Author: Matt Lipford

02 Nov 2016

Should Community Banks Use Skype? Exploring the Benefits of Skype for Business

Should Community Banks Use Skype? Exploring the Benefits of Skype for Business

Safe Systems customers of SafeSysMail already know that their email solution is powered by O365, which includes Skype for Business, but may not fully appreciate the scope of benefits that it provides. This powerful tool brings together real time instant messaging, business meeting capability, and desktop sharing into one comprehensive desktop environment.

Chances are, you are already familiar with the Skype brand. Skype rose to notoriety as an Internet video and audio calling solution, and people from around the world use it for these features today. Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011, and has since expanded its utility to include a much broader set of communications features. In the next few paragraphs, we will briefly touch on the many avenues for communication that Skype can provide for your institution.

Chat

Skype Messaging is actually an evolution of Microsoft’s existing Instant Messaging client, Lync. Like most Instant Messaging platforms it supports adding and grouping contacts, auditing status of those contacts, tracking conversation with those contacts, and archival of those conversations. Additionally, you can set an outgoing status message for other to see (such as your phone extension) and define your status (Available, Away, Busy, Do Not Disturb, etc.). If you forget to update your status, don’t worry – your status will dynamically adjust based on your Exchange calendar’s scheduled meeting. These features make it easier for your employees to know when their coworkers are available for a quick chat, regardless of their location.

The conversation thread window is full featured as well, supporting file transfer, multimedia messaging, and direct transition into group chat, desktop sharing, and video/audio calling. The interface integrates messaging, desktop sharing, and business meeting features for easy access on the fly. This means that conversations can blossom into quick meetings, and users can conveniently show their work without having to flip back-and-forth between screens.



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Collaboration

Skype is designed to make collaboration a snap. The Skype Desktop Sharing feature allows you to share an individual program on your screen or your entire desktop with a single contact or a group. If your pop-up meeting requires additional input, then you can add additional meeting participants into the existing communication.

For a more formal meeting, the Skype Business Meeting function allows users to send calendar invites and meeting information to selected users. Once the meeting begins, the same interface used in the Desktop Sharing function is used to conduct the meeting. In order to keep everyone on the same page, the console provides helpful real-time information; you can see if users are muted, typing in the chat window, transmitting video, or sharing their screen. If you started the meeting you can also configure some of those input settings, such as manually muting a user if needed.

Skype fills a business need by empowering employee communication and collaboration. While Skype is far from the only application you can use for this purpose, it does an excellent job packaging a number of useful features into a user-friendly tool. And if you are an O365 customer through SafeSysMail, then you cannot beat the price. Consider investigating Skype to determine if it is the right fit for your institution.
To learn more about how community bankers nationwide are leveraging SafeSysMail and Skype for Business to improve communications and encourage greater collaboration among their staff, please check out our website.

28 Jul 2015

Windows 10 Offers Community Banks and Credit Unions Improved Security

Windows 10 Offers Community Banks and Credit Unions Improved Security

This post is the final in a three part series exploring aspects of Windows 10. Also read: Part 1 discusses market statistics, and Part 2 dives into the interface.

Another Windows 10 area where Microsoft appears to be placing a heavy focus is security. In late April, Microsoft announced on their blog several new security features that will be present in Windows 10. This was in following up on another security-minded post from October 2014. These features center on managing application execution and user identity and are especially important to financial institutions.

The application execution component is being termed Device Guard. The feature will be certified or supported by hardware manufacturers and will allow for the designation of authorized applications. Financial institutions interested in using this new tool will define authorizations at the network or enterprise level. Applications will be checked against the list to evaluate trustworthiness and prevented from executing if not authorized. Microsoft’s intent for this feature is to assist in preventing execution of malicious code, as modification of an existing previously authorized application would cause it to be de-authorized. It is important to note that Microsoft specifically mentions Device Guard will not prevent macros within documents from running; thus, the feature would enhance but not remove the need to continue using existing anti-virus and anti-malware solutions.

Windows 10’s new Identity Management features are called Windows Hello and Microsoft Passport. These features can supplement or replace the existing password mechanisms most commonly in use today. Windows Hello deals specifically with biometric user authentication. Microsoft indicated that fingerprint scanning, iris scanning and picture identification will all be supported; of course, specific hardware may be required in order to use these features. The Microsoft Passport feature in Windows 10 will authenticate and authorize users to a service or a network by using a cryptographic key stored on a hardware device. This technology has been in use for years with smart cards, but Microsoft is aiming to integrate this into the hardware of devices running Windows 10. Microsoft Passport, when used in conjunction with Windows Hello, would require both biometric and specific hardware requirements to access a user’s account. This multi-factor authentication approach would provide superior security over the traditional username/password combination.

This concludes our series exploring Windows 10. Microsoft plans to release Windows 10 to the general public starting on July 29, 2015. Please reach out to Safe Systems if you need assistance with your Windows 10 upgrade.




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23 Jul 2015

What Community Bank IT Administrators Need to Know About Windows 10 Usability and Software Updates

Windows 10

This post is the second in a three part series exploring aspects of Windows 10. Part 1 discusses market statistics, and Part 3 discusses changes to the security posture in Windows 10.

Microsoft appears to be positioning Windows 10 to address the usability concerns many had with Windows 8. In theory, Windows 8 itself could be interpreted as an overreaction to the proliferation of touchscreen devices of the past few years. In an attempt to make Windows 8 an iOS competitor, Microsoft appears to have swung wide by removing the familiar Start menu and focusing more on touch-responsive UI and navigation.

Now, with the reintroduction of the Start button and a sharper focus on usability and navigation with a mouse, perhaps Microsoft can address the issues that made Windows 8 such a jolting transition. The revised Start button will function as a cross between the Start button of Windows 7 and the Start screen of Windows 8. Further, Microsoft appears to be making efforts to ensure that the user experience will be flexible enough to serve the needs of both desktop/laptop and tablet/smartphone users.

Another evolving feature that somewhat bridges the gap between usability and security in Windows 10 is the software update mechanism. Traditionally, Microsoft has provided an intermittent update cycle, through which they professed to not add new features outside of major version updates. In reality, what we have seen over the years was a major version release (Windows XP, 7, 8), and subsequent smaller updates in the form of “R2” releases or Service Packs. Windows 10 looks to introduce a more frequent update schedule that will make use of update “tracks.” This will allow administrators and users to select between a slow update speed and a fast update speed. Users on the fast track will receive updates earlier, and those on the slow track will get updates more slowly. This will bring Microsoft in closer alignment with the faster update schedule of Google Chrome, while still allowing a robust testing base. It should be noted that this paradigm only applies to feature updates. Security updates will still be deployed on a monthly basis, and the existing Microsoft Update system appears to be more or less intact in current preview versions.




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21 Jul 2015

Windows 10, What it Means to Community Banks and Credit Unions

 
 
Windows 10 Offers Community Banks and Credit Unions Improved Security

This post is the first in a three part series exploring aspects of Windows 10. Part 2 dives into the usability changes Microsoft has made in Windows 10, and Part 3 discusses changes to the security posture in Windows 10.

For nearly the past year Microsoft has been gearing up for the upcoming release of Windows 10. It will be the direct successor to the much maligned Windows 8, and a more spiritual successor to Windows 7. If you have seen Windows 9 in the wild, please let us know. It seems to have disappeared from Microsoft’s grand vision.

If you are reading these words on a desktop in mid-2015, there is a very good chance you are doing so on a Windows 7 machine. Hopefully, you are not still using a Windows XP device. If you are, fingers crossed in hopes that your auditor doesn’t know about it. Statistically speaking though, you probably are NOT using Windows 8.

The banking industry (perhaps even more so than the US at large) seems to have largely skipped out on Windows 8. By my recent count of NetComply client endpoints running a Desktop operating system, roughly 0.4% are currently running Windows 8 or 8.1. Put another way, for every 250 endpoints roughly one of those is running Windows 8. In fact, there are currently three times more Windows XP than Windows 8 devices within our NetComply clients. Thankfully, none of those XP devices are on your network! Right?

Given that Windows 7 was first released in July of 2009, one need not read too deeply to see Microsoft is expecting to upgrade many existing devices to Windows 10. Interestingly, Microsoft has indicated that it will provide free upgrades to Windows 10 for existing installs of Windows 7 and 8 on the consumer side. This may lend further credence to the theory that they are expecting to make up the difference in revenue from the business and enterprise side.



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11 Dec 2012

Server Baseline (Server Hardening): A Security Complement to Our Other Services

Matt Lipford, Managed Services Engineer

If you have been following these newsletters for some time, it is likely you are familiar with the various means Safe Systems employs to help your financial institution stay under the radar of your auditor/examiner. These mechanisms include Patch Management, CAPS (Critical Application Patching Service), and our Server Baseline Services (Server Hardening), to name a few.

I wanted to spend some time discussing our Server Baseline Services (SBS), specifically, how it has evolved, how it has been complemented by our other services, and our vision for the future of SBS.
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