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what are managed services

Most people have heard the term “MSP.” While a majority understands that it stands for “Managed Service Provider,” very few have a good grasp of what it really entails. As a result, many customers have ill-informed expectations.

To help clear up any misunderstanding, I spoke with Erik Nordquist, TPx’s Product Manager for MSx Security Services and MSx Datacenters.

Erik, what do TPx customers really get with our Managed Firewalls and Managed SD-WAN solutions?

For Managed Firewalls, our security specialists monitor customers’ firewalls 24/7 in our own SOCs (Security Operations Centers) to make sure the firewalls are up and operating.  In case it’s down, we open a ticket and engage the customer to make sure it isn’t an ISP issue.  If it’s the ISP, then we work internally to make sure there isn’t an issue with our circuit.

When we provision the firewall, we make sure it is provisioned properly and that it adheres to best practices.  We make all the necessary changes but keep the old configurations, with the new configurations being stored off-site in case there is a need for an audit or for disaster recovery.

If any vulnerabilities are discovered (not common, but can happen), then we update the firmware to close off the vulnerability.  If there are bugs, we work to resolve them.  If the hardware has issues, we work to get the hardware replaced.  The customer never needs to notify the vendor – we do that for them.  If any scans or compliance issues come up, we help resolve those with the customer.

If there is an issue on the network, we troubleshoot for the customer to best determine where the problem is.  We also provide reports about what is happening on the customer’s network – for instance, what their web usage looks like.  With the MSx Optimum Firewall service, we maintain customer traffic logs for 4 months.

All of these things can happen at any time – day or night.  If a customer wants to make a change or just has a question, they can open a service ticket, send an email, or call the SOC team to speak with someone.

When we are managing a third-party circuit, since we are an authorized contact, TPx can open tickets if there are problems with the circuit and can work with the provider to troubleshoot the issues. This way the customer only has one company to contact and doesn’t have to lose time by dealing with multiple parties.

Can you share some more benefits of managed services?

We deal with most issues that come up, which frees up the customer to concentrate on other areas.  In general, this is what managed services is all about.  An IT person may have general knowledge in all areas but not really specialize in one single area.  TPx has experts in all areas that we manage, and we have the systems in place to offer enterprise-level services that would otherwise not be available to smaller businesses.  Instead of hiring expensive IT people that are hard to find these days, customers can look to us to do this work.

Why should businesses choose TPx over other Managed Services Providers?

TPx is large enough to get the job done right and agile enough to get it done on time. TPx puts an emphasis on using market-leading technology while providing excellent customer service around the clock. Our services portfolio is designed to be a one-stop-shop for IT and security, so customers can eliminate the complexity and headaches that come with dealing with multiple vendors. Very few providers in the U.S. can offer a product portfolio scope of a nationwide managed services carrier like we do. Our trained and experienced staff watches over our customers 24/7/365 so that if an issue arises, it is resolved quickly and effectively. Our solutions are designed to provide enterprise-level quality and customization without an enterprise price tag.  We offer incredibly flexible cost options for customers, based on their service level needs and service commitment lengths.

 

Thanks for your insights, Erik!

You may feel overwhelmed with all the cybersecurity and IT pressures of today’s digital environment, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Let us give you a hand with your IT and security – schedule a free consultation with our specialists or call 888-407-9594.

 

About the Author

Lucie Hys is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at TPx. She is currently leading the marketing efforts for the company’s MSx suite of managed services. She has been working in marketing for more than 9 years, with the last four focusing on the cybersecurity industry. Lucie graduated with an MBA from Florida Gulf Coast University. In her spare time, she is an avid fitness enthusiast and a passionate traveler. 

 

How Small Businesses Can Access Top-Tier IT Services

Small businesses want to focus on running and growing their core businesses, and they realize how important having up-to-date IT services can be when it comes to doing just that. The problem is, many of these companies wrestle with a lack of resources – both financial and human – to put a top-tier support framework into place.

Managed IT Services: The Next Great Equalizer

Fortunately, turning to managed IT service providers for turnkey services like unified communications (UC), network management, security and business continuity gives small businesses access to the same IT benefits and differentiators as their larger competition.

Managed IT services can be flexible and innovative – and, because they’re delivered via the cloud, they’re always updated and never obsolete. The best managed services also come with a full-service, round-the-clock network operations center (NOC), staffed with experts that act as your very own IT group – without all of the hassle of seeking out and training talent.

And on the budget front, managed services are a cost-effective alternative to building your own IT footprint. Small businesses pay a monthly fee for service and support, giving them a predictable cost profile.

TPx Complete: An Industry-First, All-In-One IT Services Solution

At TPx, we’re committed to developing well-designed managed IT services to help transform and elevate your business. We recently debuted a modular, platform approach to this, dubbed TPx Complete. It’s an industry first: a comprehensive package of managed services that’s been specially designed to meet the voice, security, network quality and continuity needs of small businesses.

TPx Complete includes: UCx, our unified communications platform; managed SD-WAN; managed firewall; managed endpoints; virtual fax; 4G LTE failover for redundancy and resilience; and full-featured IP desk phones for every user.

Businesses can choose to take the entire TPx Complete bundle, or we can design the perfect package tailored to a small business customer’s specific needs from our overall managed service portfolio (MSx), using only the services a business chooses. In either case, the services are backed by our NOC, where our IT experts will monitor your critical systems 24/7/365 and respond immediately to any issues you may have, freeing you up to focus on your core business objectives.

Budgets Tamed: Affordability, Scalability and Predictability

We also take the guesswork out of establishing your IT support budget by offering packages as a single subscription service, with one monthly charge covering a wide range of tasks and no surprise fees.

Contact your TPx representative to see how you can give your small business the crucial differentiator of top-tier IT services, either with TPx Complete or our MSx portfolio. We’re here to give you the support you need for your critical IT systems without the cost and hassle of doing it all in-house. Elevate your business today!

 

About the Author

Stacey Kendall is the Product Marketing Manager for TPx’s suite of Communications & Collaboration services. With over 20 years of experience in marketing communications for highly technical and regulated industries, she presents complex topics in a straightforward manner for current and prospective customers. Stacey holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing with a specialization in Information Technology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She resides in the greater Boston area.

When it comes to meeting business objectives, keeping up with the frenetic pace of innovation and competition – no matter what vertical or industry segment you happen to dwell in – is a top challenge for organizations. It’s the impetus behind digital transformation, DevOps and convergence – and it’s driving the implementation of critical collaboration tools like unified communications. But it’s creating trade-offs: Amidst this rapid growth and advancement of core business goals, cybersecurity measures are taking a backseat, with a significant shortage in workforce skills hampering efforts to protect the very networks supporting business transformation.

Given the rapidly expanding threat landscape, this is clearly a risky state of affairs for any business. Fortunately, security need not be an impediment to fast growth, thanks to managed IT services.

When Security Falls by the Wayside…

Despite an ever-growing crowd of cybercriminals and attackers lurking in the wings, many companies are finding themselves unable to match their security efforts to the speed at which they do business.

At the heart of the problem is an ongoing and oft-discussed issue: the workforce skills gap. DevOps and security teams are not routinely integrated, largely because it’s challenging to develop in-house competencies. All too often, developers are not trained in secure coding, and operations staff are not trained in basic security practices; meanwhile, security specialists are too few and far between in both areas.

Further, a lack of training and finding talent within existing employee pools is hampering the quest to close the gap, according to (ISC)². In its study, “IT Professionals are a Critically Underutilized Resource for Cybersecurity,” the group found that many organizations are not fully maximizing the opportunity to empower and equip their IT staff—the very individuals most often tasked with implementing security policy and technologies—with the education and authority they need to effectively bolster their cybersecurity.

The research, based on responses from more than 3,300 IT professionals worldwide who participated in the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study, revealed that 43 percent of organizations don’t provide adequate resources for security training; and more than half (55 percent) don’t require IT staff to earn a security certification.

These stats bolster many studies finding companies unprepared for today’s threat landscape. Most small and medium businesses (SMBs), which are the targets of most cyberattacks, are unprepared even for front-line cyberthreats like ransomware, DDoS, malware and phishing attacks.

Managed Services Put IT Back on Track

Faced with a lack of skills in-house, and a need to stay up-to-date with the latest threats and mitigations, businesses have an option to rely on managed security to meet their needs – while allowing the business to move forward unhampered.

By turning to managed services, which combine the necessary people, process and technology for world-class security operations, businesses gain a turnkey solution that requires little installation and provisioning time.

For instance, TPx offers 24/7/365 protection and mitigation against ransomware, DDoS attacks and an increasingly sophisticated panoply of threats to business information and security. Managed security is always up to date, which means that the latest threats and security incidents can be quickly identified and receive an immediate response.

These capabilities are backed up by state-of-the-art security operations centers (SOC) in St. Louis, MO and Portland, ME. Our SOCs are supported by a nationwide team of security analysts with deep military and intelligence backgrounds, which lets us take full responsibility for keeping an eagle eye on all the activity traversing TPx’s customer networks.

This approach is more cost-effective too: Outsourcing SOC capabilities costs a fraction of what it would require to build an in-house equivalent, with little to no lead time.

Contact your TPx representative today for details on how we can help you protect your company’s network against the latest threats and attacks – so you don’t have to sacrifice security for speed.

About the Author

Matt Mair is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for Managed Services. His role includes marketing and communications for TPx’s suite of managed IT offerings including Managed SD-WAN, LAN Monitoring, Office 365, Managed Endpoint, Colocation and Server Backup solutions. Matt holds an MBA from Michigan State University’s Broad School of Business and resides in Los Angeles.

frustrated man with computers locked by ransomware

It’s every business owner’s nightmare: You go to work, flip on your computer, and are greeted by a red warning screen trying to extort you into paying ransom in Bitcoin to unnamed shadowy figures hidden somewhere in the Dark Web. Frankly, unless you have advanced security in place, you shouldn’t be too surprised: Ransomware is on the rise, and has been for the past 18 months.

However, not all ransomware is created equal. In 2018 we’re seeing cybercriminals employing new tactics, rolling out new functionality, and aiming at new targets. Ransomware is evolving, and every business, large or small, needs to be aware of this shifting threat landscape.

Let us not forget that cybercriminals consider what they do to be a job. These aren’t 18-year-old script kiddies wearing hoodies and living on Doritos and Red Bull in their parents’ basements. They’re organized. They think about business models: ransomware as-a-service offers a lot of upside if you’re a black hat type. They are, above all, disciplined. They wake up in the morning, work long hours, and put a lot of effort into differentiating their tactics and their code in order to return as large of a profit as possible. Believe it or not, they even offer customer service and support! Most ransomware offerings on underground forums try to differentiate with a help desk function. In short, they believe themselves to be entrepreneurs, and just like legitimate business owners with a passion for their work, they hit it hard every day in an effort to be the best at what they do.

The result of this ongoing dedication is a level of innovation that shouldn’t be discounted. A critical component of staying ahead of the threat is to understand it in the first place. Here are five emerging ransomware trends to be aware of as we go forward:

1. Internet of Things (IoT) in the Sights

Cybercriminals are upping their game in 2018 to drive profits, and that means targeting IoT systems and mission-critical point-of-sale systems. According to Forrester Research, because chip-and-PIN cards and end-to-end encryption are making it harder for hackers to lift credit-card information the old-fashioned way (i.e., using malware to scrape data), attackers will instead look to extortion to make money from retail targets. To avoid having their entire payment apparatus locked down, retail businesses should focus their efforts on plugging the gaps exposed by default passwords, weak encryption implementations, and inadequate patching/remediation capabilities.

2. Targeting for Fun and Profit

Ransomware is becoming more targeted. It not only looks for certain file types, but also is taking aim at specific types of companies, such as law firms, healthcare providers, and tax preparers. Security researchers have flagged this evolution as an important change on the threat horizon from the “spray-and-pray” attacks most businesses are used to. Criminals have developed ransomware that targets databases, and can make small tweaks to their code to target critical proprietary files such as AutoCAD designs. The importance of this? A focused targeting of extensions means that ransomware attacks are more likely to succeed against legacy antivirus solutions. We can expect their frequency and severity to also increase.

3. Ransomware that Destroys Instead of Encrypting

Ransomware locks down files and demands payment in response for a de-encryption key. But some bugs are not what they seem. One example is a new malware called Ordinypt, which bills itself as ransomware. However, the code is really a wiper, with apparent twin motives of financial gain as well as disrupting business operations. Once an unwitting victim opens a malicious email attachment, the malware infects a victim’s machine, making files inaccessible, and then requests a ransom for recovering them, as is typical. Yet unbeknownst to the target, the files are actually destroyed, not encrypted, and the attackers have no code for “unlocking” them, even if victims pay up.

4. Necurs Never Sleeps

The Necurs botnet is one of the most omnipresent scourges on the cyber-front, believed to control more than 6 million zombie machines that have been enslaved to send out spam emails. Its scale is immense: It can average volumes in excess of 30 million emails per day, all aimed at spreading fraud and malware, including ransomware. Late last year, for instance, Necurs sent the Scarab ransomware to 12.5 million email addresses in just the first four hours of a massive campaign. It’s important to note that using large botnets like Necurs can give smaller ransomware actors the global reach they need to punch above their weight—making attacks much more prevalent.

5. Fooling Cloud Apps Like Child’s Play

Ransomware is also evolving for the cloud era. A new strain of Gojdue ransomware, dubbed ShurL0ckr, manages to evade being flagged by two well-known cloud platforms with built-in malware protection, Google Drive and Microsoft Office 365 – and it’s not alone in that capability. Increasingly, ransomware is being tailored to evade detection in cloud environments.

Don’t Be a Victim

All it takes is one employee clicking on the wrong email attachment for an infection to occur. To protect yourself, make sure you’ve backed up your systems and tested your ability to recover data in the event of a ransomware attack: Paying the ransom is not an option you want to take given there’s no guarantee you can trust the cybercriminal to release your systems and data. Also, many businesses are targets of multiple attacks—and those known to pay up will be among the first retargeted.

The better strategy is to make sure you’re protected in the first place. TPx offers a full suite of managed IT and business continuity services to help you protect your data and systems. We stay on top of the latest ransomware trends to deliver the latest detection, mitigation and prevention capabilities – all backed up by a state-of-the-art security operations center (SOC) staffed by a team of security analysts with deep military and intelligence backgrounds.

Contact your TPx representative today for details on how we can help you protect your company’s network against ransomware and other malware attacks.

 

About the Author

Matt Mair is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for Managed Services. His role includes marketing and communications for TPx’s suite of managed IT offerings including Managed SD-WAN, LAN Monitoring, Office 365, Endpoints Management, Colocation and Server Backup solutions. Matt holds an MBA from Michigan State University’s Broad School of Business and resides in Los Angeles.

The nightmare that jolts IT professionals upright in bed during the wee hours these days is data breaches.  Those restless nights are populated by a world of shadowy threats like ransomware and phishing scams that all seem to have a pink tinge – as in pink slip.  Managed IT services offer companies a way to defang those threats at the same time they add convenience, scalability, affordability and, of course, the offloading of headaches so your IT department can focus on high-value projects.

But don’t just take our word for it.  The New York Times recently reported that data stored in the cloud generally is more secure than conventionally-stored data. That reality is fueling a huge surge in managed IT use as IT and business managers catch on.  Today, some 79 percent of companies run workloads in the cloud and 80 percent plan to increase their use of cloud-based managed services. It makes for much more restful evenings.

The security advantage of managed IT services is especially true for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that lack the resources to employ their own IT security professionals. Even the big players with in-house IT staff find that the growing threat landscape makes it more sensible to partner with a managed IT service provider that employs teams of experts with deep security experience to assist with data loss prevention, endpoint protection and threat remediation.

It’s not a surprise that BizTech magazine reports that SMBs will increasingly look to outsource at least some of their cybersecurity to managed service providers.  That decision decreases their exposure in important ways:

Inherent Multi-layered Security

Managed service providers are able to install and maintain multiple layers of security in their core operations. Security is a costly endeavor for companies that are not focused on creating IT infrastructure as part of their core business.

Internal Threat Protection

Employees with malicious intentions have more difficulty locating and damaging data in the cloud. The lack of physical access to that data, its redundancy, and even the lack of contact (internally) with people who can help them do damage generally makes data in the cloud more secure.

Avoiding Equipment Obsolescence

Managed services providers like TPx employ state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. That means you don’t have to worry about your gear becoming outdated or failing, which is where many security holes arise.

Business Continuity Enhancement

A managed services provider can make a company’s data disaster much less disastrous through automatic backups and redundancies, where it’s safe from systems failure, security threats or other disruptions.

There’s also safety in numbers. Financially speaking, managed IT services are more cost-effective because there are no up-front investments. Instead, they leverage a pay-as-you-go subscription model so companies avoid spending a lot of money on IT equipment, operating costs, licensing fees and data storage. Additionally, software updates and patches are executed automatically, saving time and money on the maintenance front. That means more dollars to the bottom line – the ultimate safety net.

About the Author

Matt Mair is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for Managed Services. His role includes marketing and communications for TPx’s suite of managed IT offerings including Managed SD-WAN, LAN Monitoring, Office 365, Endpoints Management, Colocation and Server Backup solutions. Matt holds an MBA from Michigan State University’s Broad School of Business and resides in Los Angeles.