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Jul 18
Engage and Attract New Customers with Microsoft’s Cloud Capabilities

Companies across the country – large and small – are enhancing their digital presence to better connect with customers through multiple digital venues. With the assistance of trusted technology advisors including Applied Information Sciences, one of the largest companies in the country, GEICO insurance, has adopted an aggressive hybrid-cloud course from legacy infrastructure to the cloud to thrive in the fast-moving digital insurance marketplace.

As the leading direct writer in the auto insurance industry, GEICO is always looking for innovative ways to reach and delight customers. However, as any online merchant can attest, there’s no standing still on the Internet. Over the past five years, the rise of mobile Internet use and the explosion of participation in social media networks has led to a sharp rise in the customer appetite for digital engagement.

GEICO has always wanted to stay ahead of the curve in regards to digital engagement, and that is why they teamed up with Microsoft to benefit from Azure’s cloud utilities. In today’s universe of digital engagement, the optimal experience for a customer includes day and night availability and a continuous release of capabilities that make transactions faster and easier. Azure’s development environment and moving to the cloud are helping GEICO make that happen.

GEICO chose to partner with Microsoft because Microsoft’s aggressive approach to move into cloud technology with Microsoft Azure, especially its innovative platform-as-a-service (PaaS) tools – which allows GEICO’s cloud development team to collaborate on the construction of important applications.

With its software development now happening in Azure, GEICO has seen a substantial speedup in its innovation cycle. That acceleration comes from faster provisioning of development resources and from reallocating engineers from standing up infrastructure to developing new customer engagement models. With its nimble cloud infrastructure, GEICO can test and refine ideas faster, which helps it improve the customer experience at a faster cadence.

By moving its tier-1 business systems to Azure, GEICO has also eliminated much of the downtime that used to accompany new-feature rollouts, which could be devastating to an online business. Today, GEICO deploys and tests in one US Azure datacenter and runs production applications in another. Customers never see any downtime due to software updates and the important applications that they rely on and trust are always available.

Additionally, GEICO has also reduced costs with Azure by reducing the labor required to set up and manage infrastructure. You can read more about the Microsoft Cloud services offered by VISTECH by clicking here.

Jul 03
Fight Ransomware with Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics

Many businesses and individuals are aware of the growing threat of Ransomware, a new type of cybersecurity attack that will lock users out of a system until they have given a payment. Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving, and – at this point – they are nearly ubiquitous, especially when employees rely on multiple devices to get work done on the go.

But with the help of Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA), your employees will be able to use any and all of their devices securely and remain protected from cyberattacks and ransomware.

Even just within the past few years, cyberattacks and security threats have grown substantially more sophisticated, as many attackers are able to reside within a network an average of eight months before they are even detected. Many attacks are able to occur because hackers compromise user credentials in order to gain access to a computer or a company’s network. Hackers are increasingly using tools that resemble legitimate IT protocols rather than malware in order to infiltrate and attack vulnerable networks.

Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA) provides a simple and fast way to understand what is happening to your network and will allow you to react in order to protect it. First, Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics works to identify suspicious user and device activity with its built-in intelligence. If any unusual behavior is detected, Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics will provide clear and relevant threat information on a simple attack timeline. Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics is able to leverage and analyze varieties of information in order to track suspicious user behavior and detect even the most advanced attacks in real time.

Using its cloud-based algorithm, Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics works around the clock to help you pinpoint suspicious activities in your systems by tracking and profiling user behavior in order to understand exactly which behavior would seem suspicious. There is no need for your IT security staff to create rules, fine-tune existing systems, or monitor floods of security reports because the intelligence needed is built in. Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics also identifies known advanced attacks and security issues.

Click here to read more about how VISTECH and other Microsoft utilities like Advanced Threat Analytics can help to manage your company’s data and keep your company more secure.

Jun 26
Upgrade to Windows 10 Quickly and Easily

Liberty is a well-known company with a growing influence across Africa. For nearly 60 years, the South African company has created value for investors by meeting customers’ financial needs through developing and delivering appropriate insurance and investment products and services.

Liberty offers an extensive, market-leading range of products and services to help customers build and protect their wealth and lifestyle. These include life, short-term and health related insurance, investment management and financial support for retirement.

Traditionally, the Liberty end-user operating system roadmap has been focused on supporting only one version less than what is currently available. The reasons for this include the fact that an operating system update would require disruptive changes in order to ensure the continued compatibility of the company’s applications. Often, this would result in a lengthy implementation timeline that could range from 12 to 18 months.

With the release to market of Windows 10, Liberty anticipated that many of its external customers would quickly adopt the operating system, especially because Microsoft was offering a free upgrade in the first year of the software becoming available. Liberty therefore had to expedite the process of checking the compatibility of its solutions on the Windows 10 operating environment.

Liberty faced a further challenged because its independent sales force was buying new PCs and laptops which came pre-loaded with Windows 10. To use the Liberty sales tools, they were forced to downgrade to Windows 7, which incurred additional expenses.

As it had an existing service agreement in place for its end-user support, Liberty approached Microsoft to discuss the technical and licensing aspects of making the large-scale, company-wide switch to Windows 10, also making sure to include training for Liberty staff to become acquainted with new Windows 10 features.

Liberty’s Windows 10 migration involved upgrading six thousand PCs within a three-month deadline. In addition, all Liberty external facing applications were updated in order to be compatible with Windows 10. Two critical factors in making the move so successful were onboarding the stakeholders in the service chain – such as the executives, operations, application teams, and the supplier and properly communicating the move to all those (in and out of the company) who would be affected by it.

Within a period of three months, Liberty upgraded more than six thousand PCs and resolved compatibility issues for its external-facing applications without losing any data. Feedback from users indicate the overall performance experience is an improvement compared to Windows 7 resulting in improved productivity. Furthermore, the improved power management features provide for extended battery life on devices further enhancing the efficiency of staff.

You can read more about Microsoft Windows 10 and the other Microsoft Cloud services offered by VISTECH by clicking here.

Jun 20
Create a Business Continuity Plan to Protect from Cyber Attacks

Headlines are filled every week with news of business and personal data being lost to cyber-attacks. Whether the hacking threat comes from an independent collective like Anonymous or a pseudo-governmental agency in China, cyber-attacks are on the rise, and these attacks pose a serious threat to your business’s ability to operate. Just the other day, the database of a Republican analytics firm was compromised, exposing the personal information of almost 200 million people.

The primary threat that cyber-attacks pose is the loss of data. This data can range from propriety information owned by your company to the personal data of your clients and employees. The danger of losing proprietary information goes without saying, but the loss of personal data goes even further and threatens to damage the trust that your company has built up with its clients and employees.

Additionally, a cyber-attack poses a serious threat to a variety of business operations, not just data. Hackers can work to make websites and servers non-operational, which inhibits intra-office communication and the ability for your company to advertise to and draw in potential clients online.

The benefits of a clear and sound business continuity plan cannot be understated. Business continuity plans not only help to protect your company from potential disaster. They can help you recover faster from them as well. Minimizing the risk of downtime – and minimizing the downtime your business might experience in a worst-case scenario – goes a long way in protecting your company’s and your client’s trust and information.

These principles are all the more important in the case of cyber attacks. Having a business continuity management program in place can reduce the cost of data breaches and significantly reduce the change of them occurring. Business continuity and disaster response plans can also reduce the amount of time it takes to identify a cyber attack and reduces the likelihood of experiencing a breach over the next two years, says a study released by the Ponemon Institute L.L.C. .

383 companies from 16 industry sectors in 11 countries, including the United States and Saudi Arabia, were surveyed by Michigan-based Ponemon. All of the participating organizations had experienced a data breach of some kind, according to the study.

The study found that companies with a business continuity management program took an average of about 50 fewer days to identify and respond to a data breach. Firms that had a business continuity and disaster response plan took on average 175 days to identify a breach, compared with an average of 227 days for firms that did not have such a program.

Among other results, the study found that while the average cost per lost or stolen record can be as high as $167, for companies with a business continuity program the average cost can be as low as $149. The study also concluded the likelihood of having a data breach some time during the next two years is 22% for firms with these programs and 29% for those without.

Jun 12
Stay Safe from Cyberattacks

Hacking and all forms of cyberattacks are becoming more and more prevalent. Whether they are the work of independent groups or government-funded collectives, hackers are developing new techniques to infiltrate computer systems in order to steal data and make a quick buck.

One of these methods is ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malware that holds files or even entire computer systems hostage until a payment is made. Usually this is done by encrypting files so that they are inaccessible or by marking them for permanent deletion. Attacks can occur randomly and without warning, but they usually include a clear ransom demand displayed through computer screens. Sometimes this ransom amount even increases as time passes.

Over the last year or so, ransomware attacks have hit epidemic proportions. There are many high-profile instances of ransomware attacks, but these attacks can even occur in small-to-medium sized business that have limited in-house IT support.

Ransomware is now an organized business designed and executed to maximize profit, and if an attack takes place, it usually works. Most businesses are willing to pay what it takes to get their data back. The low overhead and high profits involved with ransomware mean that there are tons of hacking groups that can rake in millions of dollars per year.

Ransomware usually gains access to computers or networks through social engineering and preying on an uninformed mark. A hacker sends an email that prompts its recipient, an employee, to download a file. The file turns out to be a malicious program that infects that employee’s computer, as well as any company networks that computer is connected to. Then the piece of ransomware starts encrypting vital files and prompting users with a ransom note.

At this point, a ransomware attack has forced the company into downtime. More money is lost each second.

Today, ransomware attacks are increasingly aimed at businesses of all sizes, which allows for hackers to make demands for thousands of dollars in ransom payments. The University of Calgary paid $16,000 dollars in June. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid a $17,000 ransom in February. Ransomware attacks target companies indiscriminately, usually taking advantage of industries that rely on technologies which are more vulnerable to attack.

But, as companies become more reliant on technology throughout their business operation, those vulnerabilities are increasing exponentially. Even the Internet of Things is vulnerable to the ransomware threat. At a recent DEF CON event, hackers were able to get into a smart thermostat system and hold it for ransom.

There are a number of ways to protect yourself from a ransomware attack. The first is to educate employees to make sure that they don’t fall into any traps by downloading untrustworthy and potentially-infected files. The second is to make sure that your data is well-protected and always backed-up properly. The cuts the legs out from under a ransomware threat.

Click here to read more about how VISTECH can help your company protect itself and recover from disaster!

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