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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.


 

 

Microsoft Updates Must be Applied to Kill the Security Bug!

Posted by on 10:19 am in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

Windows SecurityBy now, you’ve probably heard of the recent security breach in Windows operating systems. Don’t panic! There is a way out!

Background

Microsoft updates their operating systems on a weekly basis. During last week’s updates, a security flaw was noticed that could compromise your system. Microsoft has taken every step to make sure that this bug is fixed. To explain this security threat, it allows hackers in through a backdoor and into your computer/servers. The systems that remain vulnerable are the following:

  • Windows Server 2003
  • Windows Server 2008
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8 and 8.1 (RT included)

What Should You Do?

This is a very simple fix. Microsoft has released an update to further prevent this from happening. You can easily access it by completing your Windows Updates, which is accessible through your control panel. If you cannot find your updates, or have many to do before getting to the latest update, you can access the security advisory download page, here. Once on the page; find your operating system; follow the link and the instructions. If you do not know your operating system, please complete all required and optional updates or contact our team of IT experts immediately, just to be safe.

Ways to Prevent Future Issues

Microsoft has many settings that seem to impede your business style, but they are actually better to have turned on. Some operating systems are no long supported and have no resolution to this security vulnerability. Here is a list, in which you can do, to prevent security issues from happening:

  1. Upgrade older operating systems – look into a new Windows 8.1 or Mac OS computer
  2. Turn on automatic updates – set updates to daily and a time where you are not at your computer
  3. Internet security software – be protected from other threats and security measures
  4. Contact us about network monitoring – we’ll monitor your network 24/7 to watch for security threats.

What are you waiting for? If you haven’t done your updates, it’s time to start. Security issues are a major problem in the computing world. Protect your information and important documents from being stolen or deleted. Give us a call or email us. Let us be your guide to proper security.

 

What’s New at Microsoft? Here’s the Latest Updates to Your Favorite Programs & Services!

Posted by on 7:35 am in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

Microsoft UpdatesMicrosoft is constantly rolling out updates and innovative new features for its programs and services. For most busy business professionals, it’s hard to keep track of the latest changes; so let’s go over some of the major updates and features that have been released over the past couple months:

Windows 8.1:

August 12th: Microsoft released an update to its Windows 8 operating system. Don’t get too excited, as the update was a minor one, mostly just an array of patches to fix some bugs that could have been exploited by hackers. One thing that’s also changed: the touchpad remains active when connecting a mouse, so you won’t lose those precious few seconds that previously frustrated Windows users worldwide.

Office 2013 SP1:

November 6th: Preview versions of mobile Office apps, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, were released for Android tablets running the KitKat operating system. Apple iOS users already had access to these preview programs. Microsoft plans to release the full version of these programs in early 2015.

Lync Server 2014:

November 11th: Microsoft announced that the latest version of its real-time communications server software will be rebranded as “Skype for Business”. The name chance will take place something during the first half of 2015.

Dynamics CRM ‘Leo’:

November 13th: Starting in the first quarter of 2015, CRM will be available from Japanese datacenters.

November 5th: Microsoft announced new pricing for CRM 2015, a tool used by businesses to better understand their customers and boost sales productivity. It now costs $65 per month per user (compared to the $125 per month per user that Salesforce.com, a similar service, charges). Existing Office 365 users only have to pay $45 per month for CRM 2015.

ATTENTION: Microsoft Office Suite Users: You Can Access Your Favorite Programs for FREE!

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

Microsoft Office tabletStarting in 2015 on Android, iPhone, iPad and Other Mobile Devices!

In the past, you would have paid hundreds of dollars to get Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on your computer. More recently, cloud technology has allowed Microsoft to switch to a more affordable model for customers, allowing them to rent those programs and pay by the month.

On Thursday, November 6th, Microsoft announced that now these programs are more affordable than ever: they’re free. That is, they’re free if you’re using the mobile version on your Android, iPhone, or iPad. Another caveat: this free software is only available to the mobile devices of private persons. Businesses will still have to pay for Office 365, even on their smartphones and other mobile devices.

Remember, this is a marketing strategy, not charity. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is making sure the software juggernaut maintains its position as the world leader in document-editing programs. Many free programs, such as Kingsoft Office Free and Apache OpenOffice, have sprung up over the years to offer a less capable but also less expensive; free actually, alternatives to Microsoft Office.

Microsoft is using this “freemium” strategy to show how much better Microsoft’s products are than those free alternatives, hoping users will be hooked enough to purchase the full versions for their desktops and laptops.

There is quite a difference between when these free programs were announced and when they will actually be available. Microsoft says they’ll be ready in early 2015. It will take months to sort everything out because smartphones run on a variety of operating systems, and it takes time to make sure these programs work on each one. In the meantime, Microsoft has released a test version of the free Microsoft suite for Android tablets while the full version for both Apple and Microsoft products continues to be developed.

Ready to hear more about the latest news on Microsoft? Contact us by phone or send us an email. We will be sure to keep you posted!

5 Important Security Steps To Make Your Web Browser More Secure

Posted by on 1:55 pm in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

Web SurfingSometimes surfing the web is more like clinging to a piece of driftwood over shark-infested waters than it is relaxing on a boogie board off some warm island paradise. Every single day 20,000 to 30,000 new malicious URLs pop up, and some of those are taking over sites that were once safe. Here are 5 ways you can make your browser more secure and protect yourself from viruses and identity theft. 

Watch Where You Step

Blanket statements like “New York City is dangerous” are too general to be true. Sure, parts of New York City are dangerous, but that doesn’t apply to the whole city. You’ll be fine in the trendy, touristy areas that make up most of Manhattan; you would be less fine in a Staten Island alleyway.

The dangers of the internet are also relative. You can trust sites like Google and Netflix to not infect your computer with a virus, but not every site is as reputable as Google or Netflix. Be careful when you venture out to the more obscure corners of the internet.

Block 3rd-party Cookies (When You Can)

Adjust the default settings of your browser and start blocking 3rd-party cookies. Websites can and often do install cookies that track your behavior without your permission. These cookies are usually harmless, just used by advertisers to target prospective customers. But sometimes cybercriminals are able to access these cookies and glean bits of your personal information from them, so it’s best to block 3rd-party cookies when you can.

We say “when you can” because many sites require cookies to be allowed for the site to function. Figure out which of the websites you visit frequently require cookies and customize your browser privacy settings to allow cookies on those sites and not others.

Install a Pop-Up Blocker

Pop-up blockers, like AdBlock, are all-important in securing your browser. This is because pop-ups are not just annoying: they can either contain malware themselves, or they trick you into clicking a link that leads you to malware. In addition to protecting you from malicious pop-ups, AdBlock also removes on-page ads, which makes content much easier to read.

Always Install the Latest Updates to Your Browser 

Microsoft, Google, Mozilla, and all the other browser-makers of the world are constantly finding and fixing bugs in their product. Often these bugs are security flaws that cybercriminals exploit. The most updated version of a browser is the most secure version of a browser.

Install Security Plug-Ins such as HTTPS Everywhere and Web of Trust

For the absolute best protection, you have to go beyond the privacy settings that come with your browser. There are add-ons and plug-ins out there that make surfing the web much safer.

HTTPS Everywhere is one such plug-in. A product of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, this extension forces major websites to use HTTPS protocol when communicating with your computer rather than the more-common HTTP protocol. HTTPS is more thoroughly encrypted and this more safe to use than HTTP (the added “S” on the end stands for “Secure”)

Web of Trust is another helpful plug-in, one that helps you decide if you should trust a website or not. You read the Amazon reviews of a product before you but it, right? Web of Trust uses a similar crowdsourcing approach to rating websites. User experiences are compiled for each website and a small traffic light-inspired graphic next to URLs that visualizes the general consensus: green is good, yellow is questionable, and red is bad.

Just like how a two-star review average of a too-good-to-be-true product on Amazon will help you resist a tempting deal and avoid a bad product, the ratings provided by Web of Trust will help you navigate the web in a more informed and intelligent manner.

What Day is the Best to Buy Airline Tickets? The Answer May Surprise You.

Posted by on 11:00 am in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

Booking Airplane TicketsWhether you’re going away for the holidays, summer vacation, spring break, or a business trip, it’s never too early to start planning your next trip, which includes planning when to purchase airline tickets. Similar to anyone who travels quite a bit, you’re already aware that the prices on some tickets might make you want to stay home; however, there’s ways around the expensive cost of airline tickets!

It’s common knowledge that there are certain days of the week , due to the rhythms in the airline industry, that are more ideal for buying tickets. While many believe Tuesday is the best time to catch that wave and buy your tickets, a recent study by the Wall Street Journal reports that the industry has changed; and as of lately, Sunday is the best time to buy airline tickets. Ticket prices are on average $60 less than what they would be on another day of the week!

So what days of the week are the worst days to buy tickets? It’s been found that tickets reach their highest prices on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. Here’s something else to help you get the best price: buy your tickets early!

For the best chance at the lowest fare, book your travel 45 days prior for domestic flights and 60 days prior for international. Outside of those windows the airline computers are not programmed for accommodating any kind of deal. Booking too far in advance leads to almost always paying a higher rate and prevents you from having the flexibility to take advantage of lower rates as they come up.

Of course, there’s exceptions to the rule: the airline might have a big sale on flights when demand is down and it’s close to the day you’re leaving, but play it safe and remember, until the industry shifts again, Sunday is the best time to buy your airline tickets.

 

How Will Your Business React When the Unthinkable Happens?

Posted by on 12:56 pm in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

Business Continuity PlanningBusiness continuity is a part of risk assessment that every enterprise should consider. It is about understanding what risks your business faces and developing strategies to ensure that operations continue to function after and during a disruption.

A business continuity plan enhances your ability to analyze what operations, products and services are core to your business and what vulnerabilities those aspects may have. Understanding these specific risks inform the vulnerabilities your business has as a whole. From understanding your entire risk profile you can develop comprehensive strategies to ensure that your business can continue operations and recover quickly from any sort of disruption.

This component of risk assessment not only provides strategies for dealing with crisis, but it also provides financial stability and a safer workplace.

Business insurance does not cover every risk your business potentially faces. Regardless of what financial assistance an insurance policy provides in the event of a catastrophe your business remains non-functional. In the time it takes to get back on your feet you will have lost valuable time and resources, and it is likely that your customer base will hemorrhage as a result.

A business continuity plan serves to keep the enterprise functioning and provides a clear way to resume normal operations after a disruption. By keeping the wheels moving you ensure that it will take less time and fewer resources to resume normal operations and that your customer base will stay with you as you recover.

A business continuity plan provides you with the ability to:

  • Stay competitive. If your doors close the competition keeps operating. A business continuity plan can mitigate the damage your operations sustain from a disturbance and provide you with the means to keep moving.
  • Reduce the financial losses that may incur from a disturbance.
  • Identify vulnerabilities both to specific core elements of your enterprise and the enterprise as a whole.
  • Demonstrate your business’ resilience and reliability. This can be a valuable tool in negotiating with investors, creditors, insurers and banks. Anyone who has a vested interest in the continued success of your operations will be assured by a comprehensive business continuity plan.
  • Ensure the safety of customers and staff.

Data is often one of your most valuable resources. Ranging from the information your employees use to do their jobs to sensitive customer information the financial shadow of the data your organization possesses is disproportionately huge. There are enormous financial penalties for losing sensitive customer data especially if you’re in the health care industry. The Ponemon Institute reports that the average cost of data center downtime across industries is roughly $7,900 per minute. This cost considers lost revenue, productivity losses, and the cost associated with recovery. This figure steadily rises every time the Ponemon Institute files a new report on the subject.

It is important that as you consider your business continuity plan as a whole you pay special attention to your organizations data protection. The first aspect of that is considering your cybersecurity profile and what you are actively doing to prevent a cyberattack. Cybercrime is on the rise, and the criminals are not targeting your grandmother’s pocket book. The criminal element of the internet is deliberately targeting small to medium sized businesses who don’t take their data protection seriously, especially ones who do business with large corporations or handle sensitive data.

In the event of a cybersecurity incident you need to have a data protection plan that is capable of keeping your critical information assets secure. Data protection starts with backing up hard drives and keeping your networks away from the dark corners of the internet. Data protection reaches maturity when you have the tools and ability to implement a disaster recovery plan for your data. It should be asynchronous, geographically diverse, with strong redundancy and a straightforward process of restoration. A disaster recovery plan for data should be a central piece to your business continuity plan as a whole.

Five Steps to Developing a Business Continuity Plan

Analyze Your Business: Consider and document all elements that make your business function. What is the overall objective of the business as a whole? What products and services do you provide? How do you execute providing those products and services, and how to you achieve your overall objective? What is the minimum amount of resources required for your operations to function at a basic level?

Inventory all the people involved in the operation of your business. Consider employees, partners, suppliers and any other person who is integral to your enterprise functioning. If you have customers on premises, consider the average and maximum number of customers who are present at any given time. While the overall goal is to protect your business and provide comprehensive recourse in the event of a disaster, the first priority should be the safety of the people involved.

Assess Vulnerabilities: Providing you have considered all the elements of the operation of your enterprise, consider what potential hazards and risks those elements are vulnerable to. Rank these vulnerabilities based on likeliness to occur and the impact severity should they occur. Consider primarily vulnerabilities related to the minimum amount of resources required to function and safety hazards to your people.

Vulnerabilities are broken into five key categories that address each element of a business.

  • Personnel. Likely risks to personnel include the physical security of your locations, potential issues with the spread of disease, loss of staff and labor action.
  • Infrastructure. Anything that could threaten the physical assets of your organization ranging from fire and hazardous materials to a loss of utilities such as power should be carefully analyzed.
  • Security. This is less about physical security, though that is an element, and more about asset security. Where are your risks for theft, fraud, vandalism or even sabotage? What kind of security profile do you have for cyber threats?
  • Operational. These are risks to the nuts and bolts of how your business functions. Are there vulnerabilities to your supply chain or transportation? Have you considered how you would react should something occur with your information technology or telecommunications? This category, more so than any other, is likely to have a single critical gap that presents a huge risk should something go awry.
  • Severe Weather. This may not be relevant to all organizations but can be extremely important based on your locality. Understanding what weather patterns can present a threat to your organization can be critical to developing a comprehensive continuity plan.

Develop Strategies: Now that you have a solid overview of the elements of your operation and what vulnerabilities they incur, consider your options for remediation in the event that any one (or multiple) of those vulnerabilities comes to fruition.

  • Personnel. Consider cross-training your employees in core areas so they can easily switch tasks. Have a clear hierarchy and succession plan in the event that there are breaks in the chain of command. Appraise your staff on vulnerabilities and establish guidelines in the event of a disaster. Discuss with your employees how communication and work duties will continue in the event of a disruption.
  • Infrastructure. Maintain an inventory of necessary resources off-site. Establish alternative work locations, or implement a contingency work-from-home protocol. Understand and adhere to all safety protocols in relation to fire or hazardous materials. Install uninterruptible power supplies on core components. Invest in a generator.
  • Security. Develop a healthy cybersecurity profile. Engage your employees in awareness trainings to keep them alert on threats they may inadvertently bring into the work environment. Keep valuable or sensitive assets under appropriate security measures.
  • Operational. Keep old equipment in functional condition as a backup. Identify alternative means to acquire the resources your business needs to function. Establish secondary methods of telecommunications.
  • Know your local weather, and take reasonable precautions appropriate to the risk that potential weather presents.

Construct a Plan: With comprehensive plan to address each specific vulnerability it is time to appraise the business continuity plan as a whole. This involves documenting preferred strategies and step-by-step instructions for all persons involved. This should heavily consider human safety and core operational priorities.

Exercise the Plan: It is critical to exercise the various elements of your plan regularly. Involve your staff in these exercises so that they understand their expected role in the event of an emergency. From these exercises take the opportunity to troubleshoot your plan to identify any potential pitfalls that could present an issue.

To learn more about business continuity and risk assessment, contact us by phone or by email.

Are You Prepared for Daylight Savings Time?

Posted by on 8:22 am in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

Daylight Savings TimeDaylight Savings Time will end this year on Sunday, November 2, 2014. Aside from the extra hour of sleep and the morning commute in darkness little will change for the business world. Almost all technological devices – from the smartphone whose alarm you depend on to your workstation computer, should automatically update its internal clock to account for the change.

However, there are a few noteworthy exceptions to this rule that all your tech will automatically update.

  1. Most devices without an internet connection will require a manual update. This includes your microwave, stove, and any analog clocks.
  2. Windows computers require Windows Update to be enabled in order to automatically adjust their clock. Some users have turned off the Windows Update function for security reasons or have had them turned off by an administrator. Be aware that these computers may require a manual update from Daylight Savings Time.
  3. Some old iPhones and iPads likewise will need Location Services enabled to automatically update. These settings are often disabled to improve battery life. However if you’re running iOS 5 or later (iOS 8.1 is the most current version) then your iDevice will be able to update itself independent of Location Services.
  4. Some Linux servers require a manual update.

Almost every other internet enabled device should automatically update to account for Daylight Savings Time.

Have questions about how your technology will update for Daylight Savings Time? Drop us an email or give us a phone call.

 

Urgent Notice – Must Read Virus Warning: Cryptowall is on the Rise

Posted by on 6:53 am in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

CryptowallYour Anti-Virus Software & Firewalls WON’T Protect Your Machines Against this Dangerous Type of Ransomware!

Ransomware has quickly become a huge threat to businesses of all types and sizes. Not sure what ransomware is all about? Allow us to explain: ransomware is a form of malware that infects machines, then encrypts all of the files on the machine; and unless the victim pays a hefty ransom fee, the files remain encrypted, and as a result, unusable and inaccessible forever.

Warning: Cryptowall 2.0 is Striking Businesses Left and Right – Don’t Become the Next Victim!

Cryptowall 2.0, a very dangerous and worrisome ransomware, has been striking businesses left and right. In fact, a law firm in Fort Lauderdale, FL was recently infected and left down for weeks before they were able to remove the virus from their system.

So how does the ransomware infect machines? Well, cybercriminals send an email that contains a zip or PDF file, which is disguised as an invoice, purchase order, bill, complaint, or other business issue. Once the victim double-clicks on the fake zip or PDF file, the ransomware is downloaded and installed on the machine.

After the ransomware is installed, it scans the machine for data and encrypts the data using RSA encryption; then a notepad window opens to display instructions on how to pay the ransom fee and access the decryption service. Unfortunately, the ransom fee starts at $500 USD, and after 7 days, the ransom fee goes up to $1,000 USD.

What Can YOU Do to Protect Yourself? Follow This Simple Rule: NEVER Open Attachments from an Unknown or Unverified Sender!

What can you do to protect yourself? That’s simple: do not open any zip or PDF files without verifying the sender. If you do receive a suspicious message, simply call the sender and verify prior to opening the attachment. Keep in mind, the ransomware is designed to bypass firewalls, anti-virus software, and anti-malware software.

In addition, there’s no known way to block the ransomware. Ultimately, it all comes down to data backup – make sure your data is backed up and recoverable, in order to guarantee accessibility in the event of an infection. Otherwise, you’re left paying a hefty ransom fee and losing valuable time; as the recovery steps are extremely time-consuming.

To learn more about this dangerous type of ransomware, or to discuss data backup options to keep you prepared, give us a call or send us an email. We are the preferred IT support company for businesses.

Ready to Expand Your Business?

Posted by on 6:35 am in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

business telephonesTake the Opportunity to Upgrade Outdated Phone Systems & Antiquated Technologies for Improved Efficiency at the New Office!

When you’re relocating to a new office, it’s always a time-consuming and stressful experience. Whether you’re a large enterprise or small to mid-size business, it’s all about the time and detail that’s put into planning. Fortunately, office relocation opens the doors to new opportunities, such as upgrading outdated phone systems and antiquated technologies!

Your team of business IT experts are here to help you simplify the process of moving & make the most of your relocation! To learn more, or to schedule a no-obligation relocation assessment, give us a call or send us an email.

As your planning to relocate your office, you’re probably starting to feel a bit nervous about disruption and downtime. Fortunately, there’s no need to worry! Our team of IT experts has a few simple tips to help you ensure a smooth process:

  1. Start planning 6 months ahead of time: Break the relocation process down into phases and place them on a detailed timeline 6 months ahead of time.
  2. Develop comprehensive checklists: Once you’ve identified phases, develop comprehensive checklists showing what should be tracked and confirmed.
  3. Have a game plan ready 90 days prior to the move: 90 days prior to the move, make sure you’ve completed every task necessary from the checklists.
  4. Contact our team of IT experts: Your information systems must be up and running to keeping processes smooth as soon as you’re relocated in the new office.

When you’re following these tips, you’re able to go through the relocation process with minimal stress and hassle. Plus, once you’ve contacted our team of Information Systems experts prior to moving, we can help you take advantage of the opportunity to upgrade your outdated phone systems and antiquated technologies for improved efficiency at the new office! Essentially, our team of IT experts will help you:

  • Determine technology requirements for the new office: We’ll assess what type of technical and connectivity requirements are involved with the new office space, including physical space needs for technology resources.
  • Assess existing technology solutions in place: We’ll assess existing technology solutions in place, then assess future growth plans and goals, in order to identify what technologies are outdated and should be replaced to improve efficiency.
  • Make sure there’s an Internet connection: We’ll work with your existing Internet service provider to move your circuit and/or provide various options for a new voice/Internet carrier to ensure a reliable and quick connection.
  • Create a strategic IT plan: We’ll create a strategic IT plan outlining what solutions and/or equipment will be upgraded or replaced to ensure you’re making the most of your office relocation while meeting the goals and future growth plans we’ve discussed.

Ready to start planning for an upcoming office relocation? Give us a call or send us an email. 

Important Warning: Shellshock Strikes Yahoo Servers – Potentially Putting 800 Million Users’ Data at Risk!

Posted by on 8:46 pm in IT Support Blog | Comments Off

Yahoo ShellshockIn the past few weeks, you’ve probably heard some pretty scary news about Shellshock, the vulnerability that impacts “bash” software. According to some security researchers, Shellshock could potentially be more dangerous than Heartbleed, the open/SSL bug that posed a huge threat to businesses a few months ago!

So how does the vulnerability work? That’s simple: the vulnerability allows hackers to infect their own malicious code into bash. Once the hacker injects malicious code, they’re able to:

  • Access and steal sensitive information.
  • Install malware onto users computers.
  • Control the servers remotely.

According to Jonathan Hall, Cyber Security Researcher, Yahoo is one of the first major companies to experience an attack via the vulnerability since the security bug’s disclosure on September 24th, 2014.

Do You Spend Time on Yahoo Games? Keep An Eye Out for Signs of Data Theft or Malware Infections – The Yahoo Games Servers Were Hacked!

On Hall’s website, he claims Romanian hackers have managed to use the Shellshock bug to infiltrate Yahoo servers! He says three servers have been breached, including Yahoo Games, one of the largest free online game collections available on the Internet.

So what does this mean for everyone who visits Yahoo Games on a daily basis? Well, if you’re playing games on the website, hackers could’ve easily installed malware on your computer, or worse, stolen your private information.

When Hall notified Yahoo, Elisa Shyu, a spokeswoman, responded, “As soon as we became aware of the issue, we began patching our systems and have been closely monitoring our network. We isolated a handful of our impacted servers, and at this time, we have no evidence of a compromise to user data.”

While Shyu’s comment is reassuring, it’s always better safe than sorry! We recommend following a few simple tips to mitigate the risks of an attack:

  1. Install and run anti-virus software: If you’re not running anti-virus software on a regular basis, it’s a good time to start. Install and run anti-virus software and make sure it’s always up-to-date.
  2. Change your passwords: Make sure you’ve changed all of your account passwords. Also keep in mind; your passwords should be a combination of letters, symbols, and numbers.
  3. Install a reliable firewall: A reliable firewall should be installed and configured properly to protect against malicious and dangerous incoming traffic.

Feeling concerned about the attack? To learn more, give us a call or send us an email. We are happy to help you stay up to date on the latest security threats!