Happy New Year from ITProMentor.com!

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Happy New Year from ITProMentor.com!

I just wanted to send out a quick Happy Holiday/End-of-Year/Looking Forward note to my readers around the world. Hopefully you have enjoyed some time off this Holiday season! Now is the time I usually sit for a spell to reflect on the previous 365 days, and then look forward into the next year.

2020 was really something for the whole world wasn’t it? For many folks out there, it was one of the more difficult in recent memory. Here in the United States for example, we had an extra stressful election cycle, and, understandably, a lot of civil unrest due to ongoing injustices and inequalities (which also exist in many other parts of the world). And this is all on top of a global pandemic. I think it is safe to say that we have more of these collective challenges ahead in 2021.

For me personally, I have had a really good year, filled with many blessings, and so I will be looking for some unique ways to give back in 2021. More on that later. But for now, I will say that I am most thankful for the following three things in 2020:

  1. My wife was found to be cancer free as of July; we had scans done after her surgery and they were clear. The relief is difficult to understate. We avoided chemo and pursued some holistic options instead. So far, things are looking good, and it is with joy that we look forward to the future!
  2. I made the decision to leave full time employment (my better half said I could no longer have two jobs, and that I needed to choose one); this will allow me to spend more time doing the things I love best: helping all of you! And all of this is only possible because I have had such an active and engaged readership. So Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!!
  3. My favorite sandwich shop is still open, and has not collapsed like so many other small restaurants & other small businesses in my neighborhood. And I dutifully support them every single week, sometimes more than once. It has been a delicious year.

I know, that last one is kind of silly, but the whole reason I moved to this corner of the city was to be near my favorite sandwiches. When I’m working from home I can just walk across the alley and take advantage of the curb-side service. Hard to shake a stick at that! But I also find it really sad how many restaurants, and mom-and-pop shops especially have been struggling this year. If you are reading this, and you are in a financial position to help a local business, I encourage you to treat yourself to their services, and help them out at the same time. I am sure many of my audience members already do just that. But if you needed an excuse to order in something special for you and the fam, here you go!

2020 Year-End Survey Results: M365 Practice Development

I have also gathered enough data from my survey results to share some interesting insights from the broader community. Let’s start with my survey regarding Microsoft 365 Practice Development. Unsurprisingly, the areas where folks have the most experience (by a wide margin) continue to be migration to Exchange Online. This is followed by OneDrive, Teams and SharePoint. And in third place is Intune/Endpoint manager for certain functions, especially MDM or MAM.

The area where people had the least experience, but expressed the most interest in learning more was Cybersecurity services based on Microsoft 365 Defender and Azure Sentinel (also by a wide margin)–and I have good news here so keep reading. This item was followed by other functions of Intune/Endpoint Manager (especially Autopilot) and Azure AD Join/Hybrid Join. Another area of strong interest (which surprised me) was Windows Virtual Desktop.

The majority of survey responders said that they prefer written educational materials over other forms such as video or live instruction. So have no fear: I will continue to write faithfully in 2021 here on the site! But there is also enough interest out there in doing some video and live instruction, so I will certainly be adding that to the mix (more details to come very soon).

Based on some of the comments I received, there still seems to be some confusion about how to separate yourself completely from the on-premises domain and go 100% cloud. So this year, help is on the way: let’s be sure to get you there (then you can help your customers do it too). As for Windows Virtual Desktop, I will try to line something up there as well; but in my opinion, most SMB’s shouldn’t really need this service, and will do better with 100% SaaS apps and M365 to manage it all. But I will be sure to get the “other side” of that argument as well, since the interest was so strong.

2020 Year-end Survey results: Cybersecurity Tools & Services

A second survey I had floating around out there related to the security tools and services that folks are currently managing and offering to customers. There is some good data here, so let’s review.

We will start with endpoint security. Nearly everyone manages at least antivirus, and they report a licensing cost of USD $2 or less per instance. Note that Defender Antivirus is free (built-in to Windows). So, conceivably you could move to this product, drop your cost to license something else, and yet continue to charge customers the same for monitoring and managing it (the work doesn’t go away just by changing tools). Worth considering!

About half the respondents also manage an EDR product, which weighs in (for most respondents) between $3 and $4 per license. Defender for Endpoint is slightly more than this if purchased standalone, however when purchased in a bundle such as Microsoft 365 E5 Security (which includes a ton of other goodies), it’s a steal.

The most popular endpoint security products, in case anyone is interested: Webroot was #1, followed by Sophos (a lot of Intercept X out there!), then Microsoft Defender (this result is probably skewed somewhat by who I attract to this site), and last SentinelOne, with a smattering of other products such as Cylance, Kaspersky, TrendMicro, etc.

Moving on to Identity Protection, less than half of respondents are taking advantage of specific identity monitoring or identity protection solutions. Quite shocking actually. This is one area I think which has a lot of potential for improvement in 2021. I will do a post about this soon in the new year. When folks did mention a product that they are using, most of them responded with ID Agent (a dark web monitoring solution that will alert to compromised identities found in the unsavory corners of the internet). In second place was Microsoft Defender for Identity (formerly Azure ATP) and Azure AD Identity Protection: this could be considered a more “complete” offering since it also includes on-premises identities.

And there were some other responses that cited stuff like password managers, third-party managed SOC services, or products that just monitor Office 365. These things do not really cover the “spirit” of what we’re discussing here. For example, a managed SOC service is still going to leverage some kind of product to produce the data/alerts which indicate potentially compromised accounts, and they most often rely on you to bring these products (which you also pay for). That is, you must connect your products to their SIEM/data collector/dashboard tool. The SOC service provider would then provide alerting and summary information, and sometimes a “first response” or remediation option where available, to certain flagged events. Anyway, that’s another topic for another day.

Hmm.. What else? Oh, hardly anyone is deploying a CASB product, but those who are almost universally report using Microsoft Cloud App Security (my favorite product in the MSFT universe). This tools actually dovetails nicely with the Identity Protection piece to give you coverage over almost every aspect of identity (and the more apps you can tie to the Microsoft cloud the better).

I had also asked about email protection, especially products that help us to defend against phishing attacks (still the number one attack vector by a long mile). Of those who responded, 22% did not have adequate protection in this area, and were missing at least one key strategy (such as end-user education and phish testing). 33% reported using multiple products to accomplish full coverage, and the other 33% reported using just one product that can “do it all.” Most respondents spend USD $4 or less per license on these efforts, while a few spend $5 or more.

As for “other” security tools out there (an optional response), we saw several things listed, none leading over any other with the exception of Huntress (which watches for footholds and persistence techniques). Here is a sample of the other vendors mentioned in no particular order: Cisco Umbrella, DNS Filter, OpenDNS, Quad9, WatchGuard, SonicWall, RapidFire Tools, Sucuri, ModSecurity, and more.

So we still have a lot of confusion out there as regards cybersecurity, especially some of the “detection & response” capabilities in the more advanced tools. To that end, I am proud to announce the launch of my Advanced Security course over at SquareOne, covering Microsoft 365 Defender products as well as a bit of Azure Sentinel. If you previously purchased one of my other Cybersecurity courses then check your email: there should be a discount coupon waiting for you.

Looking ahead

I have some other exciting stuff planned for 2021, but I am putting the finishing touches on it before launch. The long-awaited community/peer education group offering that my survey alluded to is almost ready (including monthly, quarterly and annual participation options). More on that very soon.

Other than that, the lady and I are going to head down to the Southwest US to duck out of some Minnesota Winter. I feel like a proper old man, playing the Snow Bird part already! Next time you hear from me I may be typing from New Mexico.

Have a Happy New Year, everyone! See you in 2021…

Comment (1)

  • Oleg Reply

    Have a nice trip and with strong health to your wife (both actually). Thank you for writing ;)

    December 31, 2020 at 12:49 pm

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