protected. Your staff, cleaners or others will sometimes move plugs about. Be aware that this does matter.

Now is a good time to have a look at your computer equipment. Feel free to ask us next time we are on site.

Here are our top tips to protect your IT – how do you stack up?

Surge protectors

A surge protector guards against the damage that sudden power surges can cause.

  • It’s recommended for almost any piece of IT hardware plugged into a power outlet.
  • It will help protect against power spikes which can sometimes happen, especially if the power suddenly goes off. This happens more often than you might think; for example, your local lines company may be doing maintenance or upgrades to their system and will turn the power off for a period overnight.
  • The surge protectors can protect against more distant lightning strikes but will not provide protection from a close or direct strike.
  • Surge protectors can be built into power boards, so several devices can be plugged into them.
  • Do NOT plug anything other than IT equipment into surge protectors / surge protected power boards. We have seen heaters plugged in to surge protectors! These types of devices can fry your electronics. Make sure non-IT gear uses a separate power point.

Things that people often forget to surge protect

  • The Optical Network Terminal (ONT) that brings your fibre internet into your premises. The ONT is the little box that your provider installs. If the ONT blows up, you will have no fibre Internet until they replace it.
  • Network gear in the cupboard, or wherever it is located at your place – routers, powered network switches, etc. If the network gear blows up, you will lose the network around your premises.
  • Phones – while they are not as mission-critical as your ONT and network gear, it’s still annoying when they get fried.

UPS or Uninterruptible Power Supply

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is an electrical apparatus that provides emergency power when the mains power fails.

  • Critical pieces of IT hardware, such as servers, key computers and network storage devices, should normally have a UPS between them and the wall power supply
  • The UPS does more than a simple surge protector, but they do also provide some surge protection.
  • This article does not cover UPS devices, but do make sure that they are regularly checked and batteries replaced.

Unplug IT from the wall

  • This can be difficult to achieve as computer equipment is often in use. If you are concerned enough about an approaching storm, then consider properly turning it off and then physically removing the plug from the wall.
  • If in any doubt – ALWAYS check with us first, as some IT equipment should not be unplugged.

Last thoughts

  • If the surge protector has experienced a significant power surge, or a lightning strike, it may have done its job and no longer work. Replace it. Often they will have a little light which indicates they are working, so if the light goes out – probably time to replace.
  • Don’t use the very cheapest devices and expect them to protect you.

In summary

Thunderstorms and lightning are real threats to IT and can cause not just cost, but also disruptions to your business. Surge protectors can last for years and all your IT equipment should use them. 

While surge protectors can last for years, it pays to keep a close eye on them and replace them if needed. Please feel free to reach out to our team at IT Centre to help you with this.  

So it didn’t work with your newest employee, in fact it didn’t work out would be an understatement…they left under quite a cloud! 

A recent Symantec study states that “half of the employees who left or lost their jobs in the last 12 months kept confidential corporate data and 40 percent plan to use it in their new jobs.”

You’ve got the work laptop/computer back, but have they deleted things?

How do you know what they were doing and looking at before they left?

They used their own devices for work, do they still have their work material?

What to do when employees don’t leave on the best terms

The vast majority of staff finish employment and move on with no issues. But occasionally people leave in less harmonious circumstances, or they are just plain dishonest. We’d like to cover off on some of the basics to ensure that your risks are minimised for if, or when, this happens to you.

Importantly, it makes a big difference what systems you use and how you are set up, so keep that in mind. For the purposes of this simple article, we assume you are a small to medium kiwi business, with a fairly simple IT setup, using one of the lower-level Microsoft 365 licences for your email document storage and sharing.

Set up the employee properly when they join and have proper security

To get the best outcome when an employee leaves you need to start when they join the company. 

Practice ‘need to know’ access to systems and data:

  • People only get access to what they need for their job
  • This includes ensuring your work, documents, emails, etc are protected by permissions appropriate to the user. If they don’t need access, they don’t get it!

Set up an off-boarding system

The obvious (we don’t want to tell you how to suck eggs with your HR, but people sometimes don’t do these things, or forget) things to do when the person leaves:

  • You probably have an induction process when someone joins, but do you have an off-boarding process for when people leave? 
  • Ensure the off-boarding process is promptly followed. 
  • Ensure the off-boarding is responsive enough to handle an employee disappearing at no, or very little, notice.
  • Promptly close off email and other systems access.
  • Promptly close off remote access.
  • Take back company owned devices.
  • Ask specifically if there is any company data in their possession and if so, make a plan with them for retrieving it.

The not so obvious things

Of course IT being the mysterious being it is to most of us you might not consider the less obvious things to do:

  • Don’t let people use personal devices for company work – give them the tools they need, and ensure those devices are properly set up by your IT.
  • Setup your business so that ALL work data/information is only ever stored in company systems. Do not allow people to save work anywhere else. Make sure they have a company owned folder they can save drafts and working documents to, if this is needed.
  • Have remote wipe enabled, meaning you can remotely wipe the data from any devices they have accessed. The next time they connect to the Internet, the data is wiped.
  • Review activity logs; these are detailed, but can give you a picture of what the person was up to.
  • If they delete emails or files, systems like 365 and Dropbox Business keep files for a ‘retention’ period and during this time you can restore them.
  • Use a company password manager such as LastPass so that people actually don’t know their passwords, so if they leave you (or your IT support) remove their access and they can’t get into anything.

Use technology to protect your organisation

If you are on a lower level 365 licence, such as Exchange Online, Business Basic or Business Standard, then talk to your ITA partner about the benefits and costs of moving to a higher licence with more security features such as 365 Business Premium. For example, configure 365 to prevent bulk downloading of company data, etc.

In Summary

Put in place protections now, so that you have them there before you have a problem. Once the person has left, it is often too late. In general, these suggestions are a good place to start with ensuring your business is protected. 

If you need a hand with any of these steps get in touch with the team at IT Centre

How a Managed Service provider can help your business

In IT we love to use fancy jargon, and Managed Service provider or MSP is no exception.

In this article we will break down what an MSP is, how it can help your business, and use some real-life examples of businesses, like you, who have made the switch to an MSP.

Firstly, what is a Managed Service Provider???

In a nutshell an MSP is your ‘outsourced IT Dept’ that provides proactive IT support. An MSP provides preventative measures, detecting most issues long before they become a problem.

The mission of an MSP is to protect your business from costly downtime and ensure that business continues seamlessly.

What is the break-fix model of IT support?

In contrast the ‘break-fix’ model of IT support is when you call an IT company when something breaks, and they come and fix it, on an adhoc pay by hour model. There is no ongoing support or preventative security measures taken. This is a bit like the ambulance at the bottom of the hill.  

Top advantages of an MSP for your business:

We become an IT partner to your business: As an MSP we are interested in understanding your entire business. We see ourselves as a business partner who wants to help your business to succeed and grow. This is quite different from the ‘break-fix’ model. We anticipate a long-term working relationship with your business.  

Proactive IT Support: As an MSP, our mission is to keep your business technology safe and available, and to anticipate your needs and requirements. This means minimum costly down time, and maximum business continuity.

Knowledge of your needs: As we have a long-term relationship with your business, we become closely acquainted with your IT systems, and your personnel. Because of this we understand how the parts make up the whole, rather than just offering a quick short-term solution, which may be costly in the future.

Cost savings: By outsourcing your IT management to us, you get a well-informed IT department on your team, without the cost and responsibility of training, recruiting, and retaining staff.

Case-Study

“An IT Alliance member had a company who was reaching out to them on a ‘break-fix’ basis. During Covid the IT Alliance member reached out to them to discuss becoming their MSP. They sat down and discussed what this actually meant, the services that the MSP offers, and the priority that is given to MSP clients. The client has been using them as an MSP for over two years now, and happily sings their praises, saying that having an MSP has revolutionized their business. No more waiting for IT support, no more downtime and so much more alignment”

So, what does an MSP actually do?

Remote Monitoring: An MSP proactively monitors, patches, and updates your software on an ongoing basis with 24/7 monitoring. This is all done in the background on an ongoing basis and requires no input from you.

Security: As an MSP we constantly review your systems to identify and address vulnerabilities. We can keep up with system updates, software patching, antivirus and more. It would be difficult for any business to keep up to date with all the daily security alerts. With an MSP this is all taken care of and is one less thing to worry about, so you can focus on your business.

Optimising hardware: An MSP provides information on optimal hardware that synchronises across your business. This includes laptops, desktops, and mobile devices, plus your network and servers.  We can work with you to understand your growth requirements and work on the best timeline for your budget.

Strategic advice: As IT is our passion, we hear about a myriad of tools that may be of benefit for business goals. We share this advice with you, rather than you having to research or find out how you can optimise technology for your needs.

Regular reviews: As an MSP client, you are a priority which means that we schedule in regular proactive reviews. No more waiting on the phone to talk to someone to get IT support.

Business Continuity and disaster-recovery strategy: Nowadays it is crucial that you have a solid data-backup plan. We can help you with this process and ensure that everything can be efficiently restored should the need arise.

So what do I do now?

So now you have an overview of what an MSP is, and how they can help your business. The next step is talking to the team at IT Centre about your specific needs. Please feel free to reach out here for further advice. 

A number of our clients have been asking us about Microsoft 11. “Should I upgrade?” “Should I wait?”. It’s new and everyone wants the latest and greatest right.

In this case, however, it may be best to WAIT

With most upgrades, updates are something to install as a matter of course. The manufacturer, after all, is delivering new efficiencies, improved processes, and increased security, so why wouldn’t you?

Well with Windows 11 it’s not quite that simple:

First of all, Windows 11 has been called “the biggest update we’ve seen to Microsoft PC software in more than half a decade.”

Why you don’t need to rush this upgrade:

  • Windows 11 is still in its early days and upgrading to it now may cause more problems than anything.
  • The feedback we are getting from our industry is that Windows 11 has a number of bugs, and has very limited support for other applications and devices.
  • There also seems to be some issues with both software and hardware, such as printers, not being compatible.

Most importantly, Microsoft has said it will support Windows 10 until October 14, 2025, so there is no need to rush any decision.

  • Microsoft typically keeps a ten-year lifespan for its products which means that there is no rush to upgrade.
  • Windows 11 is not an essential upgrade, so there is no need to do anything right now.
  • One of the advantages of waiting is that you will come after the initial launch issues and bugs.
  • Yes, the software has been available in beta since June 2021, however, as more users get access, you can expect more updates on the horizon.

A sneak peek of what can you expect from Windows 11:

Windows 11 is a redesigned operating system aiming at improved user navigation. Expect:

  • A more Mac-like experience
  • Integration with Android apps
  • A facelift for Microsoft Teams
  • Streamlined switching from monitor to laptop
  • Direct access to widgets from the Taskbar
  • A few gaming performance enhancements

If you do decide to go ahead here are some things you need to know….

  •  The upgrade is rolling out gradually. Those who recently purchased a new laptop before Windows 11 was pre-installed have access now.
  • If you are an existing Windows 10 user, you’ll see the Windows 11 upgrade sometime between now and mid-2022. Most users will go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and click Check for Updates. If available, you’ll see a Feature update to Windows 11. Click Download and install.
  • Remember to backup all your important documents before starting the installation process!
  • Also, don’t fall for any fake versions of Windows 11. Wait to receive an official notification of a systems update.
  • Do NOT click on links promising the software on social media or via email. You could end up downloading malware.

Other tips:

If you are in the market for a new laptop, make sure you’re getting one with Windows 11 pre-installed. That way, you’ll be sure to get one that will be able to run the new operating system without hassle.

Your IT specialist may have already suppressed some of the reminder notices for you, so that you don’t get asked to upgrade all of the time. However, they can’t stop them all.

If you see the official Microsoft screens saying ‘click here to install Windows 11’ our suggestion is to not do anything and just wait. It might be a good idea to also inform your team to do the same.

Conclusion:

One thing to be mindful of is that if you do go ahead and install Windows 11, any problems you encounter may not be covered by your IT specialist under your current plan.

However, if you are sitting at your computer reading this and are still using Windows 7 and Windows 8, its definitely time for an upgrade to at least Windows 10. Windows 7 and 8 are no longer supported by the manufacturer and without support or security updates, these systems are vulnerable to malware attacks.

In conclusion the best thing to do is to talk to IT Centre about this upgrade to Windows 11 to see when and if it is right for you. For now, you won’t be disadvantaged by doing nothing, so you can just relax, take a breath, and contact us here

With the increased need for security, and rising Cyber Security threats, it is imperative that all businesses have a strong password management system.

80% of data breaches are caused by weak, reused or stolen passwords

A password management system is able to store encrypted passwords online making digital security accessible and simple for businesses to manage the passwords for all employees.

In today’s world, most businesses have dozens or even hundreds of passwords for different employees with different accounts, profiles, and applications.

#1. Generate secure, fool-proof passwords

With 80% of all data breaches happening because of weak passwords, having a password management system is crucial.

If you want to ensure your data safety, you must use complex passwords that include a combination of letters, numbers, symbols, and uppercase/lowercase.

A password management system will automatically generate fool-proof passwords based on your specification. This ensures you always create extremely secure passwords, thus avoiding hacks.

This also prevents your employees using generic and basic passwords such as their dogs name, or date of birth, and lets the password management system create a unique password that has all of the factors required for high security, including symbols, upper and lower case, numbers.

Let’s face it, it is much harder to hack KiUR&*!RTQ then it is Snoopy1222!

#2. Eliminate employee password reuse:

With a password management system, passwords are automatically updated and renewed. This ensures employees practice good password hygiene.

#3. Manage passwords from one place:

There is nothing worse than trying to keep tabs on every employee’s passwords. When a staff member is on leave, the last thing you want to do is try and find the post-it note they left with the login details.

Similarly, if a disgruntled employee leaves and takes their passwords, this can create an unnecessary headache.

With a password management system, you can easily give every user their own personalized vault, while maintaining oversight of all passwords with an admin dashboard.

#4. Protect your sensitive data:

Keep everyone’s credentials, notes, and information safe using the password management system.

#5. Admin functions make managing passwords a breeze:

Have multiple employees working on a particular app? No problem. With a good password management system, you can securely share credentials where employees and clients require access and organize shared credentials by Groups.

Admin functions may include (depending on the system you use):

  • Instantly add and remove team members.
  • Safely share passwords with others.
  • Give each employee their own vault for safeguarding passwords.
  • Store digital records: WiFi logins, software licenses, employee IDs, and more.
  • Set security controls and restrictions based on your team’s needs.

#6. Notification of a data breach

A password management system will constantly monitor all of your email addresses and sends instant alerts whenever it suspects that your data has been compromised. This allows you to act promptly and change all the necessary passwords, thereby preventing your information from being used by hackers and identity thieves.

#7. Multifactor authentication for employees

Another feature available in most password systems is multifactor authentication. This provides a second layer of security to verify the user’s login, usually in the form of fingerprint verification, one-tap mobile notifications, SMS codes, etc. This can be used to ensure the highest levels of security in businesses.

Which password management system is right for you?

There are a number of password management systems available. Finding one that is easy for your team to use, economical and with a long track record is imperative.

To find out more information about which system is right for you, please contact us here

A cheat sheet to help you make the most of your subscription

Written by: Peter Marshall, Voicecom Technologies

If you have Microsoft 365 for business, we want to make sure you’re making the most of it. You’re already paying for the subscription so why not take advantage of a whole suite of integrated applications that can streamline your workflows?

While remote work has been a key driver for Otago businesses to adapt the way they work and assess the systems they use, along the way they’ve realised that these apps not only offer remote capabilities but also the opportunity to integrate apps and business processes to allow them to better serve customers, streamline work, and improve employee productivity.

Four apps you’re paying for but missing out on

Microsoft SharePoint – SharePoint can seem overly complicated because it can offer so much. But it doesn’t need to be so scary. You can start small and use more functionality as needed or as you grow. Basically, it’s a platform that offers content management and collaboration. It helps with reducing duplicate files, gives you remote access (needed more than ever!) and allows you to work on the same document at the same time. Find out more about SharePoint here.

Microsoft Power Automate – Microsoft Power Automate allows you to automate workflows across applications. You can use it to connect email and instant message alerts, synchronise files between applications, copy files from one service to another, collect data from one app and store it in another, and much more. Templates are available to get you started. Efficiency is key for sustained success across businesses and Power Automate assists this by simplifying workflows with the automation of repetitive tasks.

Microsoft Forms – Forms allows you to create shareable surveys, quizzes, and polls in just minutes. You can then invite others to respond to it using almost any web browser or mobile device, see real-time results as they’re submitted, use built-in analytics to evaluate responses, and export results to Excel for analysis.

Microsoft Planner – A simple, visual, task management app that helps remove chaos from the team collaboration environment. You can create multiple task lists associated with different projects or set up daily to-do checklists.

Other apps to take advantage of.

Microsoft Teams – a chat-based workspace that integrates people, content, and tools into a single platform. Find out more about Teams here: https://ita.co.nz/microsoft-teams-more-just-video-conferencing

Microsoft OneDrive – OneDrive is essentially an online folder system for file storage. Similar to SharePoint however SharePoint offers much more in the way of collaboration. You might use OneDrive to save your personal drafts and then move them to SharePoint when you’re ready for collaboration.

Microsoft Lists – Helps you track information, organise your work and easily share with others. Lists are simple, smart, and flexible, so you can stay on top of what matters most to your team. Track issues, assets, routines, contacts, inventory and more.

Microsoft Stream – Your central destination for your business video content. It’s like an internal, secure YouTube for your business. This is the perfect place to keep things like training videos or marketing content for staff to easily access.

Microsoft Sway – Sway is a cloud only story-telling application similar to PowerPoint but provides more narrative options than a slide show.

Microsoft Whiteboard – A digital version of the traditional whiteboard that allows collaboration and brainstorming with your team in an interactive and engaging manner.

Microsoft MyAnalytics – Uses your data to provide insights into two of the key factors in your personal productivity: how you spend your time and who you spend it with. MyAnalytics takes a look at your everyday work patterns, finds areas that could benefit from your attention, and provides you with the tools to achieve more thoughtful use of your time.

Microsoft Power Apps – If your business needs a specific app to do a specific job, this is what PowerApps can do. Using simplified development techniques and with the help of your IT expert, you can create sophisticated applications using features, procedures, and processes found in Microsoft 365.

If you want to find out more about how any of these Microsoft 365 applications can benefit your business, contact us today on +64 3 443 5499. If you’d like to visit or email us, you can find our details here.

How a proactive approach can save you money and mitigate risk
Written by: Phil Strang – Technology Partners

Do you find yourself so caught up in other areas of your business that you tend to only manage your IT when things go wrong or it becomes an absolute must?

This is called reactive IT Management. With it, brings a mountain of stress, disruption and blown budgets.

A proactive approach to IT management doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. In fact, it can save you money and keep you focused on doing what you do best.

This is where a Managed Service Provider steps in. They’re not just the guy you call in for computer repair, they’re essentially an extension of your team. An MSP is there to support you and ensure the IT side of your business is efficient, cost-effective and low-risk. Let’s look at some of the benefits of proactive IT management and why businesses in Otago might want to move away from a more reactive response.

Preventing blown budgets

Large, unexpected IT bills can often be avoided with a good plan in place. A Managed Service Provider can help prevent the unnecessary cost of fixing things by implementing a plan with regular, scheduled maintenance. Additionally, they can give you the tools to effectively manage your IT life cycle, forecasting hardware and software upgrades. With a fully prepared life cycle, IT budgets can be planned in detail for years to come. Everything from printers to operating systems can be prepared on a tightly controlled schedule. Adopting an IT life cycle is a great way to eliminate unwanted surprises and make the most out of your IT budget.

Productivity / Minimal disruption

There’s nothing worse than when you get halfway through the day and you realise you’ve spent most of it troubleshooting or dealing with an IT issue. Can you imagine how frightening the numbers would be if you calculated the total number of hours lost due to IT-related disruption? A Managed Service Provider’s core purpose is to lessen this disruption and would likely pay for themselves rapidly. An MSP often does routine maintenance outside of hours so when you log in the next morning, you’re good to go! They’re your Clark Kent, unobtrusively making things happen in the background and quickly embracing their capes should anything big arise.

Knowing your business

Something stops working at the worst of times and you find yourself giving an IT technician your full operational history to help you both connect the dots of where things went wrong. Sound familiar? The great thing about an MSP is that they get to know your business, and more importantly, have a detailed documentation process. The team will get to know your business and you’ll often be dealing with the same technicians who know you and your systems. Having an intimate knowledge of your site’s configuration and a detailed service history means they’ll spend less time troubleshooting and more time working on the job. Familiarity when working regularly on a system means clients are not paying for a technician to relearn the basics for each job or call out. As an added bonus, when you partner with an MSP, the charge is often much less than the hourly rate of one-off call outs.

A practical and trusted approach to technology

In the technology space, there are changes and updates left, right and centre, often leaving you overwhelmed. This leads to you either falling behind with your IT services or purchasing things your business may not need. A Managed Service Provider is across all things IT, so you don’t have to be. You have the option to meet on a regular basis to discuss and review appropriate changes or updates that should be considered to your IT infrastructure. They know what’s happening in the industry and can guide you according to your specific needs. They’re not about telling you that all your computers need to be updated with the highest spec and most expensive models. In fact, an MSP will get to know how you operate with an audit and provide you with a plan on where you can best spend and save money. They’re about plans with priorities and delivering a solution according to budget.

If you’d like to find out more about how a Managed Service Provider can help you move from reactive to proactive IT management, contact us today on +64 3 443 5499. If you’d like to visit or email us, you can find our details here.

Local Technology Nationwide

Big-business quality IT for SME’s
By Delia Gill

The IT Alliance are a group of nationwide partners that banded together to offer businesses high-quality, flexible support with a local touch. They are small enough to feel part of your team but backed by a bigger organisation and network of support. It doesn’t matter if you’re located in Otago or on the road across the country, they have the infrastructure set up to ensure you’re covered with all things IT.

Your Local Partner

How great is it that technology allows us to remote in and help clients at the drop of a hat? Although remote support is an excellent tool, sometimes an on-site visit is what you need. After all, it might be a little too much to expect Frank from accounts to troubleshoot why his keyboard isn’t connecting to his docking station, which isn’t connecting to his laptop, which is only connecting to one of his two screens, which seem be missing some cords?…you get the idea!

All of the partners in the IT Alliance pride themselves in providing, fast, high-quality local support. They’re focused on building long-lasting client relationships and working with you to ensure IT is strengthening your business, not obstructing it.

Nationwide Support

As a group of 12 independent IT companies across New Zealand, the IT Alliance work together as a group to deliver products, projects, training and support throughout New Zealand. Regular meetings during the month are held where specialist knowledge is shared among members and then passed onto clients from a local source.

Having partners that can reach the entire country means there are no limitations to servicing your business. Whether you’re travelling and need help, or have staff based around New Zealand, they can provide you with flexibility by supporting you no matter where you are.

Flexible and Responsive

The issue with partnering with a single, large IT company is that you can often get lost in the noise. Partnering with a member from the IT Alliance means you’re getting the benefits of small and local but also the access and knowledge of big and broad. Smaller and local offers agility, with the capability of changing and adopting new technologies at a faster pace, bypassing lengthy procedure. Additionally, you’re not paying a premium to support a single large organisation that has substantial overheads to cover.

Collaborative Knowledge

A collaborative approach is critical with the fast-paced nature of the IT space. The IT Alliance team are backed with a wealth of knowledge and varying specialties. This means they each bring something unique to the table and can share the most important information with each other rather than wading through the sea of updates and changes the industry consistently presents. The core purpose of the partners coming together frequently is to brainstorm, explore all points of view, share experiences, stretch perspectives and challenge the way things are down. All with the objective to ensure the best possible IT solutions are offered to their customers.

If you’d like to find out more about how the IT Alliance works or can help your business, contact us today on +64 3 443 5499. If you’d like to visit or email us, you can find our details here.