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News and info on IT Services

We provide a range of Managed IT Services, Business IT Support, and IT Consulting that can help you keep costs down.

We know its hard to make sense of all the options available when it comes to IT. We can keep you posted on the latest trends and info with our IT Support Blog.


 

 

The Top 5 Cyber Security Tips To Protect Your Business

Posted by on 8:25 am in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

There’s no way to predict a cyberattack, whether it’s caused by a lack of security solutions or a careless employee opening some type of malicious attachment.

CyberSecurity Tips

In 2014, data breaches hit the headlines on a regular basis, and it’s only going to get worse in the years ahead! Think back: Target, Michaels, Neiman Marcus, and Home Depot – These are all HUGE corporations who’ve likely invested a lot more into cyber security than you.

Don’t Become the Next Victim of Cybercrime. Start Taking Cyber Security Seriously with These 5 Tips for Business!

Ready to start taking cyber security seriously? Here’s the top 5 tips to help you safeguard your technology:

  1. Train your employees

First and foremost, establish basic security policies and train your employees to protect sensitive business information and avoid cyber attacks. Make sure they understand how to use the Internet safely, which means:

  • Never opening attachments from suspicious emails
  • Using strong, different passwords for each account
  • Typing URLs into the search bar instead of clicking links

Also, make sure you’ve discussed the importance of cyber security and outlined penalties for breaking basic security policies.

  1. Install anti-virus software & firewalls

If you haven’t already done so, install anti-virus software and firewalls on every computer used within your workplace. Also, set the anti-virus software to automatically check for updates at a scheduled time and run scans for malware and viruses as often as possible.

  1. Keep all important data backed up

Cybercrime targets businesses of all types and sizes, and the truth is, you’re a target, whether you know it or not. Many types of malware, including ransomware, steal your data – making it inaccessible for employees. If you’ve backed your important data up, you’ll be prepared to recover any necessary files to keep working.

  1. Secure corporate AND employee-owned devices

All mobile devices, whether you’re corporate or employee-owed, must be secured with proper security measures in place, which includes the ability to keep personal and business data separate, and various other measures, such as encryption and remote wipe capabilities, in order to minimize risk if a device is lost or stolen.

  1. Limit and manage those who have admin privileges

If you’re giving admin privileges to those who don’t truly need them, stop and reconsider. Also, manage those who do need admin privileges – limit access to sensitive information and use strong passwords to avoid user accounts being compromised. It’s also a good idea to log all access activities and monitor on a regular basis, in order to detect any unauthorized access attempts.

Looking for more cyber security tips to keep your business safe? Call us today or drop us an email.

What Windows as a Service and a “Free Upgrade” Mean For Your Business

Posted by on 6:30 am in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

Corporate licensing for Windows has gotten increasingly tricky.

man hand with handcuffs

Microsoft doesn’t want the Windows market to be split into a variety of versions. At one time Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 were all being supported at once. This caused developers to choose between the best functionality and the most widely compatible version. And many users lost out on the latest features or security updates because they didn’t have the latest Windows.

Most non-corporate Windows users never buy a Windows license – they buy a PC, and the PC’s manufacturer has already paid for it. The majority of people won’t shell out more money when an upgrade is available; they only get the latest Windows when they actually buy a new PC. That leaves old versions of the software out there for years. But Windows 10 is changing that…

Last week Microsoft announced that current users of Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 will receive free upgrades to Windows 10. For now, it’s a limited offer that will last a year after release. Likewise, those new Windows 10 machines will receive upgrades for free for the entire lifetime of the device. Gone are the paid major version upgrades that Windows has offered in the past. New features and capabilities will no longer be held back until the next release of Windows, they’ll be downloadable as soon as they’re ready for the market. Microsoft is hoping that by offering this free upgrade and making it as easy as possible, they can post a stop to the fragmentation of the Windows world.

People will still be buying and building new PCs, and those PCs will still need Windows licenses. Those Windows licenses will, for the time being, still cost. What Microsoft is giving up is not Windows license revenue, but rather upgrade license revenue. But upgrades were never a major money-maker in the first place, so the impact won’t be huge.

One important Windows demographic will be greatly affected by the continuously-updated new Windows: businesses. For the mission critical systems that cannot be adjusted without extensive testing and approval, Microsoft is introducing Long Term Servicing branches. These branches will be the most stable Windows versions that Microsoft has ever release.

Windows’ support is currently split into two five year periods – a Mainstream period where both feature improvements and security fixes are made, and an Extended period where only security fixes are made. The LTS branches will receive only security and critical fixes over the entire ten year support duration. The branches will be created periodically, integrating all the feature updates that have been released in the meantime.

Microsoft argues that most systems don’t need this level of immutability, so for those systems there will be the Current Branch for Business. The CBB will keep pace of consumer Windows, receiving a frequent mix of security updates and brand new features. Administrators will have the power to hold back those feature updates to enable testing without interrupting the deployment of security fixes. Windows 10 systems will have the capability to switch between CBB and LTS.

The licensing complications for corporate users are a little vaster than those for personal users. Companies using regular Windows or Windows Pro will be eligible for the free upgrade. For them hardware will ship with an OEM license, and that will keep them up-to-date for as long as they have the hardware. Any organization with a current Software Assurance agreement will be eligible for the free upgrade – it’s a major advantage of having a current Software Assurance agreement. There are some footnotes, though: if the agreement expires on June 30 and Windows 10 is released on July 1st, there is no right to upgrade.

Clarification on any other situations is still forthcoming from Microsoft. Overall, the changes seem overwhelmingly positive for small businesses and personal users – Software Assurance customers won’t even notice a change. Still, some users will fall between the cracks, and the solutions for their issues remain unclear.

For more of the latest technology news contact us immediately by phone or email.

Working with Windows? Use these Helpful Tips to Make Work Faster and More Effective!

Posted by on 11:18 am in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

Technology is always changing, but one constant remains – it’s here to make your life easier.

Office Computer User

When you’re using Windows to do work or even for personal pastimes there are number of little tricks you can employ to make work easier, faster, and more effective. Next time you’re using Windows on your PC or laptop, try out these tips.

Launch Taskbar Programs with Your Keyboard

The taskbar is often used as a quick launch bar to easily get to the programs and applications we use every day. Now, there’s an even easier way to open them than a simple click – some quick keyboard combinations. Every program to the right of the Start button is assigned to its own numerical shortcut, starting with “1” and so on. Pressing the Windows key and the number of the program you want to open will launch it immediately.

Discover Hidden Right-Click Options

Using the Shift key when right-clicking reveals some hidden options you can use as shortcuts. For instance, the basic Send To tool that appears as a right-click option on a file or folder is handy, but if you hold down the Shift key as you right click, you’ll be given an expanded list of locations as part of the Send To menu.

Erase a Mistake

When you’re storing a ton of files and constantly shuffling through them, it can be easy to make a wrong move or drop. You may accidentally delete something or create unwanted copies in other locations. Luckily Windows has basically implemented a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card – pressing Ctrl + Z is a shortcut that undoes your last action.

Easy Multitasking

When you need to start multitasking this will come in handy. Windows 8 provides the ability to “Snap” multiple open apps side-by-side. Just click on an open window and drag it to either the left or right edge of your screen. It will automatically resize to fill that half of your desktop. If you prefer to use keyboard commands, Windows key + left arrow, Windows key + right arrow, and Windows key + up arrow will also snap the selected window.

A Powerful Search Tool

It’s most common to search Windows using the Start menu, but for better results try the search box that’s provided in the upper-right corner of Windows Explorer. The advanced search tools let you add filters such as date and file type. You can also make a shortcut to a custom search by dragging the magnifying-glass icon in the File Explorer location bar. Clicking on it will always give you the latest results.

Create Your Own Keyboard Shortcuts

There are a ton of shortcuts that are already part of your system, but with Windows you can also create your own to make work faster and easier for you. Right-click on a program icon and select Properties, then select the Shortcut tab, click “Shortcut key” and press the key you want to use to launch that program.

  • Use Your Taskbar to Search the Web

Want to add even more functionality to your taskbar? Right-click on it and select Properties and then open the Toolbars tab. A list of Windows’ available toolbars will appear and you simply check the boxes next to the ones you’d like to add. The Address option adds a URL bar to your taskbar which you can use to browse the web, and the Desktop option adds a drop-down menu that allows you to easily search files or folders or your PC.

For more useful tips and tricks like these and to learn how to get the most out of your technology, contact your Microsoft Office and Microsoft Windows experts today.

LinkedIn No Longer Supporting Old Version of Outlook: How Will This Affect You?

Posted by on 10:35 am in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

Outlook Social Media Connector

LinkedIn sent its users a brief message this week that stated the following:

As an active user of LinkedIn for Microsoft Outlook Social Connector, we wanted to make sure we let you know that on March 9, we will no longer support LinkedIn for Microsoft Outlook Social Connector in Outlook 2003, 2007, and 2010. This means that LinkedIn information about your email contacts will not be visible in those Outlook versions.

What’s This Mean for You?

Many businesses, for example, use Microsoft Office 2010 – that includes Outlook 2010. It’s common to use this connection to look at the LinkedIn status of contacts. When you select a contact that’s connected with LinkedIn, Outlook will show you that contact’s status.

It’s a valuable feature to know a co-worker or client’s LinkedIn status before e-mailing or calling them, so losing the connection between Outlook and LinkedIn can be difficult for some. Don’t worry yet, though, because there are easy ways to get around it and continue on work as usual.

A Simple Upgrade

If this affects you, it’s probably time to upgrade your Microsoft Office. If you’re running a small business you can upgrade to Microsoft Office 2013 for Home, which includes Outlook, for $99.99 a year for up to five computers. Some Microsoft Exchange providers will give you a license and software for Outlook 2013 as well.

With the newest Office or Outlook you can download a new connector at no additional cost so that you can continue staying connected with your clients and contacts through LinkedIn.

For more IT news and to ensure your system and applications are up to date, contact your IT service team on email or by the phone.

Data Breaches Increase at an Alarming Rate in January 2015

Posted by on 5:55 am in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

Has Your Business Been Compromised?

data breaches in january

Data breaches are increasing at higher rates than ever before. Not only are we being targeted more often, the number of records compromised in each breach is on the rise. When comparing year-to-year numbers, January reports show over a 20% increase in records compromised.

The number of data breaches in 2014 involving more than 100 million records increased by 100% when compared to 2013 statistics. The numbers are alarming, and the effects are being felt by small and large businesses around the world.

Recent research revealed over one billion data records were compromised in over 1,500 data breaches occurring in 2014. This is a 78% increase in compromised data records compared to 2013.

Identity thieves are the main culprit behind the attacks. The BLI states that 54% of all data breaches were identity theft related. Not only is identity theft responsible for over 50% of all breaches, it accounts for one third of the breaches ranked as Severe or Catastrophic in the BLI.

Even more alarming, over two-thirds of the 50 highest ranked breaches occurred in 2014.

Retail and financial services continue to be the prime targets for identity thieves and hackers. Over 55% of data records compromised in 2014 were in the retail sector, and the average amount of records compromised in data breaches within the financial sector increased tenfold.

So how do you ensure YOUR business isn’t the victim of a terrible data breach?

Turn to us for a complete IT security solution you can depend on to protect your valuable data:

  • Managed firewalls to prevent dangerous unauthorized access to your network
  • Anti-malware protection to lock out viruses that leak data or hold your records hostage
  • Continuous backups for all your data – keeping files recoverable when disaster strikes.

Stay tuned to our blog for the latest security news and trends!

Call us today or send us an email and book a time to speak with us about how to protect YOUR IT network from data breaches.

Is This Good or Bad? Net Neutrality Protected in FCC Vote!

Posted by on 6:11 pm in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

What Does This Mean for YOUR Business?

GettyImages_178711967

It’s a topic that’s sparked debate and launched protests, and today a decision has finally been reached. With a 3-2 vote, the Federal Communications Commission approved a policy known as net neutrality. Chances are, you’ve heard of it, but do you know what it means?

Closer Regulation of Service Providers

In today’s vote, the FCC changed the way it classifies wireless and fixed-line broadband service providers. They’re now known as “Title II” common carries under the nation’s telecommunications laws. That designates that the FCC can set rates, open access to competitors, and more closely regulate the broadband industry. Until today, the FCC had no laws to enforce net neutrality rules on wireless broadband services, and their regulation of fixed providers was minimal. For net neutrality advocates, the vote today was a major win, but not all internet service providers are happy.

The New Terms

Title II gives the FCC the ability to dictate rates in the cable industry and to regulate the back-end of the internet where some ISPs have begun charging content providers (like Netflix) fees to host their content in independent data centers – something which is essential to their objective of seamless movie-streaming.

The FCC has stated clearly that they don’t intend to regulate rates, but they do plan to ensure that nobody’s internet traffic will ever be blocked or unfairly prioritized by service providers. A year ago, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said they would find a way to enforce net neutrality without the Title II designation, but in November of last year, President Barack Obama voiced his support of the classification, and since then, it’s basically been a foregone conclusion.

“The internet is the most powerful and pervasive platform on the planet,” Wheeler said. “It’s simply too important to be left without rules and without a referee on the field.” The order, called Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet, will take effect 60 days after it’s published in the Federal Register, which may still take a few weeks.

For more information on what this new law means for your business, contact us immediately.

Facebook at Risk! Over 110,000 Users Targeted by New Trojan

Posted by on 11:10 am in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

Facebook ThreatAt least 110,000 Facebook users were infected in just two days last week by Cybercriminals using Trojan malware. This puts Facebook at the forefront of this week’s IT security headlines, along with Akamai Technologies, UMass Memorial Medical Group and Kaspersky Lab.

Facebook Users at Risk

The new malware affecting Facebook users has the ability to manipulate keystrokes and mouse controls, and was first reported last Thursday. Security researcher Mohammad Reza Faghani stated that this Trojan is different from most bugs that have been used on social networks in the past. The Trojan is able to get more visibility to the victims when it tags friends in a malicious post – this allows the tagged post to be seen on victim’s friends’ walls as well, leading to a large number of potential targets.

Facebook said that week that it had identified the malware and is currently trying to stop its spread. A spokesperson told Threatpost:

“We use a number of automated systems to identify potentially harmful links and stop them from spreading. In this case, we’re aware of these malware varieties, which are typically hosted as browser extensions and distributed using links on social media sites. We are blocking links to these scams, offering cleanup options and pursuing additional measures to ensure that people continue to have a safe experience on Facebook.”

More IT Headlines 

  • UMass Memorial Medical Group was recently breached. They told law enforcement that a former employee allegedly gained access to thousands of patient billing records containing credit card and debit information, social security numbers and medical records. About 14,000 patients could be affected.

For more on the latest IT news and how to keep your business safe, contact us today.

Kiss Weak Passwords GoodBye In 12 Months

Posted by on 10:18 am in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

Weak PasswordsEnsuring the protection of your accounts and data is an ongoing struggle. Passwords at times seem inefficient, especially when a few letters are all that’s keeping your sensitive information protected. Good news – biometric markers such as fingerprint authentication could replace passwords in as little as 12 months.

In fact, you may already be using biometric access as services such as Apple Pay require users to scan their fingerprints to carry out a transaction. Recently the senior vice president of risk products and business intelligence at Visa, Mark Nelsen, pointed out Braintree as a leader of this type of technology. Based out of Chicago, Braintree is a payment processor and software developer that was purchased by PayPal in 2013. They design applications with unique authentication capabilities and then license them out to other companies who wish to employ them.

Advancements such as using voice authentication or fingerprints to access data would be a huge step above the typical letter-and-number combination passcodes. Not only would it keep personal devices safer, but company’s trying to protect their data will see the benefits of greater restriction.

It can be hard to get businesses to adapt to new technology and learn to trust it, but once it become more pervasive and with proper education available, it will be clear that biometric markers are the superior way to restrict access. While it can be expensive for small business to implement at first, software companies will likely provide more affordable applications with comparable capabilities.

The process has been a long time coming and naturally will still take some time to roll out – many companies are likely to continue offering traditional password authentication in addition to biometric options, giving customers a choice. For now, other options such as tokenization, a process where real data is swapped with placeholder values and the information which can reveal the changes is stored separately, are also helping to improve security. Even if a hacker manages to get a hold of encrypted or tokenized data, it would be totally useless.

Keeping your company’s private data safe is about to get much easier. To learn more information about network security, contact us by phone or email.

End of Support for Windows 7

Posted by on 10:48 am in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

Windows 7 UpgradeWhat does this mean for you, and why you should upgrade.

On January 13, 2015, Microsoft announced they are stopping mainstream support for Windows 7. Windows 7 is a popular operating system. This creates concern for many.

So what now?

Stopping mainstream support doesn’t mean the end of Windows 7. It means no more:

  • Service packs
  • Redesigns
  • Additional features

But most importantly—No more fixes for non-security related issues!

Microsoft will stop fixing security problems in January 2020.

Should you upgrade?

It’s beneficial to do so if you want to continue receiving mainstream support and up-to-date service.

Does this mean you have to upgrade? No.

Do we recommend it?

Of course. Upgrading your system will improve the security of your I.T.

What are your opinions on the matter? Will you upgrade or stick with Windows 7?

10 Vital Questions to Ask an IT Consulting Company BEFORE Signing a Service Contract!

Posted by on 12:35 pm in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

Service Level AgreementWhile there’s a lot of great IT consulting companies out there, there’s a lot of not-so-great ones as well. You’ve probably noticed a common pattern: they make all sorts of promises, then when it comes time to deliver, they’re nowhere to be found, or worse, they’ll take twice as long as needed to resolve issues to leave you with shockingly high bills. So how do you find the right IT consulting company?

Here’s 10 vital questions to ask an IT consulting company BEFORE signing a service contract:

  1. What certifications and/or technical specialties do you have?

You depend on your information technology to get work done, so it’s important to work with a qualified IT consulting company that truly knows what needs to be done to improve the way you’re using information technology. Make sure you’ve asked about certifications and/or technical specialties.

  1. Have you worked with other businesses in my industry?

Every business has unique IT needs, especially if they’re operating in an industry with specific compliance requirements. If you’re subject to industry-specific regulations, make sure the IT consulting company is familiar with those regulations – and able to help you do whatever needs to be done to stay compliant.

  1. What type of IT service & support offerings do you have?

While most IT consulting companies offer similar, if not the same, IT services and support; it all comes down to how they’re offered: does the IT consulting company offer managed services, as well as hourly rates? This gives you the option to get the right IT services and support for your unique needs.

  1. How long have you been working in the IT industry?

There’s some great IT consulting companies who’ve only been in the industry for a short time, however, it’s always nice to know your IT consulting company has a few years of experience – this shows they’ve built up experience, knowledge, and skill-sets; and they’ll be able to handle your information technology with ease.

  1. Will you help me ensure business continuity?

If an IT consulting company hasn’t talked to you about business continuity, they’re probably not the right company for you. The truth is, you simply can’t afford a few hours, or even days, of downtime. Make sure the IT consulting company talks about ensuring business continuity through a comprehensive data backup/disaster recovery solution.

  1. When would I be able to contact you for support?

Imagine going into the office after the weekend and finding a server has crashed or a computer has malfunctioned! Would you be able to contact the IT consulting company in the event of major downtime? Make sure they offer a good response time that lets you feel comfortable knowing they’re available during emergencies.

  1. How do you stay ahead of evolving technology advancements and challenges?

As you’ve probably noticed, technology evolves fast – new advancements come out quite often, and as a result, new challenges appear on a regular basis. If an IT consulting company doesn’t have an answer to this, they’re probably not the right IT consulting company for you.

  1. Can I speak with some of your existing clients or see case studies/testimonials?

In general, word-of-mouth is a fairly reliable way to find out if you’re choosing a good IT consulting company. Ask if they’re willing to let you speak with some of their existing clients or check their website for case studies and testimonials. This gives you a good idea of what to expect working with them.

  1. Will you proactively try to prevent problems instead of simply reacting to them?

Any IT consulting company can come onsite or log in remotely to deal with problems as they occur, but you’re the one who’s impacted by those problems; so why have them in the first place? Make sure they’re proactive with regular maintenance, 24/7 monitoring, and patch management to prevent problems before they occur.

  1. How do you plan to protect my IT systems and data?

As cybercrime continues to become more sophisticated than ever before, businesses are starting to worry about cybersecurity; and they should! Ask what the IT consulting company plans to do to protect your IT systems and data, and if you’re not comfortable with the answer, don’t sign a service contract!

We can answer all of these questions, and anything else you’d like to know. We guarantee you’ll be happy with our answers! Find out for yourself – call us or send us an email.