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Is Your Technology Weighing You Down? See How 'Simple IT' Can Help.

Posted by Jenn Rothschiller on Jun 7, 2017 10:15:00 AM

Technology is at the center of every business. When business networks are undependable, it might be time to switch to a condensed solution. Cisco introduces the concept of Simple IT, which enables you to better manage your time and money and allows the customer to remain the most important part of your business.

Frustrated IT.jpegWe would like to invite you to the Cisco Customer Education (CCE) session on June 14th, 2017 from 12:30pm-1:30pm CT (1:30pm-2:30pm ET). This series event will educate you on the what, how and why of Cisco technologies, in a non-sales pitch environment. Please join us using the registration button below:

 

Click Here to Register!

Topics: Technology Solutions, IT Solutions, technology

Day in the Life - Jeff Bolstad, Help Desk Technician

Posted by Kirsten Henagin on Apr 1, 2016 10:30:00 AM

In a world of fast technology and changing markets, what do people in an IT consulting company actually do? At Network Center, Inc. we engage in responsible innovation, have a relentless dedication to our customers, and most of all - we are committed to our employees. The Day in the Life blog series highlights our employees’ talents, passions, and expertise in all of our departments. Day in the Life has the goal to provide a holistic, behind-the-scenes look of our company.

“Trust that who you are working through [for IT solutons] has your best interest, and don't expect the cheapest solution to be the best.” – Jeff Bolstad

Jeff Bolstad, Help Desk Technician, has been with Network Center, Inc. (NCI) for five years. Jeff attended Valley City State University, and he has been in the information technology industry for a total of nine years. Jeff spends his free time computer gaming, specifically Dungeons and Dragons. Jeff is rarely caught without his computer, but when he is offline he enjoys reading fantasy novels, fishing, gardening, and spending time with his Rottweiler-Labrador mix. 

20150829_162319.jpgJeff is often the first one to arrive at the office, which his favorite aspect of his day. He enjoys starting the day in the stillness of a quiet morning. The early morning is an opportunity for him to get organized and prepared for the day before customers start calling. He ensures that the Support Center is up and running, and checks for new tickets. Throughout the day, he takes calls from customers to support their company’s success and resolve issues.

Network Center, Inc. takes a team approach to solving problems and providing the best services to customers. For example, Jeff collaborates and coordinates with Sean Todd, Director of Managed Services, to distribute resources and assign tickets throughout the department. He interacts with a number of people over the course of the day, mostly customers, but also other team members to assist with various service help tickets.

Jeff’s role could be perceived as transactional for the company because his time is billable to the customer, however that assumption would be incorrect. His impact goes beyond the interaction and time spent assisting customers. His success in serving customers furthers the trust built between the various accounts he serves, the Support Center team and NCI as a whole. Dedication to customers is one of the core values of the company, and the Support Center team lives and breathes that value every day.Jeff-pic-1.jpg

According to Jeff, NCI has more resources at its disposal when assisting customers. Services are managed between departments to create a collaborative and holistic approach to solving problems for customers. Jeff feels that NCI is perceptive and can readily recognize customer needs, then can take a proactive step in resolving issues.

For customers to be successful, Jeff stressed “Trust that who you are going through [for IT solutions] has your best interest, and don't expect the cheapest solution to be the best.”

Overall the company’s laid back atmosphere has hooked Jeff into always coming back to the office. He enjoys being surrounded by people determined to do their best for the customer every day. He appreciates that the company places a priority on investing in technical education for its employees. Cutting edge technology continues to surface and evolve in the IT industry, and through connections with customers he is able to stay up-to-date with the latest trends.

Lastly, a fun fact about Jeff is that while his knowledge of the IT industry and technology is widespread and global, he has not yet stepped foot on an airplane.  

Stay tuned for more installments to the “A Day in the Life” series; giving you a behind the scenes look at the people behind your project.

MeetOurTeam_button-1.jpg

 

Topics: IT Solutions, IT support, Company Culture, Day in the Life

Adding Navigation Links to Personal Sites on Microsoft SharePoint Online

Posted by Josh Nikle on Mar 6, 2015 3:30:00 PM

I recently had a request to add some navigation links to the tops of pages in personal sites on SharePoint Online. While the links they requested are largely available OOTB through the app launcher in the upper-left corner of the screen, they were looking for a solution that would…

  1. Be easily accessible
  2. Be instantly visible
  3. And most importantly, would require no training on their part.

Since we really didn’t want to change the site master page, we opted instead to add the necessary links to the top bar on the applicable pages with a little bit of JQuery.

1

If you want this feature for all pages in MySites, you’ll need to add the script by clicking here or a reference to it to mysite15.master. For the purposes of this post though, we’ll implement it on the “About me” page through a script editor web part and our script.

Tools you’ll need:

  1. The script attached to this post.

The script

The script is just a small bit of JQuery that finds the div containing the section of the top bar we want to edit and then inserts some custom HTML into it.

There is one “gotcha” with this method though. Because of the way the top bar renders, you need to add a delay before inserting your HTML. In my case, I had to add 1 second.  You may find your delay needing to be longer or shorter based on your environment.

To Implement:

  1. Go to the settings menu > Edit page.
  2. Scroll down until you see “Add a Web Part.” It doesn’t matter which zone you use.
  3. Click “Add a Web Part” and insert a script editor web part.
  4. Edit the web part.
  5. Click on the “edit snippet” link and paste the script provided into it.
  6. Stop editing the page, and you should now see something similar to the image at the top of this post.

If you have any other Microsoft SharePoint questions, please contact our SharePoint professional at NetWork Center, Inc. 

Contact Us Today!

Topics: IT Solutions, Microsoft SharePoint, SharePoint Online

Shellshock: It Has Nothing to Do with Ninja Turtles

Posted by Brian Johnson on Oct 17, 2014 4:13:04 PM

shellshock-bug-100457107-largeI’m probably starting to show my age, but when I hear the word “Shellshock” the first thing I think of is the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons. But unfortunately, the Shellshock we are talking about has nothing to do with pizza-loving reptiles, and everything to do with a gaping security hole affecting many of your Internet-connected devices. Here’s what Shellshock (a.k.a. the “Bash bug”) is all about and why you should care:

What is it?

There are a few terms and technologies contributing to the Shellshock nickname. First up is Bash, which is a command-line interface used in Mac, Linux, and many other operating systems and devices. This interface, often referred to as accessing the “shell,” can be used to enter commands to perform various actions on a system, such as editing files, running tools, or initiating a restart or shutdown. 

The heart of the Shellshock problem is that when these Bash commands are tweaked for potentially malicious purposes, really really really bad stuff can happen all across the Internet. 

I don’t run Macs or Linux – so can I stop reading now?

No – please don’t! This still matters to you. You may not directly run these operating systems on the machines you use every day, but Linux is everywhere. It could be found on video cameras, routers and other devices on your home or work network, and is prevalent on thousands and thousands of Web servers scattered across the Internet. 

To understand the seriousness of this issue, we have to get a little nerdy first and look at an example Bash command:

/bin/eject

This simple command, when executed on some Linux servers, will eject the CD drive. No harm done there, right? 

Ok, but what if I could somehow modify that command and, from my comfy office in Waconia, use it to make a server across the Internet eject its CD drive? Wouldn’t that be cool? Well, if my target server was vulnerable to Shellshock, I could do exactly that with this command:

 curl -H "User-Agent: () { :; }; /bin/eject" http://www.example.com/

Again, this looks like a bunch of gibberish, right? But when we break it down, here’s essentially what this command is doing: first, it is asking www.example.com to display its Web content, much like it would if you visited www.example.com in a Web browser. Next, as my computer and the Web site send data back and forth to complete this connection, my computer sends the characters () { :; };. And here’s the bug: the server misinterprets the /bin/eject command as something to ignore or discard, and runs it instead. Wa-lah! The CD tray pops open!

Microsoft-Court-Email-Orders-01I don’t run a Web server either – why am I still reading?

In the example above I used a command which caused a Web server to eject its CD tray. Just a silly trick to show friends at parties, right? But use your imagination and think of some of the more sinister things I could do with this Shellshock vulnerability. Maybe I could figure out a way to make thousands of these severs attack your corporate network. Or I could craft a command to make the server send me sensitive information it has stored about you, such as your name, address, phone number, password, purchase history, credit card information…the possibilities are endless! 

And keep in mind, this vulnerability does not require any advanced skills on my part. I do not have to steal any usernames or passwords of people who administer these servers, download any special software or take a master’s class in hacking. Nope, just a quick Google search and about 10 minutes of my time would be all I needed to start launching attacks on vulnerable servers and potentially do damage to your networks, accounts and sensitive information. And that is why you should be concerned with Shellshock.

So what can I do about it?

If you are running Macs in your environments, check the support article Apple has published about the Bash bug, and download/install the appropriate patch.

On Linux systems, you can usually do a quick Google search for the type of Linux you run and the word “Shellshock” to find articles and instructions containing a fix. For instance, I run Ubuntu, and by searching for Ubuntu Shellshock I was treated to this nice article which walks me through patching the bug.

Don’t stop here. In your home or corporate network, you need to check other devices that may be vulnerable, such as video cameras, routers and backup devices. Tripwire offers a free tool to scan up to 100 internal IP addresses for free. Depending on what devices are identified as being vulnerable, head to that vendor’s Web site and search for any knowledge base articles or updates that might be available.

If you are concerned about Shellshock on your servers that are accessible via the Internet, this tool can help you test them.

Conclusion

Shellshock is a big deal – some experts say even bigger than Heartbleed. But as you can see above, Shellshock is not a real simple vulnerability to explain. I have had several conversations with clients who misunderstand it as “I don’t run Macs or Linux, so I don’t need to care.” Hopefully I was able to show you that is simply not the case, and you can help your fellow friends/family/coworkers better understand the bug when the opportunity arises. 

If you have any questions about Shellshock or perhaps want your network scanned for the vulnerability, we welcome the chance to talk to you. Contact NetWork Center, Inc. or FRSecure for any questions. 

This blog post is written by our guest blogger Brian Johnson, Information Security Analyst with our partner in information security, FRSecure

Topics: Technology Solutions, Network Security, Security, Security Technologies, IT Solutions

Securing Your Website with SSL

Posted by Joe Dunnigan on Sep 12, 2014 3:15:00 PM

SSL CertificatesWith the ever-increasing risk of privacy concerns and data breaches, it is important to know what steps can be taken to mitigate these risks. One area that can be addressed to increase security and decrease exposure to attacks is securing a website with SSL. This not only will this strengthen and encrypt communications between the user and the site they are visiting, but it will also increase visibility of the website, and show users that their actions on the site will remain private and secure.

Traditionally, a website would employ SSL (https) security only in areas of the site where the potential for sensitive user information was being transferred. This may include user login forms, shopping carts and checkout, or application forms that include sensitive information such as a social security number. Increasingly today we are finding that organizations recommend and sometimes require that SSL be present on the entire website to ensure that all communications between the client and the website are secured. If you are responsible for a small to mid-sized bank, you may have already received information from your security auditors recommending site-wide SSL be employed on your website. Even if all of your online banking processes are handled by a third party and not run directly through your website, you should still expect to see this recommendation show up on your next audit.

Another area that is seeing the increased need for SSL security on websites is the widespread availability and ease of use of content management systems such as Drupal and Wordpress (http://info.netcenter.net/Blog/bid/335313/Why-CMS-is-Important-for-Your-Business). These systems provide an easy-to-use backend for managing your website content and configuration. Typically you access the CMS by going to a login page on your website, entering your credentials, which then grants access to administration areas and content editing features. When logging in or performing content changes, having the communications between your web browser and the website backend encrypted helps ensure that your website stays safe from unauthorized access.

secure websiteUpgrading your site to use Always-On SSL is not a difficult process, but may involve additional costs and considerations. SSL certificates must be purchased, typically on a 1-3 year basis, and can expire if they are not renewed. Also, you may have to upgrade your website hosting plan, depending on what plan you currently have. Most providers should be able to assist with this transition and keep your site going while the upgrade happens.

Always-On SSL not only offers security benefits and the added sense of security for your users, but may also help your search rank. Recently, Google announced that they are giving an SEO rank boost to sites secured with HTTPS everywhere or Always-On SSL (AOSSL) (https://blog.digicert.com/google-gives-ssl-secured-sites-search-ranking-boost/). When Google crawls your site and sees that all pages are encrypted with HTTPS, your search rank is automatically increased. This has the potential to move your site up in search results, increasing exposure to potential customers. Right now this is a lightweight signal, but over time it will continue to be more important for ranking search results.

If you've considered adding SSL to your site in the past, or are currently using SSL for only certain areas on your site, there are more reasons now to consider adding Always-On SSL. You'll give your customers an added sense of security, and might even drive more traffic with better search rank. Contact NetWork Center, Inc. to find out how to secure your website using SSL security.

Contact Us Today! 

Topics: Technology Solutions, NetWork Center Inc., Security, Protection, Security Technologies, IT Solutions

Network Health: Do You Know if Your Network is Healthy?

Posted by Kyle Riveland on Sep 3, 2014 3:30:00 PM

emergency symbolWe all know computers and servers can catch infections, and most of us are well prepared to combat them. But, do you have insight into the core hardware and software health of not only your servers, but your switches, firewalls, SANs, etc.? While a common email virus is much like a head cold, an unhealthy SAN would be a more severe affliction that typically requires a few days in a hospital. An unhealthy SAN (or any other device) is largely a completely avoidable situation through preventative maintenance.   

Most people check in with doctors to get help with preventative maintenance of their personal health, so what can you do to gain insight on your network health? Fortunately, there are many options to prevent infection. Among them are:  

  • Gain insight into the health of your servers through monitoring logs and spot checking hardware

  • Monitor logs on your networking equipment, keep software levels up to their latest version

  • Ensure important core system hardware, such as SANs, are up-to-date and have no error conditions

  • Replace aging hardware periodically, as older hardware may be holding back the potential of your network

maintenanceThat seems like a lot of work for someone to do regularly! Fear not, much like doctors have a battery of tests to find ailments, there are many devices and software solutions available to help diagnose early warnings of degrading network health.   

Applications such as PRTG, IBM’s Tivoli Network Manager, ManageEngine’s software suite, Cacti, and myriad others can help you gather network metrics and provide alerting for issues on devices like switches, firewalls, or anything else that has an IP address. Some of these applications can even give you a history of the device with just a few clicks. If the device has SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol), you can usually gather a multitude of metrics from it.  

Logs upon logs upon more logs. How can one keep up? Even the task of regularly monitoring a single server is daunting. Applications from companies such as ManageEngine, GFI, IPSwitch (What’s Up Gold), and others can gather all the logs for you in one tidy central location. Most of these programs give reporting and alerting so you can immediately attend to issues that arise and prevent them from getting worse. Many of the blue screens that happen in a Windows OS have early indicators before it actually happens. This type of software can help prevent the dreaded ‘Blue Screen of Death’ and avoid costly downtime.   

For other more specific items in your network, vendor software also available and can be sometimes just as good as 3rd party programs. As long as the software has alerting, it should be good enough to give you the tools necessary to combat network health issues as they arise.

Now that you have an idea of what is available, what’s next? Even after you choose these solutions, it is important to configure the software correctly. These tools are not going to be very useful if they only cover parts of your network (or worse, misconfigured). These situations would give you a false sense of security which could be very dangerous.  

Please talk to any of our sales staff or techs, and we can give you additional information or answer any questions you may have.

Contact Us Today!

Topics: NetWork Center Inc., Security, Protection, IT Consulting, IT Solutions

IT Infrastructure: Expense or Business Investment

Posted by Jon Ryan on Aug 25, 2014 2:00:00 PM

1It’ll be here before you know it. You are told by your IT provider that your hardware needs to be replaced. “Again?  Didn’t we just replace that recently?” The mindset of the traditional business is to only purchase infrastructure based on their depreciation schedule. In some cases that schedule can be up to 5 years. Depreciation is often used by businesses for capital purchases to help deduct expensive infrastructure costs. But what is the driving factor to replacing or upgrading your infrastructure?

Days of the Old

Back in the day, businesses relied more on manual processes to operate as a business. File cabinets and paper copies were a large part of business process. People actually used “In-boxes” on their desks to process requests. Most of the company infrastructure was aimed at backbone services only. Businesses would purchase phone systems and financial processing servers for running the core business infrastructure. Network traffic was minimal and desktops were used until they no longer powered on. Businesses would re-use their old hardware until it was completely necessary to replace it. Thus viewing this as a necessary expense that only needs to be replaced once completely unusable.

Today’s IT Landscape

Fast forward quite a few years to today’s IT needs. The technology landscape has changed drastically. In today’s world, server and desktop computer processing is the center of your business. “In-boxes” have been replaced by email and workflow processes and that core server is being used for more than just backbone application processing. Computer technology has become the center of every business. To show how much we rely on technology, just think if your computer crashes or you lose your data. Or your servers are down for several days. What kind of impact does that have on you and your company?  One thing that many businesses don’t realize is that their business drives your technology needs. As businesses grow, more resources are needed to support the growth. Faster and more efficient processing of your day to day operations can lead to very substantial efficiencies. When new systems are put in place, it is not uncommon to adjust internal process to keep up with the faster technology.  That pile of orders sitting on your desk no longer takes a week to get into the system. Resulting in faster order processing and more output.

2IT as a Business Investment

As opposed to traditional views of company technology being an expense, something that is only done out of minimal necessity, businesses need to start realizing and thinking of their technology as a Business Investment. In order to really see your technology as an investment, you have to ask yourself, what does my technology drive? You’ll be surprised to find out that it drives EVERYTHING! From scheduling, to payroll, to orders, to accounting, to communication, to profit, your infrastructure is there processing it all. As you do with hiring and investing in good staff, you also need to invest in your IT Infrastructure. It is not uncommon for us to see servers and infrastructure that is 5 - 7 years old. Many times only replaced because of discontinued OS support. But the more important issue with using antiquated technology is that with all of advances and the fast changing IT world, there are much more efficient technologies to take advantage of. Possibly even propelling your business to an all new level.

At NetWork Center, Inc. we can help review your current technology age and usage and recommend any changes that might be needed. With over 28 years of in the technology industry, we have the engineers and consultants that can help you determine your IT business investment opportunities. 

Contact Us Today!

Topics: Technology Solutions, NetWork Center Inc., IT Consulting, IT Solutions, technology consulting

One Size Fits All, Sasquatch, and Consulting

Posted by Ric Todd on Jul 23, 2014 5:00:00 PM

Flash Consulting 2 resized 600Like Sasquatch, One Size Fits All (henceforth referred to 1SFA) in IT is a myth. Sure there are people who still cling to the belief despite copious evidence to the contrary. Some will even end up throwing all kinds of well-intentioned money and time to prove otherwise. Often it’s just easier to fill a need with the easiest answer, but in the end, without asking what the underlying problem or question is, it’s really never truly solved. More importantly, was there an opportunity to move the entire effort forward? Was there an opportunity to pivot? 

What am I really talking about? 

I wish I had dollar for every time someone asked me, "What should we do?" Really, what the question being asked when boiled down is..."How do I spend the least amount of money and brain power to get this problem solved so I can move on with what I need to focus on?" These are perfectly legitimate questions. Regardless the problem, it’s pretty safe to say the business wasn't started to solve the problem at hand. To be clear, I couldn't agree more. That's why people pay me to answer the questions. They want to move on and think about what they are supposed to be thinking about….Enter Consulting. 

So what do I mean?

I am often asked to be involved in preliminary conversations with new customers in order to strategize the best course of action for their IT needs. Whether they are a 5 person or 5000 person organization, this conversation is extremely helpful in bringing together the right forces for the effort. If we begin with the goal in mind, we always end up at the right destination. This is the real benefit of consulting, otherwise known as "asking pertinent questions and using experience and critical thinking to give recommendations and guide efforts towards a desired result."  

But holdup, isn't consulting expensive? 

It depends on whether you take the long or short view. Sure, sometimes writing a check for a document that has a bunch of words and some neat looking graphics is hard. But when you take a look at what the impact of those words and graphics can be, it’s a whole different ballgame. Further, I am constantly involved in engagements with differing levels of influence, whether approving budgets and expenditures, or literally turning knobs, it’s not always just words. It's a whole lot more. 

pic technology consulting resized 600Spit it out already...

I have a tough time when people ask me what I do, because the easiest thing to say is...computers. Most people can wrap their heads around that. The fact of the matter is, I work in solutions. Infrastructure and computers cost money and historically have rarely directly contributed to a Profit &Loss report. Solutions on the other hand, can have a profound direct impact. Whether it’s a discussion surrounding mail services or an entire cloud migration, all of these decisions should be synchronized with the organizations overarching strategy, not brought to the table after the fact. 

In other words, I deal in solutions. There is no 1SFA solution. It doesn't exist because there are no two business that are identical and no two problems that are the same. Sure, we use many of the same tools to solve them, but I make sure I understand what we are really after, even if sometimes the asker doesn't necessarily know. 

Here's a 10 cent tip....

Anyone who is proposing a product or item without asking what your business does and how its players operate before proposing isn't really concerned with your success, they are more concerned with selling something. 

So that's what I mean...

sasquatch resized 600Yep, it’s a novel concept in any field, but I want to talk to you about what you do, what your employees do, and how you make your money or perform your services, and what drives you. Not only is it the right thing to do, but I also find your story interesting. There is also a good chance that there is a more impactful way to execute that technology plan you may or may not have. After all, one answer would never work to answer every question asked of me. And sorry folks, Sasquatch doesn't exist. Bummer. I know. 

Give us a buzz if you're ready to have that conversation.

Contact Us Today!

Topics: IT Consulting, IT Solutions, technology consulting

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