Matt Ruck

Matt Ruck is the President and CEO of designDATA. While he has spent nearly 25 years with this organization, Matt’s objective has never changed: he is committed to enhancing designDATA’s managed technology and cybersecurity services. In particular, some of the areas that Matt contributes to are: Data center initiatives, cloud computing, converged networking, VoIP telephony, contingency planning, and telecommunications. Matt supplements his extensive experience in the industry with rewarding certifications, like Microsoft’s MCSE and VMware’s VCPR.

Microsoft 365 – New Commerce Experience – Licensing Changes

Microsoft has recently made changes to Microsoft 365 licensing. Given that this will impact all designDATA clients, we have leveraged our Microsoft Gold CSP partnership to provide a few options to you.

Microsoft is calling this new licensing model “New Commerce Experience” or NCE for short. For clients who purchase through our Microsoft Gold CSP partnership, there will be two options for you to choose from. Given that this has financial implications, this will require a decision on your part. Please review the options below and let us know which you prefer:

1. M365 licenses with no term commitment (month-to-month licensing) will increase in price by approximately 20%.  Under this licensing model, you may decrease staff (licensing) count as needed with no further obligation to Microsoft.

2. M365 licenses with a one-year term agreement.  These licenses are still billed monthly, however, you will be unable to reduce your license count during the contract term.  So, if your company has 30 employees, reduces to 25, you are obligated to pay for those licenses until the contract anniversary date.

We believe most of our clients prefer option 2, the one-year licensing term, versus option 1, the 20% increase in cost.  If you purchase your M365 licensing from designDATA – please let us know your preference as soon as possible.  We have created an online form to collect repliesPlease reply by next week Friday, June 17.

If you are one of the few clients who do not currently leverage our Microsoft Gold CSP partnership and wish to take advantage of the annual saving option, please let us know, we would be glad to provide assistance.

Thank you for your business.

New Zero-Day Vulnerability in Malicious Microsoft Office Documents

6/3/2022 @ 8:40am

This is a follow-up to our security bulletin on Tuesday regarding a Zero-Day vulnerability that allows an attacker to craft malicious Microsoft Office documents to launch attacks on systems.

As of this writing, Microsoft has not yet published a security patch that properly addresses this vulnerability.  When such a patch is released, designDATA will execute our Zero-Day patch deployment process and deploy that patch promptly to all client systems we manage.

In the interim, Microsoft has published a technical workaround that disables a portion of Microsoft Windows that is used by this exploit (specifically, being able to launch the Microsoft Support Diagnostic Tool through an obscure URL protocol).  Implementing this workaround involves changing the Windows registry and will prevent the exploit from being able to run.

 designDATA has tested this workaround and has not observed any side effects that may impact your systems.  We have also developed and tested the scripting necessary to deploy this workaround to all of all of our clients’ Windows computers.  Due to the high risk presented by this vulnerability, designDATA will be rolling out this workaround script to all applicable computers that we manage on Friday, June 3rd.

No actions are required by you or your staff.  Any computers powered off during the day on June 3rd will get the workaround when they next come online and connect to the Internet.

designDATA will continue to work with Microsoft and our industry partners to mitigate the risk from this vulnerability and will deploy the security update that permanently fixes this vulnerability once it is published by Microsoft.  If you have any questions about this vulnerability, the workaround, or designDATA security bulletins in general, please reach out to your Client Technology Manager, Program Manager, or Technical Account Manager at designDATA. 

Thank you.

5/31/2022 @ 12:15pm

In the last 24 hours, news reports and communication from Microsoft has emerged regarding a new Zero-Day threat involving malicious Microsoft Office Documents.  A Zero-Day threat is one in which no security patch yet exists.  There are major concerns in the Cybersecurity community that this Zero-Day threat will be immediately exploited by criminals to install malware, deploy ransomware, or create backdoors into systems they can then exploit in the future.

This particular threat involves using a specifically-crafted, malicious Microsoft Office document (such as a Microsoft Word file, Microsoft PowerPoint file, or Microsoft Excel file) to launch the attack.  The attack begins when a user opens the malicious Microsoft Office document, and there may not be any indication the attack has commenced.  designDATA encourages all of our customers to review this notice and to share it with all of their staff:

What You and Your Staff Can Do To Protect Yourselves:
Do not open Microsoft Office files from untrusted or unsolicited sources, particularly as part of an email attachment or email link.  This includes otherwise-normal business processes, such as avoiding opening an attached Word document sent to jobs@yourorganization.org claiming to be a Resume, or an email with a link to download an Excel document claiming to be a new invoice from a new vendor.  Give additional scrutiny to any Microsoft Office documents received from previously-unknown senders.

Consider alternate ways to send and receive information to outside parties other than through Microsoft Office documents.  Safer ways include sending the information in the body of an email, in a PDF file, or even a screenshot.

What designDATA is Doing to Protect Your Staff:
As soon as Microsoft releases a security update for this vulnerability, designDATA will immediately work to deploy this to your computers following our Zero-Day patching procedure.  These deployments begin within 24 hours of the new update being released.  designDATA is reviewing public information and communicating with our security partners and Microsoft to better understand this vulnerability and to recommend any additional technical controls or awareness training we can make available to your staff.

If you have questions about this vulnerability, please contact your designDATA Program Manager, Client Technology Manager, or Technical Account Manager.

The Interesting History of Microsoft Business Voice

The Interesting History of Microsoft Business Voice

Four-minute read

COVID-19 pandemic has forced enterprises to seriously consider how they manage the collaboration of geographically dispersed teams.

In search of flexibility and access to high-quality communications, many have turned to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as the ideal solution to streamline their corporate communications.

A seemingly unlikely organization now threatens all leading VoIP/commercial telephony providers: Microsoft. They are leading innovation, modernization, and business intelligence in VoIP. Nowhere is this more apparent than their latest offering in cloud-based telephony: Microsoft Business Voice.

Below we’ve outlined the interesting history behind today’s quickest growing corporate phone system.

A brief history of Microsoft telephony

In a surprising move, Microsoft bought Skype in May 2011 for $8.5 billion. The company was incorporated as a division of Microsoft, with the purchase including the acquisition of all of Skype’s technologies. As part of Microsoft’s plan to expand into IP communications, acquiring Skype not only meant gaining the technology to do this but also granted the enterprise access to an expanded user base.

While the corporation initially kept Skype running without any significant changes, in April 2015, Microsoft launched Skype for Business, which could be integrated into Office apps and included added features like enterprise-grade security and the ability to manage employee accounts.

Two years later, the corporation introduced Microsoft Teams, intending to phase out Skype for Business, essentially making Skype obsolete by August 2021.

This means that come August, organizations using Skype will be forced to use Teams for their internal and external communications, screen-sharing, and conference calling.

Microsoft Business Voice steps into the arena

Microsoft Teams built on what Skype delivers, but with added features to make it an all-in-one communications platform intended to streamline remote communications and workflow. Since its inception, more features have been added to enhance this purpose.

One of these features is Microsoft Business Voice. Launched in 2020, it is a cloud-based phone system offered as an add-on to an existing Microsoft 365 or Office 365 subscription and integrates into Teams.

Business Voice allows both calling and chat together within Teams; you can call anywhere from any mobile device. It is even possible to make and receive PTSN calls with people outside your organization. Business Voice also offers call forwarding, call queues, and can convert text to speech, among other great benefits.

As an add-on to your existing Microsoft subscription, no new licenses are needed or additional software to manage. It is also possible to port your current phone numbers and integrate them along with a phone plan from Microsoft. This means shifting to Business Voice can be a seamless transition.

Business Voice is the culmination of Microsoft’s vision of having users working on everything within the same platform. While it may not have made sense at the time, Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype has certainly paid off. The corporation seems unstoppable compared to other manufacturers of cloud-based phone systems, and it is likely to continue gaining traction for the foreseeable future.

designDATA’s Business Voice solutions

Microsoft Teams lets you call, meet, and collaborate all in one place. And now, with Business Voice, you will have access to the corporate phone system, too. Microsoft Business Voice is the ideal solution for organizations needing flexibility and convenience in today’s remote working landscape. Luckily, designDATA can help your enterprise set up your corporate phone system to leverage Microsoft Business Voice’s best features.

Hardware as a Service: What It Is and Why You Need It

Hardware as a Service: What It Is and Why You Need It

Owning and managing technology, and keeping up with the latest developments, can be stressful and costly. Many enterprises have turned to the Hardware as a Service (HaaS) model to manage their technology needs. 

When an organization invests in a HaaS plan, they can access both the technology and the support needed to keep it functioning.

Below we look at what Hardware as a Service is and why it will make your life so much easier.

What is it?

HaaS is a service-based business model where an end-user pays for the use of hardware that belongs to and remains the responsibility of a managed service provider (MSP). It involves a service-level agreement where the service provider installs the hardware at the customer’s site and then takes responsibility for monitoring, managing, and maintaining the hardware systems. This can include both on-site and cloud-based services.

Customers are paying for both the use of the equipment as well as the services to maintain it.

The managed service provider will outfit their customer with appropriate technology like laptops, tablets, and desktop computers. They then provide essential services for the equipment like IT support, cloud-based storage, and hardware and software licensing. 

Why do you need it?

HaaS allows you to concentrate on growing your enterprise without worrying about the maintenance of your IT infrastructure. It also eliminates the stress and cost of regularly upgrading technology as this is taken care of by the service provider. This includes keeping the hardware functioning and up to date and ensuring that licencing agreements are current.

How will it make your life easier?

HaaS plans offer a budget-friendly alternative for organizations of any size, from small start-ups to large corporations. It frees up cash flow by reducing upfront capital expenses and lowering potential repair and maintenance costs. 

HaaS can also lead to savings on staffing costs, potentially eliminating the need for an in-house IT support team. With a fixed monthly fee agreement in place, budgeting becomes more manageable. This can even lead to increased productivity and profitability for your business, with less time and money wasted on hardware upkeep.

The proactive nature of a HaaS plan offers businesses operational reliability and peace of mind and is an excellent way for enterprises to stay current. You can rely on your managed service provider to ensure your technology is up to date and tested to keep your operations and vital data safe. The service provider will also take responsibility for licencing and security updates, back-ups, and recovery plans.

Finally, with built-in scalability, HaaS also helps your technology grow and change with your organizational needs.

Our HaaS Offerings

designDATA caters to your organization’s specific needs with modern solutions that keep your company on budget. We have recently upgraded our HaaS offering and are thrilled to offer five equipment profiles as well as upgrades and customization for each one. If you feel HaaS could be the right solution for you, get in touch with one of our HaaS experts today.

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