Welcome

Dan GriffinWelcome to the third edition of the JW Secure Informer, our bi-monthly newsletter. This is an opportunity to share what’s on our radar, specifically with respect to enterprise network security, but also regarding IT and business more generally.

The Informer is intended to be useful content and good for a quick read. So if it’s just clutter in your inbox, we’ve failed, and I hope you’ll let us know.
 

Cloud Security

As I’m writing this, I’ve just returned from the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Washington, D.C. It was a great trip, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s event in Los Angeles.

The big theme at WPC this year was cloud computing – that is, outsourced IT infrastructure which offers efficient scale-up and scale-down. One of the most interesting announcements I heard was the Windows Azure Platform Appliance. The Azure appliance is intended to be a transition technology: it will allow companies to start migrating their line of business application development to the Azure platform, but not require them to use Microsoft’s Azure datacenters. The distinction is important from a privacy perspective. For example, companies in regulated verticals such as healthcare and banking, and especially those based overseas, may not be able to take advantage of US-based application and infrastructure hosting due to data sovereignty laws. However, deployment of a device such as the Azure appliance allows these companies to invest in the latest software development technologies, host their applications onsite, and wait either for the laws to catch-up or for new local datacenters to be built.

Two more important themes in cloud computing: connectivity and auditing. Check out an article I recently co-authored, entitled Compliance Reporting: First Step in Controlling Client Cloud Access.

Conjure Up Some Virtual Magic

used with permission from the Microsoft Small Business Center

JW Secure Informer Newsletter imageryDo you remember wondering as a kid how a magician could put one scarf in a hat and then pull out ten? And wishing you could do the same, maybe with a candy bar instead of a scarf? Well, magic might seem in short supply these days, but thanks to virtualization, your childhood wish just might be possible.

Okay, full disclosure: Virtualization won’t work on candy bars. But it can turn one server into many, and since servers cost a heck of a lot more than Snickers, that’s a pretty neat trick.

Consider those servers sitting in the backroom. Without virtualization, each of these physical boxes is functioning as a dedicated server, meaning it is dedicated to running a particular set of applications and “client devices” (that’s IT-speak for PCs and peripherals, like printers, fax machines, and scanners). With virtualization software, one physical server can become multiple “virtual” servers, each capable of independently handling its own set of applications, devices, and users.

You may be wondering, how is this possible? More likely, however, you are asking yourself, what’s in it for me? Here’s what: Virtualization can help save a small business a pile of money!

Consider this startling fact: At any given time, you are using only about 10% of the computing power of a dedicated server. However, that server is usually still consuming about 70% of its peak power requirements. It also means you’re not getting a very good return on your server investment. Think about it: Would you buy a delivery truck that was going to sit idling in your parking lot during 90% of the business day?

With virtualization, the server utilization rate zooms from about 10% to about 60-70%. That’s an enormous increase, and the resulting consolidation helps lower energy costs and a much more palatable ROI.

But the advantages of server virtualization extend much further. With a dedicated server, if the machine goes down, so do all the devices and business critical applications it runs. In a virtualized environment, other servers can pick up the load if one crashes. Here’s how: The virtualization software detects the imminent failure of a physical server and moves its applications — for example, Microsoft® Exchange for e-mail — to a different server. This means your devices and applications are virtually always running, so you won’t lose productivity and sales because of server crashes. And it means that critical data is always available to your employees, which is especially important if you have a mobile workforce.

Still need convincing that virtualization can help your business? Consider the impact it had on HotSchedules, an Austin, Texas-based small business that provides online labor-scheduling systems and workforce productivity tools for the restaurant and entertainment industries. This 25-person company provides restaurant managers with real-time access to staff schedules and employee scheduling preferences from any Internet-connected computer. With an annual growth of more than 100 percent, HotSchedules now hosts more than a quarter-million users and about 4 million individual user sessions a month.

To accommodate their growing user base, HotSchedules added more and more physical servers. But soon the company was running out of space to house all the hardware, and the power costs of running all those boxes was exploding — from $3,000 a month in 2003 to more than $11,000 a month by 2008.

The mushrooming data center costs were actually limiting the company’s ability to grow, notes Matt Woodings, Chief Technology Officer at HotSchedules. The company was quickly getting mired in issues of scalability. Potential customers, including large national chains, were wondering: Could a small business like HotSchedules meet the needs of all their restaurants?

Enter virtualization, in the form of Microsoft’s Hyper-V™, a virtualization feature of Windows Server 2008 R2. Woodings evaluated other virtualization solutions, including VMware’s ESX, but selected Hyper-V because of the familiarity of Microsoft technologies and the cost advantages of integrating the Microsoft software. Notes Woodings, with other solutions the “learning curve would have been very high…Hyper-V was a cost-effective solution with everything in place.” Working with Dell, their IT partner, HotSchedules implemented Hyper-V easily and made a smooth transition to the virtual world.

HotSchedules now hosts up to 19 virtual machines on each of its physical servers, positioning the company for future growth without the overhead of buying, housing, and powering additional physical servers. In fact, with Hyper-V the company expects to handle their anticipated growth with 12 physical application servers instead of 120. This translates into real savings. Not only have power costs shrunk, the company has saved an estimated $60,000 by not having to buy additional physical servers.

Perhaps most importantly, virtualization has addressed the scalability issue, allowing HotSchedules to maintain its stellar growth. “With Hyper-V, we can fully compete on prices, while keeping our existing competitive advantages of better products and better service,” says a satisfied Woodings.

As HotSchedules discovered, by working with a Microsoft-certified IT partner, a small business can take advantage of server capabilities on par with those in big-businesses. Microsoft offers a range of products to help a small business virtualize its IT infrastructure. Hyper-V provides a platform on which you can consolidate multiple server roles as separate virtual machines running on a single physical machine. You can download Microsoft Hyper-V Server for free to access server virtualization capabilities, or if you already have Windows Server 2008 or plan to upgrade, you will have Hyper-V already built-in. Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager Workgroup Edition combined with System Center Essentials 2007 enables increased physical server utilization, rapid provisioning, and centralized management of physical and virtual machines. Microsoft System Center Essentials 2007 provides comprehensive systems management capabilities such as monitoring and alerting, software distribution, update management, and software and hardware inventory management. Microsoft partners provide complementary business continuity solutions, which reduces downtime and improves availability. Windows Small Business Server 2008 and Windows Essentials Business Server 2008 include Windows Server 2008 Standard technologies which support virtualization with Hyper-V and improve your business functions.

How many solutions today can give your business greater capacity and, at the same time, help lower your costs? Microsoft Virtualization can, which is a pretty neat trick in anybody’s book. It just might even beat pulling candy bars out of an empty hat!

Wireless Networking: The Basics

used with permission from Cisco

Wireless networking is an essential productivity tool for today’s mobile workforce. With wireless networking, you and your employees can stay connected to your company’s information resources virtually anytime, anywhere.

Ready to get started with wireless networking? Begin by familiarizing yourself with the basics and benefits of having a wireless network.

Next, consider the following steps:

1. Make Sure Your PCs Are Wireless
Most laptops today have built-in wireless networking connections. If yours doesn’t, you’ll need to install a wireless network adapter card, which is typically inexpensive and easy to use.

2. Get a Router Capable of Wireless Networking
Many network routers today act as wireless networking access points. They let you connect multiple computers to a single wireless network. And they connect your network to the Internet. You can extend wireless networking throughout your office, store, or campus by placing additional wireless access points in various locations. The additional access points extend the wireless signal’s range and strength over a wider geographical area, so that it’s available in more places, such as conference rooms.

3. Pay Attention to Location
The signal generated from each wireless access point or router extends up to approximately 300 feet. Walls, metal (such as in elevator shafts) and floors can negatively affect range. And the wireless signal’s strength weakens the longer it has to travel. For best results, space out your access points and position them in central areas. Tip: Access points can provide stronger signals when installed on or near ceilings.

4. Don’t Overshare Access Point
For best results, don’t share any single wireless access point with more than 20 users. Typically, the more users sharing an access point, the slower the wireless network can become. If your business network supports a voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or Unified Communications system, limit each access point to 8-12 users. This will prevent potential degradation in voice quality.

5. Secure Your Network
Security is vital to wireless networking. Some security methods to consider for your network include:
•Data encryption, so only authorized users can access information over your wireless network
•User authentication, which identifies computers trying to access the network
•Secure access for visitors and guests
•Control systems, which protect the laptops and other devices that use the network.

7 Ways To Defuse Angry Customers

by Jeff Wuorio
reprinted with permission from the Microsoft Small Business Center

It’s the nightmare that every businessperson experiences: a shouting match with a customer or client.

Flush with frustration over something gone wrong, the client or customer flies into an uncontrollable rage. Complaints crescendo into shouts, accusations fly and, sad to say, an occasional profanity slices what little silence remains.

Although every small-business person needs a bucket of water to douse these sorts of fires, it’s hard to know where to reach amid the flames. Here are seven at-the-ready responses that may help tame even the most unpleasant situation:

1. “Let’s go over what’s happened.”
This simple phrase covers several powerful areas. For one thing, by asking your client to recount the wrong, you’re forcing him to think, not just vent. That unto itself can smooth things considerably. On top of that, you’re letting the other person know that you’re genuinely interested in his or her version of what happened. Lastly, it deals you some time to listen and, hopefully, devise a solution to the problem at hand.

2. “Let’s get together to talk about this.”
If a client is screeching at you over the phone, suggest that you meet face to face to iron out what’s wrong. Again, that can inject some much-needed cooling down time into the situation. And, no matter if your customer is a quick-to-back-off bully or simply conscious of behaving more civilly face to face, chances are good that your conversation will be far more controlled and productive when you actually get together.

3. “Let’s have someone else hear what’s happened.”
Confrontations between customers and business owners are akin to two rams butting heads; not only is there little movement one way or the other, you can end up with a mountain-sized migraine for your trouble. Another way to defuse the situation and work toward a resolution is to call in a third party. This could be a partner or someone else with whom you work. Have them listen to the issue. Make sure this informal arbiter knows that he or she should approach the situation as objectively as possible; that may cue both you and your customer to do the same.

4. “Let’s see what we can do to resolve this.”
Having heard every possible side of the story, this reaffirms your intent to hammer out a solution that’s satisfactory to everyone involved. Not only that, but your commitment to a fair resolution also moves past the accusation and moves toward identifying what went wrong and taking reasonable steps to correct it.

5. “Let’s hear how you think we should solve this.”
Be selective in choosing this strategy. If you already understand what the client wants — and it’s unacceptable — then this is not the right line to use. But if a resolution isn’t obvious, you’re tossing the issue into your customer’s lap, which may help her appreciate your perspective and, in turn, suggest a reasonable conclusion. Conversely, the customer may suggest a resolution that costs you and your company big, so you need to step carefully here. Gauge where the other person is with this tack — the more steam he seems to have let off, the greater the chances for success.

6. “Let’s talk about ways this won’t happen again.”
This is the death knell for what once was a customer tirade. Once more, this demonstrates your interest in both your client’s ideas as well as your ongoing commitment to solid customer care. Not only have you worked carefully to craft a suitable conclusion to the issue at hand, you also want to make doubly sure that this particular snafu never resurfaces. And, should your client offer ideas that seem reasonable, implement them to make certain the dead stay six feet down.

7. “Let’s use ‘let’s’ as much as we can.”
Of course, you wouldn’t actually say this out loud, but note that the prior six ideas all begin with the first person plural. No matter how you approach the problem of a peeved customer, try to be as inclusive as possible in every solution you offer. For one thing, that immediately defuses the “us versus them” landmine. For another, you also let the person on the other side of the issue know that you consider a common understanding as an important outcome to the discussion.

5 Ways Internet Explorer 8 Helps You Get More Done

by S. E. Slack
used with permission from the Microsoft at Work

I use Microsoft Internet Explorer all day long, every day. I’ve arranged all the settings just how I like them, and once I’ve done that I don’t like to change. I’m the kind of girl who just wants technology to work when I need it; I’m not into installing all the latest gadgets and upgrades so I can one-up my friends. So whenever I hear there is a new version of Internet Explorer, my first reaction is, “I don’t need that.”

Then I hear about some cool new feature in the newest version and curiosity gets the better of me. I give the new version a try and I’m always impressed by how things just keep getting better. Each version of Internet Explorer seems to be faster, safer, and easier to use than the last. And it’s free. You can always download and install the latest version of Internet Explorer for free from the Microsoft Download Center.

Here are some recently added features that’ll make your browsing experience more productive.

Browse without navigating to other Web sites using Accelerators
I find that I’m often copying and pasting information from one Web page to another when I browse the Web—if I want to map an address, find a definition, translate a word, or e-mail content to a friend, for example. It works, but it’s time-consuming and awkward. But, you know what? My copying and pasting days might be over. Now I can use the Accelerator feature, new in Internet Explorer 8, to find what I need to know and do what I need to do without navigating to other Web sites.

Here’s how it works.

Highlight text from a Web page, such as an address. You’ll see a blue Accelerator (arrow) icon that appears above your selection. Click the icon, and then point to an option from the menu that appears. For example, if you rest your mouse pointer on the Accelerator Map with Bing on the page you see here, you’ll see a preview of the information you’re looking for without leaving the Web page you’re on.

JW Secure Informer imagery
Internet Explorer screen with Accelerator icon selected and mouse resting over the Map with Bing Accelerator option, showing a preview of the map you’ll see if you click that Accelerator. If you want more information than you’re seeing, click the Map with Bing option and a larger version of the map will appear on its own tab.

As I’ve mentioned, I like to set things up so that they suit me exactly. So I want to have the Accelerators I use, and only those, at my fingertips. I click All Accelerators at the bottom of the list and then use the Find More Accelerators and Manage Accelerators options that appear on the bottom of the new list to create the Accelerator list that suits me.

JW Secure Informer imagery
Internet Explorer screen with the All Accelerators option selected and
Find More Accelerators and Manage Accelerators options circled.

Find what you need more quickly with tabbed browsing
When you’ve buried something in a file cabinet, tabbed files are a life saver. A quick glance at each tab lets you know what lies beneath it so you don’t have to open every file. When I’m doing research online and want to move quickly between Web sites, I get the same benefit in Internet Explorer, using a feature called Tabbed Browsing. It lets me manage multiple Web sites from within one browsing window. Just like opening a paper file drawer to see a row of titled files, now I just glance at the tabs across the top of my Internet Explorer window and click one to see the Web page I need.

But sometimes even the tabs can get out of control. If you’re someone whose comprehension is better with visuals, you can use Quick Tabs, which gives you a thumbnail view of up to 20 open tabs at a single glance. Just click the arrow of the Quick Tabs icon to the left of the row of tabs, and then click the thumbnail view of the Web site you want to view. The Quick Tabs button appears only when you have more than one Web page open.

Another feature that can help you control your tabs is Tab Groups, which lets you organize multiple tabs into a single group and then save that group as a Favorite. Let’s say you have several tabs open, displaying Web sites relevant to the Contoso project you’re working on. Save them as a group by clicking Favorites on the Favorites bar the top of the browser window, and then clicking the arrow to the right of Add to Favorites. Then click Add Current Tabs to Favorites and name the folder for the group (Contoso, for example), and then click Add. After this, you’ll be able to open all the tabs with a single click by selecting the tab group from the Favorites list.

And here’s one more tab tip. Be sure to right-click on a tab and check out all your options for tab control, right where you need them. In the latest version of Internet Explorer, you can even reopen a tab you’ve closed by mistake and see a list of recently closed tabs. Right-click any tab to display these options.

Speed up your search using Windows Live Search
I use search engines a lot to find the information I want on the Web, and Internet Explorer has made the search easier. I just type a keyword or phrase in the search box. A list of other possible search terms display as I type my search term into the box. I can continue typing, or use my arrow keys or mouse to choose one of the suggested terms. Then I press ENTER to display the search results. Or I press ALT + ENTER to display the search results in a new tab.

Over time, I’ve learned some tricks to help me search more efficiently. So, for example, when I want information about a movie, like The Sound of Music, I make sure to surround the title in quotes—“The Sound of Music”—so that only those Web pages that contain that exact phrase are included in the search results.

If I don’t find what I’m looking for using one search provider, I’ll try another. It’s great that I don’t have to keep opening new browser windows or visit different search engine sites to do this anymore. I’ve even added some specialty search engines to the list of providers available right from the search box. For example, I’ve added eBay to aid in my quest for antique doorknobs and Amazon to satisfy my book lust.

And once I find the page I want, I don’t have to waste time looking for the specific information I want. I press CTRL + F to open the Find box and start typing a keyword or phrase. As I type, highlighted matches appear on the Web page.

Stop being phishing bait
One of the buzzwords on the Internet is “phishing.” Anyone who has e-mail and uses the Internet is a potential victim, so listen up. Phishing occurs when an e-mail is sent falsely claiming to be an established, legitimate enterprise. You’ve probably gotten one of those e-mail messages already: It directs you to visit a Web site, often has an official logo, and asks you to update credit and other personal information.

The motive behind it? To trick you into visiting a bogus Web site that you think is authentic and scam you into releasing personal information to be stolen and used for illegitimate purposes. The sender is sending bait to thousands, hoping a few fish take it. Hence, the term “phishing,” a variation on the leisure sport.

Microsoft SmartScreen Filter is a feature in Internet Explorer that helps detect phishing Web sites and Web sites that distribute malicious software known as malware. This feature was called Phishing Filter in earlier versions of Internet Explorer.

While you browse the Web, SmartScreen Filter runs in the background and (with your consent) sends the Web addresses of the sites you are visiting to the Microsoft SmartScreen service, to be compared against lists of known phishing and malware sites. If the Web site you’re visiting is on the list, Internet Explorer will display a blocking Web page and the Address bar will appear in red. You’ll be given a choice of what to do from there.

JW Secure Informer imagery
SmartScreen Filter screen showing options for how to respond to unsafe Web sites.

You can adjust your SmartScreen Filter settings off the Tools menu or off the Safety command in Internet Explorer 8 or off the Security menu in Internet Explorer 7.

Get content updates through RSS feeds and Web Slices
Internet Explorer makes it easy to keep up-to-date on the information that’s important to you, using RSS feeds and Web Slices.

RSS feeds
When you’re on a site in Internet Explorer, if the RSS Feed icon on the Internet Explorer Command bar is illuminated, it means the site offers a feed. Click the icon, and you can subscribe to the RSS feed by clicking the Subscribe to this feed button . RSS feeds are integrated into Internet Explorer 7 and later.

Note If Internet Explorer also finds Web Slices, the button will change to display the Web Slice button . Since Web Slices are based on feeds, you will usually see both Web Slices and feeds when you view available feeds from the Web slice icon. Read the section on Web Slices below.

JW Secure Informer imagery
Internet Explorer screen with RSS feeds displayed and Subscribe to this feed button circled.

Come back to the page later by opening your Favorites Center and clicking the Feeds tab, which gives you a quick look at all your RSS feeds. You can read news when it arrives and click headline links to get the complete Web page.

JW Secure Informer imagery
Favorites pane with Feeds tab selected, showing all saved RSS feeds at a glance.

Note to tech support If you’re part of the technical team supporting a business, the Windows RSS Platform is included as part of Windows Internet Explorer in Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. Once a feed is subscribed to in one application, that subscription and associated content are made available for applications across the operating system.

Web Slices
With Internet Explorer 8, subscribing to content just got even easier, using Web Slices. A Web Slice is a specific portion of a Web page that you can subscribe to directly from within the Web page. It lets you see when updated content—such as the current temperature, or a changing auction price—is available from your favorite Web sites.

When a Web Slice is available on a Web page, you will see the Web Slice button on the Command bar. The Web Slice button will also appear on the Web page next to the content that is available when you point to the content with your mouse.

To add the Web Slice to your Favorites bar, do one of the following:

•Click the Web Slice button on the Command bar.
•Click the Web Slice button on the page.

In the dialog box, click Add to Favorites Bar.

Once you have subscribed to the Web Slice, it appears as a link on the Favorites bar. When the Web Slice is updated, the link on the Favorites bar will appear with bold formatting. You can then click the link to see the updated content.

And what you’ve read here is just the tip of the iceberg. You can find out everything you need to know about the latest version on the Internet Explorer home page. You’ll see all the ways that Internet Explorer can make your Web experience safer and easier and your days more productive.