Heartbleed Reality

HeartbleedLet’s clear the confusion as our phone lines and inboxes are being flooded with questions – and as usual most public information is either just plain wrong or greatly exaggerated by the press:

  1. Heartbleed is a critical vulnerability for open source platforms running Linux/Unix and the OpenSSL service. Despite the recent hysteria, this vulnerability is nearly two years old.
  2. Microsoft Windows, Office 365, and Azure use schannel technology and are not impacted by Heartbleed.
  3. You should change your password for Open Source services such as Gmail, Twitter, or Facebook.
  4. If you use the same password for everything, stop doing that and change your passwords for everything. You should have different passwords for work, home, financial, and social services.
  5. Administrators running OpenSSL should apply patches, reset root passwords, and re-issue certificates.

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Which Office 365 Plan is Right for Me?

Office 365 LogoThere are over 4 dozen Office 365 subscription plans, for virtually every need and price point from a-la-carte single service starting at $2 per user per month up to the currently highest priced bundle of $22 per user per month.

So which plan should you choose for your business? Microsoft has an Office 365 Help Me Choose Tool that asks a series of questions and makes a recommendation. The problem is you don’t really get an understanding of any limitations or how the different plans compare.

Generally, you want to avoid Small Business (25 user limit) and Midsized Business Plans (300 user limit).  The reason why is because every user must be on the same plan. Also, if you outgrow the user limits, you must backup all of your data and start a new plan! All other plans allow a mix and match of plan to user needs, with the ability to freely change a user license without affecting any data.

The most popular Office 365 plans are Office 365 E1 ($8/user/month) and Office 365 E3 ($20/user/month). The reason why is because of the various features and cost-effective price point. Plus, as described above, there are no limitations on choice or future pain points for negligible cost difference versus other plans.

  • Office 365 E1: 50GB mailbox and unlimited archive, 25GB OneDrive per user, 10GB of organization file storage plus 500MB per user free, online meetings and screen sharing, enterprise social networking, and Office Web Apps.
  • Office 365 E3: Includes everything above, plus Office 365 Pro Plus installed on up to 5 devices per user.

Microsoft has demonstrated a commitment to add approximately 3 dozen updates to Office 365 annually, with the most notable of recent free e-mail encryption and document signing. If you stick to the two main choices above, you can augment with Kiosk or other finite plans. Notice, that you get much more for your $8 with E1 rather than Exchange Plan 2. Also, do the math as there is no cheaper way to buy Office alone on-going with 5 copies per user with E3.

Starting with an Office 365 E3 free trial for 30 days let’s you experience all features and then select the different plans you need per user (except obviously Small Business or Midsized Business as explained above).

For nonprofit customers, you should use the new Office 365 E3 nonprofit trial link for $4.50 per user per month.

Oklahoma Represented in Microsoft 2014 Champions Club

Cloud PowerJust 90 Microsoft Partners out of 640,000 worldwide were invited to the Microsoft SMB Champions Club 2014 in Redmond, Washington on February 12-13. Matrixforce is proud to represent Oklahoma among these elite Tier 1 and 2 cloud partners, that implement 2,000 or more new Microsoft Online Services subscribers per year.

Partner attendees will be provided advanced notice and exclusive training under Non-Disclosure Agreement on the Microsoft mobile-first, cloud-first strategy. Further, structured break-out sessions are tailored per partner focus to provide unparalleled skills for customers.

This summit comes at a critical time when:

  • Satya Nadella takes the helm of Microsoft
  • Windows Azure streams the Winter Olympics
  • Office 365 is preferred 3 to 1 by business customers
  • Surface gains traction with customers

Following this leading-edge training, Matrixforce will begin providing breakthrough services to clients for better productivity in cloud and hybrid virtualization environments.

 

Guidepoint Insight

Guidepoint Stolen Vehicle RecoveryA prospect recently asked, “What’s the one thing that sets Matrixforce apart from its competitors?”. If only there was that one silver bullet, like our Delta proprietary methodology. However, the query really wasn’t some practiced qualification tactic, but just a thoughtful question. So, I told him there are likely several differentiators, but that it starts with a unique organizational approach of Matrixforce being a C Corporation with a fantastic board of directors versus a sea of LLCs.

One of our newest board members is Tom Gafford, Chief Technology Officer and cofounder of Guidepoint Systems in Fort Worth. Guidepoint integrates advanced GPS and wireless Internet technology to provide stolen vehicle recovery. Supporting the western hemisphere and growing, Tom brings tremendous open source technology insight to a prominent Microsoft partner, along with the business savvy of partnering with the world’s leading automotive and telecom firms, across thousands of new car dealerships and specialty retailers.

Tom joins Steve and Lee Synnott as an exceptional group to bring insightful knowledge from various industries and geographic perspectives. Steve Synnott is the CEO of Pro Group in Denver, an international merchandising and marketing consortium for distributor and retail vendors. Lee Synnott is former CEO and Chairman of the Board of Ingram Book in Nashville.

Obviously, such advisory oversight adds significant business advantage for Matrixforce. More importantly, it adds another level of trust for customers. Instead of unknown owners for a relatively new LLC, a 35 year old C Corporation is publicly listed with verifiable shareholders. It may not be the main thing that sets Matrixforce apart, but it’s a clear differentiator in business approach than virtually any competitor.

Streamline Lessons From 100 Blog Posts

100 Blog PostsStreamline, our managed services blog, achieves 100 posts today! Since starting in December of 2009, many things have changed and there is very little information on the web from business organizations that aren’t selling blog services. While we’ve committed our share of errors, we’ve also achieved a fair amount of success:

  1. Management commitment. People want to hear most from those at the top. Blogging is not something you can simply hire out and takes discipline of a regular schedule, just like payroll or taxes. Weekly is the de facto standard to provide any quality, while not being overly frequent. The blog should have a branded name and the author’s name should be prominent and verifiable on social media.
  2. Motivation cogitation. Forget about hawking your wares, focusing only on link building, bragging about an award, or the press release format that sounds like it should be read by a movie-tone narrator from the 50′s. Give better or unique answers to your customers or prospects. In this highly competitive landscape, a great blog simply communicates a better understanding.
  3. Looks definitely matter. Most WordPress.com blogs start with the Contempt theme. The blue and minimalist feel puts writers at ease to let the words flow. However, it’s plain and boring for the audience. Pick a mobile responsive theme, customize the header graphic, upload a blog icon, and make sure every post has a featured image. Paragraphs should be 4-6 sentences with emphasis on key points using bold, italic, or underline. Remember that most people usually just scan and won’t read that 1,500 word magazine article.
  4. Not just another blog. All other managed services blogs are blue or green, while ours is maroon. Few use any featured images and many of the posts have similar titles to hundreds of similar articles on the web. We google all titles to make sure our posts are different and the content unique.  People don’t really care what managed services are, they just want to know how to solve their business and technology challenges.

Hopefully, this post helps with your digital marketing and like everything else in business, be prepared to adapt in this fast paced marketplace.

Leveraging 20 Years of Microsoft Competency

Microsoft Gold Partner LogoIn 1994, Matrixforce joined the Microsoft Solution Provider Program. The era was defined by IBM mainframes and Novell networks. NetWare was a solid file and print platform, but maintenance was laborious and any server applications caused frequent hangs and crashes. RPG and COBOL were giving way to C and relational databases, so it was time to gamble on an emerging player.

The buzzword was certification. Not only did you have to become expert in the Microsoft products, you mastered new standards like TCP/IP for networking. The failure rate of 70% for the tests continues today. Few technology professionals have earned a degree and fewer have current Microsoft certification.

Unlike traditional reseller programs, Microsoft gave software licenses for internal use, provided all kinds of swag, and even sample business and marketing plans – all for free. Through the 90′s Matrixforce was part of various major technology wars:

  • Windows vs. IBM OSx
  • NT Server vs. Novell NetWare
  • Word vs. WordPerfect
  • Excel vs. Lotus 1-2-3
  • Exchange vs. Lotus Notes
  • Internet Explorer vs. Netscape Navigator
  • SQL Server vs. Oracle

Then three things happened: the technology industry matured, the world grew tired of being humiliated by American technology, and fear and loathing began. Oh and then there were things like Y2K and 9-11. Specialization push by Microsoft was good as technology is broader than any other field. The Microsoft Partner levels (Registered, Certified, and Gold) also signaled commitment and competency. In 2003, Matrixforce became Oklahoma’s first Gold Certified Microsoft Partner in Security. That same year, Matrixforce was also 1 of only 30 national Microsoft Partner’s to receive exclusive training in the new releases of Windows Server and Exchange.

Detractors like to call the 2000s the lost years for Microsoft. They forget that Microsoft has always been very profitable and remains so. Surely, they also missed the other wars won during this period like Windows over Linux, Hyperv over VMware, Xbox over PlayStation, and Windows Mobile over Blackberry.

Matrixforce has already spent 5 years moving customers to the cloud with Microsoft services like Office 365, which is also beating Google Apps by nearly 3 to 1. The competition likes to say we’re “too Microsoft” and that Gold is just a color. It’s often lost in the conversation, but to really be successful you have to learn competing and third-party products, as it’s never going to be a world dominated by just one software vendor. To us, it’s a specialty and a higher level of commitment to our expertise and the well-being of customers.

Technology Prognosis for 2014

2014 Logo2013 was dominated by the failed implementation of the Affordable Care Act website and Eric Snowden, making us realize we are no longer the land of the free. As the world economy started to return mainly due to the technology sector, the mainstream press worked hard to slam the major players (as usual) and dub the year as lost. The following predictions are a mix of both safe and controversial:

  1. IT Spending down significantly. You generally hear the opposite virtually every year to bolster goodwill and sell more advertising by the trade rags. However, the last 2 years saw the most technology capitalization than the previous 5 years.
  2. IT jobs down. Unless you’re in a specialized industry, technology wages will stay flat and there will be fewer technology jobs mainly due to government increases in taxes, entitlements, and regulations.
  3. Staffing fees decrease. Unknown to the general public, staffing firms dominate the technology industry and historically enjoy a 60% margin on the first year salary of a placement. LinkedIn and old standbys like Craigslist are impacting this model greatly.
  4. Competency rules. Technology industry will continue to shy away from the hoodie and inept crowd, embracing education, certification, and experience.
  5. Twitter Boostrap rules. If you haven’t converted your website to Bootstrap in 2014, you’ll likely be out of touch with customers and not easily found.
  6. Apple love affair over. The new Apple TV will again not be released. Wearable iWatch will flop as most people now check the time on their phone. A larger iPad with a stand and iWork apps will seem a lot like a Microsoft Surface. iPhone 7 will be met by no cool factor for youth and resistance by the general public to buying a new phone each year.
  7. Microsoft bashing on steroids. While hysterically railing about the death of the PC, most mainstream media will gleefully send off their drivel on 40-year-old email. This irony only underscores the fact of ignorant discrimination and out-of-touch understanding of the Microsoft direction over last 10 years.
  8.  Privacy avoidance. The press won’t to talk about privacy issues. Google and Facebook won’t be challenged.
  9. Censorship pending. Nearly 15 years of the mantra “content is king” has led to over 90% of the world’s data being published in the last 2 years. However, Google may see much of it as duplicate SPAM or discount link value in favor or paid advertising.
  10. Social media flourishes. Vanity and the fact that social media is now the only place you can link to your own content, means it will be around for the foreseeable future.