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Small business IT and technology news for the SMB channel VAR, MSP, and IT professional.

As the ticker clicks down to H-hour there is a ton of pressure to migrate away from XP. There is, of course, a lot to justify that. As of April 9th, Microsoft will stop supporting XP. That means no new patches to discovered vulnerabilities, no support, no bug fixes, no nothing. If you’re on XP you’re on your own. Moreover, Microsoft may actually expose new vulnerabilities for XP users with the patches they provide for more recent operating systems.

But that’s not the whole story, especially for SMBs.

“It’s not going to turn into a pumpkin overnight,” says Khaled Farhang, Owner, eGuard Technology Services Inc.logotop, a Microsoft Certified partner, provides IT services provider to SMBs and non-profits in the Washington, DC area, downplaying the hype that has overtaken the industry. “There are plenty of companies out there that are protecting operating systems that are out of life.”

For example, despite “strongly recommending small businesses using XP upgrade to a more current operating system as soon as possible,” Symantec has pledged to continue supporting Windows XP systems “for the foreseeable future.”

“We adhere to the three layers of protection approach,” adds Farhang. “You want to have it on the firewall, on the PC side and on the server. Because we believe there is no way you can 100 percent protect yourself as long as you are connected to the Internet so the more layers you have the better offer you are.”

With the XP end of life one layer will fade away, he adds, but as long as you maintain the others you should be okay. “Now, if you are still on XP in two or three years then you may have a problem.”

Ray Vrabel HeadshotRay Vrabel, Director of Technical Account Management for Boston-based RMM provider Continuum, agrees. “For some of the smaller SMBs out there it’s not going to be a big problem. They bought a new PC (at a retailer like Best Buy) and it came with Windows 7 or 8 and they are already up to date.”

Continuum partners currently manage something in the order of half a million PCs ranging from SMBs upwards and there is a significant difference in the degree of urgency from one end of that spectrum to the other.

One of the challenges people in all walks of business are going to face is trying to upgrade the operating system on hardware that wasn’t designed for it, says Vrabel. “There are probably people out there who upgraded the operating system rather than buying new equipment. XP was a very light OS and (older machines may not have the performance specs to handle the heavier operating systems.)”

Adds Farhang, “One thing we do as a trusted advisor, we advise clients upgrade one-third of their computers each year. That’s a complete refresh every three years. Under that system almost everyone is migrated already. We protect every other layer. So we feel they should be okay, at least for the short term.”

No one is saying that existing XP users shouldn’t upgrade sooner or later, but there is no need to panic – especially for SMBs. Things are different for large enterprises that have to worry about migrating 5,000 machines, but for everyone else the world isn’t going to end on April 9th.

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The week that was – April 4, 2014

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Your weekly roundup of news for the IT channel.

N-able releases Help Desk Manager for MSPs and updates RMM platform

n-able solarwinds logoRMM vendor N-able rolled out N-Central 9.4, the latest version of its remote monitoring platform, and complimented it with a new Help Desk Manager. The Help Desk Manager features numerous functionalities, including email-to-ticket support, customer portals, automatic ticket assignment, time and material billing, an integrated knowledge base system, an integrated survey engine, drag-and-drop and drilldown dashboards. The Help Desk Manager can be deployed as a standalone solution for companies that don't use an RMM platform but want the capabilities offered by a ticketing solution, or it can be integrated with N-central. N-central 9.4 offers updates to usability and UI enhancements, OS X support, monitoring support, Patch Manager updates, new TeamViewer support and Automation Manager enhancements.

Researchers discover second NSA link to RSA Encryption Toolkit

The news continues to be bad for RSA. Researchers have uncovered a second link to between the company’s encryption toolkit and NSA spying activities, making it possible for the agency to spy on supposedly protected communications. News about the initial vulnerability was leaked by Edward Snowden, prompting a great deal of backlash in the IT community. With accusations that RSA knowingly deployed an encryption algorithm the NSA had compromised refusing to die despite strident denials from RSA, the latest revelation – this latest report will only further fuel the fire. According to a report in Reuters, a research team consisting of professors at Johns Hopkins, the University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin discovered the "Extended Random" extension, a tool for secure websites that was helped the NSA crack the faulty encryption algorithm. You can read the group’s report detailing their findings.

Extreme Networks unveils new SDN, network management solutions

Ext Logo color 5Extreme Networks is making it easier for partners to manage the technology it acquired in with the $180 million September purchase of Enterasys and its own through a single pane of glass with a new software-defined networking (SDN) architecture and management software. NetSight 6.0 is part of a broader SDN architecture rolled out this week, which uses a combination of hardware and software from both the Extreme and Enterasys portfolios – the latter of which was particularly well known for network management functionality. The next phase of the merger will involve integration of the two partner programs, which have a combined total of about 2,000 global channel partners.

Perficient acquires BioPharm Systems for $17.6 million

Perficient logoSt. Louis-based Perficient is continuing to expand its vertical footprint through acquisition, this time opening up the life sciences and pharmaceutical technology consulting verticals with the purchase of San Mateo, Calif.-based BioPharm Systems for $17.6 million. In February the company bought into the financial tech consulting market when it paid $46 million for ForwardThink Group. BioPharm, which brings an additional 50 consulting, technology, sales and support professionals, will become the life sciences and pharmaceutical element of Peficient’s lucrative health care division which accounts for about 25 percent of Perficient’s annual revenue. The company’s next targeted growth areas: technology consulting firms focusing in energy, gas, utilities and retail.


Tech Data launches new portal to help manage recurring revenue opportunities for Cisco partners

Tech-DataTech Data introduced the SMARTattach Opportunity Portal, a new online offering designed to help Tech Data’s authorized resellers get as much recurring revenue from their Cisco services contracts and revenue streams as possible. The Opportunity Portal is part of an larger strategy to emphasize Cisco services and to simplify processes through automation, says the Clearwater, Fla.-based distributor. Initially developed in 2009 to help solution providers add Cisco SMARTnet services to Cisco hardware purchases, SMARTattach now adds the Opportunity Portal to enhance operational management capabilities that have been less than stellar. Going forward, Tech Data resellers will be better able to track what equipment was sold in each account, what services were and were not sold with it and circle back to pitch those services, boosting their recurring services revenues in the process.

Samsung overhauls partner program

Samsung logoSamsung made the largest update to its partner program since the company founded a partner program in 2004, adding new incentives for top tier partners, a revamped partner website, and significant sales performance incentive increases. The new program, dubbed Samsung Team of Empowered Partners, will help the company stay relevant in a rapidly changing IT landscape and continue to compete with Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo who have been pressuring Samsung into reduced prices (and margins for resellers). Designed to drive sales of its tablets, PCs, memory and other desktop desk top products, the new program is based on a four-tier global partner platform: Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Entry Level. According to the company, the new Platinum tier will provide rebates, volume discounts, dedicated sales resources, demo equipment and marketing development funds. Gold partners also have access to a selection of rebates and to inside sales support. Silver partners can access inside sales and pre-sales support, and engineering product specialists. The new program will be phased in starting April 7.

Salesforce.com announces new vertical industry initiative

salesforce-logo-635Salesforce.com announced a new industry-specific go-to-market strategy at its sales event in Boston with the goal of realizing its ambition to overtake SAP as the world’s third largest enterprise software vendor. Through the new initiative the company will tailor versions of its Salesforce1 CRM platform for specific vertical industries. These solutions will be distributed, at least in part, through increased engagement of the channel, including ISVs, systems integrators and others. Having posted upwards of 30 percent growth per year, President Keith Block told attendees, "We're growing faster than any other enterprise software company in the world." Adding the company forecasts sales of $5.25 billion for the current fiscal year. Salesforce will initially focus its attention on the financial services/insurance, health-care/life sciences, retail/consumer products, communications/media, public sector and automotive/manufacturing industries.


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jeanne-hopkinsEarlier this week, Continuum announced that its Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Jeanne Hopkins (pictured), was named to the Sales Lead Management Association’s (SLMA) “20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management” list. This announcement marks the third time since 2011 that Jeanne has been named to this list.

The “20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management” list was selected from 41 nominees this year, all of whom were submitted by colleagues. A panel of three judges selected the 20 winners based on their contributions to sales lead management throughout their career history.

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Open-Xchange Announces Debut of OX Spreadsheet

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OXEarlier this week, Open-Xchange released its newest application, OX Spreadsheet, an open source, browser-based spreadsheet program which allows users to securely share and edit Microsoft Excel documents without loss of formatting.

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ZenossYesterday morning, Zenoss, Inc. announced that its Zenoss Cloud Service Assurance Solution, Version 4.2.4 has completed interoperability testing with Cisco’s Virtualized Multiservice Datacenter Virtual Service Architecture, Version 1.0. Zenoss representatives explained that this testing was completed via Cisco’s Developer Network.

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