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September 29th, 2014

Technology is an important part of almost every role in every business. We have come to rely so heavily on it, that when we do have a problem with a device or system our productivity can easily grind to an almighty halt. While many of us know our systems will eventually breakdown, do you know what to in this situation? Are you prepared?

What to do when your systems stop working

Often, our first reaction when our technology or systems stop working is to either panic, or get angry. Once we are over this, we often feel desperate to get the problem fixed but may be at a loss as to what to do.

  • In the words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t Panic!” - One of the more popular quotes from the immensely successful Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is “don’t panic”. This rings true for the vast majority of tech problems. While you may feel like you are facing a big issue at the time, most systems can be fully recovered. This is especially true if you have backup solutions in place.
  • Note what you were doing before the problem occurred - This is an important step, as when something does go wrong, one of the first things tech support will ask you is what you were doing before the problem occurred. The more information that you can give them, the more likely they will be able to solve the problem faster.
  • Ask your colleagues if they are having the same problems - Because so many business systems are networked together, many techs will want to see if problems are localized to your computer or are network wide. Armed with this information, it is far easier to work out the most effective solution.
  • Try turning it off and on again - When faced with many tech problems, you will be asked to turn the system – be it your computer, an app, server, etc. – off and on again. Sometimes the fault lies in the software or short-term memory (RAM) of systems, and turning the system off and on again is enough to fix this.
  • Google it - If an issue persists and it is related to the software on your computer, or a website, try searching the Internet for an answer. If the page doesn’t load, you then know the problem is related to the Internet connection. Should the problem be with a cloud service, checking the provider’s website or social media feeds is useful to check for post status updates of their systems.
  • Don’t rush into a supposed fix - It can be tempting to try out the first supposed fix you come across or someone suggests. The problem is, some ‘fixes’ can actually end up harming a system even more. For example, you may find suggested fix for a phone that has been dropped into water that says to take the device apart and dry it with a blow dryer. This will damage components, and also void your warranty, which could make the issue even more expensive to deal with. Instead, you should seek the advice of an expert like us.
  • Don’t overreact - Have you ever felt so frustrated you have wanted to reach out and smack your computer? While this may make you feel better on one level the reality is that you could make a bad situation worse. When faced with any tech troubles it is best to walk away for a short time so that you can deal with the situation in a calm and collected way.
  • Call your IT partner or IT helpdesk - If the system doesn’t work after restarting we strongly recommend stopping there and reaching out to your IT helpdesk or an IT partner like us. We have the experience to investigate the problem, and we can usually come up with an answer and hopefully a fix in a short amount of time.

Preventative steps you should take

While it is inevitable that systems will eventually breakdown, it doesn’t mean we are powerless to prevent this from happening, or at least minimizing the potential fallout. One of the easiest preventative measures you can take is to try and take care of your devices and systems. This includes being careful to not physically damage them, while also being sure to watch what you install on your systems, and implementing security standards.

We also strongly recommend working with an IT partner like us. We can help manage your systems and implement measures to keep them working long into the future. Beyond that, we can help monitor systems so that should something start to go wrong, we can begin to implement a fix even before you notice it. And, if something should break down, we can either fix it ourselves or recommend an expert who will be able to help.

Looking for help keeping your systems running and employees productive? Contact us today to learn more about our services and how they are designed to help.

June 17th, 2014

Looking at the majority of natural disasters that strike it appears that many happen in the months of June through August. Regardless of your business location, there is likely an increased chance that you could see a disaster in these months and it is therefore a good idea to prepare for one, even if you think it unlikely. While there are many things you can do to get ready in advance, mobile devices can play an important role, especially the use of apps.

Both Android and Apple mobile devices offer a wide variety of apps that users rely on daily. Because of this, these devices have become an integral part of our lives and would no doubt be on hand if disaster struck. The upside to this is that there are apps that can help you and your employees whatever the disaster. Here are four of the best types of disaster related apps you and your colleagues should download in order to prepare.

Weather apps

It is always a good idea to know what the weather forecast is for your local area. This can help you predict what could happen and even prepare your business should say a big storm be rolling in. There are a wide variety of weather apps out there and it can be difficult to actually pick which is the best to use. We recommend:

  1. The NOAA Weather Radio - Available on iTunes for iPhone and iPad users, this app is the official app for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. When installed, you can receive local weather forecasts based on your location and storm or severe weather warnings pushed directly to your device. The app can be found on iTunes and costs USD$3.99
  2. Weather Underground - This app is among the most powerful weather apps out there. Using a wide variety of weather stations and user submitted weather it is up to date and able to offer accurate forecasts. With a Weather Radio feature, and push notifications of weather alerts, you can easily track potential storms. There is also the WunderMap which has radar, reports and IR Sat views as well. The app is available for free on Google Play and iTunes, and is rumored to be coming soon for Windows Phone.
  3. Local weather apps - Many TV stations and weather organizations have localized weather apps that focus on just local conditions. If you live in a disaster prone area, it would be a good idea to see if your local TV station has a weather app, as this could be the quickest way to receive updates.

American Red Cross apps

The Red Cross has a number of excellent survival oriented apps that could really come in handy for when a disaster strikes. These apps provide tips on how to prepare yourself and your family, as well as buildings for disaster, and what to do during and after a disaster strikes.

The best part is that most of the information is available offline, so you will have access to it even if cell networks are down. Some of the apps even provide weather alerts that will sound even if the app isn’t open, alerting you about any impending danger.

These apps are all available for free on Google Play and iTunes. The best thing to do is to visit the Red Cross website and look for the apps that are relevant to your local area e.g., if you are in the mountains the Forest Fire and First Aid apps may help. The apps are all free and can be downloaded by clicking the links for your device’s app store on the Red Cross site.

Social media apps

Social media services could prove to be a good way to connect and communicate during a disaster. Try setting up a group for your employees to communicate and encourage them to use it when a disaster strikes to share information and enact plans. One of the biggest added advantages to using social networks is that the servers that host the service are located around the world, so the chances of the service being down is fairly slim. If you have Internet access, you will be able to access the service.

It would be a good idea to define which social network you want to use and establish your pages and connections ahead of time. Have each employee sign up for and join the group you have created and also download the app onto their mobile devices.

Google Public Alerts

Google Public Alerts is the company’s alert platform that allows for the distribution of emergency messages and notices like evacuation notices, public alerts, and storm warnings. For users in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Colombia, Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia alerts will appear in Google Searches, Maps and if you are an Android or iOS user, from Google Now.

Mobile users who have Google Now installed should see relevant alerts pop up when something happens. While you won’t see alerts for absolutely everything, Google does a pretty good job at broadcasting useful information. On mobile devices, these alerts will usually pop up in your Notifications Center where they are easy to see.

To get these notifications on your Android device, you will need to download the Google Search app and activate it on your device. You can find it for free on the Google Play Store, and on iTunes. Android users can also download the Google Now Launcher which will add Google Now to your device’s home screen, and can be accessed by swiping to the right from your Home Screen.

Tips for using your mobile during an emergency

Here are six tips to help you leverage your mobile device during a disaster.

  1. Install relevant apps - In order to be prepared, you should install the apps necessary to communicate during a disaster, along with a weather app and if necessary a survival app.
  2. Ensure your contacts are up to date - To be sure, you should periodically update your contacts. Should anything happen you will know how to contact people and have a higher chance of being able to get in touch.
  3. Ensure your employees have devices that work - Even if you don’t allow mobile devices in the office, or employees to use their own devices, it would be a great idea to ensure that your employees have devices that are in working order so should they need to contact you, or vice versa, you will have a better chance of being able to.
  4. Establish procedures to follow during a disaster - This is arguably the most important preparation you can do. Take the time to establish procedures you and your employees should follow during an emergency. Include where people should meet, backup plans, contact suggestions and the roles you expect your employees to take.
  5. Keep your batteries topped up - Mobile devices rely on batteries to operate, and during a disaster you may be without a power source for an extended amount of time. Therefore, Minimize use during a disaster. Ensure your batteries are full, or charges as often and has high as possible.
  6. Invest in a good power bank - Power banks are useful tools that are essentially big batteries. You can charge them up then use them to charge your devices. Take a look for one that is at least 9000 MHZ, or higher. The higher the number the bigger the charge.

If you are looking to learn more about using mobile devices during a disaster, or how your company can prepare, contact us today. Learn about our services and how we can help.

February 20th, 2012

Is your staff bringing their own devices and gadgets to the workplace? There are pros and cons that you need to know before you decide to adopt this practice for your business.

You may have noticed more and more of your employees or colleagues bringing their own computing devices to work—be it their mobile phone, tablet, or laptop. Or perhaps in your company or in other companies you may have seen, they have let people decide which device they prefer because they are used to it at home. You may not realize it, but this is all part of a large trend called the "consumerization" of IT, in which the influence of consumer technology is being increasingly felt in the workplace. With the wide availability of cheap but powerful mobile devices and online services, a growing number of people are being exposed to the latest technology at home first—adopting them at a rate faster than most businesses are able to manage. This flips on its head the old paradigm in which traditionally new technologies would be rolled out to businesses first, before they would find their way to consumers.

This trend, plus the increasing sophistication of young workers today and their frustration with the tools available to them at the office, is pushing some companies to adopt a "bring your own device" or BYOD policy at work. They are not alone. According to research by technology analyst group Gartner, end users, not the IT department, will soon be responsible for 50 percent of business IT procurement decisions—ultimately bringing and running their own systems on company networks. Meanwhile, according to management consultants Accenture, around one-third of today's younger generation of workers (a group called "millenials") not only wants to use the computer of their choice at work, but also wants control of the applications they use too.

The benefits companies cite to adopting a BYOD policy are many, among them:

  • Savings on capital expenses and training costs in using company equipment—compensating employees instead via other means such as flexible work hours, subsidized purchases, insurance, and other benefits.
  • Less management headache—effectively letting employees decide what to use releases the company from some overhead and management responsibilities.
  • Improved employee satisfaction—by giving employees the freedom to use devices and applications that they prefer.
However, before you consider letting employees bring their own personal technology to the work place, be aware that there are also disadvantages, and sometimes very real dangers in doing so. These include:
  • Non-standardization of hardware, operating systems, and applications. If your business operations require that some equipment is integrated with others, then BYOD can in the long run actually increase IT management costs and decrease efficiency.
  • Exposing your network to malware or security vulnerabilities and breaches. When your employees bring their own devices to work, you lose important control over their security. Consumer devices often don't employ comparable bullet-proof security technologies mandated by businesses.
  • Leakage of confidential or proprietary information. Employees will naturally do what they want with the data on their devices, even if it doesn't belong to them, or it's against company policies. Employees can also lose precious company data when they misplace or damage their personal devices.
  • Lower economies of scale in procurement. Essentially because everyone is buying devices on their own, you miss out on the chance to consolidate purchases and lower purchase costs for everybody.
Have you adopted a BYOD policy at work? Thinking about it? Worried about this trend? If you need to understand BYOD better so you can define a policy for your staff, contact us and see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 13th, 2012

Did you know that there are many free tools available on the web that can increase your productivity? Especially beneficial to small companies who can always use the savings, these free applications and software, if used correctly, can both increase productivity and help maximize the resources they have at hand.

It is a constant challenge for small businesses to meet ever-changing and ever-evolving IT requirements while balancing a budget and keeping costs reasonable. And with software applications being one of the major factors that contribute to IT maintenance costs, it is always welcome news to come across free tools that work well and efficiently despite the lack of a price tag.

ThinkFree Online Office One of these applications is ThinkFree Online Office, which is a cloud application that enables you to create and edit documents in common formats. It also comes with free 1GB of storage and allows you to work from anywhere, since the documents are stored online. And with its own app for Android users, ThinkFree is particularly advantageous to people who need to work on the go.

ReqMan Another free cloud-based application that can prove useful is ReqMan, an online project management tool. You can use this to manage and track your different projects using various templates the service provides. And since it's in the cloud, mobile personnel and staff who are given access to your ReqMan account can work even when they're out of the office.

Gliffy Gliffy is a free tool that you can use to create all sorts of technical illustrations – diagrams, floor plans, flowcharts, and more. The basic plan is free, but you also have the option to subscribe to their more fully featured plans for a minimal fee.

ScheduleOnce For managing schedules, calendars, and the like, ScheduleOnce allows you to keep better track of all your appointments, meetings, and deadlines through a single tool. It integrates with your calendar on Google, and then allows other people to see your open times when they can schedule a meeting with you. Think of it as a one-stop-shop for your scheduling needs.

If you want to know more about these tools and how you can best utilize them, please feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to guide you and help you make the most out of these types of applications to improve your efficiency and bottom line.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 9th, 2012

While the massive flooding in Thailand ravaged hundreds of thousands worth of property and infrastructure, it also has had an adverse effect on worldwide hard drive production. Since the majority of the world’s hard drive factories are located in Thailand, hard drives will be in short supply in the coming months.

In the same way the massive earthquake and tsunami damaged Japan's electronics industry, the flood crisis in Thailand is causing concern for companies that require hard drives for production.

The majority of the world's hard drives are produced in factories located in Thailand, where the flood crisis has put a damper on many industries, hard drive producers included.

According to reports, the shortage is already driving hard drive costs up and may just be the beginning of that trend. As companies like Hewlett Packard respond to the situation, the outlook remains unclear. PC sales could be affected well into 2012 and beyond. With flooding still an issue for some producers the shortage could expand.

As of now, there is still no concrete solution in sight for the problem with the supply of hard drives in the world, and while reconstruction efforts in Thailand are ongoing, getting the hard drive industry on its feet will take a while. As for the effects on the computing world as a whole, PC prices will likely rise as pre-flood inventories are sold out and replacement stock is delayed.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General Tech
January 6th, 2012

The effect of social networks on the way companies approach their business is undeniable. Some even go a step further, creating their own internal social networks to help enhance communications within their own organizations. However, for it to function best, the proper policies that govern its use should be developed.

With the waves created by social networking in how companies do business nowadays, many have also utilized the same principle to develop internal social networks to enhance their in-house communications as well. However, the use of this new medium of communication also requires that companies develop new policies to cover its use.

One concern that may leave you apprehensive about creating an internal social network might be the fear that it could be abused by employees. However, reports have shown that introducing an in-house social network has produced generally positive results.

As long as company policies regarding the use of internal social networks are developed and implemented properly, employees will view such a network as an extension of the workplace, and will try to put their best foot forward. Such policies must specifically tackle the use of the internal social network, and many experts recommend revising existing company rules that govern the use of email, IT resources, and even external social networks. To be on the safe side, it's a good idea to consult with a lawyer to avoid any legal problems with the policy in the future.

Who's going to be in charge? Your managers, of course. Since the social network will be for company use, it follows that department heads should be given administrative duties and permissions which they will use for moderating communications and discussions in and pertaining do their respective sections.

While an internal social network can do wonders for your in-house communications, good policies and rules pertaining to its use will be what keep it working like a well-oiled machine.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 3rd, 2012

Passwords are an integral part of securing both IT systems and online accounts. In order to keep your system and information safe, it is important to take the time to create strong passwords that hackers and online thieves won't easily figure out.

If you think using 'password' as your password is no big deal, then it's time to rethink.

Security experts have recently compiled a list of the worst passwords users can choose, and 'password' is at the very top of the list. Weak passwords make your information more vulnerable simply because hackers can guess them. It may be easier to pick a password that you don't have to think about, but it's a choice that you may come to regret.

To help you avoid common password choice mistakes that users make, management application provider SplashData has compiled a list of the 25 worst passwords to use:

  1. password
  2. 123456
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. abc123
  6. monkey
  7. 1234567
  8. letmein
  9. trustno1
  10. dragon
  11. baseball
  12. 111111
  13. iloveyou
  14. master
  15. sunshine
  16. ashley
  17. bailey
  18. passw0rd
  19. shadow
  20. 123123
  21. 654321
  22. superman
  23. qazwsx
  24. michael
  25. football
Make a smart password choice Experts advise using a combination of letters and numbers when creating your passwords, and to avoid things that anyone might be able to guess, such as birthdays and anniversary dates. Passwords with eight characters or more are safer and it's best to use different passwords for different accounts and websites. Use a password manager to help you keep track of all of your passwords if you're finding it difficult to remember them all..

No matter how sophisticated your security system is, a weak password gives hackers and online thieves an advantage. Helping all the users in your organization understand the importance of password strength will help you secure the IT systems in your organization.

If you're interested in learning more, please contact us so we can develop a comprehensive and custom security blueprint that meets your specific needs.

Reference: Worst Internet Passwords

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 29th, 2011

A massive network of bots an estimated at least four million of them was taken down in a raid recently. Completed with the cooperation of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), authorities in Estonia, as well as security firm Trend Micro, this bust is the biggest cybercriminal arrest in history.

Four million is a big number which makes four million bots, in security terms, a staggering and frightening number as well.

It is a good thing, then, that four million is also the number of bots taken down in a recent bust by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Estonian Police, and security firm Trend Micro. Data centers in New York City, Chicago, and Estonia were raided by authorities, shutting down hundreds of servers used to create a network of bots that spanned some 100 countries.

The said bust, dubbed “Operation Ghost Click”, is one of – if not THE – largest cybercriminal bust in history, putting to sleep a sophisticated scamming operation that victimized 4 to 5 million users and was said to have generated at least $14 million in illegal revenue.

The scam mainly involved hijacking Domain Name Server (DNS) settings in infected computers, which can be used not only to introduce more malware into an IT system, but also to hijack search results and replace advertisements loaded on websites visited through an infected computer.

While this bust does bode well for all IT users everywhere in the world, it also illustrates the scope of influence and level of organization behind security threats. Since this is probably not the only scam / fraud / botnet operation in the world, it is always best to have a comprehensive security policy for your IT infrastructure to minimize the risk of compromising your company’s data and information.

For more details on the bust, check out Trend Micro’s blog post here.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 19th, 2011

Security experts are predicting a rise in the use of personal gadgets to access company data which means that you will have less control over what kind of data goes in and out of your IT system. The best way to rectify this is by having a concrete and comprehensive IT policy that secures your data without compromising the freedom of your employees to use their mobile devices.

As technology continues to become more affordable and accessible to consumers, it's an inevitable fact that employers will see more and more of their employees using their own personal devices such as laptops and mobile phones to access the company's IT system.

This can be a dangerous thing. Since these devices aren't company owned and regulated, you have limited access and control over how they are used. Employees could download all sorts of malware and viruses on their devices and pass the infection along to your IT system when they access it.

The solution: a comprehensive IT security policy. It's important that you find a compromise between the freedom of the employee to use the device as desired and your need to keep your IT system safe from viruses and other threats to your data's security. Steps such as having employees run mobile device management (MDM) software on their devices is one of many actions you can take to lessen the risk of security breaches. You may also want to implement applications and software that check and screen for malware, both for laptops and mobile devices. And don't forget that while Android seems to have a bigger problem with malicious software, Apple isn't exactly virus-free, either.

Employees have a right to use their personal devices as they see fit, but not at the expense of important company information stored in your IT system. Running a tight ship in terms of security is an effective way to protect your business interests and your sensitive company data. If you are interested in knowing more about developing a concrete and effective IT security policy for personal device use as well as general system access, please don't hesitate to give us a call so we can sit down with you and discuss a custom security blueprint that's just right for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 12th, 2011

A survey by StaySafeOnline.org shows some disturbing results that a large number of small business, while largely dependent on their computer systems, do not see themselves as threatened by hackers and online thieves. This results in a significant percentage of them having poor or mediocre security.

StaySafeOnline.org, a website of the National Cyber Security Alliance, has recently released a study that chronicles the cyber security practices and attitudes of small businesses. Conducted in partnership with Visa, the study shows some interesting, if not disturbing, results.

It turns out that many small businesses (about 65% of the respondents) are highly dependent on their computer / IT / data systems, where they store important information, from sensitive company financial records to personal client information such as credit card info, addresses and phone numbers, and more. However, as many as 85% believe that they will not be targeted by hackers and online thieves, and less than half have data security systems in which they are confident. In general, small businesses have, at best, a mediocre security system.

Few realize, though, that it only takes one breach to compromise a company's finances and relationships with clients. And if you have less than stellar security, stealing from you is easier. You might not have as many online assets as big businesses, but hackers can make a hefty profit by victimizing several easy marks as opposed to bigger and riskier efforts with more secure systems of larger firms.

Don't take a risk with important data, and don't compromise the relationships and reputation you've built with your clients over the years. Good security is always worth it. If you're interested in knowing more about beefing up your security through company policies, software, and user education, please don't hesitate to contact us. We'd be happy to sit down with you and discuss a security blueprint that's cost effective and custom built to meet your specific needs.

Reference: National Small Business Study

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General Tech