May 2010 CIBM article: The benefits of virtualization

April 22, 2010

The following column appeared in the May 2010 edition of the Central Illinois Business Magazine.

The Benefits of Virtualization

How this technology can improve infrastructure performance and lower costs

 By Jeff Facer, Owner and CEO, Area-Wide Technologies

In computing, the benefits of virtualization are often perceived to be strictly confined to cost savings. To be sure, many companies benefit greatly from server virtualization—which allows multiple operating systems to be installed on a single server—because it reduces the amount of hardware that is required to run all the software needed by the business. Consolidating servers using a virtualization process not only provides savings in terms of how many physical machines must be bought and maintained, but also potentially reduces the amount of physical space that a company needs for its servers.

Since computer virtualization allows a variety of operating systems and software configuration settings to be used on a single machine, application virtualization provides a much more flexible way for companies to run applications. Without virtualization, for example, a company might need to bear the cost of running five separate servers with different operating systems, or different configurations in order to run all of the applications needed for the operation of business. The flexibility benefits of virtualization mean that all those operating systems and applications could potentially be run on a single piece of hardware. Accordingly, the efficient use of hardware can be one of the biggest benefits of virtualization.

Furthermore, virtualization enables a businesses to save significantly on electric costs.  One server with a 850 watt power supply running in a virtualized environment can yield the same computing power as four separate servers with four 850 watt power supplies doing the same thing.  This is not only good for the environment, but for your pocket book as well.

Another area of computing that can reap large benefits from virtualization is product testing. The testing part of a computing project is often a high overhead endeavor that requires relatively expensive resources, and a lot of time. Virtualization tools allow software testers to quickly and easily set up and maintain testing environments, and to rapidly restore testing environments to their original state when required. So, if you want to try a new piece of software for your business, but you don’t want to install this on a production server, virtualization makes this simple and easy.

Ease of application deployment is another of the benefits of virtualization. Computing projects are often resource intensive in terms of deployment. Virtualization allows for the easy creation of base computing environments, and largely removes issues of hardware compatibility. This can save costs and time in rolling out new or changed computing systems and applications.

Windows software costs are significantly lower in a virtualized environment.  With Windows Server Enterprise version, four separate Windows Servers can be configure on one piece of hardware.  This will save you several thousand dollars in software costs alone.  Add to this the massive savings in purchasing one high-powered server versus four average servers, and the cost savings can easily exceed $10,000.

Last, but certainly not least, virtualization is the first step in a comprehensive disaster recovery plan.  Virtual servers allow for quick configuration and resource assignment.  Applications can quickly be moved from one virtual server to another, minimizing down time in a disaster situation. 

So, when it’s time for a server upgrade, consider virtualization as a good alternative to meet your long-term IT needs.

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April 2010 CIBM article: Going mobile and spring lightning

March 21, 2010

The following column appeared in the April 2010 issue of the Central Illinois Business Magazine.

Going Mobile and a Reminder of April Showers and Lightning-strike Power

 By Jeff Facer (Owner and CEO, Area-Wide Technologies)

Every month, the technology industry’s leading manufacturers unveil laptops more powerful—and more compact—than anything ever before seen by computer connoisseurs.  However, for many on-the-go company executives and decision-makers, sleek, powerful laptops no longer hold the appeal they once did.  Indeed, laptops have been shoved aside by the newest technology accessory: the so-called “smart phone.”

Many readers are undoubtedly intimately familiar with smart phones, the most popular incarnations of which include Apple’s iPhone, Blackberry’s established line of mobile devices, and the Google-backed Droid.  Virtually every major manufacturer of mobile devices has issued its own line of smart phones, with a number of these devices operating on a Windows-based software platform designed specifically for cellular telephones.

I’m often asked whether I consider this leap in technology to be a blessing or a curse.  To be sure, the computing power of these devices—including the ability to synchronize the user’s business email, calendar, and contacts between his or her computer and mobile phone—can create a sense of never truly being “out of the office.”  Additionally, I.T. administrators and service providers across the country know first-hand that configuring such devices for use in conjunction with corporate technology infrastructure can present a series of headaches.

That said, smart phones have enabled users to remain connected to their businesses despite hectic travel schedules, frequent time on sales or consulting calls, or any other out-of-office endeavors.  Decision-makers no longer have to find a computer with an Internet connection to access email messages or stay abreast of emerging issues at the office; indeed, smart phones update these decision-makers in real-time and allow users to reply to email messages, view Word and Excel documents, and otherwise harness the power of a laptop computer—all from the palm of their hands.

Storm Preparedness as Spring Approaches

As I’ve written in this column the last several years, the lightning strikes that often punctuate springtime storms in Illinois can wreak havoc with your company’s technology infrastructure.  There is no defense, of course, against a direct lightning strike, but annual storm data reveals that the majority of problematic power surges originate from a lightning strike to a power transformer or other conductive surface near the affected company’s place of business.

Placing surge protectors in strategic locations can help mitigate the enormous energy that can bolt across electrical 2wiring and telephone lines.  Over my more than 15 years in the industry, I’ve seen firsthand the devastating consequences suffered by companies unprepared for the possibility of damage from the storms that gather over the skies of Illinois every spring and summer.  Consequently, it’s never too early to consult your internal I.T. administrator or third-party services provider for recommendations, which may range from the deployment of the aforementioned surge protectors to the offsite backup and storage of your critical data as part of a more comprehensive corporate disaster-recovery plan.

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February 2010 CIBM article: Do you know where your data is stored?

February 24, 2010

The following article appeared in the February 2010 issue of the Central Illinois Business Magazine.

It’s 5:00 p.m.: Do you know where your data is?

Increasingly popular offsite backup solutions require asking tough questions

 By Jeff Facer, Owner and CEO, Area-Wide Technologies

I have on several occasions written in the Central Illinois Business Magazine about the importance for businesses of all sizes to create standardized procedures for backing up crucial company data—and the corresponding need to follow through on these procedures to protect valuable business information in the event catastrophe strikes.  Over the years, backing up company data on a daily basis has become far easier than it once was; indeed, business owners no longer must trust their most crucial data to bulky magnetic tapes—tapes that can, at times, become unreadable, tangled in the backup tape drive, or even lost or stolen if not stored properly.

Over the past several years, remote backup services have become increasingly popular with businesses of all sizes.  In a nutshell, these services enable businesses to back up their data offsite by periodically sending such information over the Internet.  Data is encrypted prior to being sent over the Internet and is typically stored in a secure, temperature-controlled environment.

While the vast majority of remote backup service providers follow crucial protocols such as encrypting data prior to transferring it via the Internet, many obscure another fundamentally critical component of keeping your data safe and secure.  More specifically, many providers do not disclose the precise physical location where your data will reside; what’s more, many of these same providers are vague when it comes to how much access the backup provider will have to your confidential data.

If your company elects to explore utilizing a remote backup service, there are several key questions that should always be asked of the providers being considered:

  • Where is my data being stored?  Some providers utilize storage space on servers outside the United States of America.  International laws can vary dramatically in terms of the protection and privacy of your data, and data transmitted overseas may be open season for malicious cyber-criminals.
  • Who has access to my data?  Generally speaking, you should only conduct business with providers that state in their terms and conditions that they cannot and will not access your data unless explicitly directed by you to do so.  Your data should be stored in its encrypted state on the provider’s backup infrastructure and should not be made accessible to anyone under any circumstances.
  • What are the physical characteristics of the backup facility?  Physical access to the facility should be restricted to only those servicing the backup infrastructure.  Ideally, the provider should also have some form of redundancy in place so that if—for an unforeseen reason—the server storing your data is rendered unusable, a secondary storage location can quickly and easily restore your company’s data.

One final note about facilities in the United States: you can rest easy with the knowledge that you can always visit the facility storing your data so that you can see firsthand whether these important procedures are being practiced.

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January 2010 CIBM article: The perils of unmonitored web surfing

January 24, 2010

The following article appeared in the January 2010 edition of the Central Illinois Business Magazine.

The perils of unmonitored employee Web surfing
Unintentional visits to unsafe sites could drown your network

By Jeff Facer, Owner and CEO, Area-Wide Technologies

In my last column—printed in the November 2009 issue of the Central Illinois Business Magazine—I discussed the productivity-killing potential of malicious junk email messages your employees may receive if rigorous anti-SPAM protections are not in place to filter the messages flowing into your company’s email system.  This month, I’d like to continue in the same vein and discuss the equally perilous consequences of allowing employees to surf the Internet without company-wide policies and protection in place. 

The arrival of the digital office has made it necessary in virtually every industry to provide each and every employee with at least some level of access to the World Wide Web.  Unfortunately, the Internet is fraught with unsafe Web sites that have the potential to irreparably harm both the individual’s workstation and your company’s business network as a whole.  Furthermore, many of these Web sites feature content inappropriate for viewing on company time.

Indeed, the implementation of a company-wide Internet acceptable use policy, or AUP, may correctly be viewed as both a technology and human resources effort to prevent damage to company infrastructure and curtail the proliferation of inappropriate material amongst members of your staff.  Realistically, you have two methods of approaching this often unintentional yet potentially catastrophic problem: installing preventative measures to block access to all Web sites not deemed necessary for employees to complete their job duties, or monitor the surfing histories of each employee and subsequently identifying and disciplining staff members found in violation of your company’s AUP.

The former, more proactive approach certainly warrants considerable appeal, but it should be remembered that such efforts often warrant the purchase of Web logging software and the configuration of corporate infrastructure to define appropriate Web sites and prohibit access to sites deemed inappropriate for company time.  Conversely, the latter method of enforcement may be viewed as an open invitation for seemingly endless employee disciplinary action; however, such an approach may prove judicious if visiting inappropriate Web sites is a problem limited to just a handful of staff members.

Whatever approach you ultimately decide is best for your company will help limit the potential for human resources issues related to Web surfing, as well as restrict the potential for the spread of viruses, malware, and other productivity-killing consequences of visiting Web sites inappropriate for company time.  As mentioned, these consequences are often the unintentional result of Web surfing—perhaps a result of a lack of work or supervision—yet nevertheless carry the potential to render individual workstations or entire networks inoperable and spread malicious software that may require the dedication of considerable company resources to eradicate.  An awareness of such dangers is the first—and most important—step to minimizing your company’s risk and saving your business time and money.

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November 2009 CIBM article: Technology and employee productivity

October 13, 2009

Seemingly harmless irritants can profoundly affect your bottom line

By Jeff Facer, Owner and CEO, Area-Wide Technologies

Small business decision-makers across every industry are intimately familiar with the productivity-boosting power delivered by cutting-edge technology.  Indeed, technologies many of us have come to view as patently routine—such as the ability for employees to store and share documents from a single location or the real-time connectivity and access provided by sophisticated mobile devices such as smart phones—have dramatically improved the productivity of the employees that power our businesses.

What many of us fail to realize, however, is that the convergence of technology and day-to-day operations has produced a number of productivity-sapping pitfalls that can quickly sabotage a company’s efficiency and wreak havoc upon the balance sheets of businesses everywhere.  Unfortunately, many of these productivity killers initially appear to be nothing more than the annoying—but ultimately benign—consequences of working with technology on a daily basis, meaning significant damage is often wrought before the threat is even identified.

Consider, for example, our reliance on electronic mail.  Most of us likely spend at least 30 minutes a day reading, sorting, and replying to email messages unaware that a significant portion of our time is being squandered to the digital version of junk mail.  Unsolicited email, or “spam,” can prove to be more than just a mere nuisance; many such messages, in fact, are sent with malicious intent and may spawn problems that ripple across an entire organization.  And when one considers that, according to leading Internet security vendor Symantec, nine out of every 10 email messages sent across the World Wide Web is spam, it’s easy to see how something as seemingly harmless as checking our inboxes each morning can have devastating effects upon the productivity of those we employ.

(A small business with 15 employees, each of whom spends an average of 30 minutes a day sorting and replying to email messages, stands to lose more than 33 hours each week in employee work time to junk email and its associated perils.)

This single example underscores the need for every business to implement measures to prevent the efficiency-destroying aspects of technology from causing irreparable harm where it hurts the most: the bottom line.  In the case of spam, a variety of solutions exist—the vast majority of which are remarkably affordable—to effectively block more than 95 percent of unwanted email messages from ever reaching employee inboxes, thereby maintaining the integrity and productivity of your office staff.

Unsolicited junk email, however, is just one example of how the use of essential technology can yield unwanted and potentially catastrophic consequences for businesses of all sizes.  Ultimately, every organization must allocate the resources necessary to ensure the technology that, for so many of us, drives business on a daily basis remains a profit-driving asset instead of a colossal consumer of time and productivity.

Microsoft Security Advisory (973882)

July 28, 2009

Microsoft is aware of security vulnerabilities in the public and private versions of its Active Template Library (ATL). The Microsoft ATL is used by software developers to create controls or components for the Windows platform. The vulnerabilities described in this Security Advisory and Microsoft Security Bulletin MS09-035 could result in information disclosure or remote code execution attacks for controls and components built using vulnerable versions of the ATL. Components and controls created with the vulnerable version of ATL may be exposed to a vulnerable condition due to how ATL is used or due to issues in the ATL code itself.

To read Microsoft’s bulletin in its entirety, please visit the security advisory center within Microsoft’s TechNet portal.

August 2009 CIBM article: Will new Windows OS be “7th Heaven”?

July 24, 2009

Microsoft Hoping New Windows Operating System is “7th Heaven”

By Jason Facer, Central Illinois Business Magazine contributor

Microsoft’s eagerly anticipated Windows 7 operating system hits shelves on October 22, and the software giant isn’t the only one hoping for a home run.  Consumers, fed up with the frequently—and, in reality, often unfairly—maligned Windows Vista software platform, are counting on the Redmond, Wash.-based technology behemoth to restore to Windows 7 the features and aesthetics that made Microsoft’s Windows XP so wildly popular among both consumers and business users.

In what could be interpreted as an admission of guilt from Microsoft, the company’s Windows 7 section of its Web site concedes that “[w]e know you love Windows XP…With Windows 7, we used your feedback to make things even better.”  By simplifying some of the most common commands executed within the company’s operating systems, Microsoft hopes to erase memories of the at-times cumbersome and confusing Vista operating system.  Furthermore, Microsoft has added a host of new features to Windows 7—most of which can be accessed with just a single click of the mouse—and has streamlined the product as well, a welcome change of pace from the resources-intensive Vista operating system.

Perhaps most stunning is Microsoft’s plan to provide consumers who purchase Windows Vista with a coupon entitling the user to a free upgrade to Windows 7 once the latter has been released in late October.  To be sure, Microsoft is extremely confident in the appeal of its newest operating system, and the company is betting heavily that its release will help boost sagging revenues in the operating system sector.

Microsoft’s client division, in fact, posted a first-quarter 2009 decrease in gross revenues of four percent from software sales compared to the same three-month period in 2008.  Meanwhile, the software manufacturer’s business and server sectors posted impressive increases of 23 percent and 20 percent, respectively, but all eyes are nevertheless focused on the release of Windows 7 and what the product will mean to Microsoft’s bottom line.

What the release of Windows 7 will mean to area businesses reliant on Microsoft’s operating system platform is what many local decision-makers are most anxious to discover.  Historically, the migration to a new operating system does not begin in earnest until at least one year—and often much longer—after the new system has been on the market.  (For example, even as Microsoft’s Server 2008 was being released last year, many area businesses were just completing the move to Microsoft’s Server 2003 platform.)

Fortunately, for local businesses wary of transitioning from, say, Windows XP to the new, relatively untested Windows 7, Microsoft has announced that the purchase of a Windows 7 license will entitle the user to downgrade the software to Windows XP for 18 months following the release of Windows 7 on October 22.  Thus, while genuine XP licenses may no longer be available, the purchase of Microsoft’s latest operating system will enable business owners to remain on the more comfortable Windows XP platform until third-party software manufacturers—the companies that produce the industry-specific software upon which many local businesses are reliant—retool their products and make them compatible with Windows 7.

June 2009 CIBM article: Downtime can cost your business big

May 9, 2009

By Jason Facer, Central Illinois Business Magazine contributor

Over the past few months, my columns have focused on some of the most serious threats to the security and integrity of your company’s electronic information.  Unfortunately, these threats continue to multiply every day—in fact, Trend Micro, a leading manufacturer of antivirus and security software, estimates that a new virus or spyware threat is introduced across the Internet every 2.5 seconds.  My previous columns have detailed various strategies to protect your business network against these threats; this month, I’ll address perhaps the most costly consequence of inadequate threat protection: system downtime. 

Downtime, of course, can stem from other, less malicious sources, such as equipment failure, power outages, and employee error.  Regardless of whether your network’s downtime was caused by a virus outbreak or the failure of an aging piece of hardware, the results are simply disastrous.  To accurately estimate the impact system downtime can have on your business, consider the many ways downtime affects the daily cycle of business for your company.

First and foremost, if such downtime ultimately results in the loss of key data, the recovery of this information—or, in the worst-case scenario, the re-entry of some or all of the compromised data—can cost your company dearly.  While data backup technology—such as offsite storage with bare-metal restoration capability—has advanced significantly over the past decade, the labor costs associated with restoring large amounts of data have the potential to deal an often fatal blow to an unprepared business.

Furthermore, when your company’s systems are down, your employees are unable to work.  For institutions such as banks, downtime simply isn’t an option, as lost transactions and missed revenue opportunities grow every minute the network is down.  In addition to the employee wages paid during periods of downtime, business owners should also weigh the consequences of missed sales opportunities and the loss of potential new customers due to system downtime.

Lastly, business owners must face a less tangible but entirely real consequence of downtime: reputation cost.  In other words, will downtime be evident to customers, and, if so, will your business suffer client defection as a result of this downtime?  For companies that conduct most or all of their business online using the Internet, the long-term price of downtime can be devastating.

My July column in the Central Illinois Business Magazine will address the need for businesses to adopt thorough disaster-recovery plans to ensure the aforementioned costs of downtime can be mitigated, if not avoided altogether.  After all, disasters come in a variety of forms, many of which we’re powerless to prevent.  Instead of hedging your bets on the hopes that “it won’t happen to me,” begin preparing a disaster-recovery plan for your business.  I’ll discuss how to do so—and where your priorities should be—in next month’s column.

May 2009 CIBM article: Proactive approach to IT saves money

May 9, 2009

By Jason Facer, Central Illinois Business Magazine contributor

In the June 2008 issue of the Central Illinois Business Magazine, I addressed the deteriorating economic conditions that dominated last summer’s headlines.  More specifically, I urged local business owners to avoid reactionary decisions such as slashing their companies’ IT budgets.  Instead, I recommended a proactive approach toward information technology as an effective means of keeping technology costs to a minimum during very difficult economic times.

 The country’s economic crisis, of course, has deepened dramatically since my aforementioned article was published 11 months ago.  Furthermore, the prospect of new taxes and other costs employers must absorb—such as COBRA insurance coverage for terminated employees—has many business owners scrambling just to keep the doors open.  Decision-makers in every industry are combing the books in search of every possible way to reduce expenses—and company IT budgets are often at the top of the list of expenses to cut.

To be sure, each of must do whatever is necessary to survive these very uncertain—and, quite frankly, terrifying—economic times.  That said, there is an additional way business owners can pare IT budgets without sacrificing performance or office productivity: adopting a proactive approach to business technology.

More specifically, implementing a network monitoring solution can drastically reduce your company’s technology expenditures.  Such solutions monitor the devices on your office’s network—including servers, workstations, printers, and routers—and alert you to potentially disruptive—and expensive—issues developing within your company’s network.  Network monitoring solutions notify your internal systems administrator or third-party service provider so that the issue may be resolved before it mushrooms into a problem that results in network downtime, lost productivity, and expensive hardware replacement purchases.

Consider, for example, the seemingly benign issue of a case fan failing inside your company’s file server.  Left unchecked, this case fan failure can cause your server to overheat, destroying internal components and threatening the data stored on the server’s hard drives.  A network monitoring solution, meanwhile, would notify your internal systems administrator or technology service provider of the case fan failure, facilitating the quick and efficient replacement of the fan before the potential for disaster can develop.  Ultimately, in this example, network monitoring can mean the difference between the purchase of a $20 case fan and a half-hour of labor to install the new device and the complete loss of your company’s file server and an extremely labor-intensive effort to implement a new server and migrate your company’s data onto a machine that likely has cost your firm several thousand dollars.

Operating hand-in-hand with network monitoring to reduce business IT budgets is a scheduled series of routine maintenance work.  This routine maintenance enables your company to address non-urgent IT concerns during a single session of work instead of as they are identified—an approach that can often result in your company being nickel-and-dimed with bills for service visits that could likely have waited until the next scheduled round of maintenance work.  Additionally, routine maintenance ensures your network is up-to-date with its antivirus definitions, data backup program, operating system updates, security patches, and many other critical updates.  These updates both ensure your network infrastructure operates at peak efficiency and protect your network against threats such as viruses and security vulnerabilities.  (The highly-publicized Conficker virus—unleashed on April Fool’s Day—exploited computers and networks that had not applied critical system updates.)

The frequency with which routine maintenance work is performed is largely dependent on the size of your company’s network.  While the industry’s best practices recommendation advises performing maintenance at least once per month, smaller, two- or three-person companies may elect to perform such maintenance on a quarterly basis.  Conversely, larger firms may find it necessary to schedule maintenance work to be performed every other week to ensure every component of the network is analyzed and updated to deliver peak operational efficiency.

While trimming your company’s IT budget isn’t the answer to every challenge faced by businesses today, adopting a proactive approach to the health, maintenance, and performance of your technology infrastructure can produce significant cost savings for your business.  Increased employee productivity, driven by a stable, efficient office network can yield further financial benefits, and avoiding costly downtime and preventable equipment replacement will help you more effectively manage cash flow and stay afloat in a sea of uncertainty and fear.

Are we in for the worst April Fool’s Day yet?

March 27, 2009

[Editor’s note: Area-Wide Technologies Project Manager Kurt Siegfried authored the following column to inform clients of the potential risk for damaging computer virus infections on April Fool’s Day.]

 

April first has always been an interesting day on the Internet.  From sewer Internet Service Providers to ponies taking over major news sites, things tend to land towards the silly end of the spectrum.  This year has the potential to be different in a not so friendly way.  In October 2008, Microsoft released a security bulletin to patch a critical flaw in part of the Windows operating system that could allow code to be executed arbitrarily by an unauthorized third party.  Most customers applied the patch and were protected within a short period of time.

 

However, some larger enterprises typically delay applying Microsoft updates for an extended period of time.  This is a well deserved response to a company that has released many patches that have broken line of business applications, and pieces of its own operating system.  Between these companies, and a large number of home users that either have a pirated copy of Windows, or do not use Windows Update, there were a significant number of unpatched hosts on the Internet weeks, and even months after the patch was released.

 

            Enter the worms…  Conficker, Downadup, two names given to a single set of code that was released into the wild that was targeted at exploiting the vulnerable service.  The initial wave did not require a user to do anything, just have a vulnerable workstation out on the internet.  This initial infection was not damaging, but it did provide a platform for the malicious users behind the infection to launch their second wave of malicious code: Conficker.B. This version was much more robust and worked by spreading itself through USB Flash drives and mapped network drives.  It disabled Windows Automatic Update, and looked for computers with weak or blank passwords on the network that it could spread its infection to.  In addition, it took its defenses a step further by attempting to disable Anti-Virus products on the host computer.

 

At this point there are approximately 10 Million infection computers around the world.  These are being updated to the latest Conficker.C variant of code, which is the most robust version yet.  It has a built in engine to keep itself updated that only accepts code from the original creators.  It checks 500 websites randomly from a list of 50,000 each day for new instructions.  All of this, and it continues to try to spread its infection to new hosts.  While this may seem like the worst possible outcome,  security researchers that have been doing analysis of the worm and infected systems tell us that things will be worse next Wednesday.  Up until now, the computers infected by the Conficker worm have been focused on building a network of infected computers, a botnet.  On April 1st, the computers making up the botnet will begin checking the command and control servers and executing attack orders that they are given.  This can take the form of SPAM, or denial of service attacks, or attempts to bring even more computers into the botnet.  These kind of attacks happen all the time, but the sheer number of infected hosts in this botnet will make things more visible than normal.

 

            So what do we do?  While this sounds like a bleak situation, there is hope.  There are several steps that can limit or prevent the spread of infection altogether.  First, install Windows Updates,  all of them, every month.  They are issued for a reason and Microsoft offers free support for security updates.  Second, use up to date Anti-Virus software.  All of the major vendors have tools that can remove this infection and should be used,  Microsoft has its own tool called the Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT).   Finally, use a tool like OpenDNS (OpenDNS Blog) to block access to the worm’s command and control servers.  Using these steps can limit exposure to widespread infection and prevent your network from being part of the problem. 

 

            Once all that is done, you can get back to having a fun and romantic April Fool’s day.

 

Further Reading:

 

Microsoft Security

http://www.microsoft.com/protect/computer/viruses/worms/conficker.mspx

 

Trend Micro

http://blog.trendmicro.com/new-downadconficker-variant-already-detected/

 

The Register

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/01/26/conficker_botnet/