PrintNightmare – What it is, Why it matters & What you should do about it

UPDATE JULY 6, 2021
From Microsoft: Microsoft has completed the investigation and has released security updates to address this vulnerability. Read More. The ISG Security Team will begin testing the implementation of this patch and report back on our findings via this post.


ORIGINAL POST, JULY 2, 2021

If you’ve found your way to this article, you must know that there is a new Microsoft vulnerability called “PrintNightmare” that could allow bad actors to wreak havoc on your network and your business. This article is to let you know what “PrintNightmare” is and what you should be doing about it to protect your organization.

What is PrintNightmare?

This Forbes article summed it up best by stating,

“PrintNightmare is the name that has been attached to a zero-day vulnerability impacting the Windows print spooler. A vulnerability that can ultimately, it would appear, lead to an attacker taking remote control of an affected system.”

What’s unique about this particular vulnerability is that it was only rated as “important” by Microsoft when the first patch was released on June 8th, but has since been escalated to “critical” on June 21st when it was found to enable remote code execution.

Security researchers working on this vulnerability, had actually found this, published their findings and inadvertently exposed this Windows zero-day. As of July 2nd, there is no patch for this vulnerability.

Why it matters?

Reason #1: The sheer volume of devices affected by the threat – this impacts EVERY supported Windows OS version in the wild, which essentially just made it hunting season for cybercriminals.

Reason #2: Print spooler is an essential function for almost all businesses and devices. Some people are recommending stopping the Print Spooler service across the entire organization, which is impractical in most cases.

Reason #3: The damage that can be done is significant. According to Microsoft’s update yesterday, “An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could run arbitrary code with SYSTEM privileges. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights,” 

What should you do?

Stay Tuned for the Patch
Several days into this, Microsoft has not commented on the problem, and a patch to this vulnerability has not been released. But we’re sure they have all hands on deck (Happy 4th of July weekend Microsoft Team). ISG’s security team is monitoring the top security forums, chats, Microsoft and working with our security partners to identify solutions.

Explore Stop-Gap Solutions
Some security professionals are suggesting stopping the print spooler service across the entire organization. This may or may not be right for your company. For most businesses, this is not a great option. There are a number of workarounds being discussed online. ISG has implemented a stop-gap solution that mitigates risk for ISG and our clients.

Reinforce Employee Security Awareness
Cybercriminals need a way into your network before they can exploit this vulnerability, and 90% of security breaches happen via email. So… you should reinforce to your employees how important their role is in the security of the organization. Here’s what we reminded our employees (and yes, we used big bold, all caps letters):

  • DO NOT OPEN ATTACHMENTS you weren’t expecting
  • DO NOT CLICK ON LINKS you don’t know are safe
  • DO NOT PROVIDE PERSONAL OR CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION at the request of an email or phone call you receive.

If you need help…

Contact Your Trusted IT Service Provider
If you are unsure of what to do for your organization, reach out to an IT Service provider. ISG would be happy to help you navigate the situation. We have already taken steps to mitigate our risk, are continuing conversations with our strategic security partners about mitigation strategies and are on the lookout for the patch from Microsoft.

Stay tuned for more information or contact ISG today.

ISG Technology Featured on CRN’s 2021 Solution Provider 500 List

Overland Park, KS, Wednesday, June 9, 2021 — ISG Technology, today announced that CRN®, a brand of The Channel Company, has named ISG Technology to its 2021 Solution Provider 500 list. CRN announces its top 500 solution providers list each year, ranking the leading IT channel partner organizations across North America by revenue. This year’s impressive list represents a remarkable combined revenue of over $403 billion, underscoring the immense impact and influence these partners have on the IT industry today.

ISG Technology continues to be a fixture in this group of IT solution providers serving clients in the Midwest and across the nation with its IT Consulting, Professional Services, Managed Services, and its SOC2 audited data centers. The company was also recognized on CRN’s 2021 MSP 500 list earlier this year in the Elite 150 category for their excellence in providing managed services to the mid-market.

“We continue to see increasing demand for our managed services, especially our managed security offering,” stated Chief Operating Officer, Jon Bierman. “Unfortunately, too many companies are experiencing breaches and then getting ahold of us to remediate the situation. It’s keeping our incident response team busy, but we’d prefer to help companies get proactive with their cybersecurity efforts and their overall IT operations.”

John Bierman, COO of ISG Technology

“CRN’s Solution Provider 500 list serves as the industry standard for top-performing technology integrators, strategic service providers, and IT consultants, which makes it a valuable resource for technology vendors looking to partner with today’s best-of-breed IT solution providers,” said Blaine Raddon, CEO of The Channel Company. “On behalf of The Channel Company, I’d like to congratulate these companies for their incredible contributions to the growth and success of the IT channel.”

Blaine Raddon, CEO of The Channel Company

The complete 2021 Solution Provider 500 list is available online at www.CRN.com/SP500 and a sample from the list will be featured in the June issue of CRN Magazine.

About ISG Technology

ISG Technology helps organizations unlock possibilities so they can realize their full business potential. They do it by providing a unique combination of managed IT services, technology consulting, professional services, and cloud/data center solutions.

Part of the Twin Valley Family of Companies and a fourth-generation family business, ISG Technology has grown and evolved into the recognized leader in the Midwest by aligning its success with the long-term success of its clients. They are consistently recognized in CRN’s Top IT Providers in the nation, most recently as part of the Tech Elite 150 for excellence in managed IT services.

ISG is headquartered in Overland Park, KS, with 8 locations across the Midwest including a regional network of SOC II Certified data centers. For more information please contact Scott Strickler, Director of Marketing, ISG Technology, 913-826-6058.

About The Channel Company

The Channel Company enables breakthrough IT channel performance with our dominant media, engaging events, expert consulting and education, and innovative marketing services and platforms. As the channel catalyst, we connect and empower technology suppliers, solution providers, and end users. Backed by more than 30 years of unequalled channel experience, we draw from our deep knowledge to envision innovative new solutions for ever-evolving challenges in the technology marketplace. www.thechannelcompany.com 

Follow The Channel Company: Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

© 2021 The Channel Company, LLC. CRN is a registered trademark of The Channel Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Connect people across the entire organization through communities in Microsoft Teams

With a global health crisis compelling so many of us to work remotely, it’s more important than ever for leaders and communications to connect people across teams and organizations. Last November at Ignite, we unveiled the new Yammer, with a beautiful new design that powers community, knowledge-sharing, and employee engagement. The new Yammer includes a fully interactive Yammer app called “Communities” that brings your communities and conversations directly into Microsoft Teams. Put simply, it’s Yammer—in Teams. 

Starting today, this app is available in the Microsoft app store. Here, I’ll go over how your team can use it for company-wide communication, knowledge-sharing, and employee engagement, as well as how to install it and where to find it. By offering the full Yammer experience right inside Teams, we want to help you keep everyone at your organization engaged, informed, and moving forward. Let’s get into it. 

Animated image of the Microsoft Teams app.

The new Yammer app for Teams keeps everyone connected to what’s happening in their communities conversations, share announcements, attend live events, and connect with coworkers just as you would in the Yammer web or mobile apps. 

How to use the new Yammer app 

More than 44 million people are now using Teams every day to get work done. And while many of us spend more time than ever collaborating with our own teams, we also often need to reach beyond our core work groups to chase down information, share experiences and expertise, and voice feedback. 

With the Yammer app in Teams, customers can: 

Communicate broadly 

Leaders and communicators need modern solutions to ensure people have the information they need, wherever they are. The Yammer app enables them to share a poll or question at scale, and instantly notify people of important news by sharing an announcement targeted to the entire organization or specific communities. And the app offers easy visibility into the reach and impact of those communications, too. 

Image of a remote worker community in Microsoft Teams.

Announcements and pinned posts increase visibility for important messages. 

Connect with experts and answers 

The familiar social experiences of Yammer make it easy to discover valuable conversations, ask questions, loop in experts with at-mentions, and mark best answers. 

Image of a remote worker community member asking for resources in Microsoft Teams.

The personalized feed is powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to show conversations and content that are relevant to you. 

Host company-wide events 

Leaders can use live events in Yammer to broadcast company-wide, town hall–style meetings with video, interactive conversation, and Q&A sessions to share vision, drive culture, and engage employees. 

Image of a company meeting in Microsoft Teams.

Users can attend company-wide live events in Yammer in the app. 

How to install it 

Starting today, admins and users can install the Yammer app, named “Communities,” from the Teams App store. Then, it can be pinned to the Teams app bar on the left. IT Admins can choose to deploy and pin the app for all users or particular departments through custom policies. Meanwhile, individual users can install and pin the app themselves using the options in the app bar. 

Image of the Yammer app being searched for in Microsoft Teams.

Install the Yammer app, called “Communities,” from the app store in Microsoft Teams. 

Further questions 

Now, you may have some questions on where this app will be available in Teams and whether it will impact the places you use Yammer today. For instance, you be wondering if the new app will be in Teams for iOS and Android. The answer: not quite yet! But while it’s currently available today for Teams desktop and web clients only, we’ll be bringing it to mobile soon, too. Meanwhile mobile users can enjoy the new Yammer mobile apps today. And you can also continue using Yammer for Windows and Mac and Yammer on the web (currently in preview, due for worldwide release soon). The new “Communities” app is available to all Teams customers today, even if they haven’t used the preview of the new Yammer experience. 

Looking forward 

By bringing Yammer into Teams, we want to make it easier for leaders and communicators to quickly and effectively communicate with their teams and organizations, even when they need to work apart. We’ll continue to create a more seamless Yammer communities experience within Teams, including unifying notifications and search and bringing the Yammer app to Teams mobile. We hope you find them useful as you navigate your organization’s remote work experience. 

ISG Technology, LLC Maintains Effective Security Controls According to Recent SOC 2 Report

Overland Park, KS – 16/16/2021 – Today, ISG Technology announced that the company has undergone a System and Organization Controls (SOC) 2SM examination resulting in a CPA’s report stating that management of ISG Technology’s maintained effective controls over the security, availability, and confidentiality of its DCS, Backup and Disaster Recovery, and Virtual Server Hosting system. The engagement was performed by BARR Advisory, P.A.

A SOC 2SM report is designed to meet the needs of existing or potential customers  who need assurance about the effectiveness of controls at a service organization that are relevant to the security, availability, or processing integrity of the system used by the service organization to process customers’ information, or the confidentiality or privacy of that information.

“We are pleased that our SOC 2SM report has shown that we have the appropriate controls in place to mitigate risks related to security and availability,” said Dave McCabe, Director of Data Center Services for ISG Technology. “A number of our business continuity offerings such as backup, disaster recovery and other managed services leverage the ISG Cloud. So, maintaining this certification is critically important to us.”

The following principles and related criteria have been developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA) for use by practitioners in the performance of trust services engagements:

  • Security. The system is protected against unauthorized access (both physical and logical).
  • Availability. The system is available for operation and use as committed or agreed.

A SOC 2SM report is an internal control report on the services provided by a service organization to its customers and provides valuable information that existing and potential customers of the service organization need to assess and address the risks associated with an outsourced service.

Current and prospective customers interested in a copy of our SOC 2SM report may contact us or call ISG Technology Marketing at 913-826-6058.

ABOUT ISG Technology

ISG Technology helps organizations unlock possibilities so they can realize their full business potential. They do it by providing a unique combination of managed IT services, technology consulting, professional services and cloud/data center solutions.

Part of the Twin Valley Family of Companies and a fourth-generation family business, ISG Technology has grown and evolved into the recognized leader in the Midwest by aligning its success with the long-term success of its clients. They are consistently recognized in CRN’s Top IT Providers in the nation, most recently as part of the Tech Elite 150 for excellence in managed IT services.

ISG is headquartered in Overland Park, KS, with 8 locations across the Midwest including a regional network of SOC II Certified data centers.

ABOUT BARR Advisory

BARR Advisory is a cloud-based security and compliance solutions provider, specializing in cybersecurity and compliance for Software as a Service (SaaS) companies. A trusted advisor to some of the fastest growing cloud-based organizations around the globe, BARR simplifies compliance across multiple regulatory and customer requirements in highly regulated industries including technology, financial services, healthcare, and government.

BARR Advisory services include:

  • Compliance Program Assistance
  • SOC 1 Examinations
  • SOC 2 and 3 Examinations
  • SOC for Cybersecurity
  • PCI DSS Assessment Services
  • ISO 27001 Assessments
  • FedRAMP Security Assessments
  • HIPAA, HITECH, and HITRUST Services
  • Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Assessments
  • Virtual CISO services

Learn more at barradvisory.com.

Keeping IT Systems Up & Running in Mid-Market Companies

Maintaining your IT infrastructure is essential to your company’s day-to-day functions. If an essential part of your system goes down, your business will grind to a halt. And downtime is expensive: mid-size companies lose around $5600 per minute when their IT systems fail.

Downtime also affects your reputation with consumers. Any time they cannot reach you, they leave with a negative impression, which they’ll remember the next time it comes to choosing between you and your competitors.

Proactive IT maintenance is the solution to preventing IT breakdowns. When you make your IT infrastructure a priority from the start, you minimize downtime and streamline customer interactions.

Best IT Practices for Managing Your IT Infrastructure

Keeping your IT infrastructure well maintained requires constant vigilance and a variety of regular responsibilities. To ensure your system runs smoothly and consistently, you’ll need to:

  • Maintain security: Check for suspicious activity, install updates, monitor password use, and test the security system. 
  • Replace outdated and defective hardware: Old computers and other hardware components are inefficient and costly to maintain. 
  • Carry out backup maintenance: Verify your backups, watch for backup notifications, and monitor for errors to keep your system viable.
  • Maintain software purchases and updates: Ensure that patches and updates are applied automatically as soon as they’re released for the best performance and security.
  • Monitor data storage and bandwidth: If your storage fills up or your bandwidth becomes overloaded, this will lead to significant slowdowns.

This list is not exhaustive; the comprehensive list of necessary IT tasks for successful infrastructure maintenance is long and often complicated, but these are basic practices every business can start with.

The Critical Importance of Proactivity

The goal of all this monitoring and maintenance is to prevent issues before they happen through proactive measures.

Using a preventative strategy instead of merely reacting to issues and slowdowns after they occur saves you time and money. Although everyone comes across a situation that requires a little IT help every now and then, in the ideal situation, you don’t even have to call your IT provider for support because they keep your systems moving behind the scenes.

Transitioning from a Reactive to a Proactive Approach

A reactive approach looks like this: You run into an IT problem that shuts down part of your operations, you call a break/fix provider, they help you remotely or make their way to your office—maybe immediately, but maybe taking several hours to get there—and they fix your problem. Then they send you an invoice for an amount that wasn’t disclosed beforehand, and the process repeats the next time you face an issue, and the next, and the next.

The whole process is unreliable, often expensive and slow, and definitely inefficient because it slows productivity while your employees are waiting for the problem to be fixed.

A proactive approach looks like this: Your systems are always up and running.

That’s pretty much it! But that’s because your IT team has taken the steps to implement IT systems that can support your operations fully, monitoring systems that alert them when there’s suspicious activity or potential vulnerabilities so they can patch them before they cause problems, and long-term strategies that plan for updates and improvements as your business grows and technology evolves.

Transitioning to a proactive approach to IT can be as simple as changing your IT provider. It does require adjusting your budget to account for continual monitoring and support, but it saves you money in the long run because there are no unpredictable costs involved: users switching to managed IT services actually save money, sometimes as much as 25% of their previous IT maintenance costs. You benefit from a more efficient system and improve your bottom line at the same time.

If your internal IT department isn’t taking a proactive approach through monitoring, long-term strategizing, and more, it may be time to consider hiring outside experts to help your team set up the right solutions.

Utilizing ITIL for Your Baseline IT Strategy

ITIL, or the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is a compilation of best practices for IT service management and processes. Whoever runs your IT needs to be up to date on ITIL and use it to create a stable IT environment that can adapt to your company’s changing needs.

ITIL contains the expertise of IT professionals around the world and applies to nearly every industry. IT specialists consider it the most comprehensive guide to IT management. It includes best practices for:

  • IT service management
  • IT asset management
  • Driving stakeholder value
  • Aligning IT strategies with business goals
  • Optimizing all-around IT performance

The ITIL is a great place to start when it comes to optimizing your systems for uptime and creating your information technology strategy.

The Best Strategy for Smooth Day-to-Day IT

Working with professionals who provide managed network services is the best way to proactively and consistently keep your IT systems up and running. 

ISG is a leader in managed IT services. We bring our expertise to your IT infrastructure and software to ensure you avoid costly downtime and benefit from the latest technology.

ISG also has a sophisticated team of certified engineers who keep your infrastructure in top shape—including your server, routers, firewall, SANS, and access points. The best talent in the industry is on call for your business.

Keep your IT in top shape by using ISG Technology’s managed network services. Contact us today to get started.

4 Tips for working from home with Microsoft Teams

There are many reasons to work remotely and Microsoft Teams is here to help you stay connected with your teammates wherever they are. IT admins, don’t miss Support remote workers using Teams

4 best practices for working from home 

  1. Make the most of meetings 
    • Meetings are about the people in them, not the technology. The most effective meetings have a clear purpose. Use your meeting description to detail what the meeting is for. Learn more about driving great teamwork with our Art of Teamwork materials. 
    • Use chat to share reminders or pre-read documents to your audience before the meeting. 
    • Record the meeting if that’s acceptable in your organization.   
  2. Be inclusive and use your video 
    • When you’ve got robust bandwidth, turn on your video Tip: Use background blur if you don’t want your background to be a distraction. Video really amps up collaboration in meetings (but if you’ve got limited bandwidth, turn off video to maintain high-quality audio). Make sure you know how to join a meeting in Teams before the meeting starts. 
    • Practice inclusion – ask everyone for their input. If someone’s audio is too low, or if their device is causing problems, deal with it at the start of the meeting so that person won’t be excluded. 
    • Don’t forget to keep track of your mute button!  :smile:
  3. Track notes and action items, share frequently used documents 
    • Take notes and share follow-ups in chat. It’s harder to get a casual recap in the hallway when there is no hallway. Use an app like Planner, Asana, or Trello to track tasks. 
    • For something that you usually handle with one meeting and informal, hallway catch-ups, schedule a 15-minute follow-up meeting a few days later. Be sure to include prep work in the meeting invitation. 
    • In channels, create tabs for important files, websites, or dashboards so the content is available to everyone on the team.
  4. Customize your virtual workspace

Whether you’re new to remote work, temporarily working from home, or on an extended leave, Teams is there to help you be productive from anywhere. Learn more in one of our quick online courses or from our help content at https://aka.ms/TeamsHelp. Share your tips below or online with the #TeamsTips hashtag.  

Making Technology a Strategic Differentiator in Your Mid-Sized Business

In a business world where companies face fierce competition and operate on razor-thin margins, any advantage helps. Today, technology is consistently the biggest strategic differentiator that businesses can use to get ahead, operate more productively, and ultimately become more profitable.

The dilemma is that many businesses don’t know how to use technology efficiently to optimize on the possibilities it opens up.

Learning to utilize technology effectively in your business is the key to reaching your company’s full potential.

Challenges of Mid-Market IT Operations

Mid-market businesses in particular face distinct challenges. For instance, some common issues many mid-market companies share include:

  • No dedicated IT department or IT professional on staff: As smaller companies grow, they often don’t prioritize growing their IT resources to match the needs of the company. This leads to a lack of a dedicated IT team to lead the way in optimizing technology for business growth.
  • The CFO taking on the role of CIO: Similar to the above point, when businesses grow without expanding IT resources as well, it often leads to other team members or leadership inheriting the role of IT decision-maker. Not only does this distract from your staff’s main responsibilities, it means you don’t have the specialized personnel or knowledge needed to make the most beneficial IT decisions.
  • No specialized cybersecurity strategy: By 2025, cyber attacks will cost the world $10.5 trillion annually. Mid-market companies that don’t prioritize IT are usually either extremely underprepared for a cyber attack or are using security protocols that actually inhibit user experience and your team’s productivity.
  • Balancing long-term strategy with immediate needs: Without a dedicated CIO planning for the future while ensuring smooth IT operations in the present, any IT support you do have will likely be focused on putting out fires as they appear. A strategic IT structure will both prevent issues now and set you up for long-term success, but that’s hard to get in place when you have limited resources that are already focused on merely trying to keep up with breaks as they happen.

When struggling to deal with the above challenges, companies expose themselves to considerable risk.

Lack of a certified IT professional on staff gives workers few options when an IT problem arises. Most solutions are band aids that don’t protect or improve the company long term. The CFO is forced to split time trying to fulfill a CIO role. And, not having the resources to focus on security, companies make critical mistakes in their IT security protocols that cost them time, efficiency, and in the case of an attack, money.

Winning Companies Embracing Tech

Companies must review and plan for IT security to ensure their long-term growth and stability. Creating a plan with the proper solutions will make the company more efficient and minimize workers’ downtime caused by IT issues. Mid-market companies only have to look to their peers in the marketplace to see how an effective IT solution creates growth.

Companies such as Oak Street Health, Avant, and Adpushup are making great strides in the marketplace with their unique IT solutions.

  • Oak Street Health, a primary care center, incorporates IT into its healthcare model through an in-house data platform that informs patient care, which follows a “managed care” model for older patients and incentivizes higher quality care.
  • Avant is a private online borrowing company that offers loans for middle-class buyers. What sets Avant apart from competitors is its algorithmic, data-driven processes that continually optimize processes and encourage improvements.
  • Finally, ADpushup revolutionized digital marketing with its ad revenue optimization platform.

All three companies have experienced exponential growth by embracing digital transformation. But they aren’t the only industries benefiting from increased use of cutting-edge technology. Manufacturing companies are facing an industry revolution due to advancements in robotics, automation, and 3D printing, and other industries are close behind in the digital transformation trend.

The success of these frontrunners and other businesses embracing technology should be an indicator of other companies in the marketplace’s future.

Prioritizing Proactivity

Business leaders know that the best way to solve problems is to prevent them before they happen. Being proactive in your approach to IT and cybersecurity should be mission-critical in this increasingly digital world.

To keep your business running without disruptions, it’s important to monitor threats proactively and install appropriate solutions for your business needs. While your competitors struggle with understanding their IT landscape, you can focus on growing and scaling your business without the concern of attack.

The Power of Strategic Planning with a vCIO

To best equip your company for success, you need to have a strong IT strategy that utilizes all the tools available to you. Consulting with a vCIO who provides individualized IT consulting is key to your business security and success.

Your vCIO will share expert industry advice and solutions designed to give your company the competitive edge it needs to differentiate and avoid costly risks.

To find a vCIO specializing in your industry, contact us at ISG Technology today.

5 steps for boosting your digital transformation with Microsoft 365

So how can we help bring your vision of the world’s productivity cloud—Microsoft 365—to life? 

Step 1: Get industry-specific guidelines with the Productivity Library 

Start with understanding how Microsoft 365 can improve productivity in your specific role or industry using scenarios and best practices with the Productivity Library. The Productivity Library is available for a wide range of industries including financial services, retail, and healthcare and gets granular for roles like operations, sales, and human resources

Step 2: Develop a plan with the Microsoft 365 Adoption Guide 

The Microsoft 365 Adoption Guide helps you to not just identify and prioritize key scenarios, but also helps you understand how to best build and launch your adoption plan with your stakeholders. The Microsoft 365 Adoption Guide will help you drive business value by showing you how to monitor and track adoption and usage. 

Step 3: Create your advocates and champions 

When you’re ready to start training your users, we recommend leveraging the power of the Office 365 Champions program. This program is designed to help you create a circle of influence for those early adopters or go-to people in your organization and empower them to become your Office 365 Champions. This program provides support and resources to help these users find a more efficient way to tackle everyday tasks and then share those learnings with their peers. 

Step 4: Build your own learning portal 

Did you know you can build a custom training portal with just a few clicks? Microsoft 365 Learning Pathways is a customizable, on-demand learning solution designed to increase usage and adoption of Microsoft 365 services in your organization. This includes on-demand custom training, SharePoint Online portal provisioning, and straightforward steps to provision, customize, and share your new portal with users. 

Step 5: Track users progress 

Once you implement some of these learning resources you’ll need some tools to help you to track your software adoption progress. The new Microsoft Productivity Score—currently in private preview—will provide you with visibility into how your organization works, insights that identify where you can enable improved experiences so people can reach their goals, and actions to update skills and systems so everyone can do their best work. 

For companies who want to help their employees better understand how they spend their time and guide them to better work habits and team norms, we encourage you to turn on MyAnalytics. This tool helps users improve their focus, wellbeing, network, and collaboration. 

MyAnalytics is available to Microsoft 365 and Office 365 Enterprise and Business suite users. 

Finally, for a top-down view, we offer Workplace Analytics. Workplace Analytics provides more advanced tools to discover and analyze the business impact of the way people work and help drive change through MyAnalytics. It gives you a view into collaboration patterns that empowers organizations to act with agility, improve employee experience, and sharpen customer focus. 

Workplace Analytics is available as a Microsoft 365 add-on service. 

Check out the Microsoft 365 Knowledge podcast 

To help you better understand why Microsoft 365 is the world’s productivity cloud, I encourage you to check out the Microsoft 365 Knowledge podcast. Hosted by veteran IT blogger Paul Thurrott, this podcast series digs into the features and functionality across the products that make up Microsoft 365. We also share real-world tips and tricks to help you get the most out of the product. The first two episodes are available on demand. 

Every company’s path to digital transformation is different. Over the next few months we’ll bring you more resources, as well as interviews with organizations who share their tips and secrets on their own successful transformations and their learnings from these projects on how they harnessed the transformative power of Microsoft 365—the world’s productivity cloud. 

Why wait? The top 10 things you need to know about upgrading from Skype to Teams

While it might be tempting to wait for a deadline, there’s less and less reason to postpone the upgrade to Teams. Microsoft Teams gives brings capabilities that your users already enjoy with Skype, like messaging, calling, managing contacts, or hosting online meetings, but it goes beyond to deliver all of this in a single hub for teamwork that can connect to your favorite apps and enhance productivity. Of course, some of the biggest differences between Skype and Teams are under the covers. Teams is built on a modern platform for audio and video and uses the latest cloud infrastructure on Azure for optimized global coverage, which brings several performance and networking benefits. For example, meetings get started faster and user ratings show that call quality in Teams i  For an IT Admin this means you can expect fewer helpdesk calls related to meeting experiences and calling.   

Also, because Teams is cloud-native, it benefits from ongoing innovation such as whiteboard sharing, background blur and in-line translation, which allow for a more inclusive collaboration experience. Best of all for you in IT, we give you a comprehensive admin experience for day to management, security and compliance. We covered more on this in previous Essentials episodes at aka.ms/MicrosoftTeamsForIT

Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. Upgrade options and considerations.  

Another good reason to start your upgrade to Teams now is that whether you are coming from Skype for Business Online or Skype for Business Server on-premises, with or without Enterprise voice, we have a number of robust options to help in your journey to Teams. If you follow our guidance as you make the transition, you trust that no user will miss a chat message and meetings will always be accessible either from Skype or Teams. Here are some pointers on the top things to get started: 

1. You may not need to do anything at all:
For smaller organizations that do not have hybrid or on-premises dependencies and are using Skype for Business Online only, Microsoft offers an automated upgrade for your Office 365 tenant. We will notify you in advance in the message center and via email if your tenant has been selected for this automated upgrade. This is a great benefit if you don’t have dedicated IT staff. Learn more about this at aka.ms/TeamsAutomaticUpgrade

2. Upgrading from Skype to Teams is more than just a technical upgrade: 
Aside from specific architectural considerations, the rate at which users adopt Teams will impact your timeline and influence the success of your upgrade the most. Managing change across your users is imperative to any successful adoption strategy. Your roll out team needs extend beyond IT to incorporate the right sponsors and stakeholders such as executive sponsors; a project lead to help instigate and keep track of training and roll-out milestones; and various champions that can share user feedback. We explain this in more detail in our video. 

3. Microsoft Teams comes with built-in upgrade options and interoperability: 
This applies whether you are coming from Skype for Business Online, Skype for Business Server on-premises, have a hybrid configuration, or have an enterprise voice plan. 

4. We allow you to incrementally get your organization on board: 
Skype and Teams can coexist during your upgrade. This way, while you gradually onboard users or groups of users to Teams, you have flexibility to ensure the pre-requisites are in place with SharePoint, OneDrive, Exchange, Azure AD synchronization, and network optimization requirements. 

5. There are two main upgrade paths to choose from: 

  1. The first path has overlapping capabilities across Skype and Teams and is enabled with “Islands mode”. This is our recommended path to start with. Note that by default, this will be the coexistence mode for your tenant. Because chat, meetings, and VoIP calling are available in both clients, your users can get familiar with Teams while still being able to access all the features from Skype at the same time. 
  2. The second path is where you can pick select capabilities selecting from two interoperability modes. “Skype for Business with Teams Collab and Meetings” mode, also known as our “meetings-first approach”, allows to have chat and calls initiated and received in Skype while scheduling and collaboration capabilities are handled by Teams. Otherwise, you can keep chats, calls and meetings in Skype while collaboration capabilities remain unique to Teams with team conversations, file sharing, and co-authoring enabled with “Skype for Business with Teams Collab” mode. 
  3. Once your organization is ready, you can turn on Teams only mode, which means all incoming calls and chats land in the Teams client. In fact, if you have PSTN calling configured, users will receive all incoming voice calls in Teams, and PSTN connectivity is enabled with a calling pad that lights up in Teams. 

6. You can mix and match your coexistence modes: 
Modes can be set organization-wide or for specific users in the Teams Admin Center or using PowerShell. You’ll want to use PowerShell if you have a large number of users that you want to assign specific modes to, and we have a range of cmdlets that enable you to perform bulk actions, such as setting modes with or without user notifications. This allows you for example to have subsets of users still on Skype for Business with select capabilities, or on overlapping capabilities, or just Teams only based on the upgrade strategy for your organization. 

7. A hybrid configuration is required if you are coming from Skype for Business Server on-premises: 
User accounts in Skype for Business Server need to also be present in Skype for Business Online for interoperability with Teams to work. If you are already using Office 365, you probably have this in place already. Also, a hybrid configuration with Skype for Business Online needs to be in place to ensure that chat and calling traffic between Skype and Teams is automatically transferred via our gateway service. You’ll need to use PowerShell for that, and you can learn more about the steps at aka.ms/TeamsSfBHybrid

8. There are two voice options to enable integration between your PSTN or Voice over IP services: 
• A Microsoft calling plan: If you are using a phone system and a Microsoft calling plan where Microsoft provides your phone numbers directly, once you enable Teams only mode traffic is routed to Teams automatically, or 
• Direct Routing, which can be configured in a few ways.. If you have an on-premises Session Border Controller device that connects directly with your PSTN trunk line from your telecommunications provider or ISP, you’ll need to route the connection to your Microsoft 365 tenant. Or, if your Direct Routing is done off-site by your telecommunications provider via their Session Border Controller, you will need to work with them to direct PSTN traffic to your Microsoft 365 tenant. 

9. There are tools to help you to track organizational readiness: 
You can track Microsoft Teams usage in your environment with built-in usage reports and dashboards available in both the Microsoft 365 admin center and the Teams Admin Center. We also recommend circling back with your onboarding team and conducting regular end-user surveys using Advisor for Teams. This will help you to capture user feedback and sentiment and ensure you have a comprehensive perspective on the readiness of your organization to upgrade to Teams. 

10. Your users’ contacts and upcoming meetings can also be upgraded to Teams: 
The migration of your data and meetings, like interop, for the most part happens behind the scenes. There are options to automatically upgrade upcoming Skype for Business meetings across all your users’ calendars to Teams. 

If you want to learn more, I encourage you to check out today’s Microsoft Teams Essentials for IT. We’ll also be publishing a hands-on implementation demo-bench on this topic in the next few weeks, as well as another Essentials show that will tackle best practices for getting your organization to adopt Teams broadly. Check out additional resources at aka.ms/SkypeToTeams and our instructor-led workshops at aka.ms/SkypeToTeamsPlanning. Lastly, stay tuned and keep watching our full series at aka.ms/MicrosoftTeamsForIT. 

Twin Valley Management Taps Business Strategy & Tech Experts for Board

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (May 11, 2021) — Twin Valley Management, a 4th generation family-owned company and parent to Twin Valley Telephone, Twin Valley Communications, SKT and ISG Technology, has announced the appointment of two new board members: Lisa Spadafora Thompson, partner at Axiom Consulting Partners, and Jay Brodsky, Chief Digital Officer for American Geophysical Union. On the heels of Twin Valley’s latest acquisition of SKT, the strategic appointment of Thompson and Brodsky adds outside technology and business strategy expertise to help guide the company’s next phase of growth.

“For more than 70 years, a guiding principle for our company and leaders has been to seek outside counsel and expertise to better serve our communities and maximize our potential,” said Ben Foster, President & CEO. “I’m honored to continue that foundational trait for our family with the addition of two board members who are both well aligned and qualified to help us realize our strategic vision.”

Over the last decade, the organization has been transformed and scaled from $8 million to over $120 million, now the largest family-owned broadband and managed IT company in Kansas. The composition of the board is evaluated regularly to ensure it includes the appropriate skills, knowledge and perspective necessary to achieve the company’s goals.

“As we prepare for the next phase of growth, we recognize having the right guidance and experience serving our team is of continued importance,” Foster said. “Lisa and Jay’s unique experience between technology, strategy and operational excellence will play a key role in helping our shareholders, the executive team and all team members leverage our portfolio of investments to realize our transformation goals and achieve our growth expectations.”

About Lisa Spadafora Thompson

Lisa Thompson is a partner with Axiom Consulting Partners, a premier growth, business transformation and AI/data science firm. Thompson was the founder and CEO of Sturbridge Growth

Partners, which merged with Axiom in 2021. She was a partner with Deloitte Consulting in their strategy & operations practice. She has served as senior partner, managing director and board member with Monitor Group (acquired by Deloitte) and Strategic Pricing Group (acquired by Monitor). Over more than two decades, she has helped companies from Fortune 100 to mid-sized businesses and startups grow through identification and implementation of best practices across marketing, sales, pricing and business strategy.

In addition to her previous corporate and nonprofit board experience, Thompson currently serves on the board for fourth-generation family and employee owned Consigli Construction, one of the largest 100 engineering firms in the U.S. with locations throughout the upper east coast.

Thompson has an MBA from Babson College and a BA from Regis College. She enjoys serving on nonprofit boards, doing volunteer work, reading, traveling and connecting people in her network. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and their children.

About Jay Brodskey

Jay Brodsky is Chief Digital Officer for American Geophysical Union (AGU), an international not-for-profit scientific organization supporting a community of Earth and space scientists dedicated to discovery and solutions to societal challenges. Brodsky has served as CIO and CTO for over two decades in technology and media companies and has served on multiple boards.

In all of these roles, he has focused on driving business improvement and innovation through digital means while managing cybersecurity risk. He currently sits on the Ithaca College Cybersecurity Board and serves as a Cybersecurity Oversight Board Member for the Private Directors Association, helping to shape programs that teach cybersecurity best practices and solutions. Brodsky has an MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, an MPS in Cybersecurity Strategy and Information Management from The George Washington University, and a BAS from the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in the Washington, DC area with his wife and their three children.

About Twin Valley

Twin Valley is a fourth-generation family business that has over 70 years of experience providing cutting-edge technology and connectivity throughout the central U.S. Together with ISG Technology and SKT, Twin Valley helps customers unlock possibilities to realize their full potential by providing a unique combination of broadband, managed IT services, technology consulting, professional services, and cloud/data center solutions for both residential and business.