Securing Yourself on Shared Wi-Fi

Securing Yourself on Shared Wi-Fi

December 31, 2010 5:00 pm

Using shared Wi-Fi networks can be really convenient, but it is not without risks of its own. These days, more and more people are on the go, and many of them bring their work with them. And in this day and age, it’s ideal if you’re working – or playing for that matter – while connected to the internet, which is often through public Wi-Fi hotspots. While connecting to public and open-access Wi-Fi hotspots is indeed convenient, using open networks also poses risks that endanger your security. The open nature that allows anyone to use the connection also enables unscrupulous people to gain access to your private information. The whole act of stealing information from people who are using public Wi-Fi networks is called ‘sidejacking’. There are applications such as Firesheep, for example, that provide an easy-to-use platform that others can exploit to spy and harvest personal, sensitive information from you. And since Firesheep is a Mozilla Firefox plug in, virtually anyone can download and use it to sidejack people on the same network. You can’t be too cautious with your personal and business data these days, so you always need to have the proper laptop configuration and security infrastructure to protect your system, especially when you frequently avail of open and public networks. To know more about this, please feel free to give us a call and we’ll be happy to draw up some security options that meet your specific needs.

Useful Tools to Effectively Connect with Your Followers on Twitter

December 30, 2010 5:00 pm

Twitter is arguably the most popular and widely used microblogging platform on Internet today. Though each post is limited to only 140 characters, there are various Twitter applications that you can use to easily connect with your network and enhance your Twitter experience. There are countless Twitter tools and apps available today. Here’s a list of six that are sure to be useful and effective in building relationships with your Twitter followers. The first section introduces some basic tools, which you can skip if you’re already a Twitter expert. The second section describes tools that you may not have previously heard of, but are worth checking out since they can boost visibility, traffic, and clients. The Basics Link Shorteners – Most Tweets (posts) on Twitter are not the usual “what I had for lunch” Tweets, but are more often people sharing links of articles, videos, photos, and more. Sharing links is a great way to help people better understand your field of interest and expertise while also helping them discover great content online. However, many links are very long, and do not fit within Twitter’s 140-character limit – so as the term implies, a link shortener shortens a specific link/URL. Try sites like Bit.ly , TinyURL and tr.im to easily condense your very long URLs into just 15-20 characters, leaving you room to comment.In addition to the practical need of shorter URLs, a majority of these tools also provide useful tracking reports so you can monitor the number of people who clicked on your links, which were the most popular, the dates when people clicked them, as well as give you an idea which topics are the most popular with your Twitter community. TweetMeme – That ever-present gray and green “re-tweet” logo enables readers to quickly re-post or “re-tweet” your post to their own Twitter followers. TweetMeme is a wonderful means to encourage your audience to spread the news about your status, tips, and words of wisdom.Like link shorteners, TweetMeme also tracks your links as they pass through the Twitterverse, and shows the total number of times your link was re-tweeted. Aside from helping you determine the popularity of given topics, it also lets the feisty competitor in us compare the success of our posts versus others and even ourselves. TwitPic – This is one of the numerous tools that let you take pictures with your mobile phone and post them directly on Twitter. Other similar tools are: TwitGoo , img.ly and yfrog . These tools are also usually integrated into whatever Twitter mobile application you’re using. You can also obtain statistics to monitor responses on your pictures. You can still also opt to link your followers to a Flickr account, Facebook page, or a web page that displays your pictures. Cast your Twitter net even farther… There are a lot of nifty Twitter applications out there that will help you create a solid and engaged community. When you’re ready to take your Twitter skills to the next level, below are three tools to get you started. TweetSwell – This great app allows you to create Twitter-based polls, wherein each reply doubles as a tweet and helps the poll become viral. TweetSwell  can also help maintain your brand identity by ensuring that your poll pages are synchronized with your custom-made Twitter layout. Similar apps are: Twtpoll and TwtSurvey . TwtVite – Somewhat related to Eventbrite , TwtVite enables you to use Twitter to get together in the real world. Check out the animated video to get a feel for how it works. For an actual example, read this case study about a Milwaukee bar owner who used TwtVite in hosting the biggest Tweetup in the Midwest . TwtQpon – Online coupons offer small businesses a fantastic opportunity to drive lots of new and repeat clients. This app creates online coupons that can be published on Twitter and many other social network sites. While apps such as Groupon and Living Social can also make online coupons, TwtQpon is specifically designed for social networks.

Beware Software Bogeymen

December 27, 2010 3:05 pm

Malicious cyber thieves might be scaring you into buying and downloading software that may harm your computer. Security firm McAfee has published a report early in the year showing that up to a million people worldwide fall victim to so-called “scareware” each year. Scareware, or rogueware, is software that poses as legitimate security software but in reality are dupes to steal credit card information from users, or even worse are Trojan Horses to spread malware. Scareware is distributed primarily through the Internet via malicious websites that pop out windows that fool users into thinking their system may be infected. Users who click on the popup windows are redirected to a website which encourages them to buy fake security software online. Scareware are especially dangerous as it hits users in many ways: by duping them out of their money, injecting viruses or other forms of malware into their system, or even holding them ransom — for instance, by taking over users’ systems then demanding more payment to free the data stored in the infected computer. It’s a good thing that there are many ways to protect your system against scareware. One is using security software from legitimate and well established software vendors — through their legitimate sales channels. Another is by being prudent with offers and downloads when online. For a small business there are other ways such as blocking or filtering these malicious websites to ensure the security of the entire business. If you want to find out more about these solutions to protect small business networks — let us know. We offer managed security services for small business that can protect against online threats.

Alphabetizing Last Names in Word

December 26, 2010 8:42 am

Sorting lists of names by last name is easy if they are listed in a LAST, FIRST order. But what if the names are in FIRST LAST order? This tip explains features in Word that make this possible. Read more.

When Did You Last Update Your Disaster Recovery Plan?

December 23, 2010 5:00 pm

If success is what you aspire to, you need to know what to do when unexpected events cause harm or hassle to your business. You need to be prepared, and you need to know exactly what steps to take to solve the possible plagues to your business when they happen. As you know, businesses must continually evolve, and as a savvy business owner you constantly respond to changes in the market by adjusting your products, services, systems, and processes to meet these changing demands. Your disaster recovery plan should get the same treatment. If it doesn’t, it’s almost as bad as having no plan at all. For example, imagine that the raw materials for your main product did not arrive in time, and you don’t have any stock left. What do you do? Panic? Even the most seemingly minor complication can become a major cause of worry, so it’s always best to be ready when trying times come along. Proper risk management is a must for a successful business. Therefore, the possession of a disaster recovery plan may make or break your business. Therefore, it’s a good idea to review and update your disaster contingency plan every now and then – especially when your business has gone through any type of change. It’s also recommended that you test out what plan is effective for your company, then document what works and what doesn’t. Use this information to adjust your plan as needed. A disaster recovery plan is not just simply a handy thing to have – it’s a necessity. If you don’t have one, or if you think yours might be outdated, you should make this a top priority. If you need help you can always contact us. We’ll guide you every step of the way in coming up the best disaster recovery plan to keep your business safe and sound.

Tools to Edit PDF Files Online for Free

December 22, 2010 4:37 pm

Here are some free online tools that can help you modify PDF files. What’s even better is they don’t require downloads or installation. The only requirement is an Internet connection and browser. Read more .

Honesty is Still the Best Policy

December 21, 2010 4:30 pm

Many companies and businesses give in to the temptation to use pirated software, thereby saving on costs. But in the long run, this will prove to be more trouble than it’s worth. Times and technology may have changed drastically through the years, but the good old values of honesty and integrity still hold. With pirated and illegal software experiencing great popularity these days, with virtually every software program known to man floating around in various easy-to-find sources and websites. And since they are free of charge – no need to pay fees for licensing or updates – it’s hardly surprising that many businesses are tempted to cut a few corners and save on costs by using pirated software. Microsoft programs in particular are considered to be one of the most pirated in the world. Since they are widely used, many businesses, big or small, cannot afford to do without them. And more than a few have used or are using pirated software. This is why Microsoft is taking on a new approach to fighting piracy: publicly exposing offenders. Microsoft recently named several offenders who admitted to ‘hard disk loading’, which is selling PCs with pirated software pre-installed. Microsoft has identified Selectweb in Lancashire, Computer Trading in West Sussex, Tech Computers in the West Midlands, PC Academy and Impact Computers in Preston, Call-Tech Support (CTS) in Bolton, PC Practitioners in Derbyshire, MSB Computers in Blackburn, Multi Tech Systems and Ossett PC Centre in West Yorkshire. Many have since mended their ways – it hardly sits well with clients when they discover that their supplier / reseller uses what is basically stolen software – but the damage has already been done. So learn from the mistakes of others, and start using only licensed, legal software. Need more information? We can help make sure your software if above the board so you stay out of trouble.

Investing in Smartphone Damage Protection

December 20, 2010 1:00 pm

A  Smartphone is lightweight and portable, making it very prone to accidental drops. Not only do you risk damaging the phone itself, you also risk losing valuable data stored in the device. Many businesses all over the world issue Smartphones to their employees. While they can seem expensive for many small to medium-sized business owners, with the greater amount of work done at a faster pace, Smartphones are an ideal business solution. However, since Smartphones are lightweight and portable they are carried around everywhere, making them very prone to accidental drops. Despite the advances in technology, some Smartphones are more prone to damage than others. Touchscreens are generally more susceptible to damage because they usually don’t have an extra layer of plastic on their screens. And when these devices are damaged, not only do you incur the cost of repair or replacement, you also risk losing valuable data that’s stored in them. So, should you spend more to protect your employees’ Smartphones? Some people think it depends on your industry. According to Tim Doherty, research analyst for small to mid-sized business markets at research firm IDC, most blue-collar employees should be provided with protective cases for their Smartphones since their work environments are more likely to be physical in nature. Equipping these employees with cases like the OtterBox or rugged devices such as those being offered by Motorola is a good move. Meanwhile, according to Doherty, white-collar employees using Smartphones only have “a moderate risk of drop or damage” because they usually put their devices inside their bags or pockets. Still, providing these employees with “a basic rubberized case makes a lot of sense,” adds Doherty. He also adds that providing cases lessens “the company’s liability to replace damaged devices.” Some analysts think, however, that cases citing damaged Smartphones due to accidental drops have been exaggerated. Analyst and Partner Michael Gartenberg of Altimeter Group believes that cases can protect and personalize your Smartphone, but he does not agree that these cases are essential accessories. Gartenberg claims that, “Most phones are rugged enough to handle the usual bumps and abrasions of everyday life and most screens are quite scratch resistant.” He adds that normal maintenance will ensure that most Smartphones work well. In addition, Gartenberg believes that if users are aware that their Smartphones have additional protection, they may tend to be less careful when using their devices. Still, Tim Bajarin, President of Creative Strategies, a firm that provides industry analysis for the technology sector, believes that a Smartphone case “isn’t much of an investment . . . yet it can go a long way.” As Bajarin says, we should treat these cases as insurance. With just a little extra expense, you not only protect a $200 to $300 Smartphone, you may also save your business from a loss of thousands of dollars worth of data stored in a single device.

Create Small, Easy-to-read URL’s

December 20, 2010 5:07 am

Create easy-to-read and type Internet addresses from the long addresses often found on popular sites such as Amazon, eBay, and MapQuest by using online services that shrink the address. Read more.

Why Use Electronic Signatures?

December 17, 2010 4:00 pm

Studies show that among US companies alone, 30 billion paper documents are copied or printed every year. The associated cost for each document is estimated at $6.50. Five hundred documents are signed by the average authorized employee each year, which means that the total annual cost of using paper documents $3,250. Signatures have been the most accepted means of authentication since ancient times. During the Roman Empire, a combination of seals and signatures were recognized as the primary source for document and legal contract authentication.  In the 1830s, electronic communications became legally recognized “electronic signatures” when the telegraph and Morse Code were invented. In 1976, Martin Hellman and Whitfield Diffie introduced public key cryptography, wherein cryptographic keys were first distributed over an unprotected public network. The first electronically signed document was an agreement between two nations – a Joint Communique signed by Ireland and the United States in 1998. What is an electronic signature or e-signature? There are different definitions for this term, but for the purpose of US law, the US Code defines it as “an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.” Why are businesses using electronic signatures? Electronic signatures help cut costs. Studies show that among US companies alone, 30 billion paper documents are copied or printed every year. The associated cost for each document is estimated to be $6.50. Five hundred documents are signed by the average authorized employee each year, which means that the total annual cost of using paper documents per employee is $3,250. Electronic signatures are good for the environment. The reduction of paper usage will not only cut down operational costs, but will also help save our environment. For every person who uses e signatures, the savings is equal to ¾ of a barrel of oil, ½ of a tree, or 150 pounds of carbon emissions per year. Electronic signatures help reduce fraud. When documents are signed electronically, the integrity of the content is guaranteed. E-signatures also enable real-time verification of the handwritten signature as opposed to a pre-defined biometric profile. Any manipulation within a document that involves an e-signature will automatically result in making the signature invalid. Electronic signatures help increase customer satisfaction. Turnaround times are accelerated with the use of electronic signatures because you don’t keep your customers waiting while you search for contracts or forms. Additionally, adding an electronic signature to a document is just like signing on paper. There is no need to change your customers’ habits, and they are assured that even with remote handling all their documents are secure. Electronic signatures give entrepreneurs more time to increase sales. Because workflow is much faster with the use of electronic signatures, processing times are reduced and sales people and consultants have more time to spend on getting new business. This can significantly increase the company’s revenue. E-Signatures and Mobile Devices Many business owners have come to realize the importance of using e-signatures in business. In fact, some businesses have even adapted this signing process for the smaller screens of mobile devices. If the transaction involves straightforward, simple sales contracts, a mobile e-signature is ideal. The customer sees and agrees to what exactly what is being purchased on the spot, and this allows salespeople to work more efficiently. For lengthy documents however, especially those that have several form fields that require considerable interaction with the client, a PC format is more suitable. How Legitimate are E-Signatures? As for the legitimacy of e-signatures, you need not worry. In 1999, the European Union passed the EU Directive for Electronic Signatures, and on the 30 th of June, 2000, US President Bill Clinton signed into law the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN), which signified that all signed electronic contracts and documents are as legally binding as a paper-based contract.

Big Business IT at a Small Business Price

December 16, 2010 4:11 pm

Peace of mind, security, and superior IT are now made available not just for huge enterprises, but for small to medium-sized businesses as well. Using Managed Services, you can enjoy the same benefits big companies have without it costing an arm and a leg. Like a lot of small to medium-sized businesses these days, you perhaps have become greatly reliant on Information Technology (IT). You certainly want your own IT department to offer the functionality and security that huge organizations benefit from. But cost is most likely holding you back — the large amount of money needed to design, install and maintain such a setting is usually too expensive for smaller organizations. Fortunately, today you can have both the best IT and the most cost-efficient solution — because in Managed Services, they are one and the same. Managed Services is an IT model that provides IT management and security remotely. Utilizing the latest and most sophisticated technology, we can readily monitor and manage your network, determine possible issues, and solve them before they harm your business. These are the 2 major advantages: Superior IT – With Managed Services, you can accomplish the functionality and security that previously was only available to large companies. Inexpensive Price – Enjoy better IT without costing a fortune. Because of economies of scale, Managed Services enables you to create an infrastructure that delivers essential IT services to staff and clients without having to build or maintain these services internally. Contact us now to learn how our Managed Services can help improve your IT and save you money.

Send Web Pages Easily to Friends

December 15, 2010 6:58 pm

When you come across a web page you’d like to share, these simple steps allow you to easily send a link to a friend. Read more.

Electronic Fraud Most Likely Inside Jobs According to Study

December 13, 2010 7:51 am

New research from risk consultancy firm highlights risk from data theft committed by employees. A poll of over 800 senior executives around the world showed that companies for the first time are losing more from the theft of their electronic assets than from physical assets. This was recently revealed by Kroll , a risk consulting firm. The incidents were especially alarming in emerging markets such as China, Colombia, and Brazil — where more than 9 out of 10 businesses report victimization. Most susceptible are firms that deal in information, such as businesses in professional services, media, technology, and finance. Often, according to the respondents, the perpetrators are the company’s own employees. Companies today should closely examine how information is managed within the organization. Appropriate levels of control should be provided, and policies, procedures, and tools need to be implemented to make sure access is carefully controlled and monitored and information is secured. Are you confident that your firm is safe from attack not only from outside the organization but also from within? If not, contact us today to find out how we can help.

Convert Multiple File Formats for Free Online

December 12, 2010 12:34 pm

If you use Web sites to share your documents, movies, pictures, and music files, you probably know what it means to have to convert files. Good thing there is a Web site that performs file format conversions online. It’s free, helpful, and extremely simple to use. Read more .

Why It’s Impossible to Survive Without a Disaster Recovery Plan

December 10, 2010 5:01 pm

Disasters of all kinds could inevitably hit your business at any time. Therefore, in addition to having a backup plan, you should also create and implement a disaster recovery plan to constantly provide you with business security, as well as avoid financial loss and going out of business. Simply put, organizations that suffer data losses generally fail as a consequence. In fact, that statement is based on study by the Department of Trade and Industry, which discovered that 70% of small businesses that experience a major data loss eventually go out of business within 18 months. This statistics shows that a majority of small businesses have failed to protect themselves against a number of problems. According to Ontrack, data loss is due to the following: Human error – 44% of the time System or hardware breakdown – 32% of the time Software malfunction – 14% of the time Computer virus – 7% of the time Site disaster – 3% of the time Data loss is very catastrophic — because your data is critical to your business. To illustrate this, just imagine the outcome if you lost access to your IT systems, including: Client databases Supplier information Financial reports and documents — from invoices to tax records Product catalogs Marketing materials Emails and correspondences Document templates Employee records Like insurance to your business assets, the same idea is applicable to your data. Regardless of its location, your data needs to be constantly protected from every potential danger. The good news is that with a strong disaster recovery plan and an efficient backup solution, you can easily resume business in just minutes or a few hours in most instances. With these crucial things in mind, it’s best to protect your data to secure your business. Ask us how today.

Putting Your Business on the (Geolocation) Map

December 9, 2010 4:56 pm

There’s a boom in geolocation platforms these days, and experts are seeing vast potential in the way geolocation can help small and medium sized businesses put themselves on the map. Geolocation is a means through which people can track various locations through their mobile phone devices. Experts see a continued rise in the relevance and effects of geolocation, especially for small and medium-sized businesses who are looking for good but cost-effective ways to put themselves on the proverbial map. “When you’ve expanded the ability to track geolocation data from the 200 to 1,000 large businesses that could previously afford it to 26 million small businesses, you’re bound to see a bunch of creative experiences built around that data,” says Yan-David Erlich, CEO of Morpho, a new geolocation firm. The potential is vast, and there is little to lose. Especially considering the success of geolocation-enabled social network platforms such as Foursquare, putting yourself on the geolocation map might just be more than worth your while. Here are a few tips to get you started: Be a direct part of the community. Create an account, participate, and make yourself (or at least someone to represent your online presence) regularly felt. Customization is always key. Share something unique about your business – don’t make your profile generic and ordinary. You have to stand out, so choose a particular trait of your business you are particularly proud of, or something that sets you apart from the rest. Make sure to utilize as many keywords possible – but only within the bounds of practicality. And don’t forget links to your own website. Know what the competition is up to. There’s nothing wrong with checking out what competitors are doing to establish themselves in the geolocation map. Who knows, you might even learn a thing or two, and then be able to apply improvements and adjustments to your own strategies. If you are looking at taking some concrete steps to establishing yourself and making your presence much more significant, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to sit down and develop a customized geolocation strategy that works for you. Read the whole article at: http://technology.inc.com/telecom/articles/201007/geolocation.html?partner=newsletter_Technology

Tidying Up Outlook Window Clutter

December 8, 2010 8:00 pm

If you spend your day replying to e-mail in Microsoft Outlook, you may find yourself with a stack of open message windows all over your screen by lunchtime. Fortunately, most recent versions of Outlook can help you keep things tidy by closing the windows for you. Read more.

Improving Your Business Using a Pocket Video Camera

December 6, 2010 7:17 am

Almost every activity involves the use of technology, and almost everyone uses the internet. So, it’s only logical that if you want to go into business and be successful, you should have maximum exposure – and the best exposure that you can have is to make a video and take it online. Pocket Video Cameras are arguably one of the best gizmos out in the market today. Perhaps its appeal lies in being lightweight, portable, and affordable. They are almost as small as a regular cell phone, making it fit easily into one’s pocket. People use pocket video cameras to record just about anything. But did you know that you can earn money with the help of these pocket video cameras? You’re probably thinking – paparazzi. Well, that is a given. Paparazzi earn top dollar for controversial pictures of movie stars, politicians and royalty – but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Why Buy a Pocket Video Camera? If you’re an entrepreneur with a startup business, you’re still probably asking, “Why should I put a video on my website?” Ask yourself this:  how many people have become rich and famous because of YouTube? Without batting an eyelash, you can probably think of at least one celebrity who was discovered this way. The same holds true for small businesses. We live in the hi-tech age. Almost every activity involves the use of technology, and almost everyone uses the internet. It’s only logical that if you want to go into business and be successful, you should have maximum exposure – and the best exposure that you can have is to make a video and take it online. Sure, you can have the best web designer create your website. But plain text and graphics can sometimes be boring, and nothing beats embedding a dynamic video in your site. A Success Story A great example of successfully using a pocket video camera for business is Aquatic Fitness Concepts, a Southern California-based company that fits its 16 foot by 8 foot swim spas into backyards. Potential customers could not figure out how the company could do such a task. According to Paul Roberts of West Coast Marketing, the company that handles marketing for Aquatic Fitness Concepts, “It’s surprisingly easy using a crane, but everyone is terrified of and fascinated by the process. So, John Trzcinka, the owner, has started using his Flip camera to film these crane installations. It’s quite something to see.” Trzcinka posted the video on his company website and potential clients are reassured by the safety and ease of the installation process. This has brought on increased sales for the Aquatic Fitness Concepts. How to Benefit from Using Video Follow these tips for maximizing your use of your pocket video camera for your business: Establish yourself as an expert in your industry. Shoot a short video of yourself giving tips or a how-to tutorial to show how knowledgeable you are about your business. You’ll be surprised at how many people will try to make contact with you. Tell your story. Most people are interested in what goes on behind the scenes. Videos about how a product is made, how a service is done, or how a project progresses are particularly interesting to most audiences. Provide quick feedback to your clients. The pocket video camera is very useful in giving feedback, especially when you want to demonstrate a point to a client. For example, a business development consultant hired to develop a business on a particular site, shoots a video of the site to prove to the client the feasibility of the site. Create real-life testimonials. With your pocket video camera, you can easily take videos of your clients’ testimonials. Because of its small size, customers are less intimated to share their stories on camera. Use videos to enhance your press releases. Pyxl, a marketing firm in Knoxville, Tennessee mails Flip cameras to its clients whenever they have news to share about their companies. They shoot videos with the camera, return the cameras to Pyxl, and the marketing firm edits the videos and embeds them in online press releases and social media releases. One of the most popular pocket video cameras in the market today is the Flip Ultra HD. Priced at $150 to $200, it’s a small investment compared to the revenue that maximum exposure for your business will generate. Its 8 GB of internal memory allows the user to shoot about 2 hours of video. It has rechargeable batteries that you don’t have to remove from the camera when you’re charging. Just connect the camera to the USB port of your computer. You can also use 2 AA alkaline batteries as backups. Fortunately, these days you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get publicity for your business. Just use your handy pocket video camera and you’re all set for success.

Move Back Faster in Your Browser

December 5, 2010 3:11 pm

The most commonly used feature in Internet browsers is the Back button, and many users click it several times to get where they want to be. However, all browsers also have a small down arrow that allows you to quickly see and access the last several pages you’ve visited as well. Read more.

Practicing Proper Hygiene in Your Workspace

December 3, 2010 3:20 pm

Why risk the chance of infection and sickness when you can simply take a few minutes each day to disinfect and clean your workspace? It might be terribly trite, but the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” still holds true. Did you know that an average office keyboard and mouse can contain as much as 400 times more germs and bacteria than a toilet seat? That’s pretty disgusting, especially when you start to imagine opening a bag of chips and eating from it – after using your keyboard. Ingesting such dangerous bacteria can cause any number of ailments and illnesses, ranging from mild to seriously life threatening. The good news is that preventing these kinds of health incidents is pretty easy. The solution: regularly cleaning your workspace, especially your keyboard and mouse. Cleaning your workspace and workstation also has the added benefit of making your computer work more efficiently. Dust, dirt, and grime stuck in your keyboard and mouse make them sticky and uncomfortable to use, while de-dusting and cleaning the inside of your CPU enables better ventilation that increases its life span and performance. Cleaning materials don’t cost much (especially when you consider the cost of hospital and medicine bills), and cleaning isn’t all that time consuming – so there’s little reason to put it off. Disinfectant wipes – which can kill about 95 percent of existing bacteria – are available at any grocery store, and you can buy compressed air at most office supply stores to clean the spaces between and under the keys of your keyboard. It takes less than 5 minutes of your time each day. So why risk the chance of infection and sickness when you can simply take a few minutes each day to disinfect and clean your workspace? It might be terribly trite, but the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” still holds true.

Define Styles in Word

December 1, 2010 3:48 pm

Styles are a powerful feature of Word that help you easily define the way your text should appear. This tip explains how you can define styles or modify existing styles. Read more.

Three Ways Managed Services Improve Your Business

November 30, 2010 4:12 pm

If you are running a company or a business of your own, you might be asking yourself, “Do I need Managed Services? Is it really worth it considering all the costs?” With the very competitive nature of today’s market, Managing Services may be well worth it. IT problems may be largely minimized or halted even before they occur if you have an IT consultant that constantly monitors your network. With an IT consultant, problems are addressed right away – many times even before they disrupt your operations. But despite this, many companies still tend to shy away from Managed Services. They believe it’s an extra expense that they are better off without, since Managed Services typically involve monthly or annual fees. What companies don’t realize that without Managed Services, they may be spending more than what they thought they save by not signing up. Here are three reasons why you should choose Managed Services: No unplanned expenses – Fixing IT problems will cost you, and more often than not, it’s not a measly cost. You’ll be forced to shell out money unexpectedly so that you can address the problem as soon as possible to minimize the effects on your work. With Managed services, you can allocate your budget accordingly. Lower staffing costs – Filling-in IT staff positions is often expensive, not to mention more tedious, when compared with Managed Services – and remember training costs as well. Managed Services provide you with trained personnel who specialize in managing your network for a much lower cost. Increased operations efficiency – With no network problems occurring, the efficiency of your operations would noticeably increase. You could do more and serve more. Customers would be happy and your employees would be free from frustration. All of this of course leads to higher revenues. So give Managed Services another look – you’ll be glad you did.

How to Add Signatures in Outlook 2010

November 29, 2010 6:47 am

In Office 2010, the locations of some features are different, and if you’ve recently upgraded you might be wondering where you can add signatures to your emails. Here are the steps for inserting signatures in Outlook 2010. Read more.

How to Assess Your Backup Solution

November 26, 2010 4:52 pm

Most backup solutions available these days certainly do a good job of backing up your data. However, all backup solutions are not the same, and careful assessment is needed to ensure your backup solution is suitable for your requirements. It’s impossible to have a disaster recovery plan without first having an efficient backup solution. So, the question is:  Is your backup solution truly efficient – or just good enough? Traditionally, backup processes use a tape storage method. But unfortunately, tape has many limitations. Tape-based backup systems involve high costs. This is especially true with large capacity backups. Additional problems include complicated upgrades, degradation over time, and sluggish backup and restoration. Traditional backup procedures only capture a single snapshot of your information each day. This means that if your backup is programmed to occur at 12 midnight, you jeopardize losing the entire next day’s work if disaster strikes. Backing up traditionally requires rigorous manual labor . Someone has to make sure that the proper media is in the drive. Someone has to evaluate the backup results to ensure completeness, as well as periodically execute data restorations. Once the backup is complete, someone has to take it offsite for security purposes. Although some companies are equipped to perform all of these backup-related tasks, most aren’t—and many are unsure whether their backups will be available when needed. However, during the last three to five years, the standard backup method has shifted to digital solutions that provide greater capacity and quicker backup and restoration. Here are some ways that you can improve your backup system: Ensure that every bit of your data is backed up several times per day. Remove the human factor from the backup equation. (This reduces the possibility of error as well as operating costs.) Choose a restoration process that is fast yet flexible, so you can easily re-instate your entire data set or any part of it if needed. Ensure that your system has very little impact on your business operations. It should be transparent to you and your employees that the backups are even taking place (that is, until you need them, of course!). Don’t hesitate to contact us for more details. We can help you put together and manage an efficient backup solution that’s ideal for your specific requirements.

Search the Internet with Start Menu Search

November 24, 2010 5:00 pm

Start Menu Search is one of the best features in modern Windows versions, but in Windows 7, it can only be used to search for programs and files by default. Fortunately, with a simple change, you can use Start Menu Search to trigger Internet searches as well - and these searches will be performed by your default browser and search engine. Read more.

Are You a Victim of Online Banking Fraud?

November 22, 2010 4:35 pm

Beware! Someone maybe stealing money from you where you least expect it – your bank! According to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, online criminals have been getting away with what they estimate to be over $100 million in bank fraud – mostly at the expense of small to midsized businesses. Typically, hackers plant malicious programs known as Trojans into the networks of target companies, which then steal passwords to various online services such as online banking and fund management. Having gained access to these services, these hackers then commit something called ACH or Automatic Clearing House Network Fraud. Typically, they wire money out of their victim’s accounts and into the accounts of money “mules” who help them launder the money for a cut. These funds are then transmitted to the criminal masterminds – who are often located in countries outside the reach of American law enforcement, such as China and Russia. Small and midsized businesses have become a favored target by hackers lately because they often lack the time and resources to put stringent security controls in place. A survey conducted by security vendor Panda Security reveals that of the 1,400 businesses questioned, around 52 percent employed no basic security measures such as Web filtering, while 29 percent lacked anti-spam protection. How can you protect yourself and your business? Make sure you educate employees about the threat and train them in basic security awareness, such as avoiding opening emails and attachments coming from suspicious senders or with suspicious content. Consider beefing up your network security measures – including installing and using updated antivirus software, network firewalls, and web and mail filtering solutions. Too busy? Don’t know how to start? Then perhaps this is a good time to seek out the services of a professional. Call us today to see how we can help protect your business.

Prevent Your Mouse from Waking Windows 7 from Sleep Mode

November 21, 2010 4:09 pm

Among a host of power management options available in Windows 7, sleep mode is a convenient way to save power and reduce wear and tear on your computer’s hardware. However, your mouse is set by default to wake up Windows 7 from sleep mode, and one slight tap or vibration can wake your computer up. Luckily, you can disable this feature. Read more.

Laptop Stolen? Get it back!

November 18, 2010 4:09 pm

In the wrong hands, a stolen laptop can compromise your personal security and the security of your business, not to mention the actual loss of the data. This is why it’s paramount that you guard yourself against laptop theft and put measures in place that guard your data in the event that your laptop gets stolen. A study by security vendor Symantec cites that in the United States alone, someone’s laptop gets stolen every 53 seconds. And of that number, 97 percent of those are never recovered. Besides the obvious loss of your hardware and the inconvenience that brings, experts cite a much more important concern with stolen laptops: the loss of the information you have inside. Saved passwords, sensitive business and personal information - in the wrong hands, a stolen laptop can compromise your personal security and the security of your business, not to mention the actual loss of the data itself. Symantec and the Ponemon Institute, an independent data, information, and security research firm, pegs the average loss from a stolen business laptop to about a whopping $10 million. This is why it’s paramount that you guard yourself against laptop theft and put measures in place to guard your data in the event that your laptop gets stolen. Fortunately, there are several options you can choose from, such as installing a tracking program on your laptop and regularly backing up your data. You can also use more sophisticated passwords and encryption for your computer, making it harder to crack. Some trace programs also include an option to remotely wipe the data on your laptop in case of theft. Both your laptop and the data on it are important business tools, which is why you might want to consider upgrading your security measures to help prevent losses from theft. Please give us a call and we’ll be happy to provide a blueprint of security policy that works for you.

Printers 101

November 15, 2010 7:15 am

These days, printers have become more than just, well, printers. There are many features and factors to consider in your purchase to make sure the printer you buy is as cost effective as possible. Multi-functionality is one of the most important factors you should consider when buying a printer. With technology moving in leaps and bounds, having a device that just prints out paper won’t cut it anymore. Today’s printers have multiple functions, which make them more versatile. Look for features such as a built in scanner (preferably capable of multiple page scanning), as well as fax and copy options. It’s much more convenient to have everything in a single device, and it saves space too. Another factor to consider is how economical your printer will be to use. One feature that helps reduce costs is called duplex printing, which allows you to print on both sides of the page - saving on paper costs and making your operations much more environment friendly. Make sure that your printer has the option of setting duplex printing as its default mode. Another way to save is by determining which type of printer you need - laser or inkjet. Inkjet printers print slower, but are cheaper to purchase and use. Laser printers print faster and offer better quality output, but are much more expensive to purchase, and the ink cartridges cost a lot more, too. So before buying a printer, it’s essential to determine how you’ll use it first. Also make sure that your printer has the option to print draft and black-only copies for not-so-important documents. When you don’t need professional quality or color prints you should have the option to enable lower quality printing, which will save on ink costs. You should also look into network printing, which lets multiple users print from a single printer. This enables you to monitor ink and paper usage better, and also eliminates the need for multiple printers in the office, saving on purchase, operation, and maintenance costs. An LCD on your printer will also help you diagnose and troubleshoot problems, as well as preview documents that are printing or in the cue. If you are looking for help in buying a new printer for your office, or want to organize your existing printing system to save on costs, please feel free to give us a call so we can discuss options that will meet your particular needs.

Automatically Delete TEMP Files in Windows 7

November 15, 2010 5:50 am

The Windows Disk Cleanup Wizard will delete your temporary files, but only if they are over a week old. Here is a tip that shows you how to create a simple batch script that will clean up your temporary files and directories automatically. Read more.

Old Programs can Get Stale, in More Ways than One

November 12, 2010 8:41 am

One of the more subtle ways hackers use to get malware into your system is through programs that are not up-to-date. This is why it is essential that your programs be upgraded regularly, especially with the latest security patches that plug up the holes in the system. One of the more subtle ways hackers use to get malware into your system is through exploiting programs that are either old or not up to date. Naturally, most programs are not perfect when they first come out, and hackers are always out to exploit weaknesses in the design and infrastructure of these programs. This is why developers constantly send patches and updates to their clients and subscribers. Programs that do not have these patches and updates that fix vulnerabilities in the system are very viable entry points through which malware can enter your system. Also, older programs on your system might be phased out, which means the developer is not releasing patches or fixes for them anymore. This is why it is essential that your programs be up to date, especially with the latest security patches that plug up holes in the system. And if there are programs that are beyond their expiration date or aren’t being used any longer, it’s a waste of space and resources to keep them installed in your computers. It’s important that you regularly check the status of your programs to make sure that they’re always in tip-top shape. If you’d like to ensure that the programs you use are always patched, updated, and safe, please contact us so we can sit down with you and develop a customized security system that meets your specific needs.

Save Your Business from Data Loss: Have a Business Continuity Plan

November 11, 2010 8:08 am

Some companies have suffered significant data loss because they discovered the errors too late. Put a Business Continuity Plan in place before you experience a major data loss or equipment failure. You’ve probably heard news about companies that have experienced data loss. You may think that these losses can only happen to larger companies because of the huge databases they have. However, small to medium-sized businesses are not safe from data loss, either. Unfortunately, according to recently conducted studies, around 50% of small to midsized businesses are at risk, because they have no Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place. What is a Business Continuity Plan? It’s a comprehensive plan that enables your business to resume normal operations after a significant data loss or network downtime due to natural disasters, sabotage or theft, or equipment failure. Maybe you already have a Business Continuity Plan for your company. Even so, you need to make sure that your plan is flexible and scalable, and can adapt to the natural changes that your business undergoes. Software and hardware installations, updates, and modifications are an important part of business continuity planning. Your data should be properly and regularly backed up, and you need storage and recovery systems and procedures that are continually updated with changes that constantly occur in your IT. If your computer software and hardware are not properly maintained and procedures are not updated, this may lead to backup errors that will result to costly data losses. Unfortunately, companies routinely suffer significant data loss because they discovered the errors too late – usually while trying to recover the data. In addition to having a flexible and scalable BCP, you also need a highly skilled IT staff that is up to speed on the importance of backup and recovery of data. It’s important that this staff is properly trained to implement your BCP in the event that your business experiences a major data loss. Your business is important to you – and to us, too. We’re here to help you create or fine-tune a Business Continuity Plan that is best suited to your unique business needs, as well as prepare and assist your staff in implementing the plan should it become necessary. Contact us for more details.

Cleaning your Optical Mouse

November 10, 2010 7:42 am

Finding delicate control with your optical mouse difficult? Does the arrow pointer keep jumping all over the place? Well, here’s a tip that will help. Read more.

Using Twitter to Your Business Advantage

November 8, 2010 8:00 am

It’s common knowledge these days that social networking websites such as the hugely popular Twitter can be used not only as an online socializing medium, but also as a powerful business tool. However, not everyone becomes as successful as they want to. Here are a few tips experts recommend you follow when using Twitter: Pick who you follow. Many people think that Twitter is all about getting as many followers as possible and following as many people as possible. However, while it’s true that Twitter numbers can be powerful, it’s also important to remember that the quality of the Tweets you follow also counts for a lot. Plan ahead. Make things short and sweet. If you make it a habit of Tweeting at exactly 140 characters, you might want to rethink that. In case some of your followers decide to re-Tweet you, characters at the end of the Tweet will be lopped off to make room for “RT (insert Twitter username here)”. So if you have valuable information at the end of Tweet – like a link – for example, it becomes incomplete. Tweet at peak times. Try to determine the time when you have the biggest number of people viewing you. That way, you can get your message across much more effectively to as much people as possible. If you want to know more about maximizing your Twitter account for your business, please contact us and we’ll be happy to assist you.

The More Complicated the Password, the Better

November 5, 2010 4:09 pm

Your passwords hold the keys to most – if not all – of your online presence, so keeping them secure is paramount. In the same way that keys are used to open different doors, passwords are used to access many areas of cyberspace. However, those passwords are vulnerable to hacking, stealing, or random guessing – which makes password integrity and security a main concern. However, for many people, this essential fact is overlooked. Many tend to use either easy-to-guess passwords, or use the same password for all their online accounts - from their online banking to their email – which is a hacker’s dream come true. Because when they steal a password, it’s standard operating procedure for them to test it against popular websites to see if it works there as well. The most basic security measure you can use to guard against this is to have multiple passwords for your different online accounts – whether they are for personal or business use. And don’t just think of easy passwords, like your birthday or wedding anniversary – these are usually the first thing hackers try. The best passwords are alphanumeric – composed of both letters and numbers so that it’s harder to crack. This might be a bit tedious, but it’s better than running the risk of compromising your security online. There are also several programs and applications you can use to help store your passwords, so you only need to remember a few of your most-used ones, and refer to your database for the others. Remember, your passwords hold the keys to most, if not all, of your online presence, so keeping them secure is extremely important. If you’re looking for a security solution for your passwords, please give us a call so we can help you implement a password security system that works for you.

Documenting and Assessing Your IT Needs

November 4, 2010 4:30 pm

Documentation and assessment of your IT needs might expose the fact that your IT environment is not as efficient as you thought it would be. This may explain why you are experiencing problems such as a weak internet signal or a web browser that won’t load. Today’s businesses rely heavily on computers. That’s why most entrepreneurs invest in the best computer hardware and software that their money can buy. Because of this, they expect everything to run smoothly and all their IT needs to be met with the use of these wonderful computers. In reality, however, you wind up experiencing a weak internet signal, your web browser won’t load, or you can’t get your email running. All these occurrences cost you valuable time – time you can’t afford to lose. You can avoid these incidents by using Managed IT Services. Our professionals will conduct a comprehensive analysis of all your existing IT processes and functions. We will gather facts from what you have experienced with your systems, and assess which have been proven to run efficiently and produce the most favourable results for your company. This will all be clearly documented as part of your overall business practices. As the documentation progresses, you may find out that your IT environment is not as efficient as you thought it was. You may also discover specific needs that you were unaware of. If these needs aren’t addressed, they could negatively affect productivity and result in a decline in revenue. In fact, they could even lead to expensive IT network emergencies if you don’t have the right technology and proper maintenance on hand. We understand these risks and challenges, and we’re here to assist you in assessing your needs through this documentation process. We can help you identify the right IT solutions that are best for your business, as well as provide solutions, including outsourcing certain network functions such as email, backup and recovery, and security. We’ll also help you maintain your IT network while making sure that all your systems are updated and running smoothly so that you can avoid system failure or downtime. Give us a call today to learn how we can help you get the most out of your IT investments.

Cleaning your Keyboard

November 3, 2010 4:00 pm

When your computer keyboard starts looking dirty, yellowish, or some keys are not working properly, it may be time to learn how to clean it properly. Read more.

Tracking and Erasing Data from Lost Smartphones

November 1, 2010 7:09 am

Losing a smartphone these days means a lot more than just losing the hardware - it can spell a potentially dangerous threat to your business if the wrong person with the right skills picks it up. A few years ago, mobile phones were basically just a status symbol, a luxury people could do without. But today, they’ve become more than mere tools that make communication easier, and it’s almost unheard of to not have a one. They’re so common that it’s now considered a necessity, and many people cannot leave home without it. Mobile phones have also evolved through the years to cater to the needs of their users, offering a bevy of features from digital camera integration to music and video playback and a lot more. Naturally, these features also extend to those who would like a more mobile approach to business - hence the smartphone. So to lose a smartphone these days means a lot more than just losing the hardware and “fun stuff” - it can spell a potentially dangerous threat to your business if the wrong person with the right skills picks it up. Fortunately, technology also offers a way to counter lost smartphone incidents. Security experts recommend that businesses install smartphone applications that are capable of wiping your smartphone’s data, as well as triangulating your smartphone’s location. “Most consumers could probably care less about this, but it’s incredibly important for businesses to have a remote wipe feature in place for its employees’ phones,” says Ken Dulaney, vice president for mobile computing of Gartner, a research and consulting firm based in Stamford, Connecticut. Through these applications, a small packet of data is sent to your smartphone that is designed to delete all the information and data inside, and through GPS and / or cellular triangulation, direct you to its location. This makes it possible to protect your data and possibly get your phone back at the same time. Regardless of the handset (and the corresponding OS) you are using, there are different apps that will do the job - so if you are looking to secure your business smartphones, please don’t hesitate to contact us so we can draw up a customized mobile security policy for you.

How to Optimally Position a Wireless Access Point or Router

October 31, 2010 4:00 pm

The performance of a Wi-Fi home network greatly depends on signal strength of the wireless router or wireless access point. To position your wireless equipment for optimal network performance, follow these guidelines. Read more.

Security Made Easy With Clear Cloud

October 28, 2010 7:15 am

Clear Cloud is a safe, effective, and simple way to check your browsing habits and keep your computer clean. It’s a simple, straightforward approach to getting better security for your computer:  download software, install it, and have it check whether every single website you go to is safe or not. That, in a nutshell, is what Clear Cloud does. This nifty little program is designed to help you filter out and block potentially harmful websites that many people unwittingly stumble into time and again. It’s the perfect solution for anti-phishing and helping keep your system free of malware – at least from stray clicking. While not a replacement for up-to-date anti-virus and other security software, it is an additional tool at your disposal. And yes, Clear Cloud checks every single website you visit. How? Since Clear Cloud belongs to the DNS network, it has access to every website in the world. This enables Clear Cloud to check every website you access or try to access. If the website is clean, Clear Cloud allows you to access the website. On the other hand, if the website proves to be suspicious, then Clear Cloud blocks the website. And if you’re concerned that this may take a toll on your bandwidth, think again – Clear Cloud operates and finishes each task in literally the blink of an eye. If you want to know how you can use Clear Cloud or other tools to keep your systems safe, please don’t hesitate to give us a call and we’ll be more than happy to discuss a custom security policy with you.

Microsoft Has Phased Out Windows XP

October 25, 2010 7:15 am

Microsoft sales for Windows XP ceased on October 22, 2010, and support for the old OS will continue only until 2014. If you’ve been using Microsoft XP for a long time – with good reason, XP being one of the most stable operating systems in the Windows line – it might be time to finally migrate over to the new Windows 7. Microsoft has recently ceased sales for the popular OS – the last day to purchase XP was October 22, 2010. The software giant is now dedicating most of its resources and efforts to its latest OS, Windows 7. While XP support will continue until April 2014, that’s less than four years from now, and Microsoft is recommending users switch to Windows 7. As for compatibility issues, Microsoft assures users that most programs that work with XP also work on Windows 7. “Windows 7 is designed to be compatible with the most popular hardware and software products you use every day. Thousands of these will work just fine,” reads a FAQ entry on their website. There is also the Windows 7 Compatibility Center, where you can check programs to ensure they will work on the new Microsoft OS. If you are thinking of switching to Windows 7, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’ll be happy to discuss a customized plan for your business’s smooth transition to Microsoft’s latest OS.

Beware of Documents Containing Viruses!

October 22, 2010 7:00 pm

Microsoft Word and Adobe Reader are probably the most used document editing / viewing applications out there, and documents and PDF files can be used to introduce viruses and malware into your system. It might be common knowledge that Microsoft Word and Adobe Reader are probably the most used document editing /viewing applications out there, but here’s something you might not know: documents and PDF files can be used to introduce viruses and malware into your system. Unfortunately for MS Word and Adobe Acrobat Reader, security experts aren’t too happy about how (not) secure these programs really are. Since they’re so widely used, hackers and malware designers have come up with ways to exploit these programs and the documents associated with them in order to hit as many people possible. As a security measure, consider opening document and PDF files in alternative programs, such as Open Office for MS Office documents, and Foxit Reader or PDF Studio for PDF files. Even if you feel uncomfortable using these programs to create and edit your everyday documents, at least consider using them to open suspicious documents. As for attachments that come with emails, try opening a suspicious file with Gmail. Send suspicious documents to a Gmail account and open it from there - Google Mail runs a virus check on it, and if it passes, open it on Google Docs to see what’s inside. You can also submit suspicious files to an online virus checker such as Virustotal, which will run it through a series of antivirus scanners to see if any red flags pop up. It’s a bit of extra effort, true, but it beats having to deal with a full-fledged virus attack on your system. If you want to make sure that you have all the options available to secure your system, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to sit down with you and discuss security policies that fit your needs.

The Importance of Managed Services

October 21, 2010 3:09 pm

More entrepreneurs these days are using Managed Services for their businesses. Why? Because it’s a good investment that’s sure to help increase a company’s revenue. These days businesses are increasingly dependent on IT, making it essential to have experts to handle the regular maintenance of your IT infrastructure. However, most small and medium businesses cannot afford to hire a qualified, full-time IT administrator. Managed Services is the best solution, since it allows you to concentrate on what you do best - managing the core competencies of your business. When you choose Managed Services, all of your IT operations are handled by a highly qualified and knowledgeable provider who assumes ongoing responsibility for monitoring, troubleshooting, and managing selected IT systems and functions on your behalf. The Managed Services Provider is in charge of network equipment and applications located on your premises, as specified in the terms of a service-level agreement (SLA) established to meet your company’s specific business needs. Why is Managed Services important for your business? 1. Managed Services is cost effective. If you’re not an IT expert, you’ll need to hire consultants for basic IT maintenance - and this is usually too costly for small and medium-sized businesses. The downtime during breakdowns of computers or outages will cost your business more money in the long run than outsourcing costs. 2. It’s easier to predict how much you need to spend. Managed Services offer a choice of service levels which may be priced on a per-month or per-device basis. This subscription model gives you more predictability in expenses as opposed to the as-needed time and billing models used by consultants. 3. Managed Services Providers take full responsibility, but business owners have full control. Although Managed Services are outsourced, you do not surrender complete control of your IT infrastructure. You decide which aspects of your network the service provider will take care of and what you want to handle. You are also informed of everything that happens in the process and management of your systems. 4. Managed Services involves 24/7 IT support. With Managed Services, you get support whenever you need it. You don’t have to wait in line for whatever system problems you need resolved. 5. Knowing your IT is in good hands gives you peace of mind. Knowing that your IT system is in the hands of experts, you are assured that somebody is there to do proper maintenance of all your computer hardware and software. You can also be confident that if you encounter any problems with your IT, there are experts who will help you fix them immediately.

Foursquare: Changing the Social Networking Game for Businesses

October 18, 2010 7:24 am

Just when we thought we’ve seen it all in the social networking scene, along comes Foursquare, a new social networking app that brings things closer to home - literally. If you thought you’ve seen it all in the social networking world - Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and other wildly popular social networking websites - take a look at Foursquare. Foursquare is a new social networking application that brings networking closer to home - literally. Foursquare encourages people to explore locations and businesses in exchange for points that can be used to earn ‘badges’ that mark achievements of the user. Users can check in at different venues, and the person with the most check-ins for a particular time period becomes the ‘Mayor’ of that particular venue. Think of it as something like Twitter + GPS. What does this do for your business? In a nutshell, Foursquare allows you to get involved in the game by offering discounts and promotions that are specific to your business, which further encourage Foursquare enthusiasts to visit your business. And with 1.8 million users and growing as of mid-August, the potential traffic for your business is too significant to ignore. Since Foursquare is location based, businesses are bound to attract local (and potentially long-term) clients. Here are some basic steps to help you get started on Foursquare: Take it easy at the beginning. Start by creating a free basic account and see how things go from there. After a week or two, you can start thinking of strategies for using Foursquare to tap into your target market. Be a part of the community . Don’t be passive. Post updates that are related to your business and are also helpful to users as well. Also, be attentive to feedback from other people. Listen to what the market wants, and deliver it. Link your Foursquare account with your Facebook and Twitter accounts so you can post updates simultaneously. While Foursquare is technically a game for consumer, dismissing it because of that fact is a big mistake. The potential for this location-based social networking service is vast.

Format an SD Card the Easy Way

October 17, 2010 8:25 am

SD cards can be tricky little gadgets. They sit in our cameras and cell phones, just waiting for us to take the picture of a lifetime. . .at which time, of course, they stop responding. While nothing can predict when or where an SD card will die, proper formatting can both lengthen the life of the card and provide the most available space possible. Read more.

Why Ink Refills can Leave You with the Short End of the Stick

October 15, 2010 7:16 am

Refilled ink cartridges may seem to be a cheaper alternative, but careful analysis will show that it actually costs more. Throughout recent months, we’ve seen more and more outfits offering services such as ink refilling, re-manufactured toners, and the like. The main selling point of such services is the significantly reduced price compared to buying new ink cartridges, and naturally, many businesses are attracted to these services in order to save on operating costs. However, when you look on a deeper level, using refilled ink cartridges, re-manufactured toners, generic printer cartridges, and other similar products actually costs more in the long run. Here’s why: Generic and refilled cartridges produce lower quality prints, and in many businesses mediocre output is unacceptable. Many times you’ll have to reprint pages, wasting both ink and paper (not to mention time). Generic and refilled cartridges frequently cause alignment problems with your printer, and some may even leak. This type of damage to your printer can result in unexpected repair costs or even the need to completely replace the printer. Studies show that 40% of refilled/generic cartridges or toners result in some sort of problem with the printer. Some say that using refilled/generic cartridges is safer for the environment. This is NOT the case. Reprinting costs you wasted energy, productivity, and materials such as paper. On top of that, many brand-name manufacturers have a recycling program, as opposed to generic cartridges which end up in landfills. On the surface, going for these “cheaper” alternatives might seem to be a great idea to cut costs, but over time it’s much more trouble and expense than what it’s worth. So it’s best to stick with using genuine ink cartridges and toners – you’ll enjoy better quality prints and less trouble in the long run.

GPS for Small Businesses: A Primer

October 14, 2010 7:10 am

Your small business can benefit from tools that track location and position GPS has lately become a near ubiquitous feature in many mobile devices such as car accessories and smart phones. GPS, which stands for Global Positioning Systems, is primarily a navigation system enabled by satellites in orbit around Earth that transmit positional information to devices with a GPS receiver. The system was originally set up by the US government for military or government purposes, but now has been opened up for private use as well. Because GPS is so pervasive and inexpensive to use, there have been a host of applications providing innovative ways to use the system. Today, GPS is instrumental in activities such as navigation, tracking, mapping, surveying, communications, and recreation – as well as many other activities for business and commerce. For many businesses, including small establishments, GPS can be used to boost the bottom line in a number of ways. Here are some of them: Track key assets in the field. Businesses can use GPS to track the location of people and items in the field such as delivery trucks, important packages, field stations, personnel, and more. This allows businesses to more easily monitor movement – and to better control cost and security (such as routes taken and stops along the way) as well as provide key information in real time that may be of value to partners and customers (such as the location of their shipment). Improve speed. By knowing where your people and assets are at any time, you can potentially improve the speed of decision making and response time – especially in areas such as product delivery or resource redeployment. Increase efficiency and optimize resources. Businesses in industries such as logistics and distribution can use GPS to make sure that trucks and personnel are following the proper and best possible routes – optimizing fuel expenses, minimizing maintenance and repair costs, and eliminating idle time. Businesses can also use GPS to eliminate costs associated with maintaining paper logs and the back-and-forth communication expenses associated with them. GPS has the potential to increase the productivity of your business in a big way by providing real-time, dynamic updates on the location and status of your key investments at any time. Contact us for ideas and help in implementing GPS in your operations today.

Coloring Calendars in Outlook

October 13, 2010 7:24 pm

If you have ever asked how to change the default background color of the Calendar in Outlook 2007, read on. Read more .

Beware of Rogue Antivirus Attacks

October 11, 2010 9:00 am

One technique scammers use to bully users into downloading malware is to launch repeated popup attacks prompting users to download their “antivirus” solution. It’s important to stay safe and keep a level head so you don’t get victimized. The modus operandi is this: say you’re browsing a random website, and a message suddenly pops up warning that your computer is infected with a deadly virus and you need to go to their website and download the proper antivirus software. If you close the window, another appears, saying the same message, and this happens over and over again until you visit their site. Naturally, the antivirus they want you to download is fake. The file is usually some sort of malware that doesn’t solve your problem, but compounds it. The key is to address this without having to download anything or visit any suspicious sites. When the popup problem, well . . . pops up, simply press ALT+F4 on your keyboard to force your browser to close, or go to the Task Manager (CTRL+ALT+DEL) and close your browser there. That usually does the trick. Of course, you will need to start a new browser session or else risk going back to the same site the popup attack came from in the first place Another technique scammers use to deceive users into going to their websites is to use a hot news item or trending topic as a lure to get you there. To avoid this, just notice what website you’re going to before you click a link, and only go to websites and news websites that you trust. It’s admittedly a bit of effort on your part to avoid getting scammed or hacked, but it’s a lot more inconvenient if your system becomes majorly messed up by malware. If you want to know more about staying safe from rogue antiviruses and other forms of malware, give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss genuine antivirus protection with you.

Three Business Plan Essentials: Backup, Disaster Recovery, and Business Continuity

October 8, 2010 9:37 am

Erratic by nature, disasters (natural or man-made) can happen anywhere at any time, and often with little or no warning at all. Planning ahead is imperative to ensure that your business can get back to normal operation as quickly as possible, with minimal loss and damage. Small to medium-sized businesses usually think that disaster plans are only important for large enterprises. However, these days even small businesses can’t afford to operate without a disaster plan. Plus, recent technology innovations make disaster planning reasonably priced for virtually every business, regardless of size. For any business owner, three objectives exist for disaster planning:  1) the assurance of never losing critical information, 2) reducing downtime when emergencies happen, and 3) quick recovery after a loss of data. These three objectives translate into three IT services: Backups The process of protecting your data by copying it to a secure device so that it can be easily and and quickly recovered in case of loss. Disaster recovery The process of reinstating crucial business data and procedures after a disaster happens. Business Continuity A carefully constructed plan that specifies exactly how your company will recover and re-establish disrupted functions after disaster strikes. Of these three tasks, Business Continuity is the most comprehensive since it entails much more than a simple discussion of IT matters—it’s a thorough, systematic action plan. And though you definitely need to consider protecting your IT infrastructure and data, you must also consider what you and your staff should do if a disaster occurs. Is there a meeting place where your staff could gather in the event of a building evacuation? Do you have a plan to get in touch with all your staff and their emergency contacts to relay important information? Is there a way for you to communicate with customers to advise when you’ll resume operations? What will you do if one of your main dealers experiences a disaster? The significance of these three services should never be taken lightly, but unfortunately many small and medium-sized businesses ignore them.  Why? Simply because when people think about disaster, the first things that pop in their minds are earthquakes, floods, and fires, and they figure there’s a low chance of those happening. But remember that there are also human-induced disasters such as hackers, unhappy employees who sabotage, and employees who thoughtlessly erase important data. Any of these could easily happen to you. You may already have a backup system in place, and perhaps, you have all three—backup, disaster recovery, and a business continuity plan. However, since business goals and technical environments constantly change, your plan requires regular assessment to ensure it’s still accomplishing all your needs. We can assist you in evaluating your existing disaster preparedness or suggest options if you don’t have plans yet. Contact us now for more details on how we can help you.

MS Outlook Now Integrated With Social Networks

October 7, 2010 7:36 pm

As the social networking phenomenon continues to grow, not only for personal use but for business purposes as well, business email staple MS Outlook now allows for integration with popular social networking websites. Outlook has long been the staple in many business communications – it is truly one of Microsoft’s feats of genius given how prevalent it is in professional correspondence between businesses and organizations today. In order for the platform to conform and adjust to current norms, the people behind MS Outlook have now integrated social networking into the entire system through what they call the Outlook Social Connector (OSC). What the Outlook Social Connector basically does is enable the user to connect his or her email account with his or her LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, and Windows Live accounts. You’ll be able to receive updates from these social networking websites through MS Outlook. Outlook Social Connector is compatible with versions of MS Outlook beginning with 2003 and up, and boasts features such as adding friends into social networking websites through the new Outlook People Pane, as well as receiving updates from friends and contacts whose email address is also listed in their social network account. Also, like a social network, the OSC allows you to set privacy settings and select the kind of information you want made public.

CRM Service Providers Expanding To Include Social Networking Features

October 4, 2010 7:22 am

CRM service providers are beginning to realize the value of social networking and are beginning to integrate similar features into their services. With the popularity of social networking mechanisms and websites continuing to grow, more and more businesses are adapting their service offerings to include features that are linked into common social networking websites / platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and the like. Some are even developing their own features that mimic social networking functions applied specifically for their own customer base - and many are doing both. CRM, or customer relationship management, services especially are seeing the vast potential of tapping into the social networking phenomenon. With the goal of CRMs being to establish and nurture a company’s relationship with both existing and potential clients, it is only logical for such service providers to use a platform that boasts billions of interactions daily. Microsoft CRM, for example, has integrated third-party applications such as social media accelerators, social network developers, and the like that enable businesses to develop and use social media platforms, both internal and external, for their own purposes and strategies. Using social networking - both through developing their own apps and / or integrating with existing ones - CRMs are able to get a better and bigger sense of current and possible client bases. Interaction goes much faster, is much more real-time and genuine, and feedback is easier to gather. Small and medium-sized businesses are especially benefitting from these developments, since their client bases are much smaller and thus much easier to manage and keep track of through the social networking medium.

Use Excel 2007 Macros to Speed up Work

October 3, 2010 7:00 pm

When you find yourself performing a task or series of tasks repeatedly Excel spreadsheets, save time by creating a macro to do the work for you. Read more .

VoIP Now within Easy Reach for Many Small Businesses

October 1, 2010 5:00 pm

VoIP is now within reach for everyone - including small businesses. The same network that handles the flow of data such as web access and email can also accommodate voice as well. A few years ago, Voice-over-IP (VoIP), or Internet telephony, was touted as the next big wave in technology. For many businesses - especially geographically distributed ones - VoIP provides a way to dramatically reduce the cost of communications and maximize investments already made in their network infrastructure. In addition to saving money and using resources more efficiently, VoIP lets employees be more productive and efficient by giving them the ability to receive and make calls anywhere with a data connection. VoIP also reduces the complexity associated with managing multiple networks and devices for communication. Companies can set up their office network so that each employee can use a single device, such as a computer or a smart phone, to handle everything from email, chat, messages, fax, and more. Finally, VoIP enables real-time collaboration when used with video conferencing and screen sharing applications. All this used to come with a big price tag, but that’s no longer the case. With the great strides made in technology the last few years, VoIP is now easily within reach for many businesses - large or small. The range of choices include free, downloadable software that allows users to make free calls over the Internet from PCs or mobile devices, as well as services that can be used and accessed from your web browser, your favorite email service or software, and even old-school analog phones as well! VoIP is certainly a technology that has come of age. It’s cheap, ubiquitous, and easy to use, and all businesses would do well to add VoIP to their toolset for substantial cost savings and greatly improved efficiency and productivity. Looking for some guidance in adding VoIP to your toolset? Give us a call - we have answers!

Hackers Use JavaScript To Infiltrate Your System

September 30, 2010 8:17 am

JavaScript is a very popular programming language used in many websites, making your web experience more dynamic and interactive. However, hackers can exploit JavaScript and use it to infiltrate your system. It makes the web experience very dynamic, enhancing the interactivity of many websites - you’ll see it everywhere, from Facebook to the most obscure sites on the web. Another reason it’s popular is that it’s compatible with all browsers, from Internet Explorer to Mozilla and even Mac’s Safari. Unfortunately, this popularity and wide range of use also makes JavaScript a tool that hackers and other unscrupulous programmers can use to infiltrate and hack into a system. The attacks can be simple or complicated, ranging from simple spam to more elaborate scams. The degree simply depends on the purpose of the script’s designer. What’s more, a quick visit to an infected website can trigger an attack, if your browser is enabled to allow JavaScript to execute from that site. The good news is that you can protect yourself from these kinds of attacks. Simply block JavaScript from executing from sites you aren’t familiar with - better safe than sorry. For Internet Explorer , go to Tools > Internet Options > Security, and set your bar to High. You can also input a list of trusted sites. For Firefox users, a free application called NoScript gives you control over which websites can execute JavaScript on your browser. Google Chrome users can select a universal disabling of JavaScript from all sites, and then add a list of sites exempted from the ban. Other browsers also have options to either disable JavaScript execution or prompt you for permission before the script is run from any website. You should also be particularly wary of JavaScript attacks originating from malicious PDF files. Antivirus and security firm Symantec reports that almost half of all web-based attacks come from infected PDF files. You can disable JavaScript in Adobe Acrobat Reader by selecting Edit > Preferences > JavaScript, and then removing the check on “Enable Acrobat JavaScript”. It might seem inconvenient to guard yourself from these sorts of attacks, but in the long run it pays to keep your system secure. If you want to know more about keeping your system clean and safe from attacks, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help you develop a customized plan that meets your particular needs.

Printing in PowerPoint 2007

September 29, 2010 10:03 am

Several printing options in PowerPoint 2007 let you print slides, speaker notes, presentation outline, and audience handouts. Here are tips on how to use them. Read more.

Get Efficient Results Using Managed IT Services

September 27, 2010 7:00 am

Utilizing IT Managed Services allows entrepreneurs to concentrate on their company’s core competencies, resulting in an increase in productivity which translates to increased revenue. The term Managed Services is defined as “the practice of transferring day-to-day related management responsibility as a strategic method for improved effective and efficient operations”. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Managed_services ) While large corporations regularly choose this technology solution, many owners of small and medium-sized businesses are still hesitant to go this route. Here are some reasons Managed Services can benefit all sizes and types of business: 1.    IT is an integral part of most businesses. Especially in recent years, the business world has become increasingly dependent on IT. Almost all businesses rely on some sort of technology. With this increased use of IT comes an increase in problems and outages – and even loss of data – all of which result in loss of productivity. 2.    Faulty or under-supported IT causes costly downtime. Small, in-house IT departments of one or two people are usually not able or equipped to handle occasional IT breakdowns, and employees must call on somebody else for help, sometimes resulting in hours or even days of lost productivity. This downtime greatly affects the bottom line of your business. 3.    Technology is constantly improving. Improvements in technology are continuing at a rapid pace. Equipment is upgraded and new specialties in IT are emerging. Small to medium-sized businesses are not equipped to keep up with these constant changes. 4.    IT Managed Services provide state-of-the-art solutions. Managed Services providers are experts in the field of technology, and bring knowledge and experience in the latest solutions to your business. And taking advantage of scale of economies, the Managed Services model gives you access to affordable state-of-the-art technologies previously only available to large enterprises. 5.    Many businesses involve special compliance requirements. Even small to medium-sized businesses can have complicated compliance requirements, but most owners do not fully understand how to comply with these regulations. Many Managed Services providers stay current on these regulations and requirements, and can help you translate them to your technology needs in order to stay compliant and avoid fees – and possibly worse. 6.    IT Managed Services cost less in the long run. With today’s economic downturn, IT budgets have been slashed in most companies. But bear in mind that businesses still depend heavily on IT, and work increases as resources diminish. This can bring about low morale for employees and lost productivity – and ultimately customer satisfaction suffers. While IT Managed Services may cost more in the beginning, lost productivity and lost customers cost a lot more. The question is, are you an expert in IT? Most entrepreneurs aren’t. If you want to concentrate on your company’s core competencies without having to worry about your IT infrastructure, outsource your IT services to a reputable Managed Services provider.

Tips to Increase Laptop Battery Life

September 27, 2010 6:03 am

If you work while traveling, you can always use a longer battery life. It makes little sense to lug your laptop around if it’s constantly out of power. Having a spare battery certainly helps, but practicing energy-saving habits to prolong the life of your laptop battery works too. Read more.

Tabnabbing Poses a New and Significant Security Threat

September 23, 2010 6:50 pm

A new threat to computer security has been discovered in which tab browsing vulnerabilities are exploited to fool users into divulging passwords and other sensitive information. Dubbed as “tabnabbing”, the vulnerability was discovered by Aza Raskin, the creative lead for the Mozilla’s Firefox browser and co-founder of Songza, a music search engine and jukebox. Tabnabbing fools users into entering passwords and other sensitive information when an unselected tab in your browser appears to transform itself into a lookalike for a familiar website. You are then prompted you to re-enter a username and password, which in turn passes that information along to the hacker. Incidentally, Raskin’s blog post on the topic ( http://www.azarask.in/blog/post/a-new-type-of-phishing-attack/ ) demonstrates how the website can “change” into a lookalike. Both Mozilla Firefox and Google are vulnerable to this type of attack, which is classified as “phishing” – a scam where users are tricked into entering login information into fraudulent websites masquerading as legitimate ones. Fortunately, there have been no instances – yet – in which tabnabbing has been used in phishing attacks, but Raskin says that he is “aware of other researchers and toolkits extending and expanding tabnabbing”. However, it’s very likely that phishers will be looking for ways to exploit tabnabbing soon, and are currently no fixes or patches released. One way you can protect yourself from tabnabbing is to make sure that your browser has the proper anti-phishing features installed. It’s also important that your website is updated with the latest security features since many phishers like to exploit websites running old version web software, which they use to host phishing sites. If you want to know more about keeping your system secure from the latest malware and security threats, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to sit down and discuss security options that fit your needs and requirements.

Tips for Saving Printing Costs

September 22, 2010 10:02 am

Since paper is relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to the price of ink, you may think more about conserving ink. But conserving paper too is great for the environment – and your wallet. Fortunately, it’s easy to do. Read more.

Protection Racket Against DDoS Attacks Revealed

September 21, 2010 7:00 am

Security firm Symantec has uncovered a scheme to extort website owners for money or face the possibility of a DDoS attack. Security firm Symantec recently uncovered a scheme that purportedly attempts to extort money from website owners and operators in order to avoid the possibility of a DDoS attack. The capability of these extortionists to actually carry out the threat is still an open question, and it’s more likely that this may simply be an empty threat to try to get money. The best action against these types of messages is employing screens to block such email from reaching your mailboxes. However, it’s best to seek the services of an expert to determine the extent of risk, and also to employ safeguards and response measures should an attack take place. If you find such messages in your mail, let us know and we can help.

Three Cost-Effective Online Video Conferencing Services

September 20, 2010 7:05 am

Skype, Tokbox, and Oovoo are three online video conferencing services that have recently targeted business enterprises with business-friendly features. Many businesses these days are realizing the value of video conferencing and video chat. Not only do these tools eliminate transportation costs, they also drastically reduce unproductive time spent travelling. A simple phone call connects all parties instantly. Video chats in particular are the cheapest of the bunch, with services offering video chats for anywhere from free to a minimal monthly fee. However, until recently, many of these services weren’t up to speed with the requirements and demands of businesses. Lagging transmissions, slow connections, and jumpy video were just some of the issues that plagued online video chatting and conferencing. Recently, however, three online video conferencing services have put themselves at the top of the pack with new features such as group chat and improved performance that make them much more business-friendly. Let’s take a look at them. Skype Undoubtedly the best known of the three, Skype has long been a staple in online video calls and instant messaging, and now the beta version of Skype 5.0 offers video chats with up to 5 people at a time. It is also the most stable, with the least dropped calls, and is free to use. However, it is not without its cons – its interface takes some getting used to, and it is available for PC users only. Tokbox For $9.99 a month, you get crisp, clear video calls with up to 20 people, and basic chat free of charge. Tokbox’s user interface is very easy to use and understand, and allows you to send video e-mails, and share Tweet invites and your screen with other users. Oovoo Basic chats between two people are free, but with the paid version – the business plan is $39.95 a month per user – allows you to chat with up to six people at a time. Like Tokbox, it features screen sharing and Tweet invites, and also lets you record your video conferences. Like Skype, the interface can be a bit confusing to use at first, but the audio and video are high quality. Considering video conferencing for your business? Give us a call – we can help you sort through the options and implement the best solution for your needs.

Mouse Tips for a Smoother Computing Experience

September 20, 2010 6:00 am

The mouse is a primary way of interacting with the computer, so smooth and responsive functioning is a must. Here are some tips for trouble-free mousing. Read more .

Fake Antivirus Software Gaining Ground

September 17, 2010 7:00 am

Campaign to trick users into installing fake antivirus software gaining ground. Beware: a massive email campaign is underway to trick users into opening an HTML file attachment that redirects users to a hacked website containing links that further lure victims into launching a fake antivirus software package. According to security firm Sophos, the email messages are designed to trick people into paying to remove threats from their computer that may not really exist. Once a user’s system is infected with the fake antivirus software, it gives bogus warning messages encouraging them to pay for non-existent threats to be removed. Another danger involves users potentially revealing sensitive financial information such as credit card numbers to the hackers. To avoid such threats, users are advised to never open suspicious emails, and to only use legitimate, well-known security providers and consultants in case they suspect something wrong with their computer systems. Working with trust-worthy vendors gives you peace of mind knowing your systems are safe.

Why Backing Up Your Data is Important

September 16, 2010 7:00 am

Data is important to any business, and losing it can spell disaster, which is why it is important to always have backups of your files and information. Let’s begin with a simple question: How important your data is to you? Think of all the information you have in your computers – all your databases, spreadsheets, documents, files, projects, emails, software – and think of how valuable they are to your business. Now try to imagine it all disappearing in an instant. What would happen to your company? What would you say to your clients? You’d have to start from scratch – and would you even have the capability to do so right away? For most business – if not all – the result of a sudden and immediate loss of data would be devastating. Operations would be crippled, and productivity would grind to a halt. Many businesses rely on soft data and losing that data, simply put, prevents them from working on anything – at least until the data can be recovered or the system goes up again, and in some cases, they’d have to start from scratch again. The difficulty of starting with virtually nothing is obvious. Things look a little brighter when a company goes the data recovery route, but the effects are just as debilitating to daily operations. For one thing, data recovery is not an exact science. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, all the data can be recovered, but many just a few tidbits of it can be retrieved, and sometimes you might get nothing at all. To top that off, data recovery is a long and expensive procedure, especially if you have a lot of data. What is the solution then? Simple: back up your data. Data backup services are much cheaper than data recovery services, and if you lose your data, you have something solid and reliable to fall back on. Data backups are probably one of the most neglected aspects of data management for many businesses these days – but it is also one of the most essential ones. Some companies think that it’s a waste of time and resources. But in the long term not only do you pay a fraction of the cost of data recovery to have your information backed up, you also prevent your business from suffering if you lose everything. You never know what events might happen that compromise you data. Natural disasters, accidents, and simple hardware failure can occur when you least expect it to, so it is only prudent and it’s responsible to make sure that your data is safely backed up. Talk to us – we’ll help you find the backup solution that’s right for your business.

Changing Windows 7 Default File Location

September 15, 2010 7:09 am

When saving a file in Windows 7 you can select a library to save it in – but because libraries aren’t real locations, the file is stored to the defined save folder such as My Documents or Public Documents. However, you can reset the properties of the folder to suit your needs. Read more.

Survey Reveals Majority of Businesses Plan to Set up Websites Designed for Mobiles

September 8, 2010 11:25 am

Growth of mobile fueling increased interest in mobile sites. A new survey conducted by Adobe, a leader in software for the design and publishing industry, reveals great interest in emerging mobile channels among many businesses. Survey respondents from a wide variety of industries revealed an overwhelming preference for developing websites as their mobile commerce presence, compared with other types of mobile channels such as downloadable apps. It seems that mobile websites promise the broadest reach in terms of being able to provide information to customers, promoting products and services, and selling and interacting online. The majority of those surveyed revealed that promotions were at the core of their mobile strategy to drive sales through online or offline channels. Creating sites with rich, interactive experiences were highlighted as a means for businesses to possibly drive traffic to their sites. Among those who responded: More than 55 percent cited full-screen image zoom and videos as important factors in driving interest and sales. 96 percent asserted that the most effective merchandising features for mobile sites were catalogs and brochures, and the ability to zoom and pan images. The increased interest is believed to be driven by the widespread adoption of mobile devices. In fact, analysts predict that by 2013, the combined installed base of smartphones and browser-equipped enhanced phones will exceed 1.82 billion units.

New Viruses Infiltrate Systems through USB Drives

September 6, 2010 1:00 pm

Two new viruses have been discovered to infiltrate systems through removable drives. USB flash drives have become indispensable to almost everyone who uses a computer. It’s a quick and easy way to immediately transfer and share information and other data, especially files that are too large to send through email. Unfortunately, some malware take advantage of this convenience by attaching themselves to files on the drive to infect any other system it comes into contact with. Two such malware have recently been discovered. Chymine is a Trojan application with keylogging capabilities, designed to copy passwords and other sensitive data, and Dulkis-A is a Visual Basic worm designed to copy and allow malware to infiltrate the system. Both exploit a vulnerability in Windows Shell. Microsoft has yet to directly address the issue and provide a patch that fixes the problem. In the meantime, they have issued directions for a workaround that prevents both malware from manipulating the Windows Shell susceptibility. The workaround is effective for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, and Windows Server R2, but it comes with a cost – you lose all your icon graphics. Success in removing the virus has been marginal at best, with current fixes including a warning that removing these malware might result in unwanted changes to your system because of the way the virus embeds itself. The best way to avoid being infected, be careful not to run any suspicious programs and files, especially when taken from USB drives and any other removable storage, even from a Blackberry or an iPhone. It’s also best to avoid automatically enabling USB devices to autorun once they’re plugged into your computer. If you have any concerns or want to make sure your systems are protected, give us a call and we’ll work with you to ensure the security of your systems and data.

The Importance of Installing a UPS

September 6, 2010 12:00 pm

A UPS, or uninterruptible power supply, is one of the essential components your IT system should have so you can continue working even during power interruptions. Keeping productivity going is important. The more productive your people are, the more work gets done and the more profit you make.  Every hour, and even every minute, of lost productivity costs you profit. It might seem inconsequential individually, but in the long term lost time adds up and you can lose a considerable sum. This is why companies have stringent rules regarding internet usage, deadlines, and other mechanisms to ensure that people are doing what they’re being paid to do – no more, no less. However, there are situations when things are simply out of your hands, and a perfect example is power interruptions. Power interruptions are usually unexpected and can cost workers hours of work. Just imagine your PC suddenly shutting off while you’re in the middle of an important project – either you fail to save part of it, or maybe you’re in the middle of a task you cannot save (like uploading or downloading a particularly large file or bunch of files). What can you do, except start all over again? The solution is installing a UPS – or uninterruptible power supply – for every unit in your IT infrastructure. A UPS acts as a temporary source of power for the CPU, a back-up battery of sorts that your CPU automatically switches power to in case of a power interruption. This gives you time, at the very least, to save important files and wrap up tasks before shutting down properly. UPSs also guards against power surges, prolonging the life of your computers, making them less prone to suffering from electrical damage. In the long term, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and a UPS is a relatively inexpensive precaution against loss of data – especially considering its benefits.

Take Advantage of Jump Lists in Windows 7

September 3, 2010 1:00 pm

Jump Lists are lists of recently opened items, such as files, folders, or websites, organized by the program that you used to open them. You can also pin favorites to a Jump List, so you can quickly get to the items that you use every day. Read more.

Protect Your Company From Social Engineering Attacks

September 1, 2010 1:23 pm

Threats to the security of your organization cannot only come from malware, hacks, and network attacks, but also in more subtle ways. One such method is called “social engineering”. Be aware that hackers have another tool in their toolset that employs a particularly subtle, insidious way of compromising the security of your systems and network. Called social engineering , it’s the use of psychological tricks to deceive targets into revealing potentially compromising information about the systems in their organization. In practice, it can be as simple as a hacker calling an employee and asking subtle questions to gain information, or posing as someone trusted, perhaps as building maintenance, walking in the doors of an organization to directly gain access to systems—or even searching through the trash and refuse left behind by employees. The popularity of social networking has also increased the danger with the ease and convenience of creating connections to potentially trusting members of your organization. However, there are some actions you can take to protect your business: Create a policy outlining the proper handling and sharing of information online as well as offline. Put systems and procedures in place to protect your systems if sensitive information does get out—such as the regular replacement of passwords. Educate your employees about the threat. You cannot solve a problem if your people do not know that a problem exists in the first place. Awareness can be your best defense.

Add Dates or Find Difference Between Dates in Windows 7 Calculator

August 31, 2010 12:28 pm

Need to quickly find out what day it would be 45 days from now without counting squares on a calendar? Want to know how many days until a holiday, birthday, meeting, or other special event? The built-in calculator in Windows 7 can answer these questions. Read more.

Calculating Your IT’s Real Cost

August 24, 2010 8:06 am

Hidden IT costs can be stifling your company and you just don’t know it. It’s important to assess what those costs are and find a way to help your business perform better. In this day and age, few businesses (if any) can survive without an IT arm. Every business, big or small, needs someone, or preferably a group of people, on hand to fix computer problems, check networks, monitor software – to generally make sure that their operations are running smoothly. One question, though: have you ever stopped to consider whether the cost of maintaining your in-house IT system is worth it? For instance, consider your internet connection. Let’s say that a conservative estimate of the efficiency of your business without an internet connection is at 50%. And if your business makes a $1 million a year, then $500,000 depends on your internet connection. If your monthly bill for that connection is $500, or $6,000 annually, you earn $500,000 – $6,000 = $494,000. Now, if you decide to switch to a cheaper DSL connection, which is about $50 per month or $480 a year, you get a much higher figure: $499,520. You could argue that the DSL is the wiser option, but when you look at a deeper level, a slower internet connection may also hamper your company’s productivity – let’s say, by 10%. So with only a DSL connection, your business operates at 90% of its total possible productivity. Considering the previous figures, a loss of 10% in productivity means a loss of $100,000. Subtract that savings from the DSL connection, $5,520 – you get a whopping loss of $94,480. So when you think you’re saving by getting a cheaper internet connection, you are actually losing more money. Inversely, if you subscribe to an even better connection that costs you $10,000, productivity can increase by $15,000. The same principle applies when your IT infrastructure is not up to date, with slow computers, outdated software, and other problems. In a company with 10 employees who bring in an annual average of $65,000 each, even losing productivity for just 35 minutes a day due to IT handicaps can cost you $47,000. Hardly chump change! But hiring an IT provider who charges $20,000 a year can offset that lost productivity and even make your business run better, by as much as $27,000. It’s also noteworthy to mention that employing an IT firm can count as a legitimate business expense, thereby lowering your tax liability to about $8,000 if you peg corporate tax at 40%. IT is important to a business. If you doubt that, just try doing without it for a week – just shut the whole thing down. For most, that’s out of the question, but operating with old software and hardware is almost just as bad. However, many businesses cannot spare the resources to continually upgrade their IT systems. Enlisting the services of an IT firm changes all that. IT Service Providers are constantly on the lookout for better technologies – both hardware and software – that can make your business function much more efficiently and cost effectively. It’s what they do. And the costs are minimal. If you’re wondering how much better your company might operate with an IT Service Provider, we’ll be happy to sit down with you and run some numbers.

Before Moving Your Business to The Cloud…

August 19, 2010 7:08 am

Before you entrust your sensitive data to a “cloud” service provider, make sure you weigh the risks with the benefits. “ Cloud computing ,” largely synonymous with Internet-based computing, has become a hot topic of discussion among many in the business community, with its promise of radically simplifying the access to, and use of, computing resources on demand. It’s no wonder then that it’s been small businesses, often without full-time IT resources of their own, that have been the first to adopt the concept. As a business owner, however, before you start moving critical data to the “cloud,” you’ll do well to bear in mind the risks that come with the computing model. First is security and privacy—ask how the service provider ensures the confidentiality and integrity of your data while in their care. Do they provide backups? Can you back up your data yourself? Are their security processes and procedures reviewed and vetted by a third party? Next is availability. Do they guarantee the uptime of their services—7 days a week, 24 hours a day? Do they provide a service level guarantee? Do they have processes in place to handle exceptional circumstances that can disrupt services, such as a natural disaster? Is support readily available to help in case you encounter any issues? Finally, there’s cost. While pay-as-you go can be attractive, the total cost over time can add up. It’s worth thinking two to three years out and considering the total cost versus alternatives. Asking these basic questions can go a long way in giving you peace of mind before you entrust your valuable data and core business systems to the care of others. If you’d like some help sorting all this out and making the best decision for your unique needs, give us a call.

Green Workplace Equals a Cost-Effective Workplace

August 17, 2010 2:38 am

Running an environment-friendly business may seem like too much of a hassle, but in truth, you can save money. There’s been a lot of buzz about environmental issues such as climate change, and with the effects reaching everyone around the world, we all need to do our part to help. The good news is that going green in your office or business can also help you become more cost effective. Here’s how: Shut down your system when it’s not being used. The principle behind this is pretty simple – you can save electricity and the bills you’ll have to pay with a simple system that can power down when it’s not being used. Downsize your infrastructure. You’ll save on bills and power consumption, as well as equipment. Determine the workstations that can be run on a skeletal system, with the heavy lifting done virtually or remotely. This is especially applicable to companies that have people frequently on the road or in the field. Also, if you let people work from home or remotely, there is little need to maintain a vast infrastructure at the home office. Go for a paperless office. Paper comes from the cutting down of thousands of trees, and buying it costs money. But these days with almost everything done electronically, paper use can be reduced to a minimum, if not eliminated completely. Turn your trash into gold. If you have old units you’re going to throw out but are still in working condition, consider donating them to charity and get a tax break. Or, try to recycle them. E-waste is becoming a big problem these days, so the less you throw away, the better. If you’d like to know more about how to make your business more cost effective and environment friendly at the same time, we’d be happy to talk with you and draw up a plan that’s specifically suited to your needs.

Scanning Resolution—How Much Do You Need?

August 13, 2010 7:00 am

Scanners are the critical link between the non-digital and the digital world. Any picture or document can be turned into a digital format with a scanner. When looking for a scanner, you want to get one good enough to do what you need it to do, but avoid overpaying for features you will not use. The first thing to look at is resolution. Read more.

Increasing Adoption of Mobile Devices Presents Opportunity for Businesses

August 13, 2010 4:00 am

Despite the clear trend towards greater adoption of mobile devices by businesses and consumers, a new study finds that many businesses are not taking full advantage of the opportunities created by this trend—especially in sales and marketing. Global smartphone shipments continue to rise, driven by operator subsidies, lower barriers to adoption with the introduction of lower-cost models, and greater choices afforded by vigorous competition from companies such as Apple, RIM, Microsoft, and Google. Not far behind is the rising interest and adoption of other mobile devices, such as tablets with the success of Apple’s iPad. Despite this trend, a new study by eROI , an online marketing agency, finds that many businesses are not taking full advantage of the opportunities it creates—especially in sales and marketing. The company surveyed 500 businesses, and the majority cited lack of resources and little understanding of what needs to be done as the major barriers to capitalizing on the trend. This, despite findings which show 91 percent of the population use mobile devices, with 23 percent using smartphones that make extensive use of online services. Companies would benefit from looking at how these trends can be leveraged for building a strategy toward reaching new customers, engaging current customers, and creating rich experiences for both. Some examples from early pioneers in this area: building versions of their website that can be viewed comfortably on mobile devices, using services that make extensive use of social networks and location-based services such as Facebook and FourSquare that work well with mobile devices, and even building custom applications to provide a new channel for reaching and serving customers. Companies can start small with pilot projects then work from there to see which work best for their businesses.

Common Vulnerabilities in Many Common Applications Still Exploited by Hackers

August 10, 2010 7:48 pm

The continued exploit of many vulnerable applications that have been fixed by vendors for over a year highlight the need to keep software updated with the latest versions and patches. A new report released by security firm M86 Security reveals a trend toward more sophisticated forms of malware in taking advantage of vulnerabilities in common software applications and developing techniques to avoid detection. In M86’s report, among the applications commonly exploited are Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Adobe Reader. Another vector for malware that hackers have been using recently is Java and Adobe’s Flash—which are installed on many PCs, often as plug-ins to most browsers. Although the vulnerabilities in these applications have been identified and patched for over a year, failure to keep up with the latest updates have made many systems still vulnerable to attack. Our customers taking advantage of our Managed Security need not worry, since we make sure our customers’ systems are patched as soon as updates become available. Find out more about our Security Offerings today.

Mozilla Firefox Releases Fixes for Several Major Security Holes

August 5, 2010 7:56 pm

Mozilla implements new initiatives to ensure the security of its browser to fix the main security holes, and this brings Firefox’s latest version to 3.6.7 The Mozilla foundation, the organization behind the Firefox browser, announced recently that it has released a patch to fix many major security holes found in its software, as well as the pull out of malicious add-ons in its extensions gallery. A new update brings Firefox’s latest version to 3.6.7, and includes fixes for nine critical issues that could potentially be exploited by hackers to launch attacks on vulnerable systems. This comes after recently pulling out a password stealing add-on called the “Mozilla Sniffer” in the Firefox extensions gallery. As a preventive measure, the Mozilla foundation has announced a US $3,000 security bounty program that for anyone who finds an eligible security bug. It has also announced that it will implement a source code review of add-ons to catch potential malware that could be injected into otherwise patched Firefox browsers. As always, users are advised to be constantly on guard and to make sure they are using the latest updated versions of their software. Customers under our Managed Security program benefit by letting us do the worrying and updating for them, so they can focus on their business instead of their security. Not on our Managed Security program? Contact us today.

Smart Mobile Management

August 4, 2010 5:01 am

With mobile devices becoming a staple in business dealings these days, it’s high time companies enact policies for mobiles that will not only help them cut costs, but keep their information and data safe as well. Experts outline several tips to help you achieve this. In this day and age, it’s a necessity to always be in touch, and many mobile phones are now equipped with features to help us do just that, such as internet connectivity, SMS, push email, and more. With this increase in the use of smart phones such as Blackberries and iPhones for work, it follows that maintenance costs of mobiles can get to be pretty steep if not managed correctly. Bills for one mobile phone can reach more than $2,000 a year – just imagine the maintenance costs for several units. In addition, the need for more rigid and concrete policies for mobile devices is also increasing. Experts recommend that since many of the functions of mobile devices mimic those of a desktop workstation, companies should apply the same policies they have for their IT systems to their mobile devices. Such a policy not only reduces costs, but will also keep your entire system safe. Since sensitive information is now stored on mobiles, there’s the risk of infiltration and information theft – and for many companies with little or no protection for the mobile arm of their system, it’s only a matter of time before they find themselves in trouble. Here are some tips from the experts: Use an integrated management system for both your office IT infrastructure and your company’s mobile devices. There are plenty of reputable providers for this kind of software, with big names such as Nokia and Microsoft offering programs that cater to multiple phone manufacturers. Minimize the frequency and access of personal mobile devices to your IT system at the office. More often than not, personal mobile devices do not have the same safeguards as that of office equipment, and allowing them to connect to your system poses a number of risks. Authorize your IT group to remotely access company mobile devices. In case a unit is lost or stolen, any or all information on it can be wiped clean. For more details, read the complete story at: http://technology.inc.com/telecom/articles/200810/mobiledevice.html?partner=newsletter_Technology If you want to evaluate your IT policies and strategies to include your mobile devices, simply contact us and we’ll be glad to draw up a customized work plan that meets your specific needs and requirements.

Windows XP Users Targeted by Zero-Day Exploit

July 29, 2010 12:44 pm

Barely a month after a Google engineer disclosed a critical vulnerability in Windows XP, hackers have taken launched an attack on vulnerable machines. On June 10, a Google engineer disclosed a security flaw in Windows XP’s Help Center, which can potentially allow hackers to search and retrieve sensitive information from vulnerable PCs, and even turn them into “zombies:”machines that follow the commands of a remote master to perhaps download more malware or send out spam. Recently, reports have come out that the first real exploit has emerged, with Microsoft reporting that over 10,000 Windows XP systems have already been subjected to attack . The systems attacked are based not only in the US, but also in Russia, Portugal, Germany, and Brazil. A patch from Microsoft was released on July 13, and workarounds also exist to contain the threat, such as disabling the HCP protocol. Customers of our Managed Security services running Windows XP are assured of immediate support once the patch is rolled out, but in the meantime can take advantage of our assistance to secure systems through other means. If you’re on one of our Managed Services plans don’t worry – you’re protected. If you’re not sure contact us to find out how we can protect your systems and network from this and other dangerous attacks.

Lessons Learned from the World Cup

July 27, 2010 5:09 pm

The recent fever over the FIFA World Cup made unsuspecting victims an easy target for malware makers, spammes, and scammers using the sport as a means to spread nefarious software or lure users into money-making scams. It seems the entire world was in the grip of the 2010 FIFA World Cup fever as several countries vied for football supremacy in South Africa. Unfortunately, malware makers, spammers, and scammers capitalized on the fever as well, using references to the event as a means to spread nefarious software or lure unsuspecting users into money-making scams. Some of the threats included 419-style scams , lures selling fake tickets, even fake products and business opportunities related to the World Cup. One particular ploy involved a couple of websites selling a bogus filter to cancel out the sound of noisy “Vuvuzela” trumpets in TV broadcasts. Scammers had even used legitimate websites to sell them—such as eBay and other auction sites. Several spammers used sophisticated techniques to confuse SPAM filters by using tools to automatically scrape the text from hundreds of websites (including news sites) and using them to spray random bits of this text into their messages. Another new development that was seen were targeted attacks on top executives of international manufacturing companies and government agencies. With the 2010 World Cup behind us, what does this mean to us now? Everyone should always be on guard against websites, links, or messages that seem too good to be true (because most likely they are), but understanding that scammers and spammers especially thrive during popular events helps everyone to be on extra high alert.

Preventing Data Loss With Managed Services

July 22, 2010 12:49 pm

Implementing a client-server network and maintaining it with Managed Services can help small to medium-sized businesses prevent data loss events, which lead 43 percent of such businesses to close within two years. According to DriveSavers data recovery service, 43 percent of companies that lose data in a disaster never reopen, and 90 percent are out of business within two years. How can you prevent data loss—without the hassle and expense of staying on top of the latest technology and continually monitoring backups? Consider a client-server network combined with Managed Services. With client-server networks, computers and other devices called clients are connected to a centralized computer called a server. The server stores information in a central location, and shares it with the clients on the network. Why is this a better setup for data loss prevention than the traditional peer-to-peer network, in which computers are connected directly to other computers? First, because peer-to-peer networks have no centralized security safeguards, anyone connected to the network can gain access to all of the devices on the network, making it easy to lose data through malicious acts by hackers and viruses. Second, because peer-to-peer networks don’t share information in a centralized loca­tion, if one device on the network fails, all the data stored on that device is lost. This makes it easy to lose data through hardware and software failures. With a client-server network, you address both of these potential problems. Security software can be installed centrally, ensuring that everyone on the network has the most up-to-date protection. At the same time, access to data that might be lost through malicious acts can be controlled, with different access levels given to different users. It’s also easy to back up (and retrieve, if necessary) data because it’s stored in a centralized location. The only remaining problem is that maintaining a client-server network requires you to stay on top of the latest technology, monitor backups, and troubleshoot problems—and that can take the resources of a dedicated IT staff. If you don’t have such an IT staff, or if you’d prefer your IT staff to work on revenue-producing projects, you may want to consider Managed Services. With Managed Services, an IT company monitors your network to ensure security is high and data is backed up regularly. If a problem occurs, it’s addressed quickly, with data retored almost before you know it’s missing. The best news: Your support costs should be approximately the same as if you were paying to address problems as they arise—but your network’s safety will be significantly higher.

Relief from “USB Device Not Recognized” Errors

July 21, 2010 7:32 am

Are you getting a “USB device not recognized” error for a USB mouse, keyboard, or other USB device? Already tried normal fixes, such as uninstalling and reinstalling the driver, but it’s still not working? A possible solution may surprise you. Read more

Work from Any Place at Any Time

July 20, 2010 5:07 am

Work no longer has to be a place your employees go at a certain time. Learn what technologies can enable your employees to get more done from any location, any time. Lately there has been a trend among companies, no matter what size and maturity, toward the use of so-called “virtual” teams. Driven perhaps by rising office and energy costs, maturity of computing and network technologies, talent scarcity, or simply the opportunity to realize increased efficiency,  this has resulted in the adoption of flexible work arrangements for some employees including flexible time and working from home – or even from remote locations in different time zones. Along with this trend has come the need to support this new way of working. A wealth of options exists—from virtual team spaces and online collaborative tools to more advanced communication devices such as smartphones and tablets. Here are a few examples. For teams working at the same time but from different locations: Conferencing applications—via telephone or video Shared workspaces and whiteboards Instant messaging Wireless communication devices For teams working at different times but in the same place: Team rooms Intranets For teams working at different times and from different places: Extranets Virtual Private Networks E-mail/Groupware Message boards Blogs and knowledgebase tools With the right tools, work can happen any time and from any place. Interested? Get in touch with us and find out more.

Maintaining a Network with Managed Services

July 16, 2010 5:03 am

Client-server networks can help employees perform 20 percent more revenue-producing tasks. For small to medium businesses that may not be able to afford a dedicated IT staff, outsourcing may be the most cost-effective means of installing and maintaining such a network. You’re probably aware of the benefits of a client-server network—but are you prepared to handle the maintenance? If not, you may want to consider Managed Services. According to a Forbes study, client-server networks help small businesses extend their geographic reach, find new customers, and increase revenues while maintaining or decreasing costs—and as a result, employees at small businesses using client-server networks perform 20 percent more revenue-producing tasks. However, installing and maintaining such a network isn’t easy. It requires you to stay on top of the latest technology, monitor backups, and troubleshoot problems. The traditional method of installing and maintaining a client-server network is to hire a staff of IT professionals to do the work, but this may not be realistic for small or even mid-sized businesses not be able to afford a dedicated IT staff. Outsourcing may be a cost-effective way to solve this problem. If you want to outsource, you could hire an IT company to set up your client-server network, then wait for the network to break down before calling the IT company to perform the repair. Or, you could consider Managed Services. With Managed Services, an IT company monitors your network to ensure performance and troubleshoot problems before they get out of hand. And in the unlikely event that something goes wrong, you’ll have qualified professionals on call to come to the rescue. Moreover, your support costs should be approximately the same as if you were paying for reactive support—but your network’s performance and reliability will be significantly higher. So why spend time and money running a network when both can be better spent running your business? Consider Managed Services for you client-server network maintenance.

Password Protect Folders in Windows 7 or Vista

July 13, 2010 7:33 am

Do you want to lock and password-protect your important folders in Windows 7 or Vista? If you have multiple accounts including one with administrator privileges in Windows 7 / Vista, then you can set access privileges for individual folders. Read more

What You Need to Know About WiFi Security

July 8, 2010 8:41 am

The near ubiquity of WiFi hotspots nowadays has led to great advances in access and convenience for many. It’s also a great boon for “road warriors” who do most of their work from the field. However, few people understand the risks of using wireless hotspots. When you go online in open networks that don’t use a password or encryption, potentially everything you send out from your computer can be seen by anyone with adequate technical knowledge. Therefore, whenever possible it’s best to connect in places where some encryption—either WEP or WPA—is employed. If that’s not available, using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) can help, which allows you to establish a secure channel of communication to your office network over the public Internet. How you use certain software is also something you should be aware of—some browsers, instant messengers, and email clients are more secure than others. Wireless hotspots can be great when travelling on business or working on the road. Being proactive about security issues will go a long way in ensuring your safety and privacy, and we’re here to help. We can set up your machines for secure access by implementing a network VPN, consulting on software security, and much more. Contact us today to learn more.

Dangerous Vulnerability in Windows XP Help Center

July 6, 2010 7:38 am

A critical vulnerability in Windows XP has been revealed that involves the Windows and Help support center, a Web-based feature providing technical support information to end users. The vulnerability can potentially allow a remote hacker to take complete control of a victim’s machine. Systems running Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 using many major browsers, including Internet Explorer 8, are affected. A few days after the advisory, security firm Sophos warned users of a website using the vulnerability to install malicious software on victims’ machines, and of possibly more exploits coming out soon. Users of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 are advised to disable features within Help Center that allow administrators to remotely log onto their machines. For individual users, Microsoft has released a patch for the flaw. Don’t know how to install the patch? Need help? Let us know! Of course our customers with Managed Services are automatically advised of these vulnerabilities, and patches are applied as soon as they are available. Contact us today to find our more.

Protect Yourself from Outbound Spam

July 1, 2010 7:03 am

A recent report , released by Osterman Research and sponsored by software vendor Commtouch, reports that the incidents of outbound spam is getting worse. The research firm interviewed 266 end users of internet service providers and 100 web hosting companies. Almost 40% of respondents have had their IP addresses listed on Real Time Blackhole Lists (RBLs) in the past 12 months alone – and the number could be far greater considering those who may not be aware that they have been listed. RBLs tag machines or networks of machines as being sources of SPAM, causing their emails to be filtered out by many mail servers. This can result in legitimate emails not reaching their intended destination, and can victims’ reputations. In addition, having an infected machine or network of machines can waste bandwidth and slow down outbound connections. The cause of outbound spam varies, but can including everything from compromised email accounts to “zombie” machines – machines infected with malware sending out spam unbeknownst to the user. There are multiple ways of protecting computers and networks against the risk of outbound spam, and our Managed Services clients benefit from our proactive protection and filtering. Contact us to find out more.

USB Devices Can Pose a Significant Security Risk

June 29, 2010 7:12 am

USB flash drives have become a popular choice for people needing a convenient, portable, and cheap storage device for their data. Unfortunately, as the use of these devices increases, so does the risk of potential security breaches. Some of these risks include the introduction of malware such as viruses, worms, and trojans to the computer or even your network. By default, many Windows machines are configured to automatically run or execute software on USB devices. Malware can also reside in data stored on USB drives that can be triggered when the files are opened. For many companies, unmonitored USB devices also expose the company to the risk of unauthorized theft or exposure of sensitive, confidential data. You can limit the risks posed by using USB devices a variety of ways. One is to make sure your threat management systems, such as antivirus software, are updated and are set to monitor USB drives connected to your laptop or PC. To protect data on your computers and network, you can use data encryption tools or monitoring systems that log access to sensitive information. A clear policy on the acceptable and proper use of the company’s computing and network resources can help as well. Of course, the safest policy of all is to disable USB devices on company PCs and laptops altogether. Need more information on how to manage the use of USB portable storage devices in your company? Contact us to find out how we can help.

Kris-Eley

Why Public File Sharing and P2P are NOT good for business

June 29, 2010 3:54 am

It’s not uncommon for many small and medium-sized companies to use file sharing and peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms as a means to share information and data – especially when it comes to larger files that are difficult and sometimes impossible to attach to emails. And why not? File sharing and P2P is easy to use, simple, and inexpensive. And never mind if some employees download some personal files on the side – a song or a movie here and there never hurt anyone. Right? Wrong. The big catch when using P2P programs and common file sharing platforms is that it compromises your company’s security. Exposing your computers and your system to such a mode is filled with all sorts of risks. First, people can accidentally share files that aren’t supposed to be for public consumption. They may also inadvertently download viruses and Trojans that infiltrate your system, steal sensitive information, and cause untold damage. If you are on a network, even if just one computer becomes infected, it can spread to all other workstations on the network. Some unscrupulous P2P abusers even use other people’s computers to remotely store illegal data, such as child pornography. It’s very important that you have a secure system in place to handle large file transfers that cannot be shared through email. Guarding your network from outside infiltration is a must, but you don’t have to sacrifice efficiency and ease of use. So if you’d like to explore your options for secure file sharing, we’d be happy to lay out a plan that will fit your specific needs.

Could You Benefit From Managed Services?

June 25, 2010 7:25 am

Managed Services provide enterprise-level IT capabilities without a large initial capital investment for a predictable monthly fee—which can be appealing to small and medium-sized businesses such as yours. Are you a candidate for Managed Services? Take our quiz below. Managed Services checklist o   We’re having difficulty staffing qualified IT professionals. o   We’re concerned about the security of our data. o   We’re concerned about the security of our transactions. o   We’re concerned about the security of our communications. o   We aren’t always able to respond quickly to market demands. o   We need to reduce overhead costs o   Staying up to date with evolving technologies is difficult for us. o   Maintaining current hardware and software is time consuming. o   We need to operate in real time to meet 24-hour demand. o   We need to deliver services to remote offices or workers. o   Our growth depends on our implementation of new technology. o   We need to upgrade our infrastructure. o   We need to relocate our infrastructure. o   We’re undergoing a merger or acquisition. o   The scale of our operations is going to change. o   We want to expand into new markets. o   We’d like to focus our efforts on our core competencies. o   We need to focus only on mission-critical activities. o   We need to implement a global IT network, but we lack the resources. o   We’re concerned about our ability to keep up with the latest security threats. o   We’re affected by privacy or security regulations. o   We’re experiencing dynamic business growth but have a hiring freeze. o   We need to maintain our current IT capabilities but are downsizing. If any of the items apply to you, you may want to consider Managed Services. Bring your completed list to us today, and we’ll let you know how can help.

tony

Debunking the “If It Ain’t Broke, Why Fix It?” Myth

June 23, 2010 6:55 am

Of course we’ve all heard of the saying “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” And really, to some degree, that saying holds true. When it comes to technology, though, reality favors the opposite. You might have hardware right now that’s a bit old by industry standards but is still working, so there seems to be no need to upgrade or replace it. Sooner or later though, it’s going to cause you a lot more trouble than it’s worth. For instance, what if you are in a middle of a major project your hardware breaks down? Hardware manufacturers constantly upgrade their technology, leaving past models behind. This means that the older your hardware is, the harder it will be for you to find support or spare parts when things go wrong. Unless you have a backup plan, this scenario can turn into a big nightmare. And IF (that’s a big “if”) you can find the replacement parts you need, you’ll probably wait for weeks for them to arrive and for the repairs to get done, making you lose precious time and profit. The advantage of upgrading your equipment is that the more advanced it is, the higher the quality of your output. Your workflow can be made much easier and more efficient with better performing hardware specs and added features that come in newer models. And with the right support from manufacturers, any glitch or problem can be fixed within a reasonable period of time since parts and other replacement components are in stock and readily available. Of course, you don’t need to upgrade each time a new model is released. The key is to know when give your hardware a boost. If your upgrades are properly planned, you can change systems and replace equipment without compromising your productivity or output. So if you want to assess your current hardware, we’d be happy to sit down with you to create a roadmap for your future upgrades.