Blog

April 4th, 2014

Security_March31_CComputers must have appropriate protection from malware attacks. Aside from creating annoyances, malware infections can also affect the performance of your computer. Furthermore, the data on your system and confidential information that you use online may also be tracked and used without your knowledge. Because of the severity of the problems that it can cause you need to be very cautious about preventing malware infections, and know how to deal with them properly.

Signs of a malware infection

Before proceeding with the steps on how to respond to malware infections, we first need to learn about the signs and symptoms of a malware infection. These include:
  • Several pop-ups appear even when not browsing the Web.
  • Unusual slowness of the computer and Internet connection.
  • System hangs or freezes.
  • Corrupted programs.
  • Antivirus is disabled.
  • E-mails sent to or from your account which you did not send.
  • High network activity, even when not using large programs or accessing huge data.
  • Redirected access to some sites.

How to respond to a malware infection

In case you experience any of these symptoms, the first thing to do is to ensure that your antivirus and antispyware program is updated. This is to make sure that they detect the latest known threats on their database. You should then run scans to see if an infection is detected. If it is, the programs usually have a way to remove the infection. You then need to follow the steps the program recommends.

If this doesn't work, disconnect the infected computer from the network to prevent the spread of the malware. Furthermore, avoid accessing the Web and using vital information such as bank account and credit card information. Let the technical department or your IT partner handle the concern since they are trained in determining and eradicating system malware infections.

Once the problem has been pinpointed, a tech specialist will go through the process of eliminating the infection. This includes backing up data on the computer and restoring the system to its original state. Depending on the extent of the infection, the computer may need to be wiped clean, or reformatted before restoring backed-up files.

After the whole process, the computer must be tested to ensure that the infection has been totally removed. Moreover, further investigation and studies must also be done to determine where the problem started, as well as to create a strategy as to how to prevent this from happening in the future.

How to prevent a malware attack

Prevention is better than a cure and this definitely applies to malware infections. It’s best to arm yourself with knowledge on how to avoid malware attacks and prevent your systems from being infected.
  1. Ensure that security protection is always updated and that you run system scans on a regular basis.
  2. Avoid downloading attachments or clicking links from unknown sites or senders.
  3. Enable firewall protection.
Malware can hugely affect business operations and the security of private information. One of the best ways to prevent this is to work with an IT partner, like us, who can help recommend and install protection systems. You might want to think about getting help in managing these solutions too, to ensure that your systems are secure at all times.

If you have questions or concerns with regards to malware prevention and resolution, feel free to call us. Our support team is always ready to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 31st, 2014

Feel like you’re walking on egg shells with your current technicians and they constantly blame you for your IT troubles? If you feel like you have scrambled eggs for brains from your technology woes, it’s time to seek out a professional team to watch over your technology needs. Our egghead staff is fully trained and
100% committed to your IT solutions.

We will work with you to evaluate your current systems, create a sensible plan for your future, and put a little back in your nest egg. IT investments
shouldn’t leave you with egg on your face.

Give us a call today and speak with a good egg. ThinkTech (508)570-3040

Topic Article
March 31st, 2014

Put down that chocolate bunny and make a sweet plan to keep your personal data safe.

Don’t kid yourself, your laptop doesn’t have to be logged-in when it is stolen to be stripped. In fact, some savvy thieves have even found ways to steal your data while you surf online using Wi-Fi hotspots. That’s right, you can use your computer while an attack is in progress.

Personal data breaches are everywhere! Cybersecurity threats come in all types and sizes. In the last 18 months, attackers have focused on things like social media networks, photo sharing sites, e-mail providers, financial institutions and even data storage companies. If you use any of these things hear this…

You are not sheltered from attacks! Backup your personal data regularly, use a reputable antivirus protection program, and invest in a password manager to keep your personal information safe.

Commit yourself to security. Be smart about your habits. Keep your devices physically safe. Don’t store them in your car or leave them on your desk, and never use devices that are not yours on your personal or work computer.

Topic Article
March 31st, 2014

Do you ever feel like your brain is swimming with passwords? Are you tired of trying to make up hard passwords to keep your accounts secure? Try a password manager on for size. It’s an eggcellent investment!

Password do’s! We’ve all heard stories about users getting hacked because they use the same password for everything, right? Don’t be a victim, use a variety of passwords for your accounts. Here are a few tips to create strong passwords:

  1. Make your passwords at least 8 characters long
  2. Never use your username, company name, or real name as part of your password.
  3. Use acronyms not common words from the dictionary.
  4. Always use upper and lower case letters with numbers and characters or symbols. Even one of each will do the trick.
  5. Be original! Never use similar passwords over and over.

Easy, right? Now, follow these five steps for every account you have a login for and be sure to update the passwords every six months to keep your data safe.

This is the part where you say, “NO!” All the tips to make my passwords safer won’t help me remember them. I need more! Don’t worry, that is what a password manager is for.

Hire the best manager to help you. Consider these popular password managers when securing your accounts:

  • MyLOK Personal ($89.95)
  • RoboForm Desktop 7 ($29.95)
  • 1 Password for Windows ($49.95)
  • F-secure Key ($15.99 yearly)
  • Password Genie 4.0 ($15 yearly)
  • LastPass 3.0 Premium ($12 yearly)

Most of these have free versions you can hop in and test to see if you like them.

Check for security. Just a few things to look for if you go exploring; look for a program that will generate strong random passwords for you on demand, offers multifactor authentication (security features), and offers multiple device support so you can carry all your passwords over from your laptop to your smartphone or tablet too. Remember, your password manager is only as good as the password you use to secure it. Stay safe.

Topic Article
March 31st, 2014

newspaperSecurity is at the forefront of every business owners mind. Keeping your physical location safe for patrons is difficult but, the Internet poses an unseen internal threat. How can you make sure your company information stays safe?

2013 Data breaches exposed over 822 million records nearly doubling the previous record high…” reports the Digital Journal. The 2013 exposures reached an all-time high over previous years. With over 2,164 incidents of breaches, over 822 million records were appropriated by attackers last year and almost half of those were right here in the U.S.

Security breaches are a very real threat. It seems like second nature to hear about a security breach on the morning news at some large corporation. We even have a few friends who were tied up in the data theft issues at Target last winter. In this incident, 110 million records from Target shoppers were exposed all because their HVAC company didn’t use a good antivirus program. Adobe topped the Target debacle with over 152 million records swiped last year.

Giant companies are not the only ones in the spotlight. Regardless of the size of your organization or type of clients you serve, keeping your company data safe is essential to keep your company in business. Technology can give you the upper hand over your competition, but it can also mean the end of your operations when it’s not properly managed.

What should I be managing? Ask yourself, “What do we have to protect? What would impact our company the most?” Look at things like the types of information you collect from your clients. Do you store payment information or personal data? Does your business have an internal network, wireless network, remote access, or Internet based programs? Do you have work devices that leave the office like smartphones or laptops? Consider these five security concerns to explore to keep your company safe.

  1. Educate your employees.
    Train your employees to recognize the risks associated with infections, online fraud, scams, and social engineering. Make sure personal devices used at the office are properly maintained and free from infection before they are allowed on the company network. Even charging a smartphone or using a flash drive with a virus on it can let hackers right in your back door.
  2. Keep your applications, software, and hardware licenses/warranties updated. All your systems would be updated in a timely fashion with continual monitoring, patches and upgrades as they become available. Falling behind on this standard IT maintenance can mean a rift of exposure in your organization.
  3. Lock down your network. If you have a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) at your location for your clients and guests to use, separate it completely from your company operations. Lock down your organization so the traffic from your public network cannot travel into your internal systems.
  4. Encrypt your sensitive data.
    Your clients expect you to keep their information safe. They trust in your business for products or services as well as privacy and security.
  5. Backup and secure your internal systems. Use a strong authentication method to keep your data safe from intrusions and malicious attacks. We recommend a robust filtering system, a firewall, anti-virus protection for every computer and server as well as 24/7/365 monitoring and offsite data backup. This may seem like a lot, but think of the consequences if your data is lost, stolen,
    or corrupted. Could your business survive?
  6. OH NO! Are you worried? If you have questions racing in your head after reading this article, give us a call. We offer a FREE Network & Security Audit to help you identify and address the risks your business is facing.

Topic Article
March 27th, 2014

BI_March24_CBusiness Intelligence or BI applications are used by businesses from different fields for their information analysis. These tools help determine what individual businesses may be doing right or wrong, which can help them decide on the best path to take to reach their goals. BI tools are helpful to many businesses. However, some business owners question how these tools can be used in different departments.

There are various BI tools available nowadays that support small to large companies. You can find Business Intelligence tools that fit your company’s size, needs and budget. These applications can be used in different areas of the business:

Marketing Department

A marketing department is responsible for promoting a company’s products, services and brand to increase public awareness. With successful marketing, a business can attract potential clients that can be possibly turned into creating sales revenue. The company can use BI to determine which campaigns are successful or not, as the case may be. Through this, investments can be focused on those campaigns that work whilst avoiding those that have previously failed.

Sales Department

Sales managers and supervisors can also use BI to analyze successful deals, as well as those that they have lost, to see what strategies have worked. The system can also help determine which sales teams hit or exceed set goals in order to analyze what they are doing right. Moreover, this helps determine which products or services are most saleable so these can be pushed further to attain more goals.

Finance Department

BI software makes analyzing, reporting, and managing financial data more convenient. Those who are involved in the process can easily access the information they need through the system. Analysis is easier as the data is organized and accurate. Money in and money out can also be tracked with greater efficiency.

Moreover, these tools often come with features that allow users to create scenarios and determine the possible results from there. This is extremely helpful in deciding on the best action to take as the tool gives you a view of the probable outcome. The success rate is higher if forecasting using a BI tool.

Inventory

Business Intelligence also plays a vital role in inventory tracking of products, items or supplies. For instance, companies in the retail industry can track the movement of products or items from the suppliers to the warehouse and on to their delivery to clients. Any problems encountered in the process can be quickly identified so they can be fixed in time.

Items in demand can also be pinpointed, as well as low stock and overstocks. Items that are low in stock can be ordered immediately, especially if they are in demand, to ensure that the needs of clients are met. This also lets you avoid overstocking, which can be a waste of money when investment is better used for fast moving items.

These are just some of the ways businesses can use BI in their operations. If you have further questions about the topic, do not hesitate to give us a call. We’ll be more than happy to assist you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 20th, 2014

Security_Mar17_CAny business that employs technology in any aspect will eventually begin to worry about how secure their systems are. In order to ensure security, many companies implement a security strategy. While these strategies are a great way to ensure the security of your business systems and data, there is one element that many business owners forget: The audit.

Auditing and the security security strategy

Auditing your company's security is important, the only problem business owners run across is where and what they should be auditing. The easiest way to do this is to first look at the common elements of developing security strategies.

These elements are: assess, assign, audit. When you develop a plan, or work with an IT partner to develop one, you follow the three steps above, and it may be obvious at the end. In truth however, you should be auditing at each stage of the plan. That means you first need to know what goes on in each stage.

During the assessment phase you or your IT partner will need to look at the existing security you have in place. This includes on every computer and server and also focuses on who has access to what, and what programs are being used. Doing an assessment should give you an overview of how secure your business currently is, along with any weak points that need to be improved.

The assignment phase looks at actually carrying out the changes you identified in the assessment phase. This could include adding improved security measures, deleting unused programs or even updating systems for improved security. The main goal in this phase is to ensure that your systems and networks are secure.

Auditing happens after the changes have been made and aims to ensure that your systems are actually secure and have been implemented properly. Throughout the process you will actually need to continually audit and adjust your strategy.

What exactly should be audited?

When conducting an audit, there are three factors you should focus on:
  1. The state of your security - Changing or introducing a security plan usually begins with an audit of sorts. In order to do this however, you need to know about how your security has changed in between audits. Tracking this state and how it changed in between audits allows you to more efficiently audit how your system is working now and to also implement changes easier. If you don't know how the state of your security has changed in between audits, you could risk implementing ineffective security measures or leaving older solutions open to risk.
  2. The changes made - Auditing the state of your security is important, but you should also be auditing the changes made to your systems. For example, if a new program is installed, or a new firewall is implemented, you will need to audit how well it is working before you can deem your security plan to be fully implemented. Basically, you are looking for any changes made to your system that could influence security while you are implementing a new system. If by auditing at this point, you find that security has been compromised, you will need to go back to the first step and assess why before moving forward.
  3. Who has access to what - There is a good chance that every system you have will not need to be accessed by every employee. It would be a good idea that once a security solution is in place, that you audit who has access to what systems and how often they use them. This stage of the process needs to be proactive and constantly carried out. if you find that access changes or system access needs change, it would be a good idea to adapt your the security strategy; starting with the first stage.
If you are looking for help developing a security strategy for your business, contact us today to see how our managed solutions can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 20th, 2014

Hardware_Mar17_CWhether you have a brick-and-mortar or Internet based business, you’ll surely need to print out some documents at one time or another. The question is, do you even have a printer? There are an increasing number of businesses who don't. Considering how everything is setup on the Web nowadays, it kind of makes one wonder what type or printers are being used in the offices these days?

These three printers below are the most common printers found in offices these days.

Multi Function Printers (MFP)

Multi Function Printers are also commonly known as all-in-one printers. With this type of device, your printing, scanning, faxing and photocopying needs are covered! These printers usually come in a variety of sizes with many being small enough to fit onto a small desk.

Aside from the multi function features that MFPs have, these are the common benefits that business owners can gain from this type of printer.

  • They take up less room.
  • They are usually lower in cost. Though it may seem expensive compared to the other types of printers, if you consider buying a fax machine, scanner, photocopier and a printer, you’ll find that buying an MFP is actually a lot more affordable.

Inkjet Printers

Inkjets print documents by spraying ink onto paper, and can usually produce prints with a resolution of 300dpi (dots per inch) with some actually able to print documents as high as 600dpi. This makes them ideal for printing saller images and reports.

What most business owners like about inkjet printers is the fact that they are usually affordable, making them an ideal device for businesses that just want printers. Since most offices (if not all) have computers, you’ll most likely see inkjet printers in the majority of offices. Here are some more benefits that people like about inkjet printers.

  • Fast printing speeds.
  • Can produce really high quality print.
  • Easy to use.
  • They can produce vivid colors.

Laser Printers

If there’s one very notable feature that you’ll love about laser printers, it would be the printer's capability of producing very high quality documents. In fact, laser printers can produce copies with a resolution of 600 dpi - 1200 dpi.

One of the main differences that laser printers have is the fact that they use toner (colored or black powder) instead of the inks that are used in most other printers.

Laser printers offer users many enticing benefits including:

  • Very high resolution.
  • Fast results.
  • High volume printing.
  • No smears at all.

What type of printer should my business get?

If you are looking for a new printer, it can be a little confusing as to which you should get. If you don't have a scanner or fax machine, it would be a good idea to look into a Multi Function Printer. Looking to print smaller or shorter documents or only occasionally? An Inkjet would probably be a better choice. If you need to print on a regular basis, or print in mass quantities a laser printer could be the best choice.

With all the types of printers available in the market, choosing a specific printer to use in your office can be quite confusing. If you need help in choosing which printer to go for, then give us a call and we’ll give you our expert advice on the matter.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
March 19th, 2014

BCP_Marc17_CIsn’t it disturbing how a disaster (whether man made or natural) can devastate your business? While disasters are inevitable, you can mitigate risks and lessen the damage to your business in the event of one through a DRP (Disaster Recovery Plan). While it may not seem important to some businesses, especially if yours has never been faced with a disaster, a DRP would be a good idea.

While there are several facets to a DRP that are going to determine whether it will be effective or not, making sure that you’ve considered these 5 tips is definitely a good start.

1.) Commitment from management

Because the managers are the ones who will coordinate the development of the plan and be the central figures who implement the recovery plan, it’s crucial that they are committed to it and are willing to back it up.

They will also be responsible for setting an allocated budget and manpower to creating the actual plan. That said, it’s very important that they know the concept behind it and how huge of an impact a DRP can have on a business.

2.) A representative on each department should be available when creating a DRP

It’s unthinkable to believe that your DRP is well optimized when you haven’t had a representative from each department coordinate with you while creating the recovery program.

Considering how they themselves are the front line of your organization with the best knowledge about how their department works, it’s a huge plus that you should take advantage of when creating a DRP.

With the representatives on your team, you’ll be able to see things from their perspective and gain first-hand knowledge from those who do the actual work.

3.) Remember to prioritize

In an ideal world, you should be able to restore everything at the same time after a disaster strikes. But since most businesses usually have a limited amount of resources, you will usually have to recover systems one at a time.

Because of this, you need to have a hierarchy or a sense of priority when determining which systems should be recovered first. That way, the most important systems are immediately brought back up while the less important ones are then queued in order of their importance.

4.) Determining your recovery strategies

This is one of the main focal points of a DRP since this phase tackles the actual strategies or steps that you’ll implement to recover your systems.

When determining your actual strategies, it's important that you brainstorm and think about all the options that you have to recovering your systems. Don’t simply stick with the cheapest possible strategy or even the most expensive ones.

You have to remember though that the simplest strategy to implement is probably the best one. That is, as long as the simplest strategy covers the critical aspects of your system recovery.

That said, avoid over complicating your strategies as you might face unnecessary challenges when it comes to the implementation of the recovery strategy.

5.) Do a dry run at least once a year

Your DRP shouldn’t end with the concept alone. No matter how foolproof you think your strategy is, if you haven’t tested it you most likely have missed something important.

It's during the dry run phase that the need for extra steps (or the removal of one) are made even more evident. You can then start polishing your strategies according to how your dry run plays out. It would also be a good year to practice your plan each year and update it accordingly.

These tips will help you ensure that your DRP will remain effective should a disaster occur. If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to go about the process of creating a DRP, then give us a call now and we’ll help you with the process.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 7th, 2014

Productivity_Mar03_CNo one can refute the positive benefits of creating a to-do list when you really need to get things done. One of the most evident advantages is that it gives people who use it the ability to increase their productivity. A problem many business owners run across is that their lists are hard to follow, leading to a decrease in productivity.

Here are 5 tips which will help you devise an effective to-do list:

Add a notes section

A notes section is a general area for all the tasks in your to-do list. Its main purpose is to provide you with space to add notes about your tasks. Or, instead you can use this area to type in challenges that you encountered when handling specific tasks.

On the flip side, it could also contain the best practices that you employed which enabled you to finish the task effectively and efficiently. These notes are important because by revisiting these jottings you can learn from them and be better able to optimize your way of doing things and your approach.

Prioritize

Ignoring client meetings because you're supposed to be fixing your cabinet, for example, based on what’s written in your to-do list, is a sure fire way of negatively impacting your business.

Your to-do list needs to be devised in such a way that there is a clear sense of priority. The most important tasks should be added to the top most part of your list just to make sure that you don’t miss these and they are tackled and completed first.

Break down your tasks to bite-size activities

Can you imagine writing down 'work' in your to-do list? Having a to-do list with broad topics like this won’t help you in the slightest bit.

You need to break down your lists into more specific tasks so that they provide the clarity that you need to achieve. Here’s a good example of a well-constructed list:

  1. Send 20 outreach emails to prospects.
  2. Discuss with the team the concept of having a systems' mindset.
  3. Review the offer of client X and decide whether to accept it or not.
Notice how the examples above are more tangible compared to simply writing down 'work'? With a list like the one above, you should be able to comfortably tick each task with a clear idea of when it has been completed.

Add a deadline whenever possible

Adding a deadline helps you gauge your output. By being able to see whether you’re lagging behind you can make any necessary changes.

A deadline also prevents you from procrastinating since you’ll be more conscious of time and a definitive end point.

Be realistic

Adding a week's worth of tasks to your daily to-do list will just discourage and frustrate you. Be as realistic as you can when writing up your list. If you honestly think that you can’t finish all of the tasks within one day, then add some of them to the next. That way you won’t be frustrated with a long list of tasks that you haven’t completed at the end of each day.

If you are faced with productivity issues and are struggling to get the kind of output you're hoping for in your business, then put giving us a call at the top of your to-do list.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity