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In the News

Microsoft opens Canadian Cloud for business

TORONTO, May 10th 2016 – Microsoft Canada announced today that the Microsoft Cloud is now officially open to power even more Canadian businesses. With this announcement, Microsoft Azure is generally available from local datacentre regions located in Toronto and Quebec City, and Office 365 is now offering data residency for Canadian business customers. In addition, Dynamics CRM Online is scheduled to go live by September 2016 to bring the most complete cloud, with leadership across IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and hybrid scenarios, to enable people and organizations to achieve more.

For more information, visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-ca/sites/datacentre/default.aspx

Lenovo – the most reliable servers

For the third year in a row, Lenovo servers achieved the highest rate of reliability above all x86 servers worldwide, according to the latest ITIC 2015-2016 Global Server Hardware and OS Reliability Survey. The independent survey polled over 600 global businesses (representing 47 different industries) in May and June of 2015. Only one percent of Lenovo servers experienced unplanned downtime of more than four hours in the past year, as opposed to six percent of Dell and 10 percent of HP x86 servers. In fact, per the survey results, HP ProLiant servers’ reliability has continued to decline for the fourth year in a row.

Additionally, 97 percent of Lenovo servers — the highest percentage of all x86 server vendors — had downtime of 40 minutes or less, compared to 76 percent of HP ProLiant and 77 percent of Dell PowerEdge.

For more information, read the 2015-2016 ITIC Reliability Report.

Your business relies on server uptime. So does your bottom line. You need highly reliable servers that can help run your critical workloads and processes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, uninterrupted.

GM Solutions is a proud Lenovo Business Partner and authorized reseller.

Office 2016 for Mac is available

On July 9, Microsoft is making the new version of its Office suite for Mac generally available, first for Office 365 subscribers.

Office 2016 for Mac — which includes new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote — is available in 139 countries and 16 languages starting today. The new suite, the successor to Office 2011 for Mac, has been in public preview since March 2015.

Office 365 customers with a qualifying subscription — meaning Office 365 Home, Office 365 Personal, Office 365 ProPlus and certain Office 365 business plans that include the right to download the Office apps locally — can install Office 2016 for Mac today from their 365 account pages. Students (and parents) who are covered by Office 365 Education plans also can get Office 2016 for Mac as part of their subscriptions.

For more information, visit https://blogs.office.com/2015/07/09/office-2016-for-mac-is-here/

Microsoft plans to open two new datacenters in Canada

Microsoft today announced plans to deliver commercial cloud services from Canada. Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online will be delivered from Toronto and Quebec City in 2016. These new locally deployed services will address data residency considerations for Microsoft customers and partners of all shapes and sizes who are embracing cloud computing to transform their businesses, better manage variable workloads and deliver new digital services and experiences to customers and employees.

Janet Kennedy, president of Microsoft Canada, said that delivering cloud services from datacentres on Canadian soil opens up significant new cloud-based possibilities for organizations that must adhere to strict data storage compliance codes.

The locations in Toronto and Quebec City were chosen after looking at the availability of green power, access to good network capacity, and at centres of innovation within Canada. “We’re sizing to meet the demands of the Canadian marketplace,” he said in an interview, adding that Microsoft will continue to evaluate capacity requirements as demand grows.

Update your Windows NOW!

Microsoft has patched a critical bug in its software that had existed for 19 years. The vulnerability has been graded as 10 out of a possible 10 on the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), a measure of severity in computer security. The bug also exists in Microsoft’s Windows Server platforms – putting the security of websites that handle encrypted data at risk. Specifically, it related to Microsoft Secure Channel, known as Schannel, Microsoft’s software for implementing secure transfer of data.

According to Microsoft, “An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could run arbitrary code on a target server. An attacker could attempt to exploit this vulnerability by sending specially crafted packets to a Windows server.”

Microsoft has addressed the problem in its monthly security update.

If you need any additional information or advice, please contact our support team support@gmsolutions.net or 604-210-0010 ext. 2.

Security threat Shellshock

On the heels of the Heartbleed bug, another severe vulnerability has been discovered. The vulnerability affects a piece of software called Bash, short for Bourne-Again Shell, which is part of the Unix operating system upon which many other OS are built, including Linux and Mac OS. The bug, which has been labeled “Shellshock”, has gone unnoticed for decades, and researchers say that it is already being actively exploited.

The bug was discovered only yesterday and is listed by the US Department of Homeland Security’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) as VCE20146271. It has been given the highest score of 10 on the Common Vulnerability Scoring System.

Linux, Unix, Mac OS X affected

Bash is the most commonly used “shell” for Linux and Unix systems and is installed by default in Mac OS X. A compact Linux system with Bash can take up less disk space than a high resolution photograph; it’s extremely popular for use in embedded systems such as routers and security cameras. Because of the long period of time in which the bug has gone unnoticed, there are likely thousands of different devices, everything from routers, printers, cameras, and even car computers that can be affected by the vulnerability.

All software packages that rely on BASH have a chance to be affected. Errata Security CEO Robert Graham has said that there are too many vulnerable packages to list, and that due to its wide spread it could be considered “as big as heartbleed”.

How you can protect yourself

Users can protect themselves by updating their systems with the latest patches for Bash and disabling remote shell access to devices that run Bash. Users that only run Microsoft systems and mobile devices with iOS and Android are not affected directly, although embedded systems (such as routers) run Linux and can be vulnerable. Individual vendors have already released patches for their systems, though a general patch has not been added to the Bash project itself.

Microsoft systems and most mobile devices do not run Bash and are not affected (this includes iOS and Android devices. Despite being versions of Unix and Linux they don’t run Bash by default and aren’t affected). Be aware that some embedded systems such as routers and security cameras may be vulnerable.

Managed routers running intrusion prevention software (IPS) may be configured in a way that mitigates risk. Make sure to keep an audit of hardware on site so that you can check the version of each device to ensure it isn’t vulnerable.

If you need any additional information or advice, please contact our support team support@gmsolutions.net or 604-210-0010 ext. 2.

New vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer

Microsoft is rushing to fix a bug in Internet Explorer web browser that was already exploited in hacker attacks on some US companies. An attacker could host a specially crafted website that is designed to exploit this vulnerability through Internet Explorer and then convince a user to view the website. The vulnerability could allow attackers to take complete control of an affected system, and then do things such as viewing changing, or deleting data, installing malicious programs, or creating accounts that would give hackers full user rights.

The US Homeland Security’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team suggests “users and administrators enable Microsoft EMET where possible and consider employing an alternative web browser until an official update is available”.

Microsoft’s recommended reaction to the problem is to deploy version 4.1 of The Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit, as that software “helps mitigate the exploitation of this vulnerability by adding additional protection layers that make the vulnerability harder to exploit.”

PCs running XP will not receive any update, because Microsoft stopped supporting that operating system on April 8.

Office 365 Personal

Office 365 PersonalMicrosoft announced Office 365 Personal. It’s designed for an individual, allows for one PC or Mac and one tablet to be connected to the service and will be available for $69.00 CAD/year. The launch date is on April 15, 2014.

Office 365 Personal includes the following latest applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. In addition, it includes 20 GB of online storage in OneDrive, and 60 minutes of Skype calls each month to phones in 40+ countries.

One of the issues small businesses face is the up-front cost of software. While they might use an application every day and see its value in their business, coming up with hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars can be a real hit on cashflow. That’s why subscription services are often a worthwhile option to consider
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While the subscription doesn’t offer a significant cost saving over three years, it does mean you don’t have to spend as much money up-front. It also means you’ll get the updates as they become available.

For more information, contact us.

Security threat Heartbleed

A serious security threat Heartbleed has been discovered in the security connection used for nearly all webservers. The threat can expose all information in the server memory to anybody browsing the site. All passwords, user info, and server data can be stolen from Linux servers running openssl 1.01 (released in 2011).

At this moment, many organizations have shut down their servers completely, including the Canadian Revenue Agency. Over 2/3 of webservers are affected. The Canadian Bankers Association issued a press release saying Canadian banks have not been affected. Vancity, CoastCapital, and other credit unions that use direct banking systems developed by Central 1 Credit Union, are among those safe from this threat because they don’t use the flawed software.

This is one of the worst vulnerabilities in the history of the Internet. Bruce Schneier, one of the leading computer security experts in the world call it “catastrophic”: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2014/04/heartbleed.html

What to do?

1) Test your web site for vulnerability
You can test the security of your web site at http://filippo.io/Heartbleed/

2) Reset all Internet passwords
Many security experts recommend reset of all password. That includes web sites used by your company (CRA, BC PST, WSB, online banking, social networks, etc.) In addition, this vulnerability affects you and every person in your organization. It may be a good idea to share this information with all people in your organization and advise the to update their online passwords (banking, CRA, web mail, social networks).

If you need any additional information or advice, please contact our support team support@gmsolutions.net or 604-210-0010 ext. 2

Microsoft unveils Office for Apple’s iPad

Microsoft has started offering an iPad edition of its Office software suite. Three separate productivity apps are available – Word, Excel and Powerpoint – each of which has been optimised for touch-based controls, making them easier to use than the web-based alternatives provided before. The iPad edition is more powerful than the previously released iPhone version. Office 365 subscription is required.

For more information, visit Microsoft Office Team’s blog.