Tag Archives: GFI

Antivirus Tools for Technicians

Antivirus ToolsThe curse of computers everywhere, even those not connected to any network, is the dreaded computer virus along with trojans, adware, spyware, keyloggers and all sorts of other types of nasty malware.. and some of them are very nasty indeed. For example the cryptolocker trojan which encrypts data on an infected system and demands payment of a ransom to decrypt that data, which many victims end up doing out of desperation and because the loss of income to a business due to not being able to access the data outweighs the cost of the ransom.

Malware most commonly affects Windows based systems but of course not only for technical reasons but also due to the fact that it is a more popular platform with users and so a bigger target for virus developers who don’t want to waste time developing for a platform with so much less potential for destruction and mayhem.

Linux on the other hand has relatively few issues with malware infections and in fact Linux antivirus software is not anywhere near as commonplace or in demand because it is much less often required. Which is not to say a Linux system is never infected with anything nasty – rootkits for Linux servers are also quite common and many a well known web based PHP app has provided a convenient gateway to a Linux server for a nasty rookit which then allows hackers in to the system to wreak havoc.

Somewhat related to Linux is Android and being extremely popular now makes it potentially a target for virus developers so of course antivirus developers are busy adding android antivirus to their tools to jump on that bandwagon early.

There are many antivirus tools to choose from these days, some that will try to prevent infection, others which will try to clean up an already infected system and some which do both. It is quite common practice to use more than one virus scanner as no AV tool is 100% effective at finding and cleaning infections.

Popular AV tools include AVG and Avast which are free (with a premium upgrade option of course) and the big names such as Mcafee,  Symantec and even Microsoft Security Essentials.

Other tools which are quite widely used include Malwarebytes, Combofix and Spybot.

A popular service used by many IT service providers is GFIMAX and not only does GFI provide an RMM service but they also have a managed anti-virus service which is based on Vipre and supports Windows and Android.

While most AV tools are software which must be installed on the PC, there are in fact some which are web based services so nothing needs to be installed at all. One such tool is  VirusTotal which will scan any file uploaded to their system and report back the ‘totals’. This provides a nice quick way to scan a file, for example a zip file or exe which you may have received or also to provide proof of virus free status (by including a link to the latest scan using a hash) for a file you may be sending to someone else. VirusTotal also includes an API so developers can easily embed virus scanning into their own apps or services.

Of course the last chance saloon when it comes to computer virus infections is the backup – hopefully you or you clients have working and recoverable backups!

Conferences for IT Services Professionals: the what, why, where and how.

Conferences for IT Services ProfessionalsAs we’ve said before, IT tools are not just physical gadgets that you can pick up and wave around the datacenter, they also include knowledge and connections or in other words – people. While there are many online communities for IT pros which we talked about in that  linked article, there are of course offline ‘meatspace’ places for meeting and greeting and learning and sharing. The infamous conference circuit is where the action is and there’s plenty of conferences to keep you busy all year around.

If you’ve never been to a conference you may be wondering what goes on there? How should you prepare? Is it worth the often not inconsiderable cost? Well the answers to those questions depends very much on what you are expecting to get from the event, what kind of event it is etc..  and yes you generally should prepare to some extent to ensure you get  the most out of it.

For many people conferences are just an excuse to get a day or three away from the office to party in a fancy hotel in Vegas on the company expense account (and of course what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas). However besides partying there are actually other reasons to attend..  networking is a big one as it’s a great chance to meet potential clients and partners, thrash out lucrative new business deals and perhaps co-found what seems like it will surely be the next hottest thing, until you sober up the next morning..

Besides that, a good conference will be packed with informative sessions by industry experts and you can certainly learn a lot so don’t forget to bring a pen & paper (or tablet/netbook if you want to go all hi-tech 😉 ) and take notes!

There will of course be schwag, or there should be as no conference could get away without the giveaway these days – the “schwag bag” is one of the key reasons for attending such events – we attendees need our free rubber stress balls, mouse mats, pens, hats, t-shirts, bags, badges, stickers, USB thingymajigs and assorted shiny things, all of course stamped with a company logo or domain name so you wont forget who provided the freebie sat on your desk or at the back of a drawer six months later.

The Events
So what does the coming year have in store for the prospective IT conference attendee? Read on for our current recommendations for IT services events..

If CISCO is your thing then you will want to be at CISCO Live which provides a working weeks worth of fun with routers. Whether you are a CCNA or CCIE or just want to get your hands on some Cisco schwag, this is the place to be.

HDI offers the ‘World Conference for Technical Services and Support’ which is attended by over 2000 people and lasts for 4 days, not including multiple pre-conference breakfasts and the like.

If you’re in the MSP line of work then you wont want to miss MSP World – you might even win $5k!

RMM service provider GFIMAX also has their own IT events around the world each year which are popular with MSP’s and IT techs.

Interop is yet another event worth checking out and as good an excuse as any to visit Las Vegas for a few days.

Gartner has events all over the place for a whole range of IT related themes so pick your poison and off you go.

Over in Europe there is the ridiculously large CeBIT conference (in fact the worlds largest IT conference) which runs for 5 days and features hundreds (if not thousands) of sessions and exhibitors and hundreds of thousands of visitors.

These days ‘the cloud’ is red hot so of course you’ll just have to head for CloudExpo in Europe if you want to stay on top of the game.

Also in Europe (UK to be precise), there is IPEXPO which bills itself as the the UK’s number one enterprise IT event. If that isn’t enough to tempt you – the whole event, featuring hundreds of sessions and hundreds of exhibitors, is FREE to attend!

If you want to get in on the latest tips, tricks and news from the search engine world then SMX is the place to be and they have events all over the world.

There are of course many, many more IT events including offerings from IBM, Microsoft, Citrix, Oracle, ASCII, CompTIA, Asterisk, VMware, SITS, HP, Parallels, Infosec, RSA, HostingCon, and not forgetting of course CES.

If you manage to attend all those and live to tell the tale – let us know!

So what are your plans for the conference circuit this year? Do you have any favorite events to recommend? Or any to avoid even? Feel free to comment below.


Deployment Tools

Deployment ToolsIn the IT services business there is one concept which stands above all else – automation. Nobody wants to be manually working on hundreds or even thousands of computers in a network or across multiple networks and regions  when the very thing which computers are perfectly designed for is automating repetitive processes. Realistically the only viable way to manage a large number of computers is with deployment tools which can automate the process.

In a small network it may well be possible to rely on manual updates, it may not be advisable but still it is doable. However it is not at all scalable and on a large network or collection of assets, whether they be desktop PC’s or Internet Servers and Appliances of various kinds, smart deployment systems are pretty much an essential requirement, not just for the business but also for the sanity of the IT staff responsible for rolling out the updates.

Using automated deployment tools significantly reduces maintenance times and allows a single person at a centralized and often remote location to manage extremely large numbers of assets which of course leads to much lower costs. However the cost reductions are not just as a result of less salaries to pay per assets managed but also in terms of reduced or (hopefully) eliminated losses due to malfunctions, downtime or even data loss caused by human error.

Humans are not machines and it is easy to forget to install something or configure correctly or update on time. An unpatched system is basically an open door with an invitation to passing hackers to come in and take what they want or generally wreak havoc, so timely deployment of security updates is critical.

Using deployment tools makes it much simpler to build and maintain standardized systems so instead of a crazy mix of software and configurations with every computer being different, they can all be kept the same,  or at least have a small number of standard configurations to work with, further reducing system management time and costs.

Thus by employing suitable deployment automation tools, the potential for human error is vastly reduced, IT efficiency is increased dramatically, security is maximized and reliability of all systems managed is much improved.

There are quite a few deployment solutions out there, from the RMM services such as GFIMAX  to the powerful configuration management and deployment systems like Ansible and which one is best is down to your specific requirements , experiences and of course personal preferences.

Needless to say, automated deployment of software updates to 10,000 computers is potentially risky so it is important to test deployments thoroughly before unleashing!