Category Archives: IT Consulting

Microsoft, Google and Apple all agree: Use Multi Factor Athentication (MFA or 2FA)

“When both Google and Microsoft are recommending the same thing, it’s probably a good time to start following their advice.” – ZDNet

Apple 2fa mfa

With the “big 3” in agreement, it’s time to listen.  Apple not longer makes it optional.   Microsoft says it stops 99.9% of hack attempts and requires it for any Microsoft Partner with access to customer data.   Google is also recommending MFA.

There is a lot of information on the internet about which MFA (or 2FA) tool is best.  It’s pretty clear that most solutions recommend using an app and not a text code. Text codes are not transferred securely and therefor can be intercepted giving you less security.  Bottom line, if you are not using an MFA authenticator app, you are less secure.  Every company or organization needs to have MFA protecting their email system, customer information and financial data.  Passwords alone just don’t provide a reasonable level of protection.

But is MFA enough?

MFA is a great start but it’s still can be defeated by social engineering (tricking a person to do what they normally would not) attacks.  If you are in a business with security and reporting requirements (Legal, Banking, Health Care, etc.), it is not.  You need to have “more layers in your tin foil hat” – Matt Soseman,  Microsoft.

Google and Microsoft both have security platforms that greatly enhance security.   As I have certifications in Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility and Security (EMS) platform, I’ll use that as an example.  EMS is an Office 365 add on that can protect not only Microsoft Platforms, where it clearly out shines all other products, but also 3rd party apps.  It’s not simple to configure initially because there are so many amazing features.  But the many services bundled can protect everything in your environment.  And save a good deal of money compared to cobbling together  multiple products.

EMS is a Azure based cloud product.  No servers are required for most environments.  EMS can protect your PCs, Mobile iOS and Andriod Devices (cooperate supplied or BYOD), Macs, and servers.  It can also protect almost any cloud service (Office 365, G Suite, Facebook, DropBox, etc.).    EMS incorporates many tools including MFA, Mobile Management, Antivirus, and Single Sign on.  There are many other tools in the base product (EMS E3, free to non-Profits under 50 users) that I won’t go into.  EMS starts at a very reasonable monthly charge of $8.80 per user for commercial accounts.

Once a basic level of security is achieved with EMS E3, organizations, can add more and more “tin foil” layers of security while making access to secure systems easier.  For example, see my earlier article about getting rid of passwords on this blog.

The highest end version of Microsoft’s security suite (Microsoft 365 E5) can even monitor your Firewall logs for security threats and take automatic action to block compromised systems and accounts from your data.

At General Networks we strongly recommend EMS and Microsoft 365 as complete security services.

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Microsoft Announces Skype for Business End of Life

Below is the official announcement that Skype for Business will be “retired” in July of 2021.  The newer and more feature rich Teams is replacing Skype for Business.  Skype (the free consumer app) will not be affected by this announcement.

At General Networks we have migrated ourselves and many customers to Teams and the transition is pretty straight forward.  Because Teams is a different interface to the same (mostly) features, some user training is required.  We have conducted many user training sessions for our clients and the Skype features take just a few minutes to go over.  Most of the training ends up focusing on the new features of Teams.

So what’s still missing from Teams that Skype for Business has?

1)     Skype has support for multiple windows and Teams operates in a single window.  There are workarounds but sometimes multiple windows are really what’s needed.
2)     Skype for Business can message with the consumer Skype.  Teams can not yet.

There are other minor things (mostly in the administration of Teams) but those are convenience issues not functional issues.  Microsoft says they are working on solving both the the above issues.  Teams, having so many features, has more “bugs” then the older Skype for Business.  We will update this blog with more information as it becomes available.

 

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Making Security Easy – Get Rid of Passwords

The security landscape has changed

The truth to security is: Passwords alone can no longer protect your data.  If your not using a multi-layer security system your going to get hacked sooner or later.  I think everyone has heard that getting hacked can be extremely expensive.  But, are you aware that it is also currently one of the leading causes of business failure.

What can be done?

The first step is to deploy Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to your login accounts controlling email, financial and file systems.   While no security system is perfect, MFA raises the bar on protecting your system.

The next step is to deploy Single Sign On (SSO).  SSO makes life easy for employees as they can use a single sign-on to login in to all of your organizations resources.

Education of “social engineering” attacks and other current risk is important.  Everyone that touches your organizations data needs to know how they fit in to keeping the system secure.

And our final recommendation:

Get rid of passwords

Replace passwords with facial recognition or fingerprint readers.  This gets rid of the need to remember complex passwords, password management software and re-using the same password over and over.  Suddenly security becomes easy for everyone.  No more forgotten passwords,

Let us help you make the transition easy

General Networks can help you deploy the right set of technology services that meats your security requirements and your budget.

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​Inspiration for your Modern SharePoint Intranet – The SharePoint Look Book Delivers!

 

As a Microsoft Gold Partner and implementer of SharePoint intranets, we routinely encounter organizations struggling to visualize a great intranet experience in SharePoint.  Many are used to older versions of SharePoint and are turned off by the thought of the bland, text-heavy sites of the past.  Others are altogether new to SharePoint Online through Office 365 and have never had a centralized site for communicating and interacting with their staff.  Where to start? 

As employee engagement becomes a top priority and remote workers are becoming the norm, most leaders recognize the need to provide an intranet site – a place where employees can get the tools and resources they need, stay informed on company news, access a company directory and in general, feel connected to the whole.  SharePoint is a natural for intranets and offers a wide variety of templates to get you started  intranet home pages,  Modern Communication sites, Team sites, Hub sites and more – but how do you deliver something that is both useful and visually stunning?  Something that represents your brand.  How can you see well-designed intranets when these sites are proprietary and generally not publicly available?   

Enter the SharePoint Look Book! 

 

If you are familiar with a “lookbook” in the fashion industry, you know that a lookbook is a collection of creative photographs designed to show off a brand’s style and inspire customers to imagine how they might assemble the various pieces of the collection to create a unique look that fits their vision.  With the SharePoint Look Book, Microsoft does the same for customers seeking to explore what and how they can deliver to their users, based on their unique scenarios and uses cases.  Seeking to inform and engage your staff?  You’ll find examples in the Look Book, complete with page layouts for Modern Communication sites.  Collaboration is your goal?  Check out the Team site examples for working with groups inside and outside of your organization, including details on which webparts were used to create the site. 

Check out the SharePoint Look Book Here 

 

At General Networks, an important component of our intranet deployment approach is to work with your stakeholders to understand your goals for the site and your vision for the user experience.  We provide guidance on what components you’ll need, best practices for utilizing them, and how to take full advantage of what SharePoint offers outofthebox – keeping your costs in check.  We consult on how to build a solid information architecture and framework that is easily maintained and extensible as your usage of the site expands  With the SharePoint Look Book handy, your team can quickly get up to speed on the various template options, page layouts, features they may not have known were available and most importantly, get inspired with beautiful designs in Modern SharePoint sites! The Look Book helps you help your staff better understand what the organization is seeking to achieve, fostering more input, excitement and engagement on the project, which ultimately leads to a well-defined design.  We’ll then take your unique vision and create mockups, wireframes and prototypes for your review and discussion.  Once we have the design locked down, we develop the site, work with your users to test the functionality and provide Quick Guides for both administrators and users of the site to add and maintain content. 

 

Are you inspired?  Ready to give your employees the tools they need to be efficient, connected and inspired?  Contact Cathy Ashbaughcashbaugh@gennet.com to discuss how we can help you bring your vision to life!   

 

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General Networks Named a Top Business Services Company by Clutch for 2019!

General Networks is proud to announce that we have been named as one of the top providers of business services in the world by Clutch! We are also excited to say that we have been doing well in a few of Clutch’s more competitive categories, their rankings of the best Microsoft Office 365 consultants, Microsoft SharePoint consultants, and OpenText ECM consultants.

We deliver technology consulting services for customers who need to manage and process critical business content. We bring together business strategy, specialized application expertise, and creative and technology professionals to solve business problems. We help our clients create effective solutions for automating any document intensive business process, from simple electronic libraries to complex document assembly and workflow. Our depth of experience reduces the time and risk of implementing IT solutions.

Clutch takes its reviews seriously, conducting phone interviews with a company’s past clients and getting honest feedback on the quality of their work. These reviews can all be found on our Clutch reviews page, but we wanted to include some of the nice things our clients have said about us here.

“I appreciate their ability to summarize information and suggest actionable solutions.” – IT Director, Research Center

“They are very professional, knowledgeable, and friendly and easy to work with. We’re very happy that we found them.” – Administrator, CF Kent

“General Networks’ responsiveness and accessibility sets them apart; we’ve had a harder time getting prompt support from other providers.” – Vice President, Real Estate Firm

We were also ranked as one of the best ECM consultants by Clutch’s sister site, The Manifest. We were featured for an email migration we performed for a large scale research group in California.

We are honored to receive this recognition. We do everything we can to help our clients succeed, and knowing that they appreciate our work so much is incredible. We will continue to improve and innovate, always keeping our clients ahead of the curve.

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Microsoft Office Deployment Just Got Easier!

The Office Configuration Tool can use configs saved in your Office 365 portal.

This new feature makes deployment of Office so much easier!  Not more XML files to manage.  Just setup your configuration and deploy from a URL on the Office Configuration Tool’s command line.

Here is how!  Be sure to watch the YouTube video that walks you through deploying Office via the cloud!

Contact General Networks and we can help you set this up so you can deploy Office faster than ever!

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microsoft teams microsoft ignite 2018 recap

Microsoft Teams, PSTN Conferencing and Bypassing “The Lobby”

If you using Teams for PSTN Conferencing (Telephone Dial In), you have probably noticed that anyone that is not a member of your Office 365 tenant must be manually admitted from the Lobby by someone who is part of your company. Skype for Business meeting allow the meeting creator to turn this off for a specific meeting and to set the “bypass lobby” as a default feature. However this feature has not yet been added to the Teams client or the Outlook Desktop Client.

And worse yet if everyone is dialing in (member or not) the same issue applies. We have had customers reject PSTN Conferencing as usable because of this problem. However, there is a workaround finally. It requires using PowerShell and its all or nothing but we have bypassed the lobby here at General Networks so we can use Teams as our primary PSTN conferencing tool.

Below are the notes from our engineer that got this working.

If your not a General Networks client to do this for you email tssales@gennet.com and we will let you know the costs. Current clients can email or call the helpdesk.

I’ve updated our meeting policy so that when you scheduled a teams call, anonymous callers can dial in and will be joined to the meeting immediately (no lobby, no admin pin necessary). Here’s how to do it.

  1. Install the Skype for Business Online Connector Module. This module in PowerShell is used to update Meeting Policies in O365 https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=39366
  2. Restart your computer
  3. Open a PowerShell window in Administrator mode
  4. Run this command: Import-Module SkypeOnlineConnector
    1. If you have trouble running scripts due to your execution policy you’ll need to update your execution policy. See here for details: https:/go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=135170
    2. If it asks you to start WinRM service say Yes
  5. Execute this command: $credential = Get-Credential
    1. Type in credentials of a O365 Tenant Admin (may only need rights to Teams but not sure)
  6. Execute this command: $session = New-CsOnlineSession -Credential $credential -Verbose
  7. Execute this command: Import-PSSession $session
  8. You can now execute commands to interact with the Meeting Policies. Execute this command to see a list of your meeting policies: Get-CsTeamsMeetingPolicy
  9. Find the policy you want to update (i.e. Global)
  10. Execute this command using the policy name in place of GLOBAL: Set-CsTeamsMeetingPolicy -Identity GLOBAL -AllowAnonymousUsersToStartMeeting 1 -AllowPSTNUsersToBypassLobby 1 -AutoAdmittedUsers “Everyone”
    1. This will allow phone users to bypass the lobby as well as allow them (anonymous users) to start the meeting.
    2. Additional settings on this command can be found here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powershell/module/skype/set-csteamsmeetingpolicy?view=skype-ps
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Microsoft Nonprofit Pricing and Ordering Process is Changed

Microsoft Gold Partner

For nonprofit Microsoft customers, as of May 1st, your process for ordering software and services from Microsoft has changed.  In some cases just the authorization and purchasing method will change.  In others, the prices will go up.

If you order through TechSoup and you work with a Microsoft Partner, you should have a discussion with your Microsoft Partner about what the new plans will mean to your organization.  If you do not work with a Microsoft Partner (and are not big enough to have an Enterprise Agreement – over 500 users), you should find a partner that can help you navigate the new system.

 

General  Networks can help you migrate the new licensing for nonprofits.  If you need help please Contact Us

 

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General Networks Named Among Leading Los Angeles IT Services Firms

General Networks is proud to announce that we were recently named among the top 5 IT consulting companies in the Los Angeles metro area by Clutch, a technology research firm. It was an especially competitive category with over 100 companies being considered.  The rankings were determined by analyzing our past work, market presence, and client feedback.

Leading LA IT Firms

Leaders Matrix for Top LA IT Services

 

One client, an agency from the California State Government,  gave us a standout evaluation regarding a documentation management migration project. For this client, General Networks helped them migrate million of documents from eDocs to Content Server.

“General Networks does what they say they’re going to do for the amount that they’ve quoted, and their work product is very good….their team is just very friendly. They rarely, if ever, make mistakes.”

The General Networks team is dedicated to providing the highest quality work, and it is great to hear our clients validate our claims.

If you are interested in learning more about our award winning work, you can check out our case studies or our Clutch profile to read full reviews.

IT_Services_Firms_LosAngeles_2018-200x

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Growing from Within

I sometimes think hiring a “ready to go” consultant to get started immediately on an important project is a bit like Captain Ahab hunting for Moby Dick; if you actually “catch” a consultant with the right skills, you may end up sorry you did. You’ve found something very powerful and the allure is understandable given the potential, but highly experienced consultants are used to swimming their own way — and my experience is that more often than not, hiring one will leave you with a broken ship.

So it never works to hire experienced consultants?

No, it can definitely work. Of the dozen or so hires of highly experienced consultants that I’ve made over the past decade, it has worked out a few times. When it doesn’t, the problem is usually cultural. We have a very strong entrepreneurial culture of excellence that requires initiative and critical thinking. When people have been with organizations that discourage such things, the change can be jarring and, most of the time, insurmountable. We keep trying because the reward for the exceptions is significant, but we can’t build our business this way. Continue reading…

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