Blog

December 8th, 2016

2018december8_hardware_aYour employees are some of your business’s best assets. With that in mind, it is imperative that they work with high-performance computers that will unlock their full potential and contribute to your business’s profitability. If only it were that simple. Selecting a computer often involves several factors such as mobility, quality, and price – there are simply too many things to consider. Choosing the right computer requires careful thought, and this is what we’re here to discuss.

Laptop or desktop?

Laptops are highly portable, efficient, and inexpensive. If these are the most important qualities your business requires in a computer, then by all means, choose them. Clearly, desktops aren’t built for mobility, but what they lack in portability, they more than make up for in storage, processing capacity, and security. Although laptops make perfect sense for small businesses with great need for portability, they are much more prone to security threats and are not as easy to upgrade and maintain, unlike desktops.

Processor

The Central Processing Unit (CPU), or simply processor, determines the speed at which you can access your data and perform business-critical tasks. Speed is measured in Gigahertz (GHz), and a processor that runs from 2 to 4 GHz should be plenty for small enterprises. Arguably the most important item on the list of a computer’s specifications, the processor plays a crucial role in your computer’s speed and efficiency.

Storage

As critical hardware components, hard drives indicate how much information you can store and use. Storage capacity typically ranges from 128 gigabytes on “light computers”, all the way up to 2+ terabytes on more critical machines. If your business doesn’t need to store large files such as videos and images and will be used mostly for email and a few applications, 250- or 500-GB storage should do the job. If processor speed is number one on your list of computer requirements, it’s followed closely by hard drive storage.

Operating System

Operating system (OS) decisions often boil down to choosing between Windows or Mac. It might help in your decision-making to know that Windows remains the most widely used OS mainly due to its high compatibility with business software, not to mention, its relatively cheaper price. Macs can perform just as brilliantly as Windows-operated systems can. And although Macs are usually more expensive, they’re well known for their own outstanding features, such as being less prone to crashes.

Other Components

Not to be confused with storage drives, a computer’s Random Access Memory (RAM) is only used to run open applications. It is responsible for keeping your computer performing at optimum speeds, especially when you’re working with several applications or programs at once. For small businesses, a 1200-2600-MHz RAM should suffice. The higher the MHz of your RAM, the higher its performance will be. To keep your basic programs running, 6-8 gigabytes of RAM is often satisfactory.

Ready to Buy a New Computer?

Deciding which computer to buy is an important business decision. While there are a handful of factors to consider, what you aim to accomplish in your business’s day-to-day operations should be your main consideration when choosing a computer. Businesses that require plenty of remote and mobile work should definitely go for laptops. Those that require regular transfers of large datasets could benefit from the increased storage capacity associated with desktops.

Do you need expert advice in choosing the best computers for your small business? We’re happy to guide you in every step of your purchase decision. Give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
December 7th, 2016

2016december7_webandcloud_aAmazon Web Services (AWS) has announced changes in its cloud and cold storage options. These modifications make it more affordable for consumers to transfer large amounts of data to the cloud, particularly if they're putting them into Amazon's Glacier storage. New retrieval options also make storage of infrequently accessed data more appealing. Read on to find out whether these changes affect your current plan, or whether you’re ready to make the move to AWS cloud storage.

Amazon has been offering cloud storage to the public since 2006. Ten years later, the company has made nearly 30 price drops for the technology service. AWS is now offering yet another decrease in its S3 cloud access, Glacier and CloudWatch Custom Metrics.

S3 Cloud Services

Price changes for S3 have already been implemented, resulting in a restructured price scale that lowers your cost by up to 30 percent. Previously, AWS separated S3 storage into six different tiers. Now, the structure will be simplified to three options (0-50TB, 50-500TB, and 500+TB), with the biggest cost reduction going to businesses in the upper tier.

Glacier archival storage/Data Retrieval

Amazon's Glacier "cold" storage is for files you don't anticipate using often. The price drop for this service is a whopping 43 percent, and now it costs only $0.004/GB/month. If you need to remove data from Glacier, you will be charged based on how soon you need it, with time-lines ranging anywhere from five minutes to twelve hours.

CloudWatch Custom Metrics

Finally, AWS is adding customized metrics for database administrators and those “behind the scenes” to allow for monitoring of computer usage and optimization of resources. The fees associated with this service have gone down as well, from $0.50 per month to $0.30 per month for the first 10,000 custom metrics.

What these Changes Mean for Your Business

The total cost difference between the old AWS cloud services price structure and the new cloud services are small in relation to the money that typically travels through the small business. The benefit is in the increased amount of storage you can afford to use, and the addition of quicker retrieval methods for removing data from the Glacier service.

Any time you’re discussing terabytes of data, you know the conversation is going to be intimidating. What may sound like a bunch of techno mumbo jumbo to you is just another day at the office for us. Contact us today for more information on what an AWS database can give you and how much you can expect to pay.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web & Cloud
December 6th, 2016

2016december6_business_aOne of the biggest innovations in business and technology is marketing automation. Previously reserved for well-funded enterprises, marketing automation is now accessible to small businesses, thanks to affordable cloud solutions. In fact, there are five explosively profitable benefits to automating some of your most mundane tasks. Check them out here.

Instant responses to email requests

If a customer or prospect sends your business an email via your website or a "Contact Us" form, any delay in response could ultimately cost you a client. But if you have a marketing automation plan in place, you can customize automatic email responses to respond to these leads as soon as an email is received. This lets potential customers know either the information they requested or that you will be responding in more detail soon.

Stop leaving voicemails and start closing deals

There’s a reason most people prefer to communicate via email: Keeping in touch over phone can be tough if both parties are always busy. An automated system solves this by logging when you’ve contacted leads and automatically emailing them about follow-up times. The call, email, and its response are all logged in your CRM and calendar without a single minute wasted entering mundane information.

Inbound lead assignment

When you have phone calls, emails, and meetings piling up, it’s hard to keep track of which customer goes where and who is working with them. With marketing automation software and tracking, customer service representatives are automatically assigned to inbound leads based on specialities and demographics so they can begin working on building profitable rapport right away.

Give and you shall receive

Potential clients and leads get dozens, sometimes hundreds of business emails every day. You need something to set your business apart from the rest. By offering valuable content such as “How to” guides and “Total Cost of Ownership” tools in exchange for contact information, you can provide prospects with content they actually want.

All it takes is a web form and some creative writing that ultimately leads visitors back to your products and/or services. Your automation software delivers content to anyone who provides contact information, and it downloads metrics that can be tracked and analyzed by your solution.

Never type another phone number again

Networking events mean new contacts and new leads. Although that used to mean thick stacks of business cards, cutting-edge marketing tools make it possible to take a picture of contact information and automatically convert it into a cloud database. Call-ins, scanned business cards, and received emails all get organized into a single digital rolodex with recommendations for whom to contact, and when is best to do so -- without one minute of tedious data entry.

Every business owner knows that automating mindless tasks is a worthwhile investment. But not everyone knows just what sort of tools are available to help you cut down on wasted work. Our team specializes in using technology to add value to your business, and we believe that if you’re not utilizing any of the solutions above -- that’s the best place to start. Get in touch with us today to make your marketing technology work for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
December 5th, 2016

2016december5_healthcarearticles_aComputer technology firm Symantec is warning consumers that an infamous trojan virus still targets healthcare data across the United States and around the world. This infamous piece of malware hides among image files downloaded with pirated software. Read on to learn more about the Stegoloader infection, how it might target your business, and what you can do to keep it at bay.

What is Stegoloader?

The trojan known as Stegoloader infects machines through product key generators packaged with downloads of pirated software. Small companies have been targeted by the malware, particularly those in the healthcare industry -- and to a lesser extent, the insurance and technology sector.

Steganography is a cyber attacker term for hiding malware inside an image file. Once the image is opened on a vulnerable machine, the program gathers information and crawls through the network looking for weaknesses. Although Stegoloader doesn’t appear to be a particularly sophisticated program, it can devastate your business by stealing electronic medical records as well as installing a secondary piece of malware to pilfer banking information.

Anthem and Premera Blue Cross are two big-name victims of the widespread malware. Symantec believes that Stegoloader’s creators plan to sell healthcare data because they’re more lucrative than other information types. Symantec also believes the cyber attackers are opportunistic, taking advantage of companies that download pirated versions of popular software.

How to Avoid becoming infected by Stegloader

Because the Stegoloader trojan often lurks in illegal product key generators and illegitimate software, the best way to avoid infection is to stay away from sites that offer pirated software. Other than that, we recommend educating your employees on safe practices, avoiding unknown image files and quarantined backups, and updating operating system and antivirus software as often as possible.

When business owners download pirated software, they’re trying to cut corners to save money on business applications and technology consultants. But not only are they getting themselves in trouble with cyber attackers, they’re also messing with the law. We promise that partnering with us will end up saving you more money and hassle than the alternatives. If you’re looking for a better way to protect your company and keep your information safe, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Healthcare
December 2nd, 2016

2016december2_apple_aApple iOS users beware -- there’s a five-second video that can harm your iPhone. In late November, the brief MP4 clip seemed innocent enough. But after iPhone users played the video, their iPhones began to slow down and eventually crash. Details of the iPhone-killing bug are still being investigated, but here’s what we know so far.

What is the video? As mentioned, the MP4 video initially seems innocuous enough. It portrays a man standing by a bed with the word "honey" across the screen. After one or two minutes of viewing the video, the affected iPhone becomes sluggish. It then freezes and becomes unresponsive, ultimately requiring a reset.

It appears that the bug takes advantage of a flaw within iOS memory management. The corrupted video generates a loop that causes the affected Apple device to use more memory, leading to a temporary crash.

Reports have shown that the MP4 is hosted on a video-sharing site, Miaopai. Since then, the video has been distributed in other social media platforms, online forums, and, more commonly, as a link via iMessage.

Tests have also found that the video effects the latest iOS version (iOS 10.1 and 10.2) all the way to iOS 5. So far, the bug doesn’t seem to affect other non iOS products. But regardless, all users should be careful of the video.

Although this video’s effects may seem worrying, there is a fix to the problems caused by the corrupt clip.

How to perform a hard restart The only way to recover from the crash is to do perform a hard restart. To do this, you simply have to hold down the power button and home button for a few seconds.

As for the iPhone 7, all you need to do is hold the power button and volume decrease buttons simultaneously to force a reset. In both cases, just hold the buttons until the Apple logo appears, and your device should restart normally.

Always be careful Even though it’s easy enough to fix, it’s probably best to avoid the crash bug altogether. Soon, Apple will introduce a new security patch for this vulnerability, but until the update is released, you should avoid clicking on suspicious MP4 video links no matter what platform you use.

And this is the same for other videos, URLs, photos, emails, and websites you encounter on the web. When it comes to traversing online worlds, it’s imperative to develop a critical mindset for everything you see in the internet. While this particular bug only slows down your Apple device, you might not be so lucky the next time you unwittingly click on an unknown iMessage link or email attachment.

If there’s any lesson we can learn here, it’s that you can’t be complacent no matter how secure Apple platforms may be. Want to protect your Apple device from future security incidents like these? Contact us today, and we’ll provide you with sound advice and security solutions to nip these problems in the bud.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple
November 30th, 2016

2016november30_office_aBusiness owners who subscribe to Office 365 have the entire cloud at their fingerprints, from email service to cross-platform access of apps and an ease of use that attracts even the technophobe. Now, those owners who belong to the Insider program (Fast Ring) have another reason to smile. They can now utilize the Office 365 Hub, an Office management program that makes using Office on Windows 10 easier than ever before. Read more to find out what the Hub does and why it's so popular.

What does Office Hub Do? Office 365 Hub is a dashboard management program that makes it easier for you to integrate all your Office 365 apps in one location and manage the different programs without the need to get on a browser.

Users can:

  • Manage their payment and subscription information
  • Optimize Office apps for mobile devices
  • Access files, programs and apps on the cloud drive from any device
  • Switch between a personal and business account
Office Hub, like other dashboard management programs, allows you to access multiple apps and programs in one place. Clicking on the Home tab displays a summary of recent documents accessed as well as your commonly used Office apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

For the business owner, this ease of access increases efficiency company-wide. Business owners can install new apps on the desktop without visiting an online browser, while administrators will have no problem moving between the different office applications.

What’s more, Office 365 Hub provides a Help and Training tab with links to online resources, tutorials and support forums to help new Office 365 users to quickly acclimate to the cloud. All in all, Office 365 Hub promises a stress-free and easily manageable cloud experience.

Reaching the Office 365 Hub App Unfortunately, the Office 365 Hub is not yet visible to everyone who signs on to the Get Office App on Windows 10. It is only open to those who are Office 365 subscribers and members of their Insider program. They also have to be set as Fast Ring subscribers, members who receive builds before they have been completely debugged and updated. Otherwise, you can expect the general release of Office 365 Hub and its benefits in the first half of 2017.

If you want the latest updates on Office 365 Hub or any new Microsoft features, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
November 29th, 2016

2016november29_android_aAndroid users may have reason for concern regarding their device security as well as the information transmitted by their phones. A backdoor security breach has recently been identified in Android devices that could cause user data to be sent to China. Because of the major risks that this security breach poses, it is important for Android users to learn about this vulnerability as soon as possible.

Android devices are made with various software and firmware from a variety of companies. One company that creates firmware and software for numerous companies around the world is known as Adups, a Chinese company based in Shanghai. One of the features of the offerings is that the firmware or software automatically sends data back to Adups every 72 hours. The data sent includes information like contact lists, phone call lists, and text messages.

A company known as Kryptowire, a security firm that specializes in detecting potential risks and breaches, found that the firmware developed by Adups may have been installed on a wide array of Android devices, unbeknownst to consumers that purchased the products. Adups, for its part, claims that the software was developed for a specific client that needed to track such information to determine customer service and satisfaction.

Even if the software was designed only for one specific client, Kryptowire found it on the product of at least one other Adups client and has concerns that other companies and devices that work with Adups may also be affected. The leaking of data to Adups or other companies and persons in China (or anywhere in the world) represents a huge security risk for both business and individual Android product users. The backdoor access to the device does not just let data get transmitted to Adups but makes it possible for someone to access and take control of the device without the Android device owner knowing or allowing the access.

As of yet, Google is attempting to catch up with Kryptowire's findings and the known affected clients to try to close this backdoor access and keep user data as safe and secure as possible. Contact us for further information or to find out whether your device is one of those known to be affected by this significant and worrisome data breach.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic android
November 28th, 2016

2016november28_windows_aMicrosoft Paint has long been a staple to the Windows computing platform for many years. And only recently has this cornerstone application been updated with the introduction of a new program, Microsoft Paint 3D. If you have long awaited such an upgrade, you’ll be delighted to hear about the the new changes.

With the new Microsoft Paint 3D, users will have the opportunity to create both 2D and 3D graphics and images. It is just as easy as it always was to use pen and paintbrush features to draw a 2D image, but now these images can be converted into 3D. There is also a stamp feature that allows a user to add stickers to their 2D creations to make them 3D.

Additionally, just like in the world outside of the computer, the 3D objects in Microsoft Paint 3D can be written on with pencils, pens, or paintbrushes, adding 2D imagery to 3D creations. One of the additional benefits of Microsoft Paint 3D is that the creations that users make on the app can easily be shared on social media. This makes it easier than ever before to put Microsoft Paint creations to use.

With Microsoft Paint 3D, users are also able to take images from their smart phone and transform them to 3D images in Microsoft Paint 3D. Even further, if you have a 3D printer, you can actually bring the 3D creations from your app to life.

All these new innovations make Microsoft Paint 3D an exciting development in the Microsoft product offerings. This new version of Microsoft Paint will be made available with the latest updated version of Windows 10 Creator's Studio and should be released early in 2017. If you are ready to get started with this program or want more information about what else the Microsoft Creator’s update has in store for you, contact us as soon as possible.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
November 25th, 2016

2016november25_security_aIf you’ve read this blog before, you already know security is paramount to the success of any small business. We cover the ever increasing cases of security violation in big and small businesses, as well as national and international organizations where data, applications, networks, devices and networks have been illegally accessed by unauthorized people. But today we want to look at simple preventative measures to ensure these risks never befall your organization.

Limitation of lateral data transfers

Employees not being educated on data sharing and security is one of the biggest reasons for internal data breaches. It’s a good idea to limit access to important data and information by restricting access privileges to only a small number of individuals. Also, you can decide to use network segmentation to cut unnecessary communication from your own network to others.

Keeping your machines and devices updated

Internal breaches might also occur when employees work with unguarded or unprotected machines. They might unknowingly download malware, which normally wouldn’t be a problem if machines were properly managed. Updating your operating systems, antivirus software, business software, and firewalls as often as possible will go a long way toward solidifying your defense systems.

Use monitoring and machine learning to sniff out abnormalities

It’s not all on your employees, however. Network administrators should employ monitoring software to prevent breaches by analyzing what is “normal” behavior and comparing that to what appears to be suspicious behavior. Cyber criminals often hide in networks to exploit them over a long period of time. Even if you miss them the first time, you should monitor suspicious activity so you can recognize impropriety and amend security policies before it goes any further.

Creating strong security passwords and credentials

No matter how often we say it, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to your passwords and login procedures. In addition to text-based credentials, you should require other methods whenever possible. Great for fortifying your network, fingerprints and smart cards, for example, are much harder for cyber criminals to fake. Regardless of which factors are used, they must be frequently updated to prevent breaches, accidental or otherwise.

Security Insurance

In the end, no system is perfect. Zero-day attacks exploit unknown gaps in security, and human error, accidental or otherwise, can never be totally prevented. And for this reason, small businesses need to start embracing cyber insurance policies. These policies help cover the damages that might occur even under a top-of-the-line security infrastructure. Considerations for selecting a policy include legal fees, first and third-party coverage, and coverage for reputation rehabilitation.

The field of cyber security is overwhelming -- even for seasoned IT professionals. But not for us. We spend our days researching and experimenting to craft the best security solutions on the market. If you're interested in one of our cutting-edge cyber-security plans, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
November 23rd, 2016

2016november23_hardware_aAfter the recent Dyn attack that took Netflix and other major websites down, business owners are vigilant about ensuring the security of their network and devices connected to the “Internet of Things” (IoT). A new scanner from Bullguard promises to warn owners of potential entry points for hackers. Keep reading to learn more about Bullguard's IoT Scanner and how it can help you keep your company data secure.

The Dangers of IoT

The "Internet of Things" is a relatively new phrase that basically refers to a network of connected devices. The network might include your computer and smartphone, but could also include apps that you have downloaded, your Fitbit, a remotely monitored home security system, routers, printers and any other wireless device that needs an internet connection. Although all these devices are but convenience items, they can also be potentially dangerous considering how much personal and business information is stored on your personal computer, which is connected to the same network.

How can I protect my IoT devices?

Every device that connects to the internet must connect through your network. If you are technologically challenged and have only a laptop in your office and a couple of desktop computers scattered throughout the building, chances are you don't worry too much about the security of your connection. It's easy to install a firewall and antivirus program that will keep your network connection secure. But internet security isn't that simple for the business owner anymore.

The internet security vendor Bullguard has released a new tool that business owners can use to locate any vulnerabilities that might be found on their network. The program uses on online directory to double-check whether your device uses an "open" or unsecure port to connect to your network. If it determines that your network or any of your devices are connected with an open line, it gives you the location of the detected vulnerability.

What can the IoT Scanner Do?

While the scanner only points to places of invulnerability and does not attempt to fix anything, it provides the information you need to take that next step. Many times the real danger of a smart device is that it connects to your network without your knowledge, allowing hackers an "open door" to wreak havoc. Knowing where the hackers might enter can keep you vigilant to fix that breach.

Scanners like this are exactly what we hope to accomplish with our blog. We want you to provide you with useful tools that help educate you about your network and your IT, while also showcasing what we can do for you as an outsourced IT consultant. Bullguard’s IoT scanner will help you get one step closer to enterprise-level security, but we’re the partner you need to cross the finish line. Get in touch with us to start making improvements today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware