Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003 end of life

As you all have heard by now, Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003 has reached end of support as of the 14th of April 2014. All Layer3 customers that have older Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003 software will have been contacted by myself to work on a strategy of migrating away from the affected software.

But many users want to know: What are the implications of not upgrading your software?

The official line is that affected software has no support from Microsoft. This means that no security patches will be released, even if security threats are found. This opens you, and your business up to external threats.

Having up-to-date Antivirus/Antimalware software will help prevent these threats, but the threat will always be there.

My background is in programming. I started way back in the 90’s, and still code to this day. Most security threats are cause by what’s known as a buffer overflow. A buffer overflow is where a malicious piece of code is executed against software, such as Windows XP, in order to overload the computer’s memory (buffer) to execute custom code.

This custom code can be anything. From installing Malware or Viruses on to your computer, or stealing personal data.

Generally, Antivirus programs have a problem picking up these sorts of attacks as they operate in a non-standard way (executing a buffer overflow). So just because Antivirus protection is installed and up to date, doesn’t mean it’s going to stop these sorts of threats.

Our advice is to upgrade your software as soon as possible. If you need any advice, or would like further information, don’t hesitate to call us.

Press Release: Dropbox-like app developed for NZ businesses

A unique-to-New Zealand version of the famous and popular Dropbox application has been created by an Upper Hutt-based company.

Layer3 has developed Filecloud, an application that does everything Dropbox does, but adds on some additional bells and whistles.

Chief executive, Hayden Kirk, says the application took six months to develop, but has been snapped up quickly by willing customers.

It’s designed to serve as a basic application with a smooth and familiar user interface for business which just want a simple file storage option, and as a sophisticated administration and document management tool for IT departments that need serious analysis and auditing of file management information.

“Our customers are all very comfortable with cloud file storage as a concept, but many of them prefer to use a New Zealand-based tool because it provides additional security,” Hayden says.

Filecloud data is fully encrypted (448 bit) and will sync across all devices. It provides for unlimited versions of documents, allows for re-instatement of deleted files and offers a full reporting suite. It’s similar in functionality to Dropbox.

Hayden says an added advantage of using a New Zealand-based cloud storage system is that New Zealand businesses will probably get free up and download traffic, depending on their ISP.

“International data costs can be a real problem for heavy users of off-shore cloud file systems,” Hayden says.

Another popular feature is that users enjoy a ‘managed service’ that provides them with full access to Layer3’s local helpdesk.

The company’s Filecloud application sits alongside its cloud office suite, which is also a ready seller, Hayden says.

“It means we can provide an end-to-end cloud computing solution for customer with just one PC or with hundreds.”

As Posted on:

Press Release: Upper Hutt firm launches Office 365 portal

Upper Hutt-based Layer3 has designed a Kiwi-ised Microsoft Office 365 portal that it claims is the next step in cloud computing. According to the firm, the portal will enable users to ditch their small business server, as well as do away with the need for expensive Microsoft user licences.

CEO, Hayden Kirk, claims Layer3’s offering will create significant cost-savings and efficiency gains for smaller companies.

“Not only are we supplying the document storage facilities, but the unique bit is that we’re also supplying all the Windows programs and applications that you need to work on your documents and manage your systems.

“Users don’t need to have their own Windows programs or applications, which generates significant savings in licences.”

“We’re taking users back to the days when everything – documents, programs, systems files, the whole lot – was stored on a big mainframe in the basement and you did all your work at your desk through an access terminal.

According to Kirk, users can port in to the Layer3 cloud ‘mainframe’, use the embedded Windows 8 programs and systems files to work on their documents, and port out of the facility when finished.

He says the new service will make full Windows 8 functionality available to iPad and Android tablet users.

Layer 3 is based in Upper Hutt and has a staff of four, which it intends to increase when it expands its services to Auckland.

It was a finalist in the Innovation category of the 2013 Westpac Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce Business Awards.

As Posted on:

Computer World

2013 The Year That Was

2013 has been a great year for Layer3.

Since 2005, Layer3 has been a Managed Services company focused on delivering Outsourced IT Support for businesses around the Wellington region.

Layer3 had the need to become more cloud focused, as the cloud was becoming more than just a buzz word. We could have focused on selling Microsoft Office 365, Google Apps for business, or many of the other cloud services out there. However, these services just don’t cut it. We soon came to the conclusion we needed our own cloud.

We needed something completely different. Something that we could control directly. If we wanted to create a new cloud service, we wanted the ability to just do it, not wait for a cloud provider to offer it as a service.

In November 2012, I made the decision to build our own cloud datacentre. We named it Stratus3. This may have had something to do with the Redbull Stratos space jump at the time, I’m not sure.

Stratus3 was born out of all our frustrations with cloud services, products and resellers. The main goal of Stratus3 was to be flexible and agile.

Two months went in to the planning and design, and another month in to the build phase. We had the service operational early 2013, with our first customer going live in February.

Designing and building Stratus3 was one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever undertaken, but also the most rewarding. Stratus3 sets Layer3 apart from other IT providers. Building, maintaining and supporting your own cloud is a very demanding job. It also doesn’t come cheap. We’ve now invested over $140,000 in Stratus3.

Our initial projections required us to upgrade our cloud infrastructure within one year. We would then need to significantly invest again in two years for new infrastructure. Well… those projections didn’t work out at all. We completed our first upgrade after four months of operation and are now significantly expanding the infrastructure over the Christmas period.

This was mainly due to our hugely popular Cloud Office service, in which we were nominated this year for an innovation award in the Westpac Hutt Valley Chamber business awards. The service allows companies to ditch their services and move their entire business in to the cloud and access it anywhere.

Also hugely popular is our recently announced Filecloud service which went live in October. Filecloud allows businesses to access their files on mobile devices, laptops and desktops. It’s very similar to Dropbox, only it has more enterprise features and hosted in Stratus3.

Another milestone this year was hosting our own Business After 5 event in which demonstrated our Cloud Office service. We far exceeded our target numbers attending the event.

2014 is shaping up to be a very exciting year for Layer3. We have new staff starting in January, new cloud infrastructure to implement in to our ever growing datacentre and a few new customers to setup in the New Year.

A big thanks from the Layer3 team.

We wish you all the best and have a happy and safe Christmas.

Westpac Hutt Valley Chamber Awards 2013

This year, Layer3 was nominated for an innovation award at the Westpac Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence awards for our Cloud Office cloud service. This was a great honour.

In November 2012, the Layer3 team and I started planning our own New Zealand based cloud infrastructure. We decided to build our own cloud as there is a gap in the New Zealand market for these services. Using our services means New Zealand businesses can enjoy local support and their important data stays here in New zealand.

The problem with reselling another cloud providers services is that you are bound to those services they offer. There is very little you can customise and change for your customers. Also supporting overseas cloud solutions can be time consuming for the customer when a problem urgently needs to be fixed. We wanted to be able to deliver a  new  services that is customised to meet our customers needs. This has worked in our favor, with our Cloud Office service, and our newest service, Filecloud.

Filecloud is a Dropbox alternative that is hosted on our cloud infrastructure. The main benefit is that it allows customers to keep their data here in New Zealand. If we did not have our own cloud infrastructure, this would not be possible.

Unfortunality we didn’t win, but we all had a fantastic night. We would like to give a big thanks to all our customers who have made this possible.

Business After 5

On the 3rd of October we had our Business After 5, organised by the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Our presentation was on our new datacentre, Stratus3 and the services it provided.

We’d like to thank everyone who came along. We had a massive turnout and our office was almost full!

Introducing Filecloud – The NZ Dropbox alternative

Currently in New Zealand, you don’t have much of a choice when it comes to cloud storage. The main providers of cloud storage in New Zealand tend to offer some type of backup services.

What New Zealand needs is a similar service as Dropbox, but hosted locally. This is exactly what Layer3 have done.

Layer3 are proud to announce our new service, Filecloud. Filecloud allows businesses to share files just like Dropbox. You can access your files directly from the Filecloud website, or using the software that’s installable on most devices.

The key differences of Filecloud compared to Skydrive/Dropbox/Google drive etc are:

Hosted Locally here at Layer3’s datacentre in Wellington, New Zealand.

Local Support provided by Layer3 directly here in Wellington, New Zealand.

Agents for most operating systems including, iOS, Android, Windows, Mac and Linux. Windows Phone support will be added early next year.

Team Shares which enables teams of staff to share the same files in real-time with each other, no matter what device.

Server Sharing which enables businesses with their own server or file storage system to share their files out to all staff in the company, which sync1 in real-time.

Unlimited File Revisions which enable you to have an unlimited backup copy of a document.

Built in Backup which allows Windows and Mac computers to backup directly to the cloud. Fully customisable to back up as much of the computer as you want to.

Admin Dashboard to give your management staff a complete control of the Filecloud service, including creating accounts, deleting accounts, resetting passwords, setting permissions and more.

Support is provided as part of the service.

We are very excited with this service, and we are sure you will be too. If you are interested in a trial, make sure you contact us today!

Windows8 Preview

Microsoft is planning to release their next generation operating system, Windows 8 by year end. I don’t think many will argue that Windows7 was a fantastic operating system. It’s going to be a hard task for Microsoft to out do themselves this time around.

Lets start with the Consumer Preview video.

As you can see from the video, Microsoft is taking a new approach to the user interface. Touch has come and gone, and now it seems, it’s back (just like 3d movies eh?).

Windows8 has been designed to run on slates (tablets), laptops, desktops and low powered devices such as the ARM processor. Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 have been a great success at helping Microsoft back in the mobile phone market. Microsoft ditched Windows Mobile and started fresh. Their new phone operating systems has influenced the design on Windows8. If you have used a Windows Phone before, then you will feel right at home with Windows8.

We’ve had a quick play with Windows8 over the last few months, and currently have a Toshiba Slate on order to fully test Windows8 with touch functionality. Once we have this, I will post an update. But for now, we have been running Windows8 on our desktops, without touch support.

What we like so far…

Metro – It’s a great step forward for User Interface Design. The UI is very smooth and live tiles display a lot of relevant data.

User Sync – Windows8 now syncs all your data across many devices (Documents with SkyDrive, now renamed OneDrive). What this means is that you can log in to other computers, either at home, in the office or a public computer and have all your user profile settings downloaded and applied to that computer. This includes Internet Explorer settings and bookmarks, browser history, desktop preferences, desktop backgrounds, application settings and much more. After using Google Chrome for some time and loving the sync features, it’s very exciting to see this sort of functionality come to Windows.

Setup – Is a breeze. If you don’t already have a Windows Live account, Windows8 will create one for you. If you do already have a Windows Live account, Windows8 will automatically link you to it. One thing I personally loved was that Windows8 Mail application supports Microsoft Exchange. Upon clicking the mail icon, Windows8 configured my connection to Exchange just by entering my email address. This was very surprising and very refreshing. I’m sure many IT admins will be jumping in joy.

I am waiting for Microsoft to release a beta version of Microsoft Office v15. This version of Office integrates with the Metro interface and looks very slick.

7 Tips for Online Security

Security in the last few years has changed somewhat. More and more of us find ourselves using social media, file sharing and online messaging sites. We are more mobile than ever before, with our most personal and confidential information held on our smartphones. We carry data around on memory sticks and portable hard drives. We find ourselves accessing the internet from cafes and restaurants, or at the airport while waiting for a connecting flight.

This has become everyday life.

Ask yourself the following questions

  • How secure is your data?
  • How secure are your passwords?
  • Do you use the same password on more than one website?
  • Do you use public wireless or public computers?

The following 7 tips are something I practice and preach to anyone who wants to protect themselves online. I highly suggest you read the following if you are keen to protect your security online.

#1 Ditch Passwords, Use Pass Phrases

What is a pass phrase? A pass phrase is a collection of random words that create a phrase. Instead of having a P@ssw0rd! like that (I bet you read that fine), you would use something like “the green monkey house”. What is the reason for this? See below

Pass Phrases

#2 Never use the same password

Out of all the tips listed here, this would have to be the one most important that I want you to remember. Never, Ever, use the same password on multiple devices or websites.

If your password is ever compromised, it will be very likely that the attacker will have your email address.

Most websites use your email address or social media account to login, so effectively, having your password compromised can expose yourself personally on a wide scale.

As soon as your password is discovered, most hackers will attempt to use this on common sites like Gmail, Hotmail, Facebook and so on, attempting to compromise your security even further.

For myself, I like to categorise my web services like the following:

Banking and high security websites

For these websites, I use a different pass phrase for each, and usually some other form of security such as two factor authentication. Most banking sites support this.

Sites which hold confidential/private information such as Facebook

For these websites I still use a separate pass phrase for each website. Hacking your Facebook account or similar may result in other accounts you have being hacked.

Sites where I might post comments such as news sites

For these websites I might actually use a pass phrase over a number of the sites. If an attacker has this password it doesn’t really impact me at all. It’s more of a inconvenience, and having these accounts exposed will cause very little damage.

It comes down to the level of security you feel comfortable with.

#3 When using public internet use HTTPS

If you’re using public wireless internet, make sure you use secure websites. If the website starts with http, it’s probably not secure. The website should start with https. You can usually just edit the address in your address bar and change http to https. Most websites support this.

What is https? In simple terms, it’s a secure, encrypted connection to the website you are browsing. This means any traffic sent over the network, such as usernames and passwords is encrypted.

Why is this important?

Many people sit on public networks such as public wireless networks ‘sniffing‘ traffic. This means the attacker can watching traffic flowing across the network. If you are not using encrypted sites, your usernames and passwords are sent in clear text, meaning someone sniffing the traffic will see your username and password.

#4 When using public internet, make sure your shares are turned OFF

Like most people, you’ve probably had the need to share something on your computer. Most people forget to turn these shares off. When connecting to a public network, such as public wireless, your shared files can become exposed. If you use Windows 7 or Windows Vista, when connecting to a new network, you will be prompted on your network location. Make sure that you select Public Network if you are connecting to a Public Network.

#5 When using a public computer, be very careful

If you use a public computer in a library or internet cafe, be very careful about what websites you go to and what you type. Key loggers are a form of virus. They can reside on a computer and capture all of the input from the keyboard and send it to a remote location. Internet cafes are a prime target for this sort of activity.

Make sure there is up-to-date Antivirus software running on the computer.

When visiting sensitive sites like Facebook and banking sites, make sure you are using a https connection (see above) and that you make sure that the website does not remember you.

#6 Make sure your Antivirus is up-to-date

Hopefully everyone has Antivirus installed, but just in-case, make sure you have some form of Antivirus that it’s up-to-date. If you cannot afford Antivirus, or don’t want to pay for it, there are many free alternatives. One that I really like and recommend is Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows.

Virus protection is very complex these days, and good Antivirus can save you many hours and a lot of money trying to get malware or a virus removed from your computer.

#7 Make sure your browser is up-to-date

A lot of internet attacks are done through the browser. Old Browsers like Internet Explorer 6 and 7 have many security holes which can be easily exploited. Running an old browser is one of the easiest ways to get your computer infected by malware.

There are many browsers out there. At the time of writing, Internet Explorer 11 is the latest browser by Microsoft and includes many features that will keep you safe online.

You can also download alternative browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.


Stay safe. If something looks dodgy, it probably is. A few quick points

  • Use Pass Phrases instead of passwords
  • Never use the same password/pass phrase for different websites
  • When using public internet, use secure websites and ensure your computers shares are turned off
  • When using a public computer, check the installed antivirus is up-to-date
  • Make sure your Antivirus and Browsers are up-to-date
  • Make sure your operating system is up-to-date and please, use the licensed software always (to work orders , etc.)

Please leave your comments below!

The Cloud: SaaS and IaaS

What is the cloud?

It’s a question that I’ve been asked many times.

The first person to use the phrase cloud computing was Eric Schmidt of Google when he was explaining Google’s approach to SaaS (Software as a service). This was the first high profile use of the term.

The phrase has really gained popularity in the last few years with the global recession and businesses looking to cut costs.

The general view of cloud computing is that your data and applications are stored on the internet (the public cloud) and available 24/7, 365 days of the year. The most appealing aspect of cloud computing is that generally, no additional hardware, software or licensing is required at the clients end in order to access their data and applications.

Under the umbrella of cloud computing there is SaaS (Software as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a service). Both of these services are quite different in how they operate.

Software as a service is where you have your data and application(s) hosted by another provider. Generally these applications are accessed by web browsers on PC’s or applications on mobile devices. A good example of SaaS is Xero and Gmail.

Infrastructure as a service is where you have your servers, network gear and firewalls hosted by another provider such as Revera. Normally these are hosted in a virtual environment inside multiple data centres.

SaaS and IaaS have quite different requirements.

SaaS applications and data can live overseas, half way around the world. With SaaS, speed is not as important as with IaaS. Most users can live with a few seconds delay when accessing their files or applications, although, it can be annoying.

IaaS on the other hand, requires a fast internet connection. Most of the time, you will require a private internet connection to the data centre that is providing IaaS. This is to reduce latency on the network when accessing data, applications or network services. For this reason, IaaS is generally more expensive, but provides better performance.

With IaaS, you also have more control of your environment. Since it’s virtualized, if your servers require more memory because they are running slow, you can add additional memory. You generally have no control of a SaaS environment.

A good IaaS provider will also have multiple datacentres. This ensures if one of their data centres fall over because of a natural disaster, your environment will fail-over to the next available datacentre.

This is a problem for SaaS. Most of the time, you have no idea where your data or applications are hosted. Do you know if your SaaS provider has redundancy? Do you know where your SaaS provider has your data and applications hosted?

A great illustration of this is the following:


I recommend that before taking a leap in to the cloud, you thoroughly explore your options. There are many things to take in to account. If you require any assistance, call Layer3.