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February 26, 2014

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Ignoring Microsoft End-of-Support Deadlines Is a Major Gamble

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Continuing to use Microsoft XP and Office 2003 after April 8 is kind of like driving at night without using your headlights or your seatbelt. You may get where you need to go if you’re lucky, but it’s only a matter of time before disaster strikes. Is it worth the risk?

With the end-of-support deadline quickly approaching for these popular Microsoft products, a recent study of more than 1,000 predominantly midsize organizations found that 77 percent are still using XP and 60 percent don’t expect to upgrade by April 8. These organizations will quickly become prime targets of hackers.

Zero-day exploits are capable of identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in your network on the same day. Are your antivirus software and IT manager capable of preventing such threats? You better hope so, because critical security updates and patches from Microsoft won’t be released after April 8. Security software is best utilized when combined with updates and patches from Microsoft.

In addition to security concerns, organizations that are subject to industry regulations are likely to face compliance issues if they don’t upgrade by April 8. For example, healthcare organizations and medical facilities that are required to ensure the privacy of patient medical records will not be HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant if they’re using XP.

Similarly, the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, a set of rules that addresses ethical obligations of attorneys, state that an attorney must act competently to protect sensitive information used to represent a client. If a security breach occurs, the use of unsupported technology despite public warnings from the developer would be difficult for even the most skilled attorney to defend.

Attorneys can even be held responsible for technology used to store and transfer data by staff, vendors and clients outside of the office – not just Windows XP and Office 2003, but also Small Business Server 2003, Exchange Server 2003 and SharePoint Portal Server 2003. All of these products will reach end-of-support deadlines on April 8.

Many organizations that still have no plan to migrate away from XP may have been relieved to hear Microsoft’s recent announcement that it will continue to provide updates to its antimalware signatures and engine through July 14, 2015. For enterprise customers, this includes System Center Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection and Windows Intune.

However, this is an incomplete solution. Microsoft has made it clear that the effectiveness of antimalware solutions on unsupported operating systems such as XP is limited. Utilizing modern hardware and software is critical to preventing security breaches and maintaining regulatory compliance.

You have a number of options for migration, but time is running out. To avoid the risk of using unsupported technology, let ICG help you put a migration plan into action that suits the needs of your organization.

December 9, 2013

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7 Reasons Why You Should Outsource Your Help Desk

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You depend upon your computer systems to boost productivity and enhance customer service, but when they’re not working properly business grinds to a halt. Your IT team’s productivity takes a hit as well.

From assistance with a seldom-used application to recovery from a full-blown system crash, end-users require IT support from time to time. And when they need it, they want it fast. That means your IT team must redirect their efforts from strategic projects to providing help desk support.

Few organizations have the luxury of a fully staffed help desk devoted to end-user needs. Many small to midsize business (SMBs) have very small IT support teams who have a hard time keeping up with day-to-day tasks — much less individual end-user crises. In some cases a lone tech may handle everything from the network to the desktop. More serious issues may be kept waiting while the technician helps end-users — or vice-versa.

That’s why help desk outsourcing makes sense for many organizations. By outsourcing at least some end-user support requests to a managed services provider such as ICG, you can get more rapid end-user support while reducing IT costs.

Instead of paying the salaries of enough IT staff to handle spikes in activity, you pay only for the support you need when you need it. And you gain the knowledge, experience and disciplined processes of the managed services provider’s team, ensuring that support requests are handled efficiently and accurately.

Help desk outsourcing is ideal for SMBs that don’t have in-house IT support — it enables these organizations to get the support they need with no capital outlays or hiring costs. But it can deliver key benefits to organizations of all sizes, with or without IT staff.

7 Benefits of Help Desk Outsourcing

  • Ensure consistent, timely support — forget about staffing challenges, sick leave and vacation
  • Tap into the expertise and methodologies of a dedicated support team to resolve issues more quickly
  • Improve end-user productivity by reducing downtime and frustration
  • Eliminate the “shoulder-tap” support requests that can distract other staff from their core functions
  • Gain faster support for mobile users and teleworkers through the service provider’s “remote control” technology
  • Smooth out support costs
  • Enable in-house IT staff to focus on critical systems and strategic initiatives

ICG’s Virtual Service Desk enables you to enjoy these benefits. Our skilled technicians will take your first-tier support calls — the most common end-user requests, such as desktop, Microsoft Office and connectivity issues — and use the latest web-based remote control tools to quickly resolve most problems on the first call. If needed, problems can be seamlessly escalated to a Level 2 or Level 3 engineer, but only if you approve the additional cost.

IT support is critical to your organization. Running a help desk isn’t. ICG’s Virtual Service Desk gives you access to highly qualified technicians to supplement or replace in-house support. Outsourcing help desk support can relieve the strain on existing IT resources, and improve productivity by providing users with faster problem resolution.