Create your own business cards in Publisher

Create your own business cards in Publisher

December 1, 2009 8:34 am

Microsoft Office Publisher makes it easy to produce effective business cards, whether you create your own design or use one of the Publisher designs. You can use color schemes and font schemes to select the colors and fonts that reflect your company’s image. You can further customize your business cards for specific market segments or locales, and you can add names and job titles for new employees as your business grows. Learn how…

Collect data in Access by using e-mail messages

December 1, 2009 8:32 am

Microsoft Office Access 2007 makes it easy to gather data from people who are located anywhere on the globe, such as members of your sales team, survey participants, or contacts. Office Access 2007 works with Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 to help you to generate and send an e-mail message that includes a data entry form. Learn how…

Majority of firms struggle with security as new technologies are adopted

November 25, 2009 4:02 am

New research from the Ponemom Institute and Lumension , shows that a majority of firms are struggling to secure data as users quickly adopt new and emerging technologies such as mobile, cloud computing, and collaborative Web 2.0 technologies. The study, which surveyed IT security and IT operations practitioners, shows that many (44 percent) feel that their IT network is less secure than a year ago or that their IT security policies are insufficient in addressing the growing threats arising from the use of new technologies. Budgets are also a limiting factor, with many feeling that IT security budgets still aren’t what they need to be to fully support business objectives and security priorities. Other findings from the report: 56% said mobile devices are not secure, representing a risk to data security 49% said data security is not a strategic initiative for their company 48% said their companies have allocated insufficient resources to achieve effective data security and regulatory compliance 47% cited a lack of strong CEO support for information security efforts as a reason for ineffective data security programs 41% said there was a lack of proactive security risk management in their organization Just as large companies worldwide struggle to keep up with security, many small businesses do so even more. If you need help understanding the security implications that new technologies bring to your organization, contact us so we can help. Related articles: Companies face IT attacks in uncertain economy: Ernst & Young (newswire.ca) Keeping America’s information safe offers a secure career (techburgh.com) Cloud Security and Privacy (oreilly.com) Computer Security Challenged By Web 2.0 ‘Endpoint’ Growth (Investor’s Business Daily via Yahoo! News) (slumpedoverkeyboarddead.com)

Entrepreneur Magazine Shares 10 Reasons for Small Businesses to Use Windows 7

November 23, 2009 3:59 am

Entrepreneur Magazine ‘s Scott Steinberg shares in his online column Top Ten reasons why Small Businesses should use Windows 7 . Among them: lower system requirements than Vista, better multitasking, and enhanced security. And while he says not everything is perfect (for instance, confusing multiple versions, and separate download and installs for email and calendar programs) he says “ Windows 7 provides a welcome evolutionary step forward for the platform, significantly improving security, stability and everyday convenience.” Also check out an online slideshow from bMighty.com which shows 10 Windows 7 Features SMBs Should Love which provides a more visual guide for businesses evaluating whether to upgrade to the new Windows Operating System. Need help evaluating or migrating to Windows 7 for your business? Contact us today! Related articles: Transfer files and settings from XP to Windows 7 (helpdeskgeek.com) Windows 7 may be secure, but are Windows users safe? (infoworld.com) How To Reduce Aero Peek’s Delay Time (techie-buzz.com)

Cyber-crime through the ACH system continues to spread

November 18, 2009 4:09 am

If you are using an automated clearing house (ACH) system to manage your funds, then you had better be extra careful. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has warned ACH users – particularly small businesses – to be on the lookout for ACH system fraud, which has already scammed as much as $100 million from unsuspecting victims. The FBI is working with the National Cyber Forensics and Training Alliance (NCFTA) to determine a solution for the problem and to catch the criminals behind these multi-million dollar scams. All it takes is a seemingly harmless email to an organization’s bookkeeper or accountant to give hackers access to all their accounts. In a technique called “phishing”, these criminals send electronic correspondence laced with attachments disguised as documents or genuine applications (like an update for Windows, for example), or links to supposedly legitimate websites. Once a recipient clicks on these links or installs the software, the hacker installs a keylogging program in their system, giving them access to passwords and other sensitive account information. The siphoning off of funds happens fairly quickly. Some hackers set up ACH transfers to unaware third party groups that typically do payroll processing tasks for international companies, which in turn transfer the money overseas. Others create fake names on a payroll system which automatically siphons off money into preset accounts enrolled in a similar system. According to the FBI, the usual victims are small businesses because of their tendency to work with smaller, less secure banks. It’s the FBI’s conclusion, indicated in a report by their Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), that smaller banks lack the proper security measures, which gives hackers the capacity to abuse the ACH system. “In several cases banks did not have proper firewalls installed, nor anti-virus software on their servers or their desktop computers. The lack of defense-in-depth at the smaller institution/service provider level has created a threat to the ACH system,” the IC3 report reads. More details about this story can be found here. (http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9140308/FBI_warns_of_100M_cyber_threat_to_small_business?taxonomyId=17&pageNumber=1)

Survey Shows Poor Security Awareness Among SMBs

November 16, 2009 4:03 am

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and  Symantec recently released the results of a survey they did as part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month to assess the awareness and preparedness of small businesses (51 or fewer employees) in countering cybersecurity threats. Some notable findings: Only 28% have formal Internet security policies in place Only 25% provide even minimal Internet use/Internet security training to employees Those companies that do train spend less than 5 training hours per year on average 86% do not have an employee focused on Internet security More than 90% believe they are protected from malware and viruses However: Barely half of the businesses surveyed check their antivirus software weekly to insure they’re up to date 11% never check security tools to make sure they’re current For many, it seems, online security is simply not a top priority, falling far behind other issues such as meeting payroll and managing cash. But this is dangerous thinking, since more and more companies’ operations have become highly dependent on their IT infrastructure and the Internet for communications and business transactions. How about your business? Is it secure? Call us today and find out how we can help. Related articles: Fake security software ‘installed on millions of PCs’ (telegraph.co.uk) Celebrating National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2009 (googleblog.blogspot.com) Symantec lists “Dirtiest Web Sites” (canada.com)

What You Should Know Before Embracing Social Networking

November 6, 2009 4:55 am

If you have decided to use Social Networking technologies for your business in your marketing, public relations, employee relations, or any other initiative, congratulations – it’s a good move. However, bear in mind that there are some issues you should be aware of before starting. As we pointed out in a previous post, social networks allow people to create communities on the Internet around shared relationships, interests, and activities. In business, social networks can be used as tool for marketing, public relations, sales, customer service, employee relations, and more. Many case studies show how companies are able to use social network services to generate new leads, strengthen relationships with customers and employees, and improve their business operations. Here are some guidelines for avoiding pitfalls when implementing a social networking campaign: Filter information. Actively filter personal or private or sensively information about yourself, your company, your employees and partners, and your customers from the information you or your employees post online. Make sure that none of the information you post is covered by any non-disclosure, patent applications, or contractual agreements, which could quickly get you into hot water. Provide value. Post only information relevant to your audience online. Before any post, ask yourself: Is this information interesting and useful to my audience, or does it only serve us? Your audience will quickly tune you out if you continually post marketing fluff and self-serving promotional ads. Be truthful. Be as forthright and honest as possible. Remember that these types of media are interactive and can quickly get around. You’ll find that unhappy customers and disgruntled employees are not shy in posting negative comments about you and your company for all to see – especially if they find you evasive or less than truthful. Be vigilant. Social networking sites are a target for malware, hackers, and all sorts of online fraudsters. Before joining a social networking site, make sure to read their terms of use and privacy guidelines. How secure is their setup? Are they vetted by third-party security and privacy assurance services? Will they share your information with third parties?  Do mechanisms exist to allow you to control who can and cannot see what you share online? Find out and to protect yourself. Provide clear guidelines. Take a cue from IBM and provide clear guidelines on what is and what is not acceptable, and who does and does not speak in behalf of your company. Make sure your employees know the guidelines and follow them. Let them know that whatever they post online can remain there for years to come and could come back to haunt them later on. Despite the risks of using social networking services, there are risks of not using them as well. If you don’t shape your image on the Web, people will do it for you. Social networks make it quick and easy to set up a basic profile, and that’s the first step toward gaining control of your business’s reputation online.

Windows 7: Everything that Vista Was Supposed To Be

November 1, 2009 8:23 am

Highly respected technology writer Walt Mossberg from the Wall Street Journal calls Windows 7, “A Windows to Help You Forget” – and with good cause. We all remember Vista and the horror it continues to be for users. Expected to be a welcome upgrade from Windows XP, Vista was instead, from the very beginning, plagued with problems and all sorts of bugs, and was only slightly made more palatable when the Service Pack 1 was released. Many opted to stick with the more ancient yet much more reliable Windows XP and wait for better things to come. And come it did. With Windows 7, Microsoft has produced the operating system that many thought Vista would be, leaving the predecessor a memory most would rather not revisit. Faster, lighter, simpler, and easier to use, reviewers have compared this recent instalment of Microsoft’s flagship operating system to a more efficient and generally accepted-to-be-better OS: Mac OS X. While Microsoft does have a stake in Apple, it doesn’t erase the fact that the two have for years been – and continue to be – the most bitter of rivals. With the release of Windows 7, the competition has become very stiff indeed. Mossberg writes, “In recent years, I, like many other reviewers, have argued that Apple’s Mac OS X operating system is much better than Windows. That’s no longer true. Now, however, it’s much more of a toss-up between the two rivals. Windows 7 beats the Mac OS in some areas, such as better previews and navigation right from the taskbar, easier organization of open windows on the desktop and touch-screen capabilities. So Apple will have to scramble now that the gift of a flawed Vista has been replaced with a reliable, elegant version of Windows.” Key features of Windows 7 include UI and visual improvements to the taskbar, desktop, file, and networking systems. The overall speed of the OS has also been improved over Vista, which required a lot of hardware to run properly. Now, Windows 7 users are treated to much lighter spec requirements to make the OS run smoothly. Compatibility, especially with third party programs, has also been enhanced, with some touch screen features available for compatible hardware. In a nutshell, Windows 7 is what Windows Vista was supposed to be in the first place. And because there’s no sense in crying over spilled milk, Microsoft has whipped up quite the replacement mix this time around. And we mean that in a good way. To read Walt Mossberg’s full review, go to: http://ptech.allthingsd.com/20091007/a-windows-to-help-you-forget/ .

5 Things to Love about Windows 7

November 1, 2009 7:50 am

The recent release of Windows 7 has seen much more good than bad – which cannot be said for its predecessor, Windows Vista. Even in the early stages of testing, many were impressed with the improvements Microsoft included in this relatively early upgrade to its OS, and many were hopeful that this time around, Windows would not be such a pain to use. And they were not disappointed. Here are a few things you’ll love about Windows 7: 1. Faster boot up times Vista was plagued with slow boot times, owing to its demand for high-end hardware in order to function smoothly. Windows 7, on the other hand, does more with less. 2. Lighter spec requirements Speaking of hardware requirements and more for less, Windows 7 needs less power from your rig to function properly. This means that even hardware systems with bareback specs can run Windows 7 decently. 3. A new taskbar The new taskbar is a combination of the old taskbar and the quick-launch icons of previous instalments. Frequently used programs are pinned as icons onto the taskbar, and can be used as both a launcher and as a preview for any running windows under that program. 4. File organization The file system in Windows 7 is more unified now, and enables you to group similar programs together regardless of which hard disk it lives on. 5. Less nagging One of the most annoying features of Windows Vista was the perpetual reminders about this and that mundane task. Windows 7 lets you configure the warnings to pop up only for issues you feel are important. UAC (User Account Control) also adopts this principle, eliminating that annoying Vista permissions window that popped up even for the most ordinary procedure.

Ready to upgrade to Windows 7?

November 1, 2009 7:39 am

If you’re excited about upgrading to Windows 7 , you’re not alone. Reactions are coming in from people who have tried the new operating system and so far, the reviews have been positive. From the new and improved UI , to enhanced features such as Live Taskbar previews , easier file sharing , wider hardware support and others , Microsoft has made the upgrade compelling for many Windows users, especially those who skipped Vista and held on to XP. If you’re using an older computer running Windows XP , we suggest you first head over to Microsoft’s Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor . After downloading the free tool, run it to scan your PC for potential issues with your hardware, devices, and installed programs. The tool will recommend actions you should take before you upgrade. If your PC is running Windows Vista without problems, chances are it’s ready to run Windows 7. If you bought your copy of Vista or a PC running Vista after June 26, 2009, you might be qualified for a special upgrade offer to Windows 7, so make Microsoft’s official Windows 7 Upgrade and Migration page your first stop to find out. Once you’re ready to take the plunge, get ready to do some homework first. Just like Vista, Windows 7 comes in different editions . Weigh your options and find out which edition is right for you . Also, PC World has put together a nice article on the five things you should know before upgrading to Windows 7 from XP . For a more detailed guide, visit Engadget blog’s excellent post on how to install Windows 7 and live to tell about it . If you find the process too complicated, don’t have the time, or if you’re thinking of upgrading many computers, why not contact us? We can help you sort out your options and ensure a smooth upgrade. Related articles: Seven things to know about Windows 7 (cnn.com) 27 Takes on Windows 7 [Roundups] (gizmodo.com) Windows 7 Launch, what the Experts say + Microsoft store grand opening. (domkop.co.za)

Tech Tip: Command-line switches for Excel

October 31, 2009 3:11 am

You can customize the way that Microsoft Office Excel 2007 starts by adding switches and parameters to the startup command. For example, you can prevent the startup screen from appearing when you start Office Excel 2007, or you can have Excel open a specific file when it starts. Learn how…

Tech tip: write on slides during a presentation

October 30, 2009 10:48 am

When you use Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007 to deliver your presentation, you can circle, underline, draw arrows, or make other marks on the slides to emphasize a point or show connections. Learn how…

Phishing scam targets Hotmail users

October 28, 2009 7:41 am

Hotmail, Microsoft’s free online email service, finds itself in hot water when 10,000 email accounts usernames and passwords were recently discovered posted in a code-sharing website. BBC News has reported that these Hotmail account owners, mostly from Europe, were victimized by a phishing attack. Microsoft is currently investigating the incident, and hinted that there may be more users who have inadvertently compromised the privacy of their email accounts. The total scale of the phishing attack has yet to be determined, since the 10,028 Hotmail usernames and passwords are only of users whose names begin with A or B. Microsoft has confirmed the accounts to be genuine. Microsoft has also taken action to remove the passwords and usernames from the website. As of now, there is no news regarding what action the software giant will take against the instigators of the attack, nor what the impact will be to the owners of the compromised accounts. Microsoft has advised users to immediately change their passwords, and warned email account holders to be more careful in responding to emails. Phishing is an online scam in which email accounts are sent fake emails disguised as legitimate correspondence from trusted websites. Once the recipient clicks on a link included in the email, his or her account is then compromised, allowing phishers to gain access to account information as well as other sensitive information, including bank passwords and credit card accounts. The original BBC story can be found here .

Twitter Fast Becoming an Indispensable Tool for Many SMBs

October 26, 2009 7:17 am

Twitter , the microblogging service used by CNN , Oprah and none other than President Obama seems to have taken the world by storm, and is fast becoming an indispensable tool for many small and midsized businesses as well Twitter allows company owners to share short “tweets” or posts a maximum of 140 characters each to give quick, live updates to “followers” on the Twitter service. A few days ago, the Wallstreet Journal published an interesting article on how Twitter has become a life saver for many business owners in a crisis . One company used the service to update customers when their website went down because of a hacker. Another study from Warrillow , a consulting firm, says that small businesses are also using the service to search for deals and promotions online. In fact, according to the company, they use the service a whopping 7 times more than other social networks. It’s interesting to learn the many ways that businesses are using services such as Twitter to their advantage. How about your business? Are you using it as well? Let us know! Related articles: One in Five Tweets Are Free Brand Advertising (mashable.com) Facebook Adds Twitterlike Tagging Feature (myventurepad.com) 7 Times As Many SMBs Use Twitter To Find Deals (smallbizresource.com)

Keeping a Clean & Healthy Workplace

October 22, 2009 7:36 am

With many people using the same computers, printers, copiers, and telephones every day, there are a myriad of diseases that can be caught at work if you’re not careful. And with the H1N1 virus in full swing right now, it’s especially important to keep the workplace clean. Here are a few tips to stop the spread of germs in the workplace: Wash your hands frequently, especially before handling food and after using the bathroom. It is recommended that you scrub your hands with soap and warm water for 10-15 seconds, then rinse well before drying with a disposable paper towel. Keep keyboards, phones, and copiers germ free by using disinfectant wipes to regularly clean items you share with others. Have your office dusted regularly. Dust and dirt can accumulate indoors, which pose risks especially to people with allergies and asthma. Make sure that your ventilation system is working properly. To prevent dust and dirt from settling on your keyboard you can buy a plastic cover fitted to your keyboard’s keys – they’re easier to clean, too. Make it a habit to keep a small bottle of disinfectant alcohol or hand sanitizer handy. If your office is carpeted, have it regularly vacuumed. Have the trash cans – preferably with lids – taken out and emptied every day. Simple illnesses such as common colds and the flu can spread very quickly in a workplace, so if you happen to get sick, do every one a favor by staying home – and come back only when you’re well. If you really must go to the office, avoid shaking hands with people and wear a mask or have a handkerchief or face towel handy for sneezing and coughing to help stop the virus from spreading. No one likes to be sick, and following these simple measures will help make your workplace a much healthier and cleaner place to work.

Putting Social Networks to Work for Your Business

October 6, 2009 8:59 am

These days it seems like everybody is talking about “social networking” and using websites such as MySpace , Facebook , and Twitter . But exactly what is social networking? Is it just a passing fad or is it an idea whose time has come and is here to stay?  More importantly, can it be put to good use in your business? What is Social Networking? Online social networks are services meant to create communities of people on the Internet who share common relationships, interests, and activities. In a typical social networking site, users create profiles of themselves which they use to connect with other users and create a network of “friends.” These networks are typically organized around the user’s social relationships, life circumstances, lifestyles, organizational affiliations, ideological and political beliefs, commercial interests, and many other traits. One benefit of creating these networks is that it allows users to keep track of each other within their network more easily. It also allows them to leverage the connections of others in their social circle – greatly expanding the network of people they would ordinarily have. Beyond creating their own social networks, things become interesting when users are able to share information and pursue activities online together, thereby allowing greater communication, collaboration, and co-creation of ideas, products at a scale and speed which simple was not have been possible before. How Can I Use Social Networks for My Business? If you are a small business owner, opportunities in social networking are readily available. The ability to create a network of employees, customers, prospects, and partners is one benefit, along with the ability to leverage their networks to expand your own. The potential capability to mine the amazing amount of user-generated demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data among a network’s members is also very valuable. Here are some samples of ways you can put social networks to work for your business: 1) Use it for Marketing. Create a community of your current customers where they can more easily hear from you and you from them . Use their networks to attract new leads to your business. Follow their activities to gain insights into who they are, what they want, where they congregate, and how best to reach them. Let them use social networks as an avenue to let others know how good you are . Create exciting new opportunities for them to get to know your business, reach out to you, and create a relationship with you. 2) Use it for Customer Service. Gain valuable feedback into how they feel about your product or service in real time. Create an important new channel to reach out to customers and to get information out to them quickly and efficiently. 3) Use it for HR. Create a community of current and ex-employees. Use it as a cheap Intranet, like what this company is doing with Facebook . Gain insight into the social profiles and behavior of your employees. Use it as a tool to attract new recruits . 4) Create new opportunities for learning and innovation. Tap social networks to learn from like-minded people. Find and discover social networks in your business, industry, or your profession . Learn from fellow entrepreneurs, customers, or partners. You can even tap communities to help you innovate faster and more cheaply . With social networks and an active community of people behind them you can co-create new products or services, link up to gain greater bargaining power, or share information and intelligence more easily. These are just some examples of how you can apply social networking to your business. For more information, contact us to learn how we can help you get started today! Related articles: Marketer addresses social networking for businesses issues … (jonggunlee.tistory.com) To friend, or not to friend: That is the workplace question (seattlepi.com) Social Media: Embracing the Opportunities, Averting the Risks Webinar Presentation (slideshare.net) Social networking is about people, not technology (jonggunlee.tistory.com)

Social Networking Websites Your Business Should Use

October 2, 2009 5:08 am

Social Networking websites are usually associated with consumer services such as MySpace and Facebook . But did you know that there are literally dozens of social networking websites out there specifically targeted toward businesses? InsideCRM.com’s editors have compiled a list of the top “50 Social Sites That Every Business Needs a Presence on” which is available online at their website . This list is divided into five categories: Social-Media or Social-Bookmarking Sites, which allow users to share their favorite websites or track and vote upon various online articles and resources. Professional networking sites, which allow networking among organizations and individuals for business purposes. Niche sites, which target a specific community of users in a particular industry, profession, or with specific shared interests. General social media sites, which have business applications such as the popular Twitter service. Job sites, which are geared towards recruitment and talent management. Head out to InsideCRM.com to find out more. Related articles: Social Networking And Your Business (smtusa.com) Social Networking and Technical Communicators | On the Write Road (jonggunlee.tistory.com) B2B Social Media: Got Your Toe Wet, Now It’s Time to Swim (socialmediatoday.com)

Mind Your Manners! Etiquette for the Electronic Age

October 2, 2009 5:01 am

From the heavyset computing devices of Charles Babbage to today’s simple novelty items, electronic devices and gadgets have become smaller, more functional, and more integrated into our daily lives. With mobile phone calls, SMS, and email we are seemingly in constant need to be in touch with other people electronically. And therein lies the problem. Many people seem to put such a high priority on immediately replying to electronic communication that they often unintentionally offend the people they are actually physically with. For example, how does that colleague doing the “Blackberry Prayer” during a meeting – hunched over a handheld device, texting and emailing – make you feel? Here are a few etiquette tips when using our electronic devices: When in meetings, turn your phone off – or at least put it in silent mode. Check your messages and return calls and emails after meetings, not during them. It’s much more polite to explain to a caller or email sender that your response was delayed because you were in a meeting rather than explaining to everyone with you that the person on your phone is more important than them. If you are expecting an urgent call you must take, inform others about it before the meeting begins. When your phone vibrates, excuse yourself quietly and take the call outside. Never wear an earpiece while in a meeting. Don’t use your mobile phone or PDA while you are talking to somebody – it gives the impression that the person you are talking to is unimportant and insignificant. Loud ringtones are inappropriate for certain settings, so make sure they’re off at the right times. If you need to use speaker phone, ask the person on the other line for permission first, and announce who else is in the room with you. Many people are (understandably) uncomfortable not knowing who else may be listening to them. While in video conferences, treat the people on the other end of the line as if they were actually in the room with you. No discreet playing of Plants vs. Zombies on your iPhone while the brand manager from the other end of the line is giving his sales report – regardless of how boring it may be. Remember: electronic correspondence can never replace actual human interaction and conversation. Even though we’re in the electronic age, the old saying still applies: “Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax.”

SMBs Investing More in Security Solutions

October 1, 2009 7:55 am

A recently released a report entitled “Voice of IT: State of SMB IT”, detailing  purchasing, technology usage, and IT staffing trends among small and medium businesses worldwide. The report surveyed over 1,100 IT professionals working in SMBs, 80 percent of whom were decision makers or influencers within their respective companies. Not surprisingly, a substantial number (39 percent) of the companies surveyed cut their IT budgets in 2009, with an average cut of 22 percent from 2008 levels. Among the areas where companies are saving money is hardware, with the average planned lifespan for machines such as desktops, laptops, servers, and switches increasing by 26 percent. Despite this, a significant number (31 percent) report that budgets remained flat, while as many as 30 percent reported an increase in budget in 2009 from the previous year. Among the areas where companies are investing money is in software, specifically security software. 46 percent of SMBs indicated that they plan to invest in antivirus and antispam software, while 38 percent plan to put their money in data backup and recovery software. A growing trend is virtualization, with 30 percent of participants planning to invest in virtualization solutions. How does your company compare? Do you think your company is investing enough in IT security? Contact us now to see how we can help you invest your IT budget where it brings the most value.

Watch out for “dirty” websites

September 22, 2009 4:19 am

In a previous post, we pointed out how just browsing the web these days can possibly infect your PC with malware . To show how dangerous surfing can become, Symantec recently released their list of the “Dirtiest Websites of Summer” – the top 100 infected sites on the Internet based on number of threats detected by their software as of August 2009. The list identifies websites that could compromise security with risks including phishing , malicious downloads, browser exploits, and links to unsafe external sites. Some interesting findings from the study: The average number of threats per site on the Dirtiest Websites list is roughly 18,000, compared to 23 threats per site for most sites 40 of the Top 100 Dirtiest Sites have more than 20,000 threats per site 48% of the Top 100 Dirtiest Web sites feature adult content 3/4 of the Top 100 Dirtiest Web sites have distributed malware for more than 6 months Viruses are the most common threat represented on the Dirtiest Websites list, followed by security risks and browser exploits You can read more about this research at Symantec’s website. If you suspect your PCs are at risk, or if you want to ensure your website doesn’t get hijacked by cybercriminals, contact us. We can help. Related articles: Symantec lists “Dirtiest Web Sites” Virus Security By Leveraging Community And Clouds Smartphone users need more security

More SMBs Using the Internet to Promote their Business

September 19, 2009 4:55 am

A recent study by the Kelsey Group reveals that more small and midsized businesses are using digital media, specially the Internet, to promote or advertise their business. Their study , conducted with research partner ConStat, indicates that the penetration of digital/online media increased from 73 percent in August 2008 to 77 percent in August 2009, while that of traditional media such as TV, radio, and print decreased from 74 percent to 69 percent during the same period. This is a clear indicator that the Internet has become an important source for many businesses to generate and manage their business. Potential business can come anywhere – from their website, queries in search engines, online ads, and lately even social networking sites. According to the study, for businesses that track lead sources, the percentage that does so using the Internet has increased from 22 percent in 2008 to 30 percent in 2009. Although the Internet can often be a scary for many SMB’s and their prospects place with threats such as spam, malware, phising, and more, this study reveals that it is still a source of tremendous value for those who know how to use it effectively. Related Information: If you’re a Microsoft Partner you can access my 5W50 Webinar “Building Your Online Marketing Engine” If you’d like a copy of the presentation don’t hesitate to drop me an email and request it Online Media Ad/Promo Use Eclipses Traditional Among SMBs

Small US Firms the Target of Online Fraud

September 18, 2009 4:54 am

Organized criminals believed to be based in Eastern Europe are robbing small to midsized US businesses of millions of dollars via an elaborate scheme aided by malicious software . Recent reports reveal that over the past few months, several businesses have fallen victim to unauthorized fund transfers whereby hundreds of thousands of dollars from the businesses’ bank accounts have been transferred to accounts in Europe, and in some cases, to the accounts of willing or unwitting accomplices in the United States. According to the reports the victims, usually the company CFO or owner, were sent malicious software as attachments to email, which when opened remained resident on the victims’ machines and stole the victims’ passwords to their online banking websites. The cybercriminals used this information to initiate transfers from their accounts of up to US $10,000 at a time to evade notice and detection from their bank’s anti-fraud or money laundering detection systems and protocols. Your business might be at risk. Make sure you are protected from this type of fraud by securing your PC and network from malicious software. Do not open suspicious-looking attachments and make sure you have the necessary protection in place, such as firewalls, antivirus software, and other methods of protection. Need help? Contact us today. Related articles: Comment: online banking? No thanks Know When Something is Being Installed on Your Machine Cybercrime victim? 3 telltale signs and what to do

Remote IT Support Helps SMBs Save Money and Keep Moving Forward

September 16, 2009 4:19 am

As a result of the past year’s economic climate, many small and medium-size businesses have increased their efforts to mitigate risks and lower costs—and more and more are turning toward remote IT support to fulfill those goals. Remote support tools allow IT providers to support an entire company’s computing infrastructure, wherever and whenever needed, from their own offices. This helps address the needs of a market that significantly benefits from doing more with less— small and medium businesses. Some of the benefits of remote support include: No travel time. As long as the issue doesn’t require on-site support, you won’t pay for time spent traveling to your site. No waiting. Response time is faster because support staff can address your needs immediately with online access to your machines and servers. Less work interruption. Because support can be done remotely, much support work can be done after hours, or behind the scenes as you continue to work. No more downtime while support staff takes over your physical desk. Lower costs. IT support staff can work on all of your computers simultaneously from their own offices, saving time – and therefore money. Proactive monitoring prevents problems from ever happening. Instead of waiting to come out and fixing your infrastructure when it’s already broken, remote support provides ongoing network monitoring, management, and unlimited remote support that prevents problems from occurring in the first place – all for one fixed monthly fee. Contact us today for details on how our remote IT support solutions can help your business stay on track.

What is Virtualization and What Can It Do for You?

September 3, 2009 4:07 am

Virtualization is generating a lot of buzz in IT circles these days because it promises to dramatically change the way many companies manage and operate their IT infrastructure. Virtualization is a broad term that covers the creation of virtual computing resources—such as storage, the network, or even an entire machine. For example, using virtualization you can create virtual machines on one computer, each running its own operating system. According to research from the Yankee Group, 26% of medium businesses (100-499 employees) and 43% of enterprises (500+ employees) are using server virtualization today, and within 24 months, the percentage for medium-sized businesses is expected to increase to 69%. Among small businesses (20-99 employees), 23% are using server virtualization in production servers, and 8% of very small businesses (2-19 employees) are following suit. Here are some examples of how you can take advantage of virtualization: Reduce capex and opex. If you run a fair-sized organization with multiple servers, you can reduce your capital expenditures for new equipment or upgrades by purchasing a smaller number of machines and running your server workload off of them. Over time, this will reduce operating expenses because you’ll have fewer machines to maintain, less power and space consumed, and more machines more fully utilized. A cost-effective way to keep IT running. Some virtualization solutions include features that allow virtual machines to quickly recover in case of disaster or application downtime. Virtual machine loads can be transferred in real-time from one physical machine to another. This means that your accounting application or warehouse management system will always run even if the original machine it’s installed on goes down – if it’s installed on a virtual machine that can intelligently transfer the application to a standby system. Test multiple types of machines and run multiple applications on different operating systems. With machine virtualization, you can run multiple operating systems on a single PC. Thinking of running Windows 7 but are afraid some applications might not run properly on it? Use virtualization to run Windows XP within Windows 7. Want to use a Mac but your email is tied to Outlook? No problem! Buy a Mac, and use third party software to run Windows inside it. Curious about virtualization and how it can help your business? Contact us today to explore ways that virtualization can increase your efficiency and lower your costs.

Healthy Computing Tips

September 2, 2009 8:00 am

Carpal tunnel syndrome and eyestrain are two of the most common conditions that affect habitual computer users. Whether or not these conditions pose serious health risks remains a subject of debate, but it’s safe to say that no one wants to suffer them. Both conditions are painful, and can affect your productivity. The good news is that there are simple ways to prevent suffering from either condition. How to prevent eye strain: Never stare too long at your monitor. Blink occasionally and use eye drops to avoid dry eyes. Rest your eyes regularly for about 2-3 minutes. If you have time, take a power nap (5-15 minutes) – this not only gives your eyes a rest, but also gives your brain and body a well-deserved break. Use glare-resistant glasses or a glare reduction screen for your monitor. Avoid working in too-bright environments. Reduce the brightness of your computer screen. Place your monitor at least 20 inches from your eyes. If you can’t read the screen, increase the size of your windows. You may also want to visit an optometrist to see if you need glasses or a new prescription. How to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome: Adjust the height of your chair so that your arms and wrists are level with the keyboard. Move and click on your mouse lightly. Perform this wrist exercise several times throughout the day: Stretch your arms out in front of you, palms facing out – as if you were doing push ups. Hold for 5 seconds. With arms still stretched, straighten your wrists and relax you hands. After a few seconds, make tight fists and point them downward with your wrists. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat step 2. Let your arms hang at your sides and then give them a gentle shake Try incorporating these easy, quick, and safe tips into your daily routine. If they become habits, they’ll help you avoid the inconvenience and pain of carpal tunnel syndrome and eyestrain.

Phishers Siphon Off Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in Minutes

September 1, 2009 9:52 am

Another reason to keep your computer malware free: cyber-pirates raided several businesses as well as a school in recent attacks through the Automated Clearing House (ACH) Network. The losses, which ranged from $150,000 to more than $400,000, were accomplished by the crooks in mere minutes. Luckily for these companies, the banks managed to reverse some of the transfers. If they hadn’t, the losses would have amounted to $700,000 up to a whopping $1.2 million. The modus operandi of the hackers is simple. Making use of the ACH network, they send out “phishing” emails to account holders. When the recipient clicks on the link, malicious software – a Trojan horse or virus – automatically downloads itself to the recipient’s computer, allowing the hacker to infiltrate the system. Keylogging software (software that tracks keystrokes) is installed, which gives phishers access account numbers, names, and passwords. They then divert the company’s funds into their own accounts. ACH fraudsters can also use the same method to not only siphon off money into their own pockets, but also to establish “ghost employees”, which they insert into the payroll and qualify to receive regular paychecks. While banks are doing their best to strengthen the system, they can only do so much, and experts admit that the ACH network is a very old system compared to today’s standards. The volume of money that flows through the ACH is also so massive that it is difficult to keep track of specific amounts for specific accounts. Despite its shortcomings, the ACH system still remains widely used, and the best defence is to guard your system well. For our clients, we have firewalls and anti-malware software in place, but you should also make sure your bookkeepers and staff are briefed on how to avoid being the victim of fake phishing emails. If you have any questions or concerns please give us a call. For more details about this story, visit http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9136334/Cyber_attackers_empty_business_accounts_in_minutes?taxonomyId=17&pageNumber=1.

E-mail marketing still works according to Entrepreneur.com

August 31, 2009 9:59 am

Entrepreneur magazine columnist Gail Goodman offers an insightful look into email marketing and its relevance in today’s social network marketing -crazy world. She argues that despite the rise of Twitter, LinkedIn , Facebook , blogging, and other Web 2.0 tools for direct marketing, she argues that they will not likely displace email soon. Goodman points out several arguments in support of her case. Among them: email is still valuable for relationship-building and meaningful interaction and dialogue with customers. Also, social networking has its place as a complementary channel to the marketing mix , and research from MarketingSherpa seems to bear this out. Another is that young people continue to use email despite their fascination with social networking sites. If you rely on Internet, email, or direct marketing in your business, then be sure to continue using email as well. Related articles: Report: Social Networks Growing while Other Social Media Sites … Why Do People Use Online Social Networks : Internet Marketing …

Fake Security Software Could be Compromising your Security

August 28, 2009 9:30 am

A new report by PandaLabs , Panda Security’ s malware analysis and detection laboratory, examines the proliferation of so-called “rogueware” – malicious software that attempts to convince people that their computers are infected with malware in order to trick them into buying their “security software”. Rogueware misleads users in that it tells them that it is protecting them from annoyances (such as online ads) or harm (such as from viruses or other malware) – even if it’s not. Often these programs themselves are not malicious beyond displaying false information. However, in some cases they can be the source of harm themselves, creating a backdoor for other Trojans or viruses to enter the system. According to Panda’s research, as many as 35 million computers are newly infected with rogueware each month, many through social networking websites such as Facebook , MySpace , Twitter , Digg . Ads featuring free downloadable software are often featured, containing links or reminders to get the paid versions after first use—which earn the fraudsters as much as $34 million per month, Panda estimates. To ensure you use only legitimate security software, make sure you only use systems from trusted software vendors that are vetted by your IT advisor. For advice and help, contact us today! Related articles: Cyber-criminals targeting social networking sites Blog – Can Twitter and Facebook be Both Social and Secure? Forget about malware, rogueware is where its at!

Windows 7 Will Have Better Support for WindowsXP-only Applications

August 18, 2009 10:08 am

Microsoft recently announced the availability of the Release Candidate for Windows XP Mode . According to Microsoft, this release was specifically designed to ease the migration path for small to medium-sized businesses by providing additional compatibility for their older applications that may not be compatible with Windows Vista or the upcoming Windows 7. Windows XP mode runs a virtualized instance of Windows XP in Windows 7, and requires a PC equipped with additional 1 GB of RAM, 15 GB of available disk space, and a processor capable of hardware virtualization with AMD-V or Intel VT turned on in the BIOS . Because of these system requirements, older PCs are not able to run the software. In the blog post by the Windows 7 Development team, they suggest that users first try the Native Windows 7 mode when running their applications before resorting to Windows XP mode. Windows XP Mode was developed to address some users’ concerns about compatibility, considering that Windows 7 uses the same kernel as Windows Vista. Some businesses had been holding back from upgrading their operating systems since some business applications built for XP proved incompatible with Vista. Windows XP Release Candidate will work with both the RC and RTM (Release To Manufacturing) versions of Windows 7. If you need more information, please contact us today and we’ll assess whether you can safely upgrade to the new release of Windows 7, or you need Windows XP compatibility mode for your business applications. Related articles: Windows XP Mode RC now available Microsoft Clarifies Windows XP Mode For Windows 7 Windows XP Mode for Windows 7 Release Candidate available

Windows 7 Allows Easy Upgrades

August 13, 2009 3:50 am

Microsoft recently announced that Windows 7 will include a feature to allow instant upgrades from lower editions of Windows 7 to a higher edition (i.e., from Starter to Home Premium) with the click of a button. The feature, called “Windows Anytime Upgrade” or WAU, will make the process of upgrading much simpler and more convenient than before. Typical scenarios for upgrading include: Users running Windows 7 Starter Edition on their netbooks , who wish to upgrade to Home Premium to take advantage of Aero Peek and other enhanced functionality from their OS such as Taskbar Previews . Desktop themes are also enabled, and so is Remote Media Streaming. Users running Home Premium on their laptops who wish to connect to their office network’s domain or run their old custom business applications using Windows XP Mode can upgrade to Professional. Users running Home Premium or Professional who want to encrypt and secure their USB devices. With Microsoft’s early announcements of pricing and upgrade options for the upcoming Windows 7 release, you have the opportunity to plan now for the investment strategy you will use when the time comes to upgrade. If you need information or advice about your options, don’t hesitate to call us. Related articles: Windows 7 RTM reviewed For Some, Move To Windows 7 Will Be Tough Windows 7 pricing announced: cheaper than Vista Microsoft announces pricing for Windows 7 family pack, upgrading

Upgrading to Windows 7 from Windows XP?

August 13, 2009 3:49 am

Information Week has posted a helpful guide to assist those planning to upgrade to the upcoming release of Microsoft Windows 7 on their existing Windows XP machine. Long story short: there is no direct upgrade from XP to Windows 7. You can’t simply insert the Windows 7 installation DVD, upgrade your running XP installation, and have all your programs and data remain intact. However, this article does explain what you can do, including any of the following: Install a copy of Windows 7 on the same computer, in parallel with your existing XP install. Install a copy of Windows 7 on the same computer and replace your existing XP install entirely. Obtain an entirely new computer with 7 installed, and migrate your existing XP data and application settings to it. To learn more, visit Information Week . If you need help with preparing your business for Windows 7, contact us – we are here to help. Related articles: For Some, Move To Windows 7 Will Be Tough Windows 7 RTM reviewed Backwards compatibility can kill you

4 Keys to Avoiding Malware

August 12, 2009 3:41 am

From annoying to destructive, malware is a bane to any computer system and the person who uses it. The benevolent Wikipedia defines malware (short for malicious software) as: “software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system without the owner’s informed consent.” The good news though, is that there are simply ways to avoid getting infected by malware. Clearly having the right anti-virus and security installed and up to date is critical – that’s where we help. But it’s also important to know how you can make a difference. Here are few simple tips to help you keep your system malware-free: 1. Never click indiscriminately These days, there are ads and pop-ups, designed to induce a PC user to click on them. From sexy models to seemingly too-good-to-be-true offers and promotions, many web advertisers are counting on people’s curiosity and the impulse to click away. The thing is, many of these ads lead you to unsecure sites filled with malware. 2. Cancel Autorun. When you plug in a portable hard disk or flash drive, you computer automatically opens a window with preset options to enable file viewing for that drive. Immediately opening a flash drive allows infections to access your system, so cancel the window and scan first before opening the drive or any file inside it. 3. Never open suspicious emails. Unsolicited email is always best unopened and deleted immediately. If you don’t know who sent it, send it straight to the trash bin and delete it forever. 4. Only download if you must and only from trusted sites. Installing peer to peer downloads may be a great source of free music, media and software. But it’s not only piracy and is probably prohibited by your company policy – it’s also a fertile breeding ground for files embedded with Trojans, worms, and other forms of malware. Download files only when necessary and only do so from legitimate and trusted sites. You make the difference Your behavior online plays a big factor in making your PC and your system malware free. Especially if you’re on a network, failing to exercise caution not only compromises your system, but everyone else who’s connected to the same network. A simple click on a wayward link or ad can cause your whole company to be bombarded by spam, so always be careful in what sites you go to and what files you open and download. If you’d like us to come in and talk to your staff about this and other safe-computing habits just let us know.

Why Enable a Mobile Workforce?

August 10, 2009 3:44 am

If you enable your employees to work where and when they like, at any hour of any day, you’ll likely see big gains in productivity. With traditional network infrastructure, when employees are away from the office—because they’re traveling for business purposes are or are taking time off—collaboration is impossible and productivity is lost. As a result, many companies are helping their employees to work remotely. A 2007 study by Nemertes Research revealed that 83 percent of organizations now consider themselves virtual, with workgroups spread across multiple locations and geographies. In addition, 91 percent of employees work outside of headquarters, and 96 percent use some form of real-time collaboration tools. A mobile workforce may involve: Real-time access to desktops and documents; Internet and instant messaging access through mobile devices; Real-time collaboration tools (such as editing documents simultaneously); and Audio and video conferencing. Companies that effectively enable a mobile workforce: Improve productivity through ongoing access to information; Drive business responsiveness through constant communication between employees and clients; and Support work-life balance and improve job satisfaction—which helps attract and retain talent. However, there are challenges to enabling a mobile workforce: Deployment can be disruptive to your current IT infrastructure; Devices and applications may be incompatible with your current infrastructure; Employees may not know how to use new tools; and Mobile devices and data may not be protected. We can help you avoid these problems when enabling a mobile workforce—and at the same time, minimize your investment in technology with products that scale to support your evolving needs. Contact us for more information.

MS Office 2010 Promises Easier Online Collaboration for SMBs

August 10, 2009 3:23 am

At the recently concluded Microsoft World Wide Partners Conference , the company gave partners a preview of upcoming features in Microsoft Office 2010 that could be very useful for small and midsized companies. Among them:  Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote 2010 now lets several people work on a document at the same time. Users of the desktop versions of the software will be able to send out a text link that will let anyone click on the link and use Windows Live to open the document and work on the live, with all parties seeing each others’ changes. Outlook 2010 will have a new feature which will allow users to ignore email threads, deleting everything in that conversation, including existing messages and any new ones that come in. PowerPoint 2010 will have a Broadcast feature will create a URL that users can share via e-mail or IM. Clicking on the link will let other users see a slideshow streaming directly from the author’s desktop. To find out more about these new features, visit the Microsoft WWPC website. Related articles: Microsoft Office 2010 in Videos [Video Demonstration] Office 2010 revealed in great detail via Microsoft videos Microsoft Offie 2010 to have free online version like google docs

Small Businesses Struggling with IT Security

August 5, 2009 3:14 am

New research suggests that small and midsized businesses are struggling to keep up with securing their IT applications and infrastructure. The IT Effectiveness Index report , or ITEI, provides business owners and IT executives at small and midsized businesses with a free online benchmarking tool to help them compare the effectiveness of their IT systems with companies in the same industry and peer group. Executives who take the survey are given a grade from A through F, along with a brief description of what their grade means. Nearly one in four SMBs received an “F” or failing grade in IT effectiveness, the study says. According to the report, this failure stems largely from a lack of security, a high level of downtime, and the absence of disaster recovery programs. The report revealed that about 37 percent of SMBs received a “C” grade, which indicates they are just barely getting by; only 30 percent have a fully implemented security program; and only 26 percent have fully implemented a disaster recovery/continuity plan. Is your business struggling with security? Do you want to increase the effectiveness of your IT? Consider outsourcing it to us so you can focus on your business and leave the worrying to us.

Webcams, video conferencing, and all that jazz

July 27, 2009 4:52 am

The internet makes a great number of tasks more convenient for many people, especially in the area of communication. The power of the internet allows millions of people around the world to talk to each other over voice programs and even videos – all in real time. While the benefits to personal communications are obvious, the larger value implications of this type of technology is evident in business, where travel costs are greatly reduced through the use of video conferencing technology. Imagine a group of people in the United States being able to see and communicate in real time with another group in Australia. This is possible with video conferencing, which allows the two parties simply agree on a time (with the time zone difference considered, of course) and then hold a meeting in the comfort of their own offices. Video conferencing not only saves the fares and accommodation expenses, but also saves time spent travelling. It’s also valuable to employees in the field who need to report to a main office. A webcam, a mike, and a decent internet connection allows those in the field to report in real time to the main office at any time, eliminating the need to leave their post or assignment. Programs you can use: Citrix GoToMeeting – one of the most popular software for web conferencing, costing $49.00 per month or $468 for an annual plan that gives you unlimited conferences (including both video and voice) with up to 10 attendees. The interface is easy to use and meetings can be set up in a flash. The only downside is that Mac users can only participate in, and not set up, meetings. Microsoft Live Meeting – another popular bundle of decently priced and stable conferencing software. However, the interface is much more complicated than Citrix GoToMeeting, and may confuse first-time users. Another possible concern is its “per use” charging system. WebEx MeetMeNow – at $39 – $49 a month, this option offers the best value for the money, with its unlimited monthly use with up 10 participants and a very user-friendly installation and interface. Acrobat Connect Professional – this option offers the most flexible payment plans, making it best suited for occasional users. It also boasts customization features allowing users to tailor the program based on their needs. Video conferencing is a simple and practical way to communicate in real time with personal and business contacts, wherever they are in the world, at a fraction of the cost of more traditional methods. Need help choosing equipment and getting set up? We’ll be happy to lend a hand.

Protect Your Systems from Organized Crime Networks

July 27, 2009 4:52 am

While software companies have made significant progress in protecting customers from malicious online threats, these threats continue to evolve, and now a new player has entered the game: organized crime. Malware, short for “malicious software,” is designed to infiltrate a computer system without the owner’s consent. It includes viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, and even adware. The total amount of malware removed from computers worldwide grew more than 43 percent during the first half of 2008, according to a security intelligence report by Microsoft. According to the report, based on the type of malware most frequently found, financial gain appears to be attackers’ top motivation. And it may only get worse, because now organized crime networks are distributing malware. Don’t think American mafia; this type of organized crime is more typically loosely organized criminals from underdeveloped parts of the world. Australia’s Verizon investigative response team, which handles data breaches on behalf of that country’s major corporations, has reported that 91 percent of the breaches it found in 2008 could be traced to organized crime activity rather than insider or other threats. These organized crime networks plot to infiltrate computers—primarily American ones, which have information from which they can profit—and steal data. They may also seek out intellectual property for its potential value. “If a single piece of intellectual property is compromised, and it happens to be the secret formula to your company’s product, then that’s a business-changing event,” said the Verizon report. Although most of the malware Verizon found could not be detected by current antivirus products, around 87 per cent of breaches could have been avoided by using simple controls, according to Verizon, whose report stated that “on the whole, criminals are still not required to work very hard to breach corporate information systems.” Here’s what you can do to help protect your systems: Enable a firewall. Install and maintain up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware programs that provide increased protection from malicious and potentially unwanted software. Almost 40 per cent of victims Verizon investigated in 2008 did not regularly update their security software. Check for and apply software updates on an ongoing basis, including updates provided for third-party applications. Open links and attachments in e-mail and instant messages with caution. Need help implementing these safeguards? We’re here to assist!

Microsoft Releases Fixes and a Workaround for Several Vulnerabilities

July 27, 2009 4:22 am

The web is indeed becoming a dangerous place. These days, your PC could become infected with malware or vulnerable to a hacker attack just by innocently browsing a website or opening an email. Last July 14th, Microsoft released six bulletins with fixes for at least nine known security vulnerabilities that put users at risk in a range of Microsoft products. Many of the vulnerabilities, if not patched, can allow “remote code execution” or allow a hacker or malicious software to take over your PC and run unauthorized commands. ZDNet’s Ryan Naraine has posted a helpful summary of the released fixes: MS09-029 : This update covers two privately reported vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Windows component Embedded OpenType (EOT) Font Engine, which could allow remote code execution. Rated “critical” for all supported editions of Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, and Windows Server 2008. MS09-028 : This update fixes three separate vulnerabilities ( one publicly disclosed and under attack! ) in Microsoft DirectShow, which could allow remote code execution if a user opens a specially-crafted QuickTime media file. MS09-032 : This update resolves a privately reported vulnerability in Microsoft Video ActiveX Control. The vulnerability could allow remote code execution if a user uses Internet Explorer to view a specially-crafted Web page that uses the ActiveX control . This vulnerability is currently being exploited in the wild! Rated “critical” for all supported editions of Windows XP and “moderate” for all supported editions of Windows Server 2003. Some of the vulnerabilities, notably one in Microsoft Office Web Components, do not yet have a patch. An attacker who successfully exploits this vulnerability could potentially gain the same user rights as a local user, allowing the attacker to modify or remove files on the PC remotely. This could potentially happen simply by using Internet Explorer to visit a website. A workaround exists by downloading a free utility from Microsoft called FixIt , which prevents the Microsoft Office Web Components from running in Internet Explorer. Users, as always, are advised to immediately download the updates and utilities, or use Microsoft’s Windows Update service. If you need help installing the patches or workarounds, or if you feel your PCs are at risk, contact us immediately. Related articles: Microsoft Security Advisory 972890 Released Microsoft warns of Internet Explorer security hole Microsoft issues patches, including one for IE exploit Internet Explorer’s ActiveX Security Mitigations in Use Microsoft Warns of Security Hole

Businesses Should Replace PCs Every Three Years

July 27, 2009 4:07 am

For many small and medium-sized businesses, the cost of maintaining an old PC may be more expensive than upgrading to a new one. This insight comes from a survey conducted by research firm Techaisle , which polled 630 companies across seven countries. Their research suggests that the average cost for SMBs to repair PCs over three years old can be 1.65 times as expensive as repairing PCs under three years old. Repairs include replacements, usually from hardware failure, and the cost to fix software crashes. Small business respondents with PCs older than three years experienced network card failures nearly eight times more than respondents with PCs less than three years old. This was followed by power supply failures, motherboard failures, software crashes, and virus attacks. Midmarket respondents experienced a similar trend, with network card failures at six times higher, followed by power supply failures and motherboard failures. In addition, respondents said desktops that have been in use for more than three years are more susceptible to attacks from malware and viruses (28 percent), while older notebooks are 58 percent more likely to endure a virus attack. The cost of related lost worker productivity should also be factored in by companies wishing to hold on to outdated hardware. Are you hanging on to old PCs in an attempt to money? Contact us today. We can help you assess the health and condition of your PCs, as well as determine the cost of maintaining existing PCs versus upgrading or replacing them.

Microsoft Announces Windows 7 Pricing

July 25, 2009 8:23 am

Microsoft has finally announced the pricing for the much anticipated new version of its flagship product, Microsoft Windows , expected to go on sale this October. Users will be pleasantly surprised that Microsoft has announced aggressive promotional pricing for the product and its different editions. According to the Windows team blog , estimated retail prices for the upgrade packaged retail product of Windows 7 in the US are: Windows 7 Home Premium (Upgrade): $119.99 Windows 7 Professional (Upgrade): $199.99 Windows 7 Ultimate (Upgrade): $219.99 Estimated retail prices for full packaged retail product of Windows 7 in the US are: Windows 7 Home Premium (Full): $199.99 Windows 7 Professional (Full): $299.99 Windows 7 Ultimate (Full): $319.99 The Windows 7 Home Premium full retail product is $40.00 less than today’s Windows Vista Home Premium price. Pre-orders will be limited, and Microsoft has not commented yet on what the supply limitations will be. Pre-orders will launch Friday, June 26 – July 11 in the US, Canada, and Japan, ending sooner if supplies are depleted. The UK, France, and Germany preorders launch July 15 – August 14, also ending sooner if supplies are depleted. Microsoft has launched a new website where users can find more information about upgrade offers. Related articles: Buy a PC tomorrow and get Windows 7 or pre order Week in Microsoft: Windows 7 gets priced Microsoft taking half-price pre-orders for Windows 7

Get the Most out of Microsoft Outlook

July 24, 2009 8:23 am

Outlook is surely one of Microsoft’s most popular products, widely recognized as a standard application alongside Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Bundled inside Microsoft Office, Outlook is the personal information manager component of the ubiquitous office suite, blending email, contact management, a calendar, and task management into one package. Here are some tips to ensure you are making the most out of this popular application: Use Outlook with Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Sharepoint. Microsoft Outlook is a rich and powerful tool on its own, but when used with Microsoft Exchange Server and Microsoft Sharepoint, it provides enhanced functions for collaboration within organization, such as the ability to share mailboxes and calendars. With Exchange, you can create shared folders for important email communication and company-wide memos, as well as invite others to meetings and share your availability information. You can even create a company-wide address book of key contacts for shared use. With Microsoft Sharepoint, you can post all of this information in the company Intranet, and even expose some of this information to customers and partners in the company extranet or public website – allowing you to share information and collaborate more easily with people outside of the organization as well. Use Outlook Web Access. If you don’t have access to your PC, such as when traveling, you can still use Outlook if you use it with Exchange. Just access Outlook Web Access (OWA) using your browser and any internet connection. OWA is the webmail service of Microsoft Exchange Server 5.0 and later, packaged as a part of Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and previous versions of Exchange. Its interface resembles the interface in Microsoft Outlook. Sync your data. Because of the popularity of Outlook, there is a host of third-party applications and plug-ins you can use to sync your data. Always on the go? Sync Outlook with your mobile phone, PDA, and even your iPOD or Blackberry. Want to have your data accessible on any PC or device? Sync your email and calendar data to hosted services such as Google Calendar or Google Apps. Need to call a contact from your desktop? No problem – Outlook can integrate with Skype to allow you to do one-click calling from Outlook. Want integration with your company applications and systems? A host of enterprise applications from billing and accounting, CRM, and even ERP systems can sync key data such customer contact information to Outlook. Use add-ons. Many other third-party add-ons and plug-ins are available for Outlook to further expand its already considerable features. One favorite is a tool called Xobni (Inbox in reverse), which allows you to more easily search and organize your inbox. Google Desktop plugs in to Outlook so that you can search the web, your desktop files, and your email and file attachments from within Outlook in one place. There are many more available to check out. Learn Outlook inside and out. Dozens of websites provide useful tips on how to complete tasks faster, make your experience with the application smoother, and simplify your workflow. A good place to start is Microsoft’s website , which regularly offers handy, free tips for using Outlook to its fullest. Microsoft Outlook is widely used because it is a robust and versatile tool for information management, not only for individual users but for groups within an entire business as well. Time spent learning how to maximize its use is well worth it in terms of saved time and increased productivity. Call us now for ideas on how to get started!

Proactive Computer Network Management Reduces Total Cost of Ownership

July 23, 2009 5:24 am

In today’s challenging economic times, many small businesses like yours are reluctant to spend money. However, a modest investment in network maintenance can ultimately improve your profitability and reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) of your network infrastructure. Your business depends on your network Your revenue is directly tied to the availability and performance of your network, because it’s the backbone of your business. Your network houses critical applications, allows your employees to communicate, and gives customers access your goods and services. When your network fails, your business suffers. Employees cannot access the applications and information they need to keep your business up and running, and basic means of communication, such as printing, filing, and emailing, are unavailable. At the same time, customers cannot access the information they need to buy your products. You’re forced to spend time and money to get the system up and running, increasing your TCO. The end result: productivity declines and revenue decreases. Managing your network can prevent revenue loss It pays to minimize network performance degradation and downtime, and a network management system will help you do this. Large companies have long deployed such systems, but as networks become more critical to smaller businesses, they have become important for small- and mid-size enterprises as well. A network management system will provide tools that improve network performance, help network administrators manage the network more efficiently, and include an early warning system for network outages. These benefits allow your business to operate more efficiently, thereby cutting costs and preventing revenue loss—and reducing the TCO of your network infrastructure. Need Help? Finding a good network management system and deploying it correctly is by no means a simple task, but there are plenty of solutions that provide the necessary functionality at a relatively low cost. We can help you deploy an easy-to-use network management system that helps you manage your network more efficiently and save money at the same time. Contact us today for more information. Related articles: Assessing the business impact of network management on small and mid-size enterprises

Business Impact of a Major Data Loss Event

July 21, 2009 8:23 am

Data breaches are costing companies more than ever, according to a recent study—and smaller companies may be most at risk. Data losses, which can result from theft or carelessness, are a downside of the information age. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), more than 35 million data records were breached in 2008 in the United States—47 percent more than in 2007. How much do data losses cost? The Ponemon Institute, which studies business privacy practices, surveyed 43 U.S. companies across 17 industry sectors that lost data in 2008. According to the study, data losses ranged from 4,200 records to 113,000 records, and each data record lost cost $202—making the total cost between $848,400 and $22,826,000. That number was up from $197 per data record lost in 2007, $182 in 2006, and $138 in 2005, the first year the study was conducted. Why are data losses so costly? When you lose data, a number of costs are incurred, including detecting data losses, notifying victims, paying for victim reparations (such as free credit checks), and hiring experts to remedy the problem. You also must account for business lost as a result of customer mistrust. In fact, in the Ponemon study, $139 of the lost $202 per data record represented the cost of lost business. Small companies may suffer the most from data losses. Another study conducted earlier this year by StollzNow Research asked IT managers from 945 companies about their experiences related to data management. They found that an alarming 49 percent of small companies fail to back up their data on a daily basis. This is despite the fact that nearly half of all participants experienced data loss in their workplace in the past two years, and 36 percent felt that data loss could have a significant impact on their business. Don’t put yourself at risk. We can help you prevent costly data loss by implementing a policy for the preservation of data, and by installing and testing backup systems on a regular basis. Related articles: Tech Managers Often Underestimate Impact of Data Loss Study: Data Losses Proving More Costly for Businesses

Does your business need a server?

July 21, 2009 8:22 am

Is it time for you to consider a server for your business? This question was raised recently by Rhonda Abrams, a writer for USA TODAY’s Small Business section. According to Ms. Abrams’s article, if your business is growing and you have more than two people in your business, then you should definitely consider buying a server. Having a server, or a dedicated computer that acts as a central resource for data and applications within your office network , can dramatically improve the way your business runs. A server allows you to consolidate your data in one place, making it easy to share among your colleagues. Network file shares allow you to upload and archive files and data in one centralized location for everyone. Centralizing data also makes it easier to secure and back up. Servers often are powerful computers that can host applications your business runs within the office network. With servers, you can run applications such as email and security services, host your business website or company intranet , deploy multi-user databases, and much more. Let us know if you are considering deploying a server for your business – we can help you do it efficiently and cost effectively. Related article: Strategies: It might be time to get serious about a server.

Hackers Launch Cyber-Offensive Against American and South Korean Sites

July 21, 2009 8:22 am

Last July 4th and 5th, a massive denial-of-service attack was launched against several government and commercial websites in the United States and South Korea. According to security researchers, the attacks were the work of malware that infected PCs and routed traffic to government and commercial sites during the July 4 weekend in an attempt to take them down with the flood of simultaneous requests hitting them. Among those affected were the U.S. Department of Treasury, the Secret Service, the Federal Trade Commission, and several others. The attacks, which hit South Korean sites a few days later on July the 7th, are widely believed to have been carried out by an updated version of the MyDoom worm which gained infamy when it first hit Windows machines last 2004. The motive for the attack is not yet known. In the meantime, users are advised to scan their machines and update their operating systems to protect against known vulnerabilities. Contact us to learn more about protecting your business from a similar attack. Related articles: Mysterious cyber-attacker hits at federal websites, crisis averted? Cyber Attack Targets Government Websites Who’s behind cyber assaults?

Dual Boot Windows 7 and Vista on One Machine

July 21, 2009 7:56 am

Excited about Windows 7 but unsure if you want to replace your existing Vista installation? Worried about potential compatibility and driver problems with the Windows 7 beta or release candidate? Why not install both on the same machine? Microsoft has posted an interesting article on how to have both Vista and the upcoming Windows 7 Beta or Release Candidate on the same machine by dual booting from one operating system to the other. Be sure to check out the system requirements for Windows 7 ensure your system is up to the challenge. Generally speaking, if your system can handle Vista then it will likely have no problem with Windows 7; however, you’ll need ample space on your hard drive to have both running. Check out the article at Microsoft’s Technet website. Not sure how (or why) to do it? Contact us – we can help! Related articles Windows 7 testers have long path to upgrade Can a Windows Vista PC Run Windows XP Instead? Windows 7 release date announced

Considering Netbooks for Your Business?

July 20, 2009 11:32 am

Market research organization Techaisle recently released a study forecasting that SMBs worldwide will purchase 1.1 million Netbooks in 2009, jumping to 3.5 million units in 2010. Between 22 and 30 percent of SMBs said that they are considering Netbook purchases as they upgrading core desktops and notebooks. Designed primarily for wireless communication and access to the Internet, Netbooks are small portable laptop computers equipped with wireless connectivity, no optical disk drive, a small keyboard, and screens usually no larger than 10 inches. According to the survey, this interest in Netbooks is fueled by the global economic crisis forcing companies to rein in IT spending, as well as by increased interest in easy and low-cost access to mobile computing. The study suggests that while some are considering Netbooks as a possible replacement for desktops and notebooks, it is more likely that they will be used to augment those items. Contact us for ideas on how Netbooks might benefit your own business operations. Related links: Global SMBs TO Buy 1.1 Million Netbooks in 2009 ABI Thinks Netbooks Will Win How the Netbook is changing the industry Netbooks, Small, Efficient Web Tool

Are you regularly defragmenting your disks?

July 20, 2009 11:31 am

When most people want to purchase a new computer or upgrade their current one, they focus on finding a CPU with the quickest speed, the most computing cores, or the most RAM they can afford. However, they may be overlooking the most likely reason for computing slowdowns: fragmentation in the disks. Disk drives claim the dubious distinction of being the slowest component on today’s computers, and the more fragmented they are, the more they drag down the performance of the entire system. Fragmentation is the scattering or fragmenting of files on a hard drive from continually writing, deleting, and resizing them. The more you use your computer, the more these bits of data get scattered about. As this happens, it takes longer for the computer to retrieve this data as it reads back from the disk. Defragmentation is the process in which a special software utility is run to arrange all of this data into contiguous spaces on the disk. Today, frequent defragmentation is becoming more and more important as drive capacities become larger and we start to use our disks more heavily. We now regularly store and retrieve various forms of media such as photos, images, music and videos from our computer disks. Thousands of media files dramatically increase disk fragmentation. We also use our systems to run “virtualized” guest operating systems, which also dramatically increases file fragmentation as these operating systems perform simultaneous read/write operations on the disk. Resident antivirus programs will also slow down disk operation if it is made to continuously read fragmented files. In a business maintaining several computers, these operations will significantly shorten the life span of the drives, and will also contribute to work slowdowns and productivity loss. So before spending money on a new CPU or RAM upgrade, try defragmenting first. Let us help you implement a schedule and procedures to better manage this important process.

SMBs Buy and Use Software Differently

July 14, 2009 5:31 am

Surprise, surprise! According to Forrester Research , an analyst firm, small businesses buy and use software differently than their larger brethren. More than 2,200 IT executives and technology decision-makers in North America and Europe were polled, and the findings show that: small businesses are more likely to purchase software than build their own they are wary of open source software because of security and support issues interest in SaaS is growing but total cost of ownership is a concern they are more optimistic than big businesses and will allocate a greater portion of their IT spend on software These conclusions come from the recent Forrester Research report The State Of SMB Software: 2009 and data from Forrester’s Enterprise and SMB Software Survey “Enterprise Versus SMB: Who Influences Your Software Purchasing Decisions?” and “Software Budget Outlook And Preferred Purchasing Channels By Company Size: 2008 To 2009”. You can purchase the research at Forrester’s website or go to bMighty to read a summary . Do you agree with the findings? Let us know – we’re interested in what you think.

Do Your PCs Host Dangerous Apps?

July 14, 2009 5:29 am

New research from security firm Secunia reveals that the average PC user has over a dozen insecure applications on his or her computer. They found that the typical user installs over 80 applications on his or her desktop, and around 15% are vulnerable to attack due to failure to patch the applications in a timely manner. Vendors normally release updates or patches to fix known vulnerabilities in their applications. This is an acute problem for software which connects to the Internet, especially if it hosts sensitive or private data. Only 2% of users make it a point regularly update their applications. For businesses, the problem could be greater with the need to manage multiple PCs. Protect your network today by letting us implement software patch management tools to manage and automate this process for you. Related articles: Keep your software up to date with Secunia Personal Software Inspector Patch management no longer just an IT problem Another year of handwringing on cybersecurity

Why a PDF is Best for Sharing Files

June 23, 2009 5:02 am

PDF stands for Portable Document Format , a file format that originated in print publishing as a tool for proofing print jobs before sending them to the printer. Today, it has become the standard for sharing print-ready documents via the Internet. The format was developed by Adobe and was originally available only to owners of the company’s Acrobat software. During the mid-90s, Adobe began distributing Acrobat Reader software, a free tool for viewing PDF files – making it a popular choice for authors, publishers, and designers who wanted to get around the formatting limitations of HTML . PDF is now accepted as an open standard, and is widely supported by other software vendors. Several characteristics of PDF make it a great choice for sharing or publishing documents over the Internet. Ability to retain formatting. PDF allows the original presentation and formatting of any document to remain exactly as its original author intended it to look, including images, fonts, and layout. This is a distinct advantage over other formats such as Microsoft Office documents or HTML, which can change the document’s appearance according to the software and fonts installed on the computer used to view the document. Security. With PDF documents, you have full control over users’ ability to open, print, copy,modify, or share documents. You can selectively enable or disable these actions for each document according to your preferences. Easy to create. Because PDF has become an open standard, many software vendors support the format.You don’t necessarily need Adobe’s Acrobat software to create PDF documents. Many plug-ins for Microsoft Office, print drivers, or online conversion services are available free or for a fee and make it easy and convenient to publish or export to the format. Compressible. PDF file sizes can be shrunk to suit the needs of target users. PDF documents can be packaged and compressed while retaining the original quality, or can be down-sampled and compressed to dramatically reduce file size, making it quick to download over the web. Powerful and flexible. You can add interactive elements including form fields, hyperlinks,electronic signatures, and multimedia such as sounds and videos to your PDF documents. Although these features are also available with other formats,they are not as easy to package and share as PDF. So consider switching to PDF when you want to share or publish documents over the Internet. If you need assistance, let us know – we can help. Related articles: Customize PDFs online with these tools PDF Converter Downloads 4 Very Light Alternatives to Adobe Reader

New Swine Flu Outbreak: This Time the Virus may be in Your Computer

June 22, 2009 9:55 am

As if the scare from the Swine Flu virus were not enough, some opportunistic and malicious hackers have started spreading a computer virus with emails of the same name. Otherwise also known as the Navia.a virus, it seems to have surfaced during the height of the Avian Flu scare. However, the computer virus may have started spreading again. Initial reports from Japan say that the country’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) posted on its website that a suspicious Japanese-language email message purportedly coming from them has been circulating with an attached file called “information on swine flu”. The email, originating from senders in the “@yahoo.co.jp” domain, seemed to be sent to random Internet users, the institute said. Users, as always, are advised to avoid opening attachments from suspicious-looking emails to prevent infecting their PCs with malware.While we can’t protect you from the real swine flu virus, we can help you protect your PCs from its new malicious online cousin. Contact us today to find out how. Related articles: Internet flooded with swine flu spam As If Swine Flu Virus Is Not Enough – We Now Have Swine Flu Computer Virus

Survey Shows Insider Snooping on the Rise

June 22, 2009 9:53 am

Cyber-Ark Software, a security solutions company, recently released a survey showing that as much as 35 percent of people within an organization (that’s one out of three) admit to accessing corporate information without authorization. Furthermore, an alarming 74 percent claim they could circumvent the controls currently in place to prevent that access. The study polled over 400 IT administrators at the Infosecurity Europe 2009 and RSA USA 2009 conferences. While certainly a cause for concern, this is not surprising. Because of their technical knowledge and access to sensitive corporate information, internal IT staff are capable of circumventing internal policies and controls. If this is a cause for concern within your organization, don’t delay in giving us a call. We can help you secure your information and computing assets today. Related articles: Infosec 2009: Security must be built in from the start Securing business Slump prompts workplace snooping

Big IT Lessons Small Businesses Can Learn

June 22, 2009 8:09 am

What are the key technology lessons that small and mid-sized businesses can learn from large enterprises? Be proactive. Be prepared. Take security concerns seriously. Always watch for ways to cut costs. That just might sum up the advice that enterprise-grade IT shops would give smaller businesses about how to avoid costly IT mistakes. But what are some specific technology lessons that smaller fry can learn from the big fish? We asked the experts, and here’s a partial list: Read more at Inc Technology…

Is Microsoft Office Coming to the iPhone?

June 22, 2009 7:39 am

Rumors abound that we may soon see Microsoft’s Office suite on mobile devices. Some people are speculating that it may even be made available to the (gasp!) Apple iPhone . What is sure is the ubiquitous office productivity suite is making its way online , onto to the Internet cloud, and one day may even be provided free with an advertising supported model .

Are you Safeguarding your Data?

June 22, 2009 7:37 am

With the continuous proliferation of data and its increasing importance to business, it has become critical to implement measures to safeguard it. One such measure is to make sure you have a data protection, backup, and recovery system in place. The threat of data loss from hardware failure, malware , or disaster is very real. A little proactive effort will go a long way in ensuring the integrity and continuous availability of your critical company data. Talk to your IT consultant to find out more.

Getting Started with CRM

June 19, 2009 10:07 am

In today’s tough economic environment, converting your most promising prospects into customers and your current customers into loyal patrons is more important than ever. Whether your business is big or small, you need your marketing, sales, and customer service efforts to work together in sync-and this can only truly be done with a Customer Relationship Management program and system in place. What is CRM? Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a broad term that covers the management of all aspects of a company’s interaction and relationship with customers. It involves strategies, programs, and tactics to put the customer at the center of your business, with the goals of differentiating the company’s competitive positioning, attracting leads, encouraging customer adoption, improving customer satisfaction, encouraging customer loyalty-and ultimately driving revenue growth and profitability. Why is Automation in Implementing CRM Important? Among many other outcomes, an effective CRM involves properly identifying exactly who your customers are by not only segmenting them into groups but actually identifying them one by one so you can tailor your interaction with them in a way that meets their individual needs, wants, and expectations. And not only that, you also need to capture, store, and analyze each interaction with them in order to maximize your efforts. As a business owner, you have a lot to focus on, and to implement CRM effectively, automation is definitely key. Attempting to achieve the goals mentioned above manually with a paper system takes a huge amount of time and effort, with incomplete results that often don’t justify that cost. You need to implement efficient technologies that support coordinated interactions through all customer channels across all customer touch-points, whether they happen through e-mail, phone, fax, instant messaging, via the web, or in face-to-face meetings with your sales people. You can only do all these things efficiently and effectively with an automated CRM system. What Do You Need to Consider when Evaluating CRM Systems? These days there are so many CRM options available that choosing the one best for your needs can be confusing. In evaluating your options, it’s important that you weigh a system’s features against your particular circumstances and business goals. As you begin researching different services, keep in mind what your goals are, any constraints you have to work within (such as budget), and who are the expected users of the system. One of the first things to consider is whether you need an “on-demand” or an “on-premise” solution. On-premise solutions involve purchasing CRM software that runs on your own hardware and server. On-demand solutions are externally hosted systems accessible via the Internet. These convenient internet-based systems have no hardware or software set up requirements – saving you time and money. With employment trends heading more and more toward virtual or mobile employees, on-demand solutions are the best way to go for a lot of small- and medium-sized businesses. In some cases, however, there is good reason to run CRM software on your own server, inside your own office. For instance, if security is of paramount concern, especially if you’re handling sensitive customer data, then you might be uneasy letting someone else manage your system for you. Also, if an always-on Internet connection is not possible, or if you need to integrate your CRM system with other systems (such as your telephony or accounting package), then an on-premise solution is the way to go. Another important consideration is deciding what type of CRM system you want. Some CRM systems are geared towards marketing, and provide excellent automated lead generation, lead tracking, and marketing communication packages. Others focus on managing the activities of sales people, providing prospect and account management as well as opportunity management. Still others automate all aspects of the customer service function, such as automated helpdesk systems and knowledgebase. Finally, some focus on customer analytics, converting raw customer data from various systems into information you can act on. Whichever type of CRM you choose, make sure that you research all the options available to you carefully. Be sure to check with your IT services professional for help in not only finding the right fit for your business, but also in adopting a system that will integrate well with your current or planned IT structure.

The Scoop on Windows 7

June 16, 2009 6:57 am

Microsoft Windows 7 will be in stores October 22, but surprisingly few details of its features have been released. Thankfully, Ed Bott, a ZDNet blogger, researched it for his readers. We now know that, like its predecessor Vista, Windows 7 will ship with different editions: Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate/Enterprise, and the new Starter Edition, specifically for Netbooks. All share the same enhancements in speed, performance, and security, as well as many UI enhancements and new applications such as Internet Explorer 8 and Windows Media Player 12. The entry-level editions lack support for business-specific features such as encryption, virtualization, and the ability to join a domain, and limited customization options (lack of support for the Aero interface, for example). The premium editions feature interesting new add-ons such as support for Touch Applications. Vista customers will be happy to know that Microsoft announced an upgrade program for customers who have purchased Vista before Windows 7′s release. Want to know if Windows 7 will benefit your business? Give us a call today and we’ll help you decide. Related articles: Windows 7: The Complete Guide (Now With RC1!) [Windows 7] Microsoft: Lots to turn off in Windows 7 Windows 7 – It’s like Vista, only less annoying

New Google Service Helps Small Businesses

June 15, 2009 8:13 am

Google announced the release of a new Local Business Center feature called Search Dashboard that promises to help small businesses gain insight into how visitors came across their local listings. Local Business Center is a Google service that allows business owners to enhance their business listings in Google Maps and other search results. With Search Dashboard, users are able to view statistics on how local listings are found across different websites within Google. For example, it shows when website visitors clicked on driving directions included with listings as well as those visitors’ Zip Codes. Let us show you how this service can help you target ads to regions where your customers and prospects live. Related articles: The Local Business Center dashboard opens its doors (googleblog.blogspot.com) Google LBC Is A Treasure For Small Business (regulargeek.com) Google giving small businesses local search data (news.cnet.com)

Protect Yourself from Adware and Malware

June 13, 2009 4:16 am

While the internet is a vast resource for all sorts of information, data, and other useful thingamajigs, there are aspects of it that aren’t so desirable. Viruses, for instance. They wreak havoc in your system, destroying files, crashing the operating system – generally making life much more difficult. But if you thought that viruses were the only nasty thing out there that you need protection from, think again. Adware (advertising software) and malware (malicious software) are types of harmful software called “spyware” that are not usually covered by anti-virus scans. While viruses affect your system directly, spyware runs in the background and transmits information about you through the ’net, which can be used a number of ways ranging from annoying to downright illegal. These dangers are often unnoticed by users since they don’t directly affect the computer’s operation the way viruses do. What’s more, many people confuse them with viruses, but they’re very different and should be handled differently. Lots of spyware can also slow down your computer, so it’s important to have anti-spyware programs installed on your computer to keep it free from these harmful invaders. There are many free spyware scanners and removers on the internet – simply download and install one, and then run it on a regular basis. Scanning for adware, spyware, and malware takes approximately the same time as doing a virus scan. Also, remember to update your scanners so that you have current definitions and less chance of overlooking new threats. Finally, we recommend that you refrain from visiting and downloading from unfamiliar websites since they could serve as hosts for both spyware and viruses.

Free Online Solutions Make Your Life Easier

June 13, 2009 4:09 am

Do you frequently struggle with creating PDF documents, sending large files through email, and converting various file types from one to another? If so, you may have found that some mainstream solutions are complicated and time consuming. But there are some online solutions that can help you with these common tasks without requiring you to learn complicated applications and workflows, or even install anything on your computer. CutePDF – makes PDF a piece of cake PDF files ave become a standard in document exchange between professionals around the world. The only problem with this is that you usually need expensive programs like Adobe InDesign or Photoshop to generate them, but thankfully CutePDF is here to save the day. CutePDF is an online tool that converts all compatible documents, such as MS Word or MS Excel files, into PDF format, which you can then send out. Simply download the easy-to-understand free version, and convert your documents to PDF in a jiffy. You can also purchase a pro version with more features if you need them. Send large files through YouSendIt If you exchange files on the web – especially audio or video files, or programs and installers – then you’ve probably been frustrated by most email servers’ inability to handle large files. Now you can use YouSendIt, a free online service that lets you send files up to 100MB easily and quickly. Just upload the files you want to send and enter the email address, and the recipient will get an email with instructions for downloading the files from the YouSendIt servers. If you register for a free account, you can opt to have your own email address appear as the sender. Again, there is also an optional paid version that increases the maximum size limit. Convert your files using YouConvertIt File conversion is yet another tricky and frustrating issue. Opening .docx (MS Office 2007) documents, for instance, in older versions, or using some video and audio files in foreign formats, requires the user of a special converter. The problem with converters is that you have to scour the internet looking for the specific converter you need for each situation, and often each operates differently. With YouConvertIt, you simply enter your email address, upload the file you want to convert, choose output file type, click convert, then follow the instructions given. It’s a simple as that. The more professional and long-winded approaches to accomplishing these tasks do have their merits, but most of us don’t need or want the hassle. With these free, online solutions you can quickly accomplish what you need in just a few simple and easy steps.

Microsoft Ends Mainstream Support for Windows XP

June 8, 2009 9:46 am

Last April 14, Microsoft officially announced the end of mainstream support for Windows XP , seven years after XP originally shipped. Non-security patches, fixes, and updates are no longer available free from Microsoft, and phone support for security and non-security related issues and change requests are no longer provided. Any future bugs found in the platform will not be fixed without a fee. This new development affects all versions of XP (except for Embedded): Home Edition, Media Center Edition 2002, Media Center Edition 2004, Media Center Edition 2005, Professional, Professional x64 Edition, Tablet PC Edition, and Tablet PC Edition 2005. About 63 per cent of all internet connected computers still use Windows XP, according to March 2009 statistics from Hitslink , while Windows Vista makes up about 24 per cent. Businesses are in no hurry to move to the forthcoming Windows 7, either. A survey released by appliance vendor Kace revealed that 83% of businesses have no plans to upgrade their PCs to Windows 7 within the first 12 months of its availability. Microsoft is expected to release Windows 7 later this year or early next . However, companies enrolled under Microsoft’s Premiere customer program have no worries, since Extended Support is available for them until April 8, 2014. Unfortunately this program is typically only available to large enterprise customers who enjoy volume licensing . Small businesses may be out of luck, unless they can work out a deal with a Microsoft channel partner for non-security related support. Microsoft emphasized that security-related patches will still be issued for all legitimate XP users at no charge. This includes fixes for vulnerabilities inside Windows that worms such as Conficker exploit . Those planning to upgrade, take note: while Windows 7 users will be able to downgrade to Windows XP, the reverse will not be true. Microsoft said in its Engineering Windows 7 blog that XP users will have to perform a full install to have a smooth experience with Windows 7. Concerned?  We can help you sort out how these new policies affect you. Call us today.

Are You in Danger When Searching the Internet?

June 8, 2009 7:16 am

Research recently released by antivirus vendors Mcafee and Panda suggest that searching for certain key words on Internet search engines can prove dangerous.Hackers and malware authors have become adept at Search Engine Optimization and are using frequently searched key words to create sites that will rank favorably in search engines, but are a host for malware or phishing attacks. According to the report, many popular search terms are targeted, such as: lyrics downloads, free downloads, swine flu, and rihanna . Users are urged to always protect themselves by using patched systems and updated protection tools such as antivirus software. We can help you make sure you’re protected when surfing the Internet – give us a call today. Related articles: McAfee Finds Lyrics and Free Download Searches Most Dangerous Search Keywords The Riskiest Search Terms On The Internet | WebProNews Danger lurks in screensaver searches: internet security report

SMBs poised to rebound when economy turns

June 8, 2009 7:01 am

A new study, “ Understanding Growth Priorities of Small and Medium-sized Businesses ” conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by services company Verio, finds that 83 percent of small-business executives are optimistic about their potential for growth once the economy turns.More than half of the respondents believe there will be a worldwide economic upturn by the middle of next year. One-quarter expect to see the global economy begin to recover by the end of 2009 and 34% anticipate a rebound by mid-2010. An interesting insight from the study reveals the expected role of technology in the recovery. Approximately 57 percent of the executives surveyed “agree” or “strongly agree” that technology will be a huge deciding factor in their ability to emerge successfully from this recession. About 20 percent said they would invest more heavily in innovative technology to help them surpass their competitors. Are you one of them? Give us a call and we’ll help you explore ways technology can help your company grow. Related articles: Small Businesses: Hopeful of the future? Survey: SMBs poised to rebound when economy turns

Boosting productivity by ‘not working’

June 1, 2009 9:41 am

Apparently, the well known adage “All work and no play make Johnny a dull boy” isn’t just some excuse to be laid back and take a break from the drudgery of work (hah, drudgery), but is really a fact based on science. At least as far as the fellows from the University of Melbourne in Australia are concerned. A recent study conducted by the University’s Department of Management and Marketing has shown that moderate internet browsing for personal uses during working hours (and MODERATE is the operative term here) actually increases productivity among workers. This a big “Ha! I knew it.” moment for many, with most employers preferring that their employees not be posting new status messages on Facebook or checking out the latest sensation from Britain’s Got Talent from YouTube. Their reasoning being that it wastes company resources and makes employees lazy. 300 employees from different companies were made part of the study, where it was found out that workers who use the internet for personal reasons, called “Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing” or (WILB) in the study, for less than 20 percent of their working hours were 9 percent more effective, focused, and therefore productive in their respective jobs. WILB activities usually encompassed searching for and researching about products to buy online, reading blogs and news websites, social networking (like Facebook, MySpace or Friendster) activities, playing online games, and watching streaming videos from sites like YouTube and Veoh. Professor Brent Coker, the man behind the research, explains that people need short breaks to reset their concentration. According to him, focusing on a certain task for too long degrades the level concentration, making “zoning out” from time to time essential in maintaining an optimal frame of mind to be able to accomplish a work task efficiently. But before you lug your gaming CDs to the office or prepare for marathon runs of your favourite Facebook application, Dr. Coker is quick to remind everyone of the term MODERATE usage. Anything beyond that, he says, will then result in loss of productivity. So don’t feel too guilty when you watch Susan Boyle belt her heart out on YouTube for a couple of minutes or post a comment or two on Facebook. As long as you get right back to work afterward, no harm, no foul.

Get Ready for a New Threat: Vishing

June 1, 2009 7:19 am

Tech-savvy criminals have thought of with a new way of scamming us out of our money. In a twist to “ phishing ” (when spoofed websites are used to trick users into surrendering passwords or credit card numbers), “vishing” is when phone calls using spoofed caller ID numbers hide the identity of the caller and trick people into surrendering sensitive information. Usually, vishing attacks play a recorded message that tells users to call a toll-free number, where they are asked via an automated attendant to punch in a credit card number or other personal information. Attacks are on the rise since with Voice over IP phone technology, caller ID spoofing is very easy to do.Protect yourself by registering your number with the National Do Not Call registry at donotcall.gov . Some criminals and unscrupulous telemarketers may ignore the list, and if you continue to get calls, it’s a tip that the offer is bogus. Contact the authorities immediately if you do get scammed, and always play it safe and don’t surrender your information to unknown sources. Related articles: Can You Trust Your Caller ID? 123Spoof Makes Caller ID Spoofing Easy 9 Simple Ways to Protect Yourself against Internet fraud

Social Media Poses Security Risks

June 1, 2009 7:17 am

Security company Websense released a survey of of 1,300 IT professionals worldwide revealing that although social media or the use of “Web 2.0″ technologies such as blogs , wikis and social networks are already pervasive in business, a majority of IT managers seem ill equipped to manage its use, much less protect against security concerns associated with it. According to the survey, 70 of the top 100 most popular websites, many of which are social media sites, had hosted malicious content at some point. The study points to 150,000 spoofs of Facebook alone. In addition, 57 percent of data-stealing attacks are conducted over the Web. Because the nature of Web 2.0 sites allow for users to create and post their own content, it’s easy for cyber criminals to gather information and use it for threats, attack or fraud. Though 80 percent of the IT managers surveyed were confident in their company’s Web security, only nine percent said they have the necessary tools to protect against social media threats. If you feel your organization may be at risk, give us a call today – we can help.Related articles: Social Media a Stumbling Block for IT Pros Survey: IT Managers Unprepared for Social Security Risks

4 Benefits of VoIP for Your Small Business

May 31, 2009 6:40 am

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), technology that lets you make and receive phone calls over the Internet, may have started out as a novelty, but it’s quickly becoming mainstream – and many small businesses are finding that it can save them a lot of cash. Benefits Features. VoIP has the same features as conventional phone service: multiple lines, conference calling, and voice mail, to name just a few. Cost. VoIP costs much less than conventional phone service, and most VoIP services charge a flat monthly fee, so bills are predictable. Simplicity. Calls are routed through the same network you use for e-mail and Internet access, so one system serves all functions. Mobility. You won’t need separate office and cell phone numbers: You can receive calls on your laptop or so-called “IP” phone while traveling, essentially taking your entire business phone system with you wherever you go. Some things to consider Audio quality still isn’t perfect, but you can make VoIP calls with regular phones or IP phones with little difference in quality. Depending on the number of employees you have and how many are on the phone at once, you might need higher bandwidth (such as a T1 line) to handle VoIP. You may want to keep a conventional phone line—primarily as a backup, but also to ensure that you’re listed in the local phone book. More information VoIP is integrated with your existing IT system, so contact us today for details about how you can get started enjoying its benefits.

Why two screens are better than one?

May 31, 2009 4:56 am

3 Reasons 2 Screens are Better than 1 Increasing your employees’ online workspace by expanding it across two or more monitors can significantly improve productivity with minimal cost investment. In the past, multiple monitors have been the domain of programmers. Visit Google headquarters, for example, and you’ll see awe-inspiring configurations of screens: two, four, even six monitors, stacked side-by-side or one on top of the other. However, multiple monitors can also benefit just about any type of office worker. Increased Multitasking According to a number of studies by specialists in human-computer interaction, the bigger your employees’ screen space, the more work they can see and therefore the more work they can do. For example, employees can keep their email and chat screens open on one monitor while working on a Word or Excel document on the other. They no longer have to spend time switching between one or the other, and can respond to each more quickly. Higher Productivity In a study commissioned by the electronics company NEC and conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, office workers were asked to perform several basic tasks using various monitor configurations. The workers using two 20-inch monitors were 44% more productive than the workers using a single 18-inch monitor. Minimal Cost Multiple monitors may not have been feasible in the past due to cost, but the price of LCD panels fell by almost a third in 2008, and the trend is likely to continue through much of 2009, according to market research firm iSuppli. Ready to enable your employees to get more done in less time? To upgrade to two monitors, in addition to the extra monitor you’ll need two video cards or an upgraded card with two outputs. Read more here, then contact us to help make it happen.

How to Web Sites

May 31, 2009 4:27 am

It’s All in the ‘How’ Have you ever wondered how to fix a leaking pipe or a broken light? Or how to check your car’s coolant or radiator fluid? How about maintaining a lawn, or tying a Windsor, or cooking a tasty meal for you or your kids in less than 30 minutes? The answers to these questions and more can be found in self-help sites such as eHow and WikiHow. These sites are databases of how-to articles presented in a clear, concise, and simple manner that anyone can easily understand. Unlike other guides that drown you (albeit unintentionally) in so much technical jargon that you end up completely lost, these sites make it a point to keep things uncomplicated – it’s all about helping you get something done right, and done fast. You can always learn the mechanics of why or how it works after you’ve gotten it done. Here, results are the primary consideration. Both websites offer a variety of subjects to browse through. If you’re looking for a specific topic, simply enter the inquiry in the search box. Certain topics even have video tutorials and/or illustrated guides that make the learning process even easier. However, if you don’t have anything particular in mind, then you can browse through topics that are classified by category. Navigation is intuitive and user-friendly. Another good thing about these websites is that the information is absolutely free – you don’t even have to register an account to gain access to them. And with WikiHow, if you feel like sharing a bit of your own knowledge, you can contribute your own how-to articles and become part of the WikiHow community. eHow also accepts entries that, depending on how you play your cards, can even help you earn a bit of extra money (there’s an eHow article to help you get started). So the next time you find yourself in a spot with anything from a stubborn stain to treating a bee sting, try visiting these sites since they just might have the simple and straightforward solution you’re looking for.

Working Smarter and More Efficiently with Instant Messaging

May 31, 2009 4:22 am

Are you avoiding instant messaging (IM) for fear that it will distract your employees and cut productivity? In fact, the opposite may be true. What is IM? IM is software that allows you to communicate in real time with other people who have the same software. It’s like email, but instantaneous. IM was originally considered a way to stay in touch with friends and family, but lately it’s taken off in the workplace. That’s because IM offers a fast, convenient way for employees to interact with colleagues or clients in real time. In fact, many cutting-edge employers now encourage their employees to use IM instead of phone calls or e-mails. Benefits include: Increased productivity: Workers can remain at their workstations instead of walking across the office or picking up the phone to obtain information, and the need for time-consuming meetings is reduced. Real-time communication with vendors and customers. Connection of traveling employees through mobile devices. Where can you get it? While there are many free IM services available such as AOL, Yahoo!, Skype, and MSN, many companies now offer solutions specifically designed for business. We can work with you to determine the best solution for your specific needs How to get started: Select a single provider. Expand services as needed. While basic IM may be adequate for some small businesses, others may benefit from expanded offerings, such as text conferencing, pop-up messaging, and email integration. Make sure your information is protected from external threats such as hackers and viruses. Create a usage policy to avoid internal misuse. Ensure that all employees know the rules and have installed the software on their systems. To be effective, your IM application should be carefully integrated with your existing IT system and workflow. Give us a call today and we’ll help you through these steps to implement a secure and productive IM solution.

Go Green!

May 28, 2009 8:17 am

These days there’s a lot of buzz about “ going green ” – helping preserve the environment, conserving energy, and looking for sustainable ways to grow the economy. The IT industry is doing its part as well, with “ green computing ,” which is basically computing by more efficient and sustainable means. You can get on board with some of the suggestions below: Save on energy, save on costs: A lot of today’s computing devices feature power management features and energy saving modes, thanks largely to US government efforts to develop energy-efficiency standards called Energy Star. This is a voluntary labeling program adopted by many vendors to clearly identify and promote their efforts in bringing down energy costs for customers as well as to showcase their own use of eco-friendly production processes and materials. When you purchase Energy Star products and make full use of their features, you not only help the environment but also save significantly on your energy bills. Reuse and Recycle: Consider retiring old equipment and replacing it with more energy-efficient models. Reuse what you can (such as RAM modules, cables, controller cards, and drives), and find a reputable recycler to help you dispose of remaining parts safely. Consolidate what you have: Be eco-smart about your purchases. Advances in technology such as machine virtualization now allow you to consolidate computing resources on fewer machines, such as all-in-one printers, saving not only upfront capital costs but also recurring operating expenses such as maintenance, space, power, and cooling. Over time this means less equipment goes into landfills, better utilization of resources, and more money freed up to apply where it counts – to growing your business. Do more with less: Instead of travelling, consider teleconferencing. Instead of hiring full time, onsite employees consider telecommuting arrangements. Not only do you reduce your carbon footprint by reducing transportation impact but also save a considerable amount of time and money as well. Outsource IT: For non-core elements of your operations, consider outsourcing , which leverages economies of scale by sharing resources among several customers without losing efficiency or effectiveness. For example, instead of hosting your own website, outsource it to a hosting service provider instead. We have lots of ideas for going green at your office and saving energy costs along the way. Give us a call and we’ll be glad to share them with you.

Facebook Users Targeted By Phishing Attack

May 25, 2009 7:21 am

Last May 14th, reports indicated that hackers had launched a phising attack on Facebook ‘s 200 million users, successfully stealing passwords from some. The hackers set up websites designed to look like the Facebook home page. Victims were directed to log back in to the site, but were routed to the fake site instead, unwittingly giving away their passwords. Facebook has deleted all references to the fake domains, which included www.151.im, www.121.im and www.123.im. This is the latest in a string of campaigns launched by hackers to steal personal information from users and to spread spam. Facebook’s large user base makes them an attractive target for many cybercriminials. Users are urged to seek help from authorities or trusted IT consultants if they believe their accounts were compromised, or to avoid similar scams.Related articles: Facebook users targeted by hackers in successful phishing attack Gadgetwise: More Facebook Phishing Trouble Today Hackers launch phishing attack on Facebook users

The Greatest Threat to Your Security May Be Your Employees

May 4, 2009 9:55 am

While everyone is worried about security threats outside the  company’s firewall such as hackers, viruses, and worms, research suggests that the greatest risk may come from none other than the company’s very own employees. Not all of these risks are necessarily borne of malicious intent on the part of employees. Some risks may come from unwitting participation, temptation, or simply ignorance. Here are just some examples of security risks you should watch out for: Data theft. With the ease with which employees can connect small devices and transport data outside the company’s four walls, the risk of your sensitive data falling into the wrong hands becomes very real. Set up clear guidelines and policies regarding the use of removable storage media . You can, on your own or with the help of your IT consultant or service provider, lock down your PCs to disallow connection to removable drives or portable media devices if appropriate. Data loss. Accidents happen. Set up backup systems so that you can recover data quickly in case employees accidentally delete a file, are unable to secure a PC from viruses and worms, or are careless with the physical state and functioning of their assigned PCs. Data leaks. With the proliferation of multiple channels of online communication such as e-mail and IM , the threat of employees leaking sensitive company data to outside parties is very real. Provide clear guidelines and policies for the proper use of these communication channels in the workplace, and if needed, set up methods to block access to these services. Ask your IT consultant for help. Intellectual property violations. Illegal downloads or the illicit sharing of copyrighted material can also pose a significant threat to your organization. Legal action or the loss of your company’s hard-earned reputation can be debilitating and difficult to get over. Online Phishing and E-mail Scams. In phishing or e-mail scams, deception is used to gain unauthorized access to confidential data. Make sure you or your IT consultant set up filters to block such e-mails, or use security software to block access to this type of website. Lax/missing access controls. Be prudent and place access control policies on key information resources within your organization, such as e-mail or your accounting system. Provide each employee with access only to relevant information needed to complete his or her particular job. It’s not easy to protect yourself from security breaches, especially when they come from within your organization. Get advice from an expert. Contact your IT Service provider today to find out more. Related articles: Workers ‘stealing company data’ (news.bbc.co.uk) Gasp! Fired workers are taking confidential data (news.cnet.com) A multilayered strategy helps neutralize internal security threats (techrepublic.com)

Instant Messaging for Business

May 4, 2009 9:52 am

Instant Messaging , or IM, can be a boon for any business because it saves time, improves efficiency, and even enables greater employee/customer intimacy. IM allows real-time communication and interaction between two or more people via the Internet , and its use is growing steadily. IM provides users with instant feedback about the presence of online “buddies” or users you know – for instance, whether they are online, busy, or currently offline, what they are currently doing, and whether they are able to successfully receive your communication. Even when one party is not currently connected to the Internet, you can leave offline messages for later viewing. Information sent can be in the form of text, media, and recently even voice and video. While IM has traditionally been used for quick and instant personal interaction such as chatting between friends and family, people are now finding that it can be effective in business as well. But before diving in and using IM in your organization, be aware that there can be significant risks. For instance, it can expose the company to outside threats such as hackers and viruses, or from problems from within such as employees sharing secret or sensitive information to outside or unauthorized parties. Finally, if not monitored properly, it can be a huge timewaster if employees spend their time chatting with colleagues, family, and friends instead of working. Here are some tips to get the most out of IM safely and effectively within your organization: Create guidelines for use . Let employees know of the dangers and risks in using IM. Create policies to allow the use of IM only for certain people within the organization (such as sales) and only during certain times of the day. Ask your IT consultant to configure your network to enact the restrictions you want. Standardize . Choose one piece of IM software (such as Google Talk, AIM or MSN ) and try using it internally first. You won’t be able to prevent some employees from adding buddies outside of work, so make sure to ask them to separate buddies inside the company from those outside. IM software allows you to easily create “buddy lists” to do this. Know when to use it . IM is a tool that can complement e-mail on one end and voice calls on the other. Consider using e-mail for detailed information sharing or communications such as memos, requests, letters, and proposals that readers need to refer to repeatedly. Consider using voice calls for more intimate interaction, clarifying communication, or in cases when you need to build rapport with the recipient. IM can be something in between the two, such as when you need to ask a quick question, send a short update, or get presence information . Keep it short . Keep IMs short and direct. In IM, unlike in voice conversations, you don’t need to do go through pleasantries. Unlike email, because of their real-time nature, IMs can be intrusive so be conscious of what the other party is dong and to make it brief and to the point when necessary. Use your status to your advantage . IM software allow you to set your status (i.e., Busy or Away) to let others know if you are free to take their messages. You can also set your status to Invisible so that you can be aware of others’ presence but be invisible to others. Set your preferences . Most IM software allow you to control certain behaviors, such as window pop-ups, whether to archive messages or not, whether to startup automatically when you log in, and much more. Explore the features of your software and use them to your advantage.

Stop Wasting Money with Inefficient Communications

May 4, 2009 7:26 am

Research conducted by SIS International Research and sponsored by Siemens found that small and midsized businesses (SMBs) with 100 employees could be leaking a staggering $524,569 annually as a result of communications barriers and latency. The study identifies these top five pain points, in order of estimated cost: inefficient coordination waiting for information unwanted communications; customer complaints barriers to communication In addition, researchers determined that the time spent per week dealing with communications issues was more than 50 percent higher in companies with more than 20 workers. In hard costs, your company could be losing up to half a million dollars each year by not addressing employees’ most painful communications issues! The good news:  we can help you implement applications and services to greatly improve your inter-company communications, including collaboration tools such as email and shared calendards and address books, social media technologies such as blogs and wikis , and IP-based communication tools such as instant messaging (IM) and Voice-over-IP ( VoIP ). Call us today and let us help you stop this expensive leak.Related articles: Report: SMBs Expected to Spend More Online (searchenginewatch.com) How Collaboration Tools Bring Cost Savings, Business Alignment (searchcio-midmarket.com) Inefficient Communications Costs SMBs $5000 per Employee (SMBnow.com)

Look for New Microsoft Office and Windows Vista Service Pack

May 4, 2009 7:24 am

Microsoft recently announced the release of the newest service pack to Microsoft Office 2007 , and has finished work on the second service pack update to Windows Vista . The MS Office update includes a collection of stability and performance updates as well as support for more file formats including Open Document Format (ODF) and Portable Document Format (PDF) files. The Windows Vista update includes support for Bluetooth 2.1, an updated Windows search technology, and the ability to natively record data to Blu-ray discs. Download the Microsoft Office 2007 service pack to install and watch out for the Windows Vista update soon. Ask us how your workflow can benefit from these helpful new releases.

The Conficker Threat – Be Prepared

April 28, 2009 9:58 am

The past couple of weeks, a new malicious and particularly virulent worm known as Downadup, also more popularly known as Conficker has started to infect millions of PCs. In fact by some estimates, it has infected over 10 million PCs worldwide. As with many threats proper prevention can greatly reduce or eliminate your problem. This worm is particularly dangerous as it can infect your PC in many ways. You can be infected by simply visiting your favorite Web site, downloading a file or email from the Internet, loading a USB drive, or just by leaving your networked computer on, overnight while you’re asleep. The worm takes advantage of known vulnerabilities in Windows to spread. Its removal can be difficult, as it blocks many known antivirus software and associated websites. In some cases it even disables antivirus software already installed or the Windows Update service. After infection, it may choose to run rogue software on the machine, or use it as a host to infect other machines. Particularly troubling, security experts believe, is that on April 1st, a new variant of the worm will begin to randomly check various websites on the Internet to download new instructions. What those instructions are unknown at this point and could be anything as harmless as telling a joke, displaying an ad or as harmful as destroying files or even stealing usernames and passwords. The worm itself is not new, it made its first appearance late November 2008, known under the names Conficker or Kido. It shouldn’t have spread if people had made sure to the latest Windows and other updates were applied to their PCs and have kept up to date with their security vendors’ latest antivirus releases. Also since it spreads via network shares, making sure to use strong passwords on shared network drives would have helped to contain it early as well. If you aren’t sure if your PC and network are protected, make sure to contact your IT service provider for advice. Here are some other articles you might want to check out for more information: Related articles: The Conficker worm’s evil genius. (slate.com) Conficker Worm Draws a Counter-Attack – PC World (domainmacher.com) FAQ: Conficker worm (cbc.ca) Your Quick Guide to the Conficker Worm (shankrila.com) Windows PC Worm Set to Activate on April 1st (littlegreenfootballs.com)

Using Social Media for your Business

April 27, 2009 7:29 am

Social Media such as Blogs, Micro-blogs, Wikis, and Social Networks are not only helping many people communicate and connect, but are also powerful tools for business as well. They can be used to promote your products and services, engage customers in meaningful conversations, network and develop new relationships, or simply to distribute information about your business online. Recently, the media has been awash with reports about Facebook , LinkedIn and Twitter , but many of you may be unclear about the concept, or unsure of its relevance to your business activities. Learn more about this new media online . Get to know how these tools can benefit your business or contact your IT Consultant for advice. Related articles by Zemanta: More notes from “Social Media Marketing” Social Media Marketing Industry Report The 4 Customer Types of Social Media The Five Myths of Social Media Using social media to network

What’s Next for Conflicker?

April 3, 2009 7:50 am

April fool’s day came and went, but so far the much feared attack from Conflicker never materialized, leaving security researchers to ponder what’s next for the notorious Internet worm . Although it didn’t release any detectable malicious payload, the arrival of April 1 did trigger a change in its behavior, with experts finding a finding a changed domain generation algorithm that opens up unfettered communication to 500 of the 50,000 potential newly generated domains. The latest variant, Conficker C , now has the ability to contact its command and control centers for further instructions while circumventing interference from the security community, which up until now had been able to block communication with its parent domains. At this point users are still advised to patch their operating systems or to seek the assistance of their IT service providers to make sure all variants of the worm has been removed. Read more at Channel Web .

Use Technology to Market your Business

April 3, 2009 7:48 am

Never before have startup entrepreneurs and small business owners had access to so much marketing advice and tools as we have today on the Web.  There are hundreds of free or near free tools out there that you can use: from sites that help you create your own logos , print your own business cards , set up your own website , even make your own marketing swag . There are literally hundreds of even more sites that in turn give advice on how to use these tools to market your business more effectively such as Inc Magazine , Entrepreneur Magazine , and Fast Company . Its easy to use your PC and Internet to help you grow your business—so get started today!

Protecting Against the Rampant Conficker Worm

April 2, 2009 7:58 am

PC World posts a nice overview of the highly infectious Conflicker Worm. The Worm is dangerous as it uses several methods of attack. Once one computer in a network is infected, it often has ready access to other vulnerable computers in that network and can spread rapidly. The worm can download and install additional malware from attacker-controlled Web sites as well. Since that could mean anything from a password stealer to remote control software, a Conflicker-infected PC is essentially under the complete control of the attackers. Conficker and other worms are typically of most concern to small businesses that don’t regularly update the desktops and servers in their networks. If you’re not sure your network security is up to day get some help to find out. Read more at PC World…

18 Tips For Small Businesses That Outsource

April 2, 2009 7:57 am

Janet Attard of The Business Know-How Blog posts 18 tips for small businesses considering outsourcing. She offers insight on how to get the best possible results from outsourced work. Among them: Know the results you want to achieve. Understand how long it should take to complete the work. (Ask others in your industry if you’re not sure.) Set a realistic time table for achieving results. Insist on all service providers and vendors document their work Offer feedback and praise When it comes to your outsourced computer support and network management these are great tips to keep in mind. Read more at Small Biz Resources…

Microsoft quietly extends Windows XP lifecycle, again

April 2, 2009 7:55 am

Microsoft announced that is has granted system builders a “flexible” delivery date of Windows XP licenses to customers beyond the official phase-out deadline of January 31, 2009. PC vendors still have to purchase licenses before that date, but can now choose to take delivery of those licenses through May 30, 2009. For all small businesses it’s important to have a plan to manage computer support for end-of-life products. If you’re not sure where you stand now might be a good time to get a thorough review of your licensing. Read more at TG Daily

How Much is Conficker Really Affecting the Enterprise?

April 2, 2009 7:52 am

Lately, we have been hearing about how quickly the Conficker Worm is spreading. News sources have pegged the number of infections in the neighborhood of 3.5 million computers. Given that Microsoft issued a patch for the flaw targeted by the Conficker worm and the use of strong passwords can prevent much of the spread, it seems odd that enterprises (large corporations) with network management would be hurt by the worm. But sometimes enterprise security isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Regardless of your size – small or large you need to make sure you’re taking all available steps to protect your network security. If you’re not sure, get help. Read More at eWeek

2009 Tech Security Forecast

March 9, 2009 8:04 am

In 2009, IT experts predict more malware and other attacks on company networks coming from mobile devices, social networks, and faster Internet connections, among other trends. IT experts predict a substantial uptick this year in the number of small businesses using smart phones — as well as flash drives, social networks, and faster Internet connections. While that might make employees more productive, it also increases the security risks a small business faces. Read more at Inc Technology…

7 BIG Business Secrets to Increase Your SMALL Business

March 9, 2009 8:02 am

Whether the economy is up or down, no matter what is happening in the world, most small business owner’s work hard anyway. It’s never been easy to start a business, nurture its growth and succeed in any line of business. It’s competitive, more so in some industries than others, but every butcher, baker, candlestick maker or software developer started the same way – small. There are an astronomical number of variables that are involved in any business success, certainly, but there are also some truisms that seem to apply always and everywhere. The primary ingredient in success, of course, is not genius, creativity, a college education or a lot of working capital. The key is persistence, pure and simple. Read more at SB Informer…

IT Emergencies: Who Ya Gonna Call?

March 9, 2009 8:00 am

We all want to minimize costs – both planned and unexpected – but not at the expense of keeping systems and essential equipment running smoothly. Small businesses without an IT department often wait until something breaks to call in an expert for help, or simply rely on the most techy person in the office to take care of the computers in addition to his regular duties. Read more at SB Informer…

Online Fax Service – Why Your Company Should Have One?

March 2, 2009 8:10 am

Online fax services are becoming extremely popular with business owners. There are several reasons why Internet or online faxing has found favor with the business sector. Mainly because it’s easy, fast, available 24/7, truly mobile and perhaps most of all, online faxing is very convenient to use. No wonder, Internet fax providers like MyFax have reported they’re getting over 15,000 new costumers signing up each month. Many companies, large and small, are switching over to this new way of faxing; while others are adding an online fax service to compliment their traditional office fax machine. Read more at SB Informer…

Brand Building is a Journey

March 2, 2009 8:07 am

Brand building is indeed a journey. Branding is all about how your product or service is perceived by customers and potential customers. A brand marketer attempts to manipulate brand awareness by associating traits they would like consumers to associate with the brand. Building a brand has everything to do with capturing the hearts and minds of consumers. Building a brand is much more than just promoting an image. A brand incorporates and conveys the values and traits that a company wants associated with their product or service. It sounds like building a brand is a simple task, but the marketers must do more than just create a brand image. The magnitude of branding encompasses all aspects of a product. With this in mind, we’ve put together a guide for marketers on the journey of brand building… Read more at SB Informer…

How to Be a Successful Web 2.0 Puppetmaster

February 16, 2009 8:13 am

One of the key characteristics of Web 2.0 is participation, collaboration and moderation through the use of web applications. Web 2.0 sites derive their power from the human connections and network effects from this characteristic that is made possible, and grow in effectiveness the more people use them. Read more at SB Informer…

When Technology Gets in the Way

February 16, 2009 8:11 am

For the past few months I’ve been using a variety of wireless, blue tooth headsets, with my cell phone. The latest head set I’m using does not have clear reception. Often times I can hear the person fine, but they can’t hear me so well. I love technology, and in fact, the particular blue tooth headset I’m using is made by one of the premier brands. Read more at Small Biz IT…

Lemon Juice Email: Keeping Email Messages Secure

February 10, 2009 8:16 am

As a kid I used to write messages with lemon juice and when the juice dried I had a secret message (or so I thought) that was viewable when held up to the light. Of course these child hood secret messages only work in the mind of a child, but not the corporate shield of real business. For your communications between your employees, your partners or your clients you need to ensure that each email message that needs to be secure, is secure. Read more at Small Biz IT…

The ROI Series – Calculating the ROI of a Technology Investment – Part 3

February 2, 2009 10:16 am

When an economic downturn starts to hurt, small businesses often hunker down and cut costs. But new technology solutions may be necessary for survival and growth—and they may not be as expensive as you think when you consider their return on investment (ROI). In this three-part series, we’ll review what ROI is, explain how an ROI analysis can help you save or make money, and provide guidelines for analyzing the ROI of a technology investment. Part 3: Analyzing ROI As we explained in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, today, more than ever, small businesses considering a technology investment should analyze not only the costs of that investment, but the expected ROI as well. Unfortunately, few models exist to guide you through that analysis, and with good reason: Determining ROI involves looking at many components, then applying those components to your particular situation. Doing this requires making many choices, so first, let’s look at the things one must consider—from both a cost and benefit perspective—when considering the ROI of a technology investment. Your existing technology infrastructure. There are few companies without existing technologies in place—and any new solution will need to work with these systems to be effective. There will likely be costs associated with the new technology’s impact on existing systems—but there will also be benefits. For example, a new technology might offer more efficient automation of workflow or improved information collection, storage, and access. Your b usiness processes. A new technology can clearly improve your businesses processes as described in Part 2 of this series—by reducing downtime, improving productivity, and lowering costs. But implementing the new technology will likely involve training staff in using the technology—and that can have associated costs. Your external relationships. Finally, no business is an island: Your systems may link to customer and vendor systems. As a result, any new technology may impose constraints or require changes of external organizations or individuals—in the way information is delivered or received, for example. To solve this puzzle, it can be helpful to ask three different but related questions about the technology solution’s cost , effectiveness, and efficiency . Cost: Can you afford the technology—and will it pay for itself? To answer these questions, you’ll need to know the cost of the solution itself and the monetary value of the resources used to implement it, measured in standard financial terms. You’ll then compare the dollar cost of all expenditures to the expected return (in terms of the projected savings and revenue increases). You may need to project the cost and return over a multi-month or multi-year time span in order to show a payback period. Effectiveness: How much bang for your buck will you realize? Now the analysis becomes more complex. Analyzing the effectiveness of a technology solution requires you to look at its costs in relation to how effective it is at producing the desired results—in essence, to expand your measurement of ROI beyond cost savings and revenue increases to include performance relative to your company’s goals. To do this, you’ll probably want to look at unit cost or activity cost. Efficiency: Is this the most you can get for this much investment? Finally, you’ll want to ask whether the technology will produce the greatest possible value relative to its costs. That can present difficulties, as it will require you to conduct a similar analysis on many alternatives, perhaps simulating the performance of the alternatives in some way. These three types of measurements differ in several ways. While the first is based simply on Financial metrics—i.e., cost in pure dollar terms—the other two include production output metrics, including the quality of goods or services and customer satisfaction. These production output metrics may even extend to employee morale, or in the case of some companies (such as manufacturers of “green” products or non-profits), social or political benefits. All of these measurements, however, help you answer the same basic question: whether an economic downturn is a time to reduce technology spending, or a time to examine priorities and decide which technology investments will pay off in the long-term.

How SaaS Helps Cut Small Business Costs

February 2, 2009 8:50 am

When you have to lay off staff, software-as-a-service can often make up the difference, especially in sales and marketing. Every business wants a hot niche, and Starr Tincup had one. In 2003, the Fort Worth marketing and advertising startup decided to cater to software makers in the human resources industry—and quickly signed 20 customers. Then the growing pains set in. By 2005, staff had ballooned to 80 from 4, plus more than 200 contractors. But revenues were just $2.5 million, and soon Starr Tincup was $500,000 in debt. SaaS made the difference in the turnaround. Read more at Business Week…

Three Tools Mobile Warriors Want Now

February 2, 2009 8:48 am

When you first opened your Smartphone and took it right from the fresh, “new smelling” box (or from the plastic sandwich bag from the friend you bought it used from) it was a tool for speaking, basic scheduling and contacts. However, over time, some of you have found that you could do so much more with the device as you found good software to make it a powerful productivity tool. Some software you might want to consider, to enhance the mobile warrior within you. Read more at Small Biz IT…

Wi-Fi in the Sky: Are We There Yet?

January 20, 2009 8:55 am

More business people are taking to the road these days, armed with all the tools they need to do their work — PDAs, laptops, etc. So it pays to know a thing or two about how to use the new Wi-Fi connections available on some airlines. Read more at Inc. Technology…

Changing Printer Toner Doesn’t Have To Be Messy

January 20, 2009 8:51 am

When the toner runs out of the printer in your office do you run to change it or do you cringe, shaking at your desk, just hoping some other poor soul has to change it before you do? Read more at Small Biz IT…

How to Simplify IT and Unlock Resources

January 12, 2009 8:57 am

Businesses need to use the economic crisis as a time to reassess their IT needs and options. Server virtualization, consolidation, and energy costs are a good place to start. Read more at Inc. Technology…