The ASK Blog is regularly updated and is an ongoing chronological list of events including company updates, product highlights, and technical alerts.

ASK Recognized as an Industry Leader Once Again

ASK TECHNOLOGIES, INC. is once again a proud recipient of the Philadelphia Business Journal prestigious awards for “Top 25 Systems Integrators” and “Top 25 Software Developers”, and new this year, “Top 25 Computer Consultants”. This marks the thirteenth consecutive year that ASK TECHNOLOGIES, INC. has been recognized as an industry leader in the Philadelphia and Metropolitan Area.

ASK provides our clients the ability to transform current information technology into productivity. Whether utilizing technology to bridge the gap between employees, business workflow and computers, or using technology to supply access to data, regardless of connection, location and time, ASK offers the solutions you need to survive in a very competitive world.

Is Your School’s Network Strong Enough?

Is it time yet for school districts to start shopping for core network services with the same vendors commercial enterprises use? Yes.

IT networks are as important to schools now as classrooms and libraries and offices. Networks give teachers access to course content and students access to assignments—and they allow everyone to learn collaboratively. Yet most school districts still depend on spreadsheets for IP address management (IPAM) and Microsoft for DNS and DHCP—legacy tools unsuited for the technology revolution taking place in education today.

A Private-Sector Perspective
Twelve years ago, I came to Council Rock School District (CRSD) in Newtown, Pa., from the private sector, and saw that I had a challenge—18 buildings with an aging ATM network that was barely working. Rather than trying to fix it, I replaced everything. I got it running—but we still had frustrations. I had my spreadsheets for keeping track of IP addresses, and my network manager had hers. One day I assigned an address and she called to ask why I had assigned an address that she had just assigned. That’s when I realized we needed a better way to manage our IP addressing scheme.

Because of my industry background, I was aware that IT departments in big companies have more powerful tools today for managing DNS, DHCP, and IPAM (DDI). I had read a white paper by a company named Infoblox about a solution for integrating and automating the management of DDI. The description of what the product could do was exactly what we were looking for. It would even help us consolidate the Microsoft DHCP servers we had scattered all over the district.
Matt Frederickson is IT Director at the Council Rock School District in southeastern Pennsylvania. Council Rock is the twelfth-largest district among 500 in the state, with 18 buildings connected to its network and 13,000 users daily.

Commercial-Grade Core Services for School Networks
Obviously, CRSD doesn’t have the IT budget of a Fortune 500 company. On the other hand, our mission is just as critical as any big commercial enterprise’s, and—with only 10 of us supporting 13,000 users—automation is just as useful to us as it is to big businesses. So we found the budget to make it happen, and now my staff is spending less time managing IP addresses and more time delivering new services to our teachers and students.

We have a single pane of glass where we can drill down into graphic views for network information. We can expand our network using a point-and-click operation on a visual map, whereas with Microsoft, we had to draw it out on paper, plan it, test it, roll it out, and then fix all the mistakes we’d made. When you’re looking at it from a time standpoint, it just makes more sense.

Based on the success we’ve had with the solution, we’ve added a network management component that simplifies the process of managing switches in an environment where we regularly add IP phones and roll out new applications for teachers and students.

Schools Have to Worry About Cyberattacks Too
It might be a while before security is quite as critical for schools as it is for banks and big retail chains—but it’s definitely rising in importance. So we’ve recently added another enterprise product—a security solution from Infoblox that turns our DNS servers into self-protecting strong points that leverage the central location of DNS in the network to detect malicious outbound communications and block them before they can exfiltrate sensitive data or replicate themselves on additional devices.

The solution has not only prevented compromises, such as curious students attempting an internal denial-of-service attack, but has helped us to identify ongoing issues such as a machine infected with a botnet that was replicating itself and affecting server and network performance. We resolved that problem with just five minutes work. Without the DNS-based solution, it would have taken three weeks.

The Network Is the Campus
So if you’re considering enterprise solutions versus free products, put yourself in the enterprise mindset. Your job is to provide your customers with the best experience possible with the fewest resources. If you look at the total cost of ownership over the long term, you’ll see that what seems like a free product is costing you a lot in the time you spend managing it.

Does our enterprise-grade solution cost money? Yes. Is it worth the investment? Absolutely. The network is the campus now, and campuses are about making connections. I would argue that for such a mission-critical function, school districts can’t afford to use anything less than commercial enterprises use.

Article originally featured on

Claim Your Free 1TB of Cloud Storage | Datto Drive

ASK Technologies, Inc. would like to invite you to try out Datto Drive, a brand new file storage platform built by our business partner Datto.

Datto Drive is a best-in-class file sync & share tool that will allow your team to store and collaborate on all of your files and projects from any operating system or mobile device.

Best of all, for the next year, 1 TB of cloud storage space is available for FREE for the first one million Datto Drive customers. As a Datto Premier Partner, we are able to provide you early access to this incredible offer.

To claim your 1 TB of free cloud storage today, click here to sign-up your business for Datto Drive.

ASK receives Premier Partner Status with Datto

Effective April 1, 2016 Datto, the industry leader in providing remote backup and business continuity solutions, has recognized ASK Technologies, Inc. as a Premier Partner serving the PA, NJ and NY areas.

“ASK is very excited about our new, upgraded partner level designation with Datto,” says Stephen F. Pirolli, ASK Technologies, Inc. “Datto’s award winning solutions and 7×24 support are the best the industry has to offer, providing both small and large clients with a true premise and cloud business continuity strategy. ASK’s new Premier Partner status will allow us to grow our relationship with Datto even further,” continued Pirolli.

“ASK Technologies has joined a select group of IT firms in achieving Datto’s Premier Partner status,” said Aaron Perry, Datto. “Having a Premier Partner status with Datto will further enable ASK Technologies to deliver and support Datto’s entire suite of products and services while also benefiting from Datto’s most competitive pricing,” said Perry.

ASK Technologies, Inc. is a national provider of IT hardware, software and professional services with proven experience and expertise in various technology areas, stretching across multiple vertical markets. With a specialization in multi-service network integration, ASK creates innovative and cost effective solutions to solve our clients’ mission critical business needs.

Datto is an innovative provider of comprehensive backup, recovery and business continuity solutions used by thousands of managed service providers worldwide. Datto’s 190+ PB purpose-built cloud and family of software and hardware devices provide Total Data Protection everywhere business data lives, for businesses of every size.

Introducing Windows 10

Windows 10 bridges the gap between PCs and tablets. This new OS combines the best bits of old and new Windows features into a cohesive package, while correcting nearly all of the missteps of Windows 8.

IT “Best Practice” methodology recommends upgrading to a new PC or Workstation with Windows 10 natively installed, rather than upgrading to Windows 10 from a previous Windows version on the same PC. However, if your plan is to upgrade your existing PC, workstation or laptop to Windows 10, below are several points to consider prior to upgrading:

• As Windows 10 is a brand new operating system, we are recommending to wait several months prior to installing, giving Microsoft the chance to work out any “real world” bugs
• You should check your current PC’s specifications in terms of RAM memory, available disk space and processing power before installing Windows 10 to ensure you have an adequate configuration to support Windows 10
• We do not recommend installing Window 10 on any PCs running XP, Vista or older versions of Windows
• Your current Antivirus software running on Windows 7 will need to be upgraded to run on Windows 10
• AlphaCom, Tiny Term and other popular terminal emulation software may also need to be upgrade to run on Windows 10
• Many of the new features in Windows 10 will be lost on those who don’t have touch screen functionality
• Automatic, forced updates could spell trouble later on
• Cortana’s features are better suited for smartphones than PCs, Laptops or Workstations

Please contact your local ASK salesperson for more information.

Time for a Check Up?

Every year you take your car to the garage for an inspection. Every year, you have your accountant audit your books. Every year, you renew your maintenance contracts and insurance. You do this because it’s good business, and it makes good sense. You do these things to stay safe and to protect your business. So why don’t you have a vulnerability assessment done annually?

According to Wikipedia, a vulnerability assessment “is the process of identifying, quantifying, and prioritizing (or ranking) the vulnerabilities in a system.” If you have computer systems on your network that are exposed to the Internet, then you are at risk. How much risk? Well, according to the Verizon 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report, the largest threat to an organization is coming from the outside. The report, based on an analysis of over 79,000 incidents, states that “in 60% of the cases, attackers were able to compromise an organization within minutes.”

The question you should be asking yourself right now is “What can I do to minimize my risk?”

Fortunately, there are some good, proven best practices you can implement that will significantly reduce your risk. While no organization is completely safe, there are things you can do to make you less appealing to the criminals out there. Think in terms of locking your car doors, or having an alarm system in your house. Someone who is committed to getting in will still get in, but in most cases, the criminals will move on to something less secure.

The best place to start is with the Council on Cyber Security and their Critical Security Controls framework . This document lists 20 things your organization should do, or have in place, to help minimize your risk to being compromised. For each item, there are steps you can take – some are marked “quick win”, meaning they can be implemented easily and with minimal cost.

For example, criteria number 4, CSC 4: Continuous Vulnerability Assessment and Remediation states “Continuously acquire, assess, and take action on new information in order to identify vulnerabilities, remediate, and minimize the window of opportunity for attackers.” This section then lists ten items that make up this control. The document also provides guidance on procedures, tools and metrics that can be used to implement and sustain this control.

One item is having a regular assessment of your networks vulnerability. This includes a scan of devices and computers that looks at open ports (how computers talk to each other); the version of the software and operating systems; the levels of security (or lack of security) in place; and additional information that can be gathered by an attacker, that could be used to compromise your system.

While you can do these assessments yourself, it’s usually a good idea to periodically have someone from the outside take a look. If you think this is something that makes sense, or if you’d like to learn more, please contact us at your earliest convienence.

[i] Wikipedia, July 30, 2015.

[ii] Verizon 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report, July 30, 2015.

[iii] Cyber Security Council, Critical Security Controls, Version 5.1.  July 30, 2015.

Lift Off: Our New Website has Launched!

We’ve given our website a fresh new look. The new has been completely redesigned to improve user navigation and provide updated content regarding the products we sell, install and support. We’ve streamlined all menus to give you quick access to the products and services you are looking for.

Please take a moment to visit our new website today

We will be rolling out new pages, new functionality, and updated and relevant content over the next several months so be sure to visit our website often.

Support for Windows Server 2003 ending July 14, 2015

After July 14th, Microsoft will no longer issue security updates for any version of Windows Server 2003. If you are still running Windows Server 2003 in your data center, you need to take steps now to plan and execute a migration strategy to protect your infrastructure. It is very important that you migrate to a modern operating system such as Windows Server 2012. Customers moving to a modern operating system will achieve concrete benefits, including improved performance, reduced maintenance requirements, and increased agility and speed of response to the business.

What should you do?

It means you should take action, as Microsoft will no longer provide security updates or technical support for Windows Server 2003. Security updates patch vulnerabilities that may be exploited by malware and help keep users and their data safer. Servers running Windows Server 2003 after July 14, 2015, should not be considered protected, and it is important that you migrate to a current supported operating system – such as Windows Server 2012 – so you can receive regular security updates to protect your server from malicious attacks.

How do I migrate off Windows Server 2003?

There are many options for small and medium businesses. If your current server meets the system requirements, you can upgrade to Windows Server 2012. If your server does not meet system requirements, consider purchasing a new server with Windows Server 2012, offering the latest productivity and collaboration tools.

Please contact ASK Technologies, Inc., your Microsoft Certified Partner, to understand the best options to meet your business needs.