State of Missouri Tax Change Notice

A quick note regarding recent tax changes… The Missouri Supreme Court has decided that we now have to charge tax on shipping costs. While we do everything possible to keep your costs down, things like this are out of our control. We have adjusted our accounting program to meet this requirement so beginning in the month of September, anytime we charge shipping it’s now subject to Missouri sales tax. Just wanted to let everyone know that, as usual, they are from the Government and they are here to help…

FY2016/2017 Projects

2016 has been interesting to say the least. Our original forecast was for a rather light workload this year but it’s turned out to be anything but that. A number of unexpected major upgrades to client networks have been completed and we still have three big ones remaining on the agenda between now and the first quarter of 2017. In many cases, the tasks have centered around fixing or upgrading aging infrastructure at various sites. This is a normal process since technology changes quickly and more often than not, old switches, cables and other outdated items get left in place due to any number of factors.

We’ve been reworking these types of setups to clean up the accumulated mess that naturally develops over time and also upgrading devices like switches (moving to pure Gigabit for better performance) and wireless access points (more powerful and secure Ubiquiti systems) in order to bring network operations up to a current standard. One key issue we have seen is a need to reevaluate the level of power backup for critical components inside the network. As devices get added to the infrastructure, power support requirements naturally change. As a result, we’ll be doing a full sweep of all client sites between now and the end of the year in order to get a handle of any power backup upgrades that might be required. Our long range plan is to have a running schedule for battery refresh replacements so we can give you an advance notice for planning purposes going forward.

Again, if you have any plans for major changes to your business operations that might impact the network configuration, please let us know as far in advance as possible so we can get it scheduled. Occasionally, a vendor might throw a curve ball at you and force a short notice task but we can usually handle that sort of thing. Bear in mind that we are still adding new client networks to the mix and those tasks will have a fixed schedule that is rarely able to be modified since they normally involve other contractors and so forth. So, any plans to make big changes certainly need to considered for a successful project, otherwise we end up with more unexpected problems, a longer time to completion and higher costs on top of that.

FY2017 Contracts and Security Planning

We currently support 31 client networks and expect to reach 33 by mid-year 2017. In that mix are something close to 40 Servers, both physical and virtual plus nearly 450 workstations and a nearly uncountable number of mobile devices. In short, the technology is rapidly changing and support requirements are expanding almost quicker than we can stay ahead of them. If you watch the news or read articles online about security issues, you are well aware that the threat environment is growing rapidly. Hackers get into the networks of insurance companies, Social Media sites, government sites and business sites. It has become a cash cow for hackers and in the case of Ransomware alone, the dollar number has exceeded $500 million known as of the end of 2015. That doesn’t count the lost time to operations and damage to reputations. From the tech support and network operations perspective, it’s a game of measures versus countermeasures. The bad guys do this, we respond by doing that. Our goal is to prevent intrusions and keep you working.

Of all the problems faced by us and you, our clients, keeping the network secure and stable presents the biggest challenge of all. To date, we have a pretty good track record of doing just that and we intend to keep it that way. The threats in the business world have long since zoomed past just annoying Home Page Hijackers and similar viruses and Trojans. Those still exist and we do occasionally see an instance of that type of bug show up. However, Ransomware and other variants of that type of intrusion are at the top of the list of critical concerns. Today, anyone can buy ready-to-go Ransomware packages on the web and go after your system’s data. So their measure requires a countermeasure on our part.

Here’s where this gets critical. We design and implement a multi-layer approach to security which includes four important elements working from the network unit level out to the web.

  • First, a business-class antivirus product at the Server and end-user device, in this case, Trend Micro Worry-Free Security Services .
  • Second, we install SonicWall Routers with their Business Class Services package to help intercept incoming attacks at the gateway level.
  • Third, we install OpenDNS and WebRoot to check sites and verify safe sites being accessed on the web from the network
  • Fourth and last, we use Datto backup devices to encrypt and store Server and/or workstation images in the Datto secure cloud in the event of recovery requirements

These are the standards which we require for supported networks. Most client sites meet these requirements, some are still working up to a complete configuration. Sooner rather than later, we will cease support for networks that do not meet these minimums. This is necessary to allow us to provide the best support for the entire client base as non-standard configurations present a near certain potential for unexpected and possibly unrecoverable  scenarios.

On the good news side, where contracts are concerned, for the seventh year running we are not raising our labor or travel rates. The only thing that will increase costs are the addition of WebRoot to the security package and that is a very low cost especially considering the alternative of a compromised or inoperable network. We will be releasing the FY2017 contracts at the beginning of October and as always, accepting a support contract is totally the decision of the business principals. We still think our prices and support levels are simply superior to any competitor out there and our average client retention time now exceeds 15 years. We must be doing something right as the small number of problem incidents and high network uptime speak for themselves.